Boise, Idaho

Photo: Patrick R. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Patrick R. (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons
Lately, your inbox has been flooded with emails touting Europe’s up-and-coming destinations. Tallinn, Kraków, and Ljubljana are the favorite undiscovered gems right now. While Bruges and Porto are the hot spots in already popular places like Belgium and Portugal, respectively. But what about the United States? The news constantly features places that have gone bankrupt or have high murder rates. Not exactly vacation material. So instead of focusing on a place you’d never want to visit, let’s look at one you would.

If you’ve already fallen in love with Boulder, Minneapolis, and Portland (either one), then you’ll feel right at home in Boise. “The City of Trees” is in Southwest Idaho, near the Oregon border. It sits on a flat plain along the Boise River, with the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the background. Boise State University is south of Downtown. The North End has old homes and tree-lined streets. The city has a surprisingly large Basque community. While a green park is never far from sight. Boise is safe, outdoorsy, and completely underrated.

You check in at the Modern Hotel in the Linen District. The former Travelodge was a bit seedy, but it’s been rehabilitated into a stylish hotel with a retro vibe. The rooms are simple, but comfortable. Neutral gray carpets and white linens are offset by brightly colored accent walls and armless chairs. Your balcony overlooks the courtyard. After a quick breakfast, you’re ready to start exploring.

Photo: State & Lemp
Photo: State & Lemp

Get a feel for the city—as well as your morning exercise—by running along the Boise River Greenbelt. The 20-mile trail extends from the Lucky Peak Dam to the nearby town of Eagle. Head Downtown to see the Idaho State Capitol, the Boise Art Museum, and the Egyptian Theatre. Visit Zoo Boise, in Julia Davis Park, to see the new red panda cubs. Eat a burger or tacos at a café along the pedestrian-only 8th Street Marketplace. Then decide how to spend the afternoon: playing in the autumn leaves at Camel’s Back Park (it has a view of Downtown), biking in the Boise Foothills, or tasting wine in nearby Nampa. The only thing you can’t do is go skiing at Bogus Basin; the slopes are still bare this time of year.

Your dinner reservation is at State & Lemp. The modern restaurant has a long, communal table and a no-choice, prixe-fixe menu with an optional wine pairing. The chef delivers the first course: sardines with leeks and salmon roe. Sweetbreads with pork belly and crisp Asian pears, black cod with earthy royal trumpet mushrooms, and duck with root vegetables follow. A Washington Riesling and an Idaho red blend are served alongside traditional French and Californian wines. Plus a date cake is the perfect combination of savory and sweet for dessert.

Even though you’re full, you’re ready for a nightcap back at the Modern Hotel. The bar uses fresh ingredients in their cocktails. Order a Hemingway Daiquiri with grapefruit and make your way to the courtyard, where musicians are setting up for the hotel’s Campfire Stories series. Grab a seat by a fire pit, sip your cocktail, and enjoy your time in Boise.

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