Young and trendy, Garden City is an enclave within Idaho’s State Capital and a hotbed for start-up businesses and artists.
This has much to do with the affordable rents in this part of town, and Garden City has taken care to nurture a creative atmosphere.
The Visitors Bureau has established a Craft Beverage Corridor, packed with wineries and breweries, while Garden City Artisans Pathway will lead you to dozens of artists’ studios.
Garden City is right on the Boise River, traced by the acclaimed Greenbelt trail system, and Boise’s sights, cultural amenities and family attractions are all just minutes away.
1. Boise River Greenbelt
A wonderful asset for Boise and its suburbs, the Greenbelt is a system of waterside trails encompassing 20 miles of the Boise River between Eagle in the west and Lucky Peak Dam in the east.
These multi-use paths are completely clear of motorized vehicles and thread through 850 acres of peaceful waterfront parks and undeveloped green spaces rich with wildlife.
Bald eagles are often sighted along the trail in winter, while waterfowl, a diversity of songbirds, Canada geese and the occasional great blue heron all make an appearance in the warmer months.
Bike rentals are available close to the greenbelt, and you can also rent paddleboards and kayaks for a trip on the river.
2. Garden City Artisans Pathway
There’s such an abundance of artists, wineries and craft breweries in Garden City that the visitors bureau has created a trail to connect as many of them as possible. You can get hold of a map close to the historical marker by Joe’s Crab Shack.
Cutely illustrated, labeled and numbered, this will guide you to a multitude of small businesses in the city, from jewelry-makers to glass artists, ceramicists, photographers and many more.
You’ll never be more than a few steps from the nearest winery, cidery or craft brewery where you can make a delicious discovery.
If you don’t have a map, the “Taste”, “Create” and “Play” signs posted around town will point you in the right direction.
3. Boise Hawks Baseball
Idaho doesn’t have a lot of professional sports teams to root for, but there’s one based right here in Garden City.
With a history going back to 1987, the Boise Hawks play their home games at Memorial Stadium right on the Boise River next to the Western Idaho Fairgrounds.
In this fine location, Memorial Stadium can hold close to 3,500 spectators, has a natural grass playing field, and has undergone plenty of improvements since it first opened in 1989.
The Hawks play in the MLB partner Pioneer League and when we wrote this article they were independent from any MLB outfit.
As for the fan experience, food options are plentiful and diverse, but old favorites like hotdogs, peanuts and beer are both good and inexpensive.
There are fireworks before and after the game on Fourth of July, while Memorial Stadium hosts all kinds of outdoor events, from concerts to stunt shows.
4. Ann Morrison Park
Walking the Greenbelt between downtown Boise and Garden City you’ll arrive at this delightful riverside park in 150 acres.
It was all planted in the 1950s, and as well as being picture-perfect and abounding with water features, Ann Morrison Park is packed with amenities and interesting details.
You can go birding here, right in the middle of an urban environment, while there’s a series of conservation stations providing habitats for insects, bats, birds and more.
For people with pups in tow, there’s a superb off-leash dog park that has a fenced area for “shy dogs”.
Elsewhere you’ll find a children’s playground, bocce, an outdoor gym, horseshoes, an 18-hole disc golf course and even a cricket field, home to Boise Cricket Club.
5. Water Activities
On a walk along the Greenbelt, the Boise River will begin to look very appealing, especially on a summer’s day.
As it flows past Garden City the river is constantly forking off into channels and converging, so there’s plenty to explore, and no shortage of lovely green places to take a rest or a picnic.
If you’re in the mood for a paddle along the river there are a couple companies offering rentals right on the Greenbelt in Garden City.
Idaho River Sports has hourly and daily rates for canoes, inflatable kayaks and inflatable SUPs, while Cascade River Gear offers daily packages for paddleboarding, kayaking and boating.
6. Telaya Wine Co.
Directly on the Greenbelt in Garden City, Telaya Wine Co. produces handcrafted wines with grapes grown at vineyards around Washington and Idaho.
If you’re riding by the river you’ll be able to use the bike rack here. Among the releases when we put this list together were Chardonnays, Cabernets Sauvignons, a Malbec, Tempranillo, a Cab Franc, a Pinot Gris, a Petit Verdot and a lineup of red blends.
You’re free to bring your own food or snacks along, and there’s no shortage of eateries along the Greenbelt for takeout.
If you would like to know more about how Telaya crafts its wine, you can take a private guided tasting (six wines), along with an enlightening tour through the production space.
7. Meriwether Cider Company
Hard cider is a drink once hugely popular in the United States but disappeared after prohibition.
This beverage, blending the drinkability of beer with the sophistication of wine, is now making a comeback, and one brand gaining a foothold in the Boise area is the Meriwether Cider Company.
Using only apples from the Northwest, Meriwether has a taproom on the Craft Beverage Corridor in Garden City, as well as a cider house in downtown Boise.
At the taproom you might be surprised by the variety, including semi-dry and semi-sweet ciders, barrel-aged or brewed with blackberry, ginger, hops, wine grapes or cherry and thyme.
There will always be a seasonal cider to try, and Meriwether also produces hard seltzers, all made with a cider base.
8. Barbarian Brewing
This intrepid and creative small-batch brewery was established in Garden City in 2015 and also has a second taproom in downtown Boise.
Barbarian Brewing ages its beers in oak barrels (90 in total) and blends old world methods with new world innovation.
This means classics like IPAs, sours, stouts, porters and Belgian ales, along with crazy experiments like cocktail-inspired beers and ice cream ales.
No fewer than 20 of these are on draft at one time at the taproom in Garden City, and you can also order local cider and wine as well as limited-run beers by the bottle.
In summer you can sip your pint outside on the patio, and you can catch food trucks and live music most Fridays and Saturdays.
9. Western Collective Beer
This stylish craft brewery has set up shop in a warehouse in the south of Garden City, hard to miss for the sleek mountain motif on its exterior.
Imbued with hip design, Western Collective makes a selection of IPAs, as well as a rotating lineup of lagers, stouts, shandies, Hefeweizens and Pilsners, to name a handful.
At the taproom you can try an alcoholic or non-alcoholic slush, while the brewery also makes its own coffee, hard seltzer and wines (Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Blend).
Thursday to Sunday there’s always something happening at the taproom, with live music and food trucks for a diversity of cuisines, from Japanese to Caribbean.
10. Western Idaho Fair
One of Idaho’s three annual state fairs is held here in Garden City in the grounds of Expo Idaho.
Taking place over ten, fun-filled days, starting on the third Friday of August, this time-honored agricultural event has a history going back to 1897.
At that time it was called the Intermountain Fair, answering a need for Idaho’s dispersed rural communities to connect with each other.
Things have changed a lot since then, and for decades the fair has booked big-name recording artists and entertainers, and has a carnival area that now covers seven acres.
But agricultural activities are still the soul of the celebration, with a wealth of crop, livestock and machinery exhibits, competitions and sales.
For the rest of the year there’s a lot happening at Expo Idaho, whether it’s a light display at Christmas, trade shows, vehicle exhibitions and dog shows.
11. Asana Climbing Gym
On the scene in Garden City for more than 20 years is this indoor climbing facility at the Glenwood Shopping Center.
Idaho is a state with innumerable world-class climbing locations, and if you want to develop your skills there’s no better place to begin than Asana Climbing Gym.
You can get a day pass for one of the most challenging workouts you could hope to experience, while the gym also offers multi-punch passes and membership for up to one year.
Practically every surface here is covered with climbing grips, and as well as a helpful and experienced team of staff there’s an comprehensive schedule of activities.
These include climbing classes for all ages and abilities, yoga and aerial arts sessions, ecstatic dance and youth programs from after-school climbs to summer camps.
12. Westy’s Garden Lanes
With 40 lanes, this alley in Garden City is one of the largest in Idaho. Westy’s Garden Lanes also has a long history in the town, founded back in 1959 and entertaining generations of Boise and Garden City residents.
You can choose to bowl by the game or time slot, and if you’re here with your family you can opt for “MAD Games” that turn the lane into a kind of interactive video game.
There’s blacklight “Cosmic Bowling” on weekend evenings, as well as leagues and tournaments on weeknights for serious players.
The alley also has a restaurant with a big menu catering to all palates and serving breakfast food all day.
13. Old Idaho Penitentiary
Naturally all of Boise’s top attractions are minutes from Garden City, and there are a few that need to be in your plans. For history the best place to begin is this state prison that operated from 1872 to 1973.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary was established a full two decades before Idaho gained statehood, and is made up of a series of Romanesque Revival sandstone buildings enclosed by a 17-foot stone wall.
The material for these structures was quarried from the Boise Range by inmates. Included in the 13,000 people to pass through these gates are some prominent figures, like Harry Orchard (1866-1954) who assassinated Idaho Governor Frank Steunenburg in 1905.
You can uncover Orchard’s story and more at the preserved cell blocks, solitary cells and gallows.
There are more than 30 historic buildings on the site, along with numerous exhibits including the permanent J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit, featuring historic arms and military memorabilia.
14. Idaho Botanical Garden
Close by the Old Penitentiary is Idaho’s state botanical garden with more than 800 species of plants growing in 14 specialty gardens.
Covering 15 acres, this attraction is on what used to be the prison’s farm and nursery and has steadily taken shape over the last 40 years.
One area, the Meditation Garden, features mature trees that were planted by minimum security prisoners in the 1930s and 40s.
Waiting to be explored are a rose garden with heirloom rose bushes and a water garden home to koi, frogs and spectacular lilies, while the Idaho Native Plant Garden showcases the plants that thrive in the state’s diversity of ecosystems, from desert sagebrush to mountain forest species like Pacific dogwood.
The garden has a busy events calendar, hosting concerts in summer, a harvest festival in fall and the magical Winter Garden in the holiday season.
15. Freak Alley
On 8th and 9th Streets and Bannock and Idaho Streets in downtown Boise there’s a service alley that has been turned into the largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest.
It all began in the early 2000s when a doorway was decorated, and by 2002 the alley had earned its colorful name.
Every available space is covered with eclectic and imaginative murals by more than 200 artists from Boise and beyond.
These works are covered with new paintings every two years so Freak Alley is in a constant state of flux.