In the Snake River Plain, the city of Chubbuck has steadily grown over the last 30 years, more than doubling in population since 1990.
And while this is a new settlement, with new developments and parks all around, there are some fascinating stories to uncover.
In the middle of the 19th century the river valley was on a key emigration corridor, and hundreds of thousands of travelers passed through, along the Oregon and California Trails.
A replica of the trading post and supply station, Fort Hall, has been set up in Pocatello, which sits directly south of Chubbuck.
Pocatello is the county seat, with a charming old downtown area and lots of culture thanks to the Idaho State University campus and the excellent Museum of Clean.
1. Bannock County Event Center
On 80 acres of high ground with marvellous views of Chubbuck, Pocatello and the distant mountains, is a combined recreation center and events venue.
Found just east of downtown Chubbuck, this facility was donated to Bannock County in 2015 by the Portneuf Health and comprises facilities for all-comers.
There’s a six-acre lake here with a swimming beach and stocked with trout. You’ll find eleven multi-use sports fields, a championship field, sand volleyball courts and two basketball courts, all accompanied by 130 horse stalls and an RV park with 122 campsites.
In a panoramic spot on the park’s north side is the Portneuf Health Trust Amphitheatre, able to hold up to 11,000 spectators and regularly hosting blockbuster events.
2. Stuart Park
Chubbuck gained its first ever splash pad in 2017 when this treasured and well-used facility opened at Stuart Park, next door to the Portneuf District Library.
Summers haven’t been the same for kids since this playground opened, with its arching, weaving and bubbling sprays, flying from the ground.
The splash pad is open from 10 am to 9 pm in the summer months, while another hallmark of the hot season in Chubbuck is Stuart Park’s program of movie screenings in the evenings.
3. Museum of Clean
The prominent Idaho entrepreneur Don Aslett (b. 1935), founder of the large-scale janitorial contractor Varsity Facility Services, has devoted his entire career to the fields of hygiene and cleanliness.
And in 2011 he opened the kind of museum that would not look out of place in a city ten times the size of Pocatello.
Using the latest hygiene systems and energy conservation, the Museum of Clean is housed in a fine old warehouse from 1915, studying the value and promoting awareness of cleanliness through multimedia, hands-on exhibits and art spanning 2,000 years.
On show are some exciting artifacts, like a 1,600-year-old bronze toothpick and a horse drawn vacuum cleaner from 1902.
This is one of a massive collection of vacuum cleaners, to go with a wide array of washing machines, for a complete look at how domestic technology has advanced since the early 20th century.
4. Old Town Pocatello
Centered on several blocks of Main Street is one of the best-preserved and most vibrant urban streetscapes in the region.
On walkable, tree-lined streets, are rows of elegant brick buildings, most dating from the end of the 19th century or very beginning of the 20th century.
You’ll see lots of lovely details like vintage neon signs, historic hand-painted advertisements and the names of long-gone proprietors, still adorning facades.
More than an open-air museum, Old Town Pocatello is a thriving commercial area dominated by local small businesses.
There are restaurants for a whole range of cuisines, from Greek to Thai to Indian, along with galleries, charming gift shops and stores for fashion, skating, musical instruments, watches, jewelry, antiques and much more.
Across the tracks is the Historic Warehouse District, where you’ll find the Museum of Clean, while on the Main Street side is the palatial Union Pacific Depot, composed of brick on an ashlar stone base and dedicated in 1915.
5. Bannock County Historical Museum
Another great reason to swing by Pocatello is because the history museum for the wider Bannock County is there.
This attraction is in a little district, combining Ross Park, Zoo Idaho and the replica of Fort Hall, a trading post integral to 19th-century emigration.
The Bannock County Historical Museum is a superb repository for the area, dealing with Shoshone and Bannock archaeology, fur trapping and trading, the Oregon Trail, the arrival of the railroad and a lot more besides.
You can explore reproductions of rooms from various stages in the county’s past, at a general store, medical practices, Victorian parlor and photographic studio, all furnished with period-appropriate decoration and equipment.
Some of the many exciting artefacts include an authentic stagecoach, an early fire engine and police evidence from the prohibition days.
6. Fort Hall Replica
You can’t overestimate the importance of this area to the settlement of the western side of North America in the 19th century.
Fort Hall, the original site of which is on the Snake River, about 30 miles northwest, on the Indian Reservation of the same name, was a trading post from 1834, and then a station on the Oregon and California trail, which diverged not far west of this point.
It is thought that as many as 270,000 immigrants came through these parts in the mid-19th century. This enthralling aspect of local history is retold at a faithful reconstruction of Fort Hall, by the Bannock County Historical Museum.
The replica was built in the 1960s using an historic inventory for reference, with facilities like carpenter and blacksmith’s shops, a company hall, factor’s quarter, along with an Indian Room and Frontier Room.
On your tour you can find out all about the trappers, fur traders, immigrants and gold miners who stopped at this place, as well as the Shoshone and Bannock Native Americans.
7. Shoshone Bannock Tribal Museum
The Fort Hall Reservation for the Shoshone-Bannock tribes is directly north of Chubbuck and deserves a visit for a few reasons.
One attraction impossible to ignore is the Shoshone-Bannock Casino & Hotel, which was updated into a full-fledged casino resort in 2019, open 24/7 with hundreds of slots, live entertainment and five eateries.
If you’re intrigued by the history of the Shoshone and Bannock Tribes there’s an overlooked by detailed museum.
In a large octagonal hall are examples of stone tools, weapons, beadwork and textiles, together with interesting accounts of the tumultuous 19th century and a wall of black and white photos.
One of the figures greeting you here is Shoshone leader, Chief Pocatello (1815-1884), for whom the neighboring city is named, and a guiding hand through decades of intrusion, conflict, oppression and starvation.
8. Idaho Museum of Natural History
The official state museum for natural history is ten minutes away on the ISU campus in Pocatello.
The museum was established in 1934 and calls on a vast collection of 500,000 specimens, with a focus on life science, earth science and anthropology in the Intermountain West.
So you’ll learn about the flora and fauna of the Snake River Plains, Idaho’s interesting geology and fossil history, and the people of Idaho, both now and in the distant past.
A permanent exhibit covers the megafauna of the Ice Age with impressive mounted skeletons of saber tooth cats and short-faced bears, but also a helicoprion shark fossil, dating back 230,000 million years.
There are also two temporary exhibits a year, delving into a specific topic, from nocturnal animals to the composition of skulls.
9. Palace Playhouse
Right in the center of Chubbuck you might be surprised to stumble upon a replica Medieval castle.
This is in fact a dinner theater, run by a young, skilled and enthusiastic team and staging Broadway-style shows.
Some of the productions from a recent season at the Palace Playhouse included Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and the musical version of Legally Blonde.
This live entertainment is paired with a fine dining menu featuring prime rib, stuffed salmon and child-friendly options like breaded chicken bites. Check the calendar for matinée brunch & shows on Fridays and Saturdays.
10. Geronimo’s Trampoline Park
Just around the corner from the Chubbuck’s new City Hall is an 11,000-square-foot indoor trampoline park, fast becoming a favorite activity for families.
Tons of fun for kids and a real workout for grownups, this attraction is designed with all age groups in mind.
There’s even a designated space especially for the smallest members of the family to bounce without getting bumped around.
Elsewhere Geronimo’s Trampoline Park has an airbag with three lanes if you want to really take flight, as well as two slam-dunk lanes, jousting platforms, two dodgeball courts and of course a giant open jump area.
11. Swore Farms
Off Route 91 heading north of Chubbuck is a family-run farm producing CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) boxes throughout the summer and deep into fall.
Swore Farms is also a season attraction welcoming the public to try to solve its famous corn maze, normally starting around late-August.
This is combined with hay wagon rides, a play area and a giant wheat sandbox. Then in October you’ve got pumpkin season, when you can visit the massive pumpkin patch to pick a ripe orange pumpkin or an unripe green pumpkin (a little cheaper) to take home.
12. Brooklyn’s Playground
Another real point of pride for the Pocatello-Chubbuck area is this playground in O. K. Ward Park, just southwest of downtown Chubbuck.
Around 11% of students in the Pocatello/Chubbuck have a disability by the definition of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
This led to a community-led project to provide a safe and accessible place for all of the children in the area to play, developing their cognitive, physical and social skills.
As for the remainder of the park, there’s a softball field, basketball court, horseshoe pits, covered pavilion, covered pavilion and electricity and water hook-ups.
13. Pebble Creek Ski Area
The mountains bordering Chubbuck get a healthy coating of snow in winter, and the nearest ski area sits within a half-hour by road.
This is Pebble Creek, on the small-ish but surprisingly steep Mt. Bonneville in the Portneuf Range. There are 54 named runs in all, and given the steepness, these are mostly distributed towards intermediate (35%) and advanced (53%) skiers and snowboarders.
There are 1,100 acres of skiable terrain all told, served by three triple chairlifts. If you can’t get here during the day, there is night skiing on Fridays and Saturdays, January to March. Also on weekends, you can linger on the mountain a little longer at the friendly Rock Bottom Saloon.
14. Zoo Idaho
Pocatello has had a zoo since the 1930s, standing out by focussing on the species of the Intermountain West.
To name a handful of the 40+ species, you can expect to see black bears, bison, pronghorn, wild turkeys, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mule deer, mountain goats, mountain lions and bobcats.
When it comes to birdlife, you can see an array of waterfowl and bird of prey in spacious aviaries, while there’s a barnyard contact area with goats, rabbits, cows and donkeys.
Zoo Idaho has invested a lot in its enclosures over the last 20 years, and you can check the website for an engaging schedule of keeper chats, taking place on weekends.
15. Stephens Center
In 2004 Idaho State University unveiled a multi-venue performing arts complex that any university in the world would be proud of.
Set on high ground at the ISU campus in Pocatello, the Stephens Center came about with the help of private donations, who put up much of the $35 million needed to realize the project.
The centerpiece is the Joseph C. and Cheryl H. Jensen Grand Concert Hall, seating 1,200, complemented by other stages like the 450-seater Beverly B. Bistline Thrust Theatre.
On the program are classical concerts, recitals, musicals, plays, dance performances and more not only by students but also major touring ensembles and artists.