An eastern suburb of Idaho Falls, Ammon is a burgeoning city with a population that has tripled since 2000.
And while Ammon has excellent amenities, including several parks, a mall, multiplex cinema and several shopping plazas, being contiguous with the commercial and cultural hub for Eastern Idaho brings plenty of advantages.
Idaho Falls has been named as one of the “Best Places to Raise Kids” by Business Week, and made CNN/Money’s list of the Top 100 cities in the country.
Nothing in Idaho Falls is more than 15 minutes away by road, whether it’s the state’s premier museum, a gorgeous riverside greenbelt or the ballpark for Eastern Idaho’s only professional sports team, the Idaho Falls Chukars.
1. McCowin Park
The city’s largest park lies just west of the arterial Ammon Road and is a no-brainer for families on summer days.
You’ll find the open-air City of Ammon Swimming Pool here, open Monday to Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day and charging reasonable rates, whether you want to get some exercise in or bring kids to the ever popular splash pad.
Enclosed by a multi-use trail, the rest of the park has a children’s playground, a gazebo for events, a concessions stand in summer, tennis courts, baseball and soccer fields, a shelter and a nine-hole disc golf course.
2. Museum of Idaho
Idaho’s foremost museum is a short hop away in downtown Idaho Falls. This attraction opened in 2003, adding a modern glass atrium to the historic Carnegie Library building, which was completed in 1916, and linking it with a former Masonic Lodge.
The Museum of Idaho is an exciting repository for the state, exploring topics like paleontology, geology, Native American history and European settlement in the 19th century.
Among the many curiosities to check out are one of the world’s first snowmobiles, an American flag from the Revolutionary War, a replica of a Columbian mammoth and historic equipment from the National Reactor Testing Station, based in Idaho Falls.
As well as covering Idaho from all angles the museum also puts on important temporary exhibits for a wealth of themes.
Over the last decade these have included the inventions of Archimedes, Darwin, Ancient Rome, space exploration, the history of the guitar, pirates, Egyptology, to name just a handful.
3. Tautphaus Park
Packed with amenities, this treasured urban park is named for the German developer Charles C. Tautphaus (1841-1906), who helped irrigate the area in the late-19th century.
The land for Tautphaus Park was bought in the 1930s, and is crossed on the west side by the Butte Arm Canal.
This was created some 20 years before to provide water for Tautphaus’ passion project, a lake which lay about a mile to the north and was filled in the 1890s.
In the 1930s Works Progress Administration projects furnished Tautphaus Park, with several buildings, one of which can be seen at the superintendent’s office for the Idaho Falls Zoo.
Nowadays the park is a go-to for recreation in the Idaho Falls area, with a zoo (more below), skating rink, small amusement park, huge grassy spaces, a skate park, playground, ballfields, horseshoe pits and three shelters.
4. Idaho Falls River Walk
The mighty Snake River brings natural splendor to the heart of the Idaho Falls cityscape. Even better is that five miles of riverfront downtown have now been totally revitalized on both banks.
This transformation was led by the Idaho Falls Rotary Club, which continues to stage the Great Snake River Greenbelt Duck Race in August to raise additional funds.
The river walk features unbroken paved trails for walkers, joggers and cyclists, along the neatly landscaped banks and into a chain of waterside parks with benches and picnic areas.
One of the big sights is of course the man-made waterfall, which turned a section of rapids into falls to generate hydroelectricity.
The trail is also a linchpin for the city’s social life, with free summer concerts and the bandshell on Memorial Drive, and on Thursdays at the nearby Snake River Landing.
5. Idaho Falls Zoo
Renovated in the 2000s, this compact zoo on the west side of Tautphaus Park bills itself as the “best little zoo in the West”.
Awaiting you at Idaho Falls Zoo are over 300 animals, representing 130 species from all parts of the globe. This attraction is also very conservation-oriented taking part in more than 40 Species Survival Plans.
For a quick summary of the animals on show, you’ll find snow leopards, penguins, zebras, wallabies, otters, New Guinea singing dogs, macaws, emus and llamas.
These are arranged according to geographic regions like Africa, South America and North America, while there’s a Children’s Zoo with domestic animals like Nigerian dwarf goats, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, peafowl and Sardinian donkeys.
6. Japanese Friendship Garden
Idaho Falls is twinned with the Japanese city of Tokai-Mura, in Ibaraki Prefecture. This partnership is the origin of an authentic Japanese Garden that has taken shape over the last decade thanks to a heroic volunteer effort.
The setting is lovely, on a river island close to the waterfall, and the sound of rushing water adds a layer of peace to the garden.
This is also a historic site, as the site of the first permanent bridge to span the Snake River in Eastern Idaho.
The Japanese Friendship Garden has a lot of traditional touches like a pavilion, garden gate and “dragon’s path” crossing a pond.
The city of Tokai-Mura has also donated expertise and materials, including an imposing lantern, to help turn it into a first-class community asset.
7. Melaleuca Field
The only professional sports team in the whole of Eastern Idaho is based a few miles away. Now playing in the Pioneer League, the Idaho Falls Chukars have a storied history going back to the less dynamically-named “Idaho Falls Spuds” in the 1920s.
The team changed their name in 2003, and in 2007 moved into Melaleuca Field, a thoroughly modern stadium with a capacity of 3,400.
The funds for this project were raised in the community, and individual bricks are etched with the names of the stadium’s many donors.
What you get is a charming small-town ballpark and a wonderful place to spend a summer evening with a beer and hot dog in hand.
When we wrote this article the Chukars were unaffiliated with any MLB team, after decades fielding prospects from the likes of the Kansas City Royals, San Diego Padres and Atlanta Braves.
8. Art Museum of Eastern Idaho (TAM)
The only art museum in Southeastern Idaho can be found on the riverfront in Idaho Falls. Inaugurated in 2002, this is a treasured resource for the city and surrounding region, providing a showcase and gathering place for artists from Southeastern Idaho.
TAM hosts high-profile temporary exhibitions, complemented by studio sessions, workshops and classes.
There’s also a busy events schedule, with an artisan fair in the holiday season, regular family days and much more besides.
The museum is also the venue for ART Idaho, a biennial juried competition and exhibition for the entire state, typically held in the summer and fall on odd years.
9. Collectors Corner Museum
A former one-story grocery store a few minutes away has been turned into a kind of shrine for every collectible craze from the last 60+ years.
The Collectors Corner Museum is the long-term labor of love for Jim and Nida Gyorfy, who have been married since 1960 and opened this unique museum in 2003.
Neatly ordered on shelves and in display cases are some 125 different collections of collectibles.
These tireless collectors have accumulated everything from troll dolls to commemorative plates, stuffed animal toys, model planes, Precious Moments figurines, hubcaps, Ron Lee clowns and a whole lot more.
The couple will be pleased to show you around and talk you through their exhibits.
10. Idaho Falls Idaho Temple
As much as two thirds of the metro population of Idaho Falls are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In 1945 the city became the home of the eighth operating temple for this faith, built in an Art Deco style and rising to 143 feet.
This was the first LDS temple to be given a Modernist spire, and was designed by the church board of temple architects.
Regardless of your faith, it’s a striking reference point for the city, in a prominent spot on the east bank of the Snake River and couched in manicured grounds.
If you’re curious about the building or the prevailing belief system in Idaho Falls there’s a visitor centre with exhibits about the Book of Mormon, but also the story of the building’s construction.
11. Sand Creek Golf Course
On Ammon’s southwestern fringe is one of the best-rated courses in Eastern Idaho. The pleasure of Sand Creek’s 18-hole championship course is its accessibility, offering a fun round for relative newcomers as much as low-handicap golfers.
This is partly down to the forgiving greens and fairways. Green fees are reasonable, and the course accepts non-residents and out-of-state visitors seven days a week.
If you want to hone your skills there’s a six-hole par 3, as well as a driving range with plenty of berths.
12. Willard Arts Center
In 1994 a prominent figure in Idaho Falls life, Dick Clayton Sr. (1919-2008) and his son Steve donated three adjacent buildings downtown to the nonprofit Idaho Falls Arts Council.
One of these was the beautiful Colonial Theater (1919), a former vaudeville stage-turned movie theater.
The complex was renovated in the following years to become the Willard Arts Center. This comprises two galleries for visual arts, nine artist studios, meeting rooms, office and of course the Colonial Theater.
The center presents up to 16 mainstage shows a season, most of which are at the Colonial Theater, while there are exhibitions for local and national artists at the Hall and Carr Galleries.
13. Joe Marmo/Wayne Lehto Ice Arena
Another great facility in Tautphaus Park is the premier skating rink in Southeastern Idaho.
As well as popular public skate sessions, the Joe Marmo/Wayne Lehto Ice Arena offers skating lessons, hockey programs and a calendar packed with events, from state hockey tournaments to figure skating competitions.
The NHL regulation rink is 80 foot by 190 foot and is complemented by the state’s best locker room facilities, a snack bar and rental shop.
The surface is groomed before every public skate session, and combined admission and skate rental costs as little as $10.
14. East Idaho Aquarium
Another popular visitor attraction close by in Idaho Falls is this aquarium, founded in a former commercial building in 2013.
The East Idaho Aquarium is the product of a lot of volunteer hours, as well as the generosity of several local businesses.
With every visit there’s more to see, at a substantial shark exhibit and touch tanks for harmless stingrays and starfish.
Elsewhere, in illuminated tanks you can check out jellyfish, eels, octopuses, sea turtles, a wide variety of colorful tropical fish and the freshwater species native to Idaho’s rivers and lakes.
The aquarium also keeps plenty of non-marine animals, like parakeets, iguanas, a porcupine and a boa constrictor.
15. Grand Teton Mall
Shopping is not a problem in Ammon, with a large mall that has been here since 1984, surrounded by newer mixed-use developments catering to the city’s steadily growing population.
The long-established Grand Teton Mall has 80 stores, and is anchored by Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, Dillard’s and JCPenney, with locations for Best Buy, Foot Locker, Victoria’s Secret and many more.
Close by are newer, sprawling power centers, home to a whole raft of chain restaurants, as well as the likes of Kohl’s, T. J. Maxx, Walmart and Target, and the multiplex Regal Edwards Grand Teton.