Whether you're a local, relocating or visiting from out of town, there's plenty to do in Boise while on a modest (or even non-existent) budget. Even with awesome yet predominately expensive restaurants, multiple shopping outlets and bustling theaters, one does not need an unlimited credit line to get the best out of Boise.
In fact, much of the city's beauty comes from its rich history and scenic beauty, from the picturesque homes of Boise's Northend to the cool waters of the Boise River. Even better, many of these sites and activities can be enjoyed in different ways throughout the year, as Boise is located in a temperate climate featuring all four seasons.
Regardless of your personal health, activity level and family size, there's literally something for everyone to do that's fun, historical, serene and above all, thrifty.
So in the interest of thriftiness, why not...
Visit Ann Morrison Park
Located right off Americana Boulevard, Ann Morrision Park not only serves as the final takeout point for Boise River floaters (which is also free if you can find someone nice enough to play chauffeur), but is also host to a plethora of various summertime activities.
With summer temperatures typically in excess of 100 degrees Fahrenheit, there's nothing much better than cooling off in the mist of the park's large water fountain. Situated in the middle of a flat common area, it is also a popular area for parents of overheated children looking to beat the heat without breaking the bank.
Lay out a towel or jump under the stream, the choice is yours!
Even better for parents, there's a huge playground located a short walk north from the fountain, featuring monkey bars, slides and forts. When it's time for grub, there's plenty of barbecue pits and picnic tables available to whip up whatever's on the menu.
And if you and your group feel like engaging in an impromptu game of football, soccer or even disc golf, there are plenty of fields and equipment to get your sportsball on.
But alas, if working up a sweat on an already hot summer day is not your thing, there's plenty of ducks or geese to feed while resting comfortably next to the tree-lined pond; just consider feeding them oats and/or corn instead of bread to reduce environmental impact.
So what do you do if you didn't bring a football or frisbee and you need to work off that cheeseburger and potato salad? How about a nice, leisurely stroll by the river? Well, you're in luck because nearby is one of Boise's iconic attractions...
Check Out the Greenbelt
Come to think about it, the 25-mile long Boise River Greenbelt is friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians alike. Even better, the path also serves as an alternate route for commuters who'd rather dodge the gridlocked ratrace of the freeway in favor of the Greenbelt's tree-lined scenery.
A short walk from the Ann Morrison playground not only takes you to the Pioneer Footbridge, where you can watch floaters or the river itself meander below, but also to the northern shore of the Boise River and the Greenbelt.
A riverside gazebo stands to the right once you cross the bridge and is a great place to snap photos or simply take a load off. Traveling east, the Greenbelt terminates at Barber Park, and ends at Willow Lane Park should you choose to go west. More scenic wonders await either direction, from the tranquil, pedestrian-exclusive Bethine Church River Trail to the uproarious, adjustable wave action of the Boise River Park.
Just remember that when you're on the Greenbelt, be courteous to your fellow explorers by maintaining your lane and observing posted rules.
This blending of nature and urban life is awe-inspiring to say the least, but for those who are looking for a more robust natural experience should simply stroll right back across Americana Boulevard to...
Explore Kathryn Albertson Park
Located right across the street from Ann Morrison lies Kathryn Albertson Park, a scenic wildlife preserve that features footpaths, ponds, a fountain and gazebos, all within the heart of Boise. Officially becoming a part of the Boise Parks & Recreation Department in 1989, the land was originally owned by Joe Albertson, owner of Albertsons, Inc., who named the park after his philanthropic wife.
The preserve is home to multitudes of native and migratory birds and waterfowl, reptiles and amphibians such as turtles and salamanders, as well as the occasional fox and/or deer.
If you plan on visiting this beautiful park, do bear in mind that "preserving wildlife" is the park's main goal and that:
- bicycling and skating are not allowed.
- glass containers are prohibited.
- dogs are not allowed from March 1st through June 30th for nesting season; leashes are required during all other times.
More information on the park and how to best enjoy it can be found within its brochure. If you just need a moment to get away from the hustle and bustle of this growing city, turn off your cellphone and take a stroll through Kathryn Albertson Park; plenty of photo ops and breathtaking views are to be had as long as you move softly.
When you've caught your breath and are ready to experience something a little more lively, then I'd recommend jumping back in your car and head towards Boise's picturesque Northend to...
Rediscover Camel's Back Park All Year
When someone thinks of a park in the academic sense, images of outdated playground equipment and questionable rest areas will most likely come to mind. Fortunately for visitors, they'll find neither at Camel's Back Park.
Constructed from multiple donations from individuals and organizations alike, the park was dedicated in 1965 and offers much more than some shade trees and anonymous park equipment. In fact, the park features a tennis court, outside gym equipment provided by Bodybuilding.com, an updated playground and a trail leading to the top of a foothill that offers a sweeping view of Boise Metro.
And for those who won't let a little snow stop them, a wintry visit to Camel's Back Park with a toboggan, saucer or oversized inner tube is the stuff that great memories are made of. Bring along a Thermos of hot chocolate or warm soup and make a day trip out of it that no one will soon forget. Bear in mind that the water fountains and restrooms are shut down during the winter months, so be sure to plan ahead and pack out what you bring in.
Even with awesome events such as the annual Hyde Park Street Fair rounding out the whole picturesque package, it's not the only party that frugal spectators are invited to.
Experience Alive After Five
For those who have, going to a concert can be expensive; throw in the whole family and it's a financial impossibility. For those who want to mingle and listen to some live music without cashing out their 401(k), Boise's Alive After Five Concert series is the place to go during the summer.
Held every Wednesday from June to August at the Grove Plaza in downtown Boise, the event is free to attend and is a great way to break up the work week during the sweltering summer months.
Food and drink are available for purchase from vendors such as 10 Barrel Brewing, Pie Hole Pizza and many more. Music, food and drink announcements are made over on the Alive After Five Facebook Page, so be sure to check that out for more information when it becomes available.
Tip jars are also available and go to different organizations throughout the duration of the event, but neither donations or purchases are necessary to enjoy Alive After Five and the awesome company that you bring along with you.
In fact, if you have relatives visiting from out of town, bring them along. Not only will it give them a chance to hear some great music and meet new people, but also give you the chance to show off the awesome sites of downtown Boise as well.
With Boise growing at a blistering rate, new events are being added all the time and yet not all of them require a small fortune to enjoy. Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below!