Some 20 miles west of Boise, Middleton is a small but growing city in the Treasure Valley. Like most places in the Boise area, Middleton is expanding by the year and has more than tripled in population since 2000.
Middleton a distinct rural flavor, with a world of agritourism experiences awaiting you close by. You could sip award-winning wine at a Snake River Valley vineyard, meet cute alpacas, tour an organic farm or shop for produce that has traveled no more than a few miles.
The city of Caldwell is also ten minutes by road and has a revitalized downtown, with an exciting program of outdoor events and restaurants for every palate.
1. Sunnyslope Wine Trail
It has taken a while for the rest of the country to catch up, but parts of the Snake River Valley in Southwest Idaho have the climate, terrain, soils and agricultural infrastructure for world-class wine.
The center of the Snake River Valley AVA is only 15 miles southwest of Middleton. Here the Sunnyslope Wine Trail incorporates 17 wineries and vineyards, producing award-winning wines and offering memorable tasting experiences.
As well as delivering you to tasting rooms ranging from sleek to cozy and homespun, the trail will also lead you through some of the Northwest’s loveliest farmland, on tall rounded hills that rise abruptly from the Snake River Valley.
A few of the standout establishments include Fujishin Family Cellars, Sawtooth Estate Winery & Vineyard, Indian Creek Winery, Koenig Vineyards and Ste. Chapelle Winery, all within 20 minutes of Middleton.
2. Middleton Place Park
On the east side of town, Middleton Place Park sits next to Idaho 44 and boasts a sizable tract of greenery on a rectangular plot.
There’s a baseball field, skate park, basketball hoops and tennis court here, but the park offers plenty of passive recreation too.
A meandering pathway, two thirds of a mile long, borders the entire park and weaves its way between the trees.
There’s also a hill in the otherwise flat terrain, used for tubing and sledding in the winter, and in summer you can make the most of the two picnic shelters, one small and one containing several tables.
3. Centennial Grove Park
On Middleton’s southern margins, within walking distance of downtown, is a compact pocket park where you’ll find the “Welcome to Middleton” sign by the road.
There’s a little more to Centennial Grove Park than meets the eye. First off, this is a very pretty place to take a picnic, with rows of fast-maturing deciduous and coniferous trees.
You’ll find a shelter and a slide for children, and you’re close enough to a slew of eateries and cafes if you want to bring takeout to this spot.
But Centennial Grove Park is also the trailhead for a path that will take you down to the nature-rich banks of the Boise River.
4. Macpaca Farms
Out in the countryside northeast of Middleton proper is a family farm that raises Huacaya alpacas.
The McCallister family has been in the alpaca business since 2013, working hard to develop its breeding program to ensure happy, healthy alpacas producing high-quality fleeces.
Macpaca Farms sells male and open and bred female alpacas, as well as a range of products made from their natural fiber.
Although the farm isn’t an attraction in the traditional sense, Ben and Kristi McCallister enjoy having visitors and showing the knowhow that goes into raising these lovable animals.
5. Indian Creek Plaza
Indian Creek flows through Treasure Valley for more than 60 miles before joining the Boise River at Caldwell.
In the downtown area the creek had been used for sewage disposal in the 20th century and was covered over for decades, but was finally brought to light once more with a superb urban renewal project.
Indian Creek Plaza is a creekside open area, setting the scene for dozens of outdoor events throughout the year, from movie screenings to Cinco de Mayo, farmers’ markets, the Sunnyslope Trail Wine Festival and Winter Wonderland, which we’ll cover in more detail later.
This part of downtown is also constellated with restaurants (more than 15 with a one-block radius), many sourcing their ingredients from the many farms all around Caldwell.
6. Babby Farms
A brief drive from Middleton is a wonderful petting zoo managed by a non-profit organization. Babby Farms was founded with the purpose of giving children and adults with disabilities the opportunity to interact with animals.
For this reason all of the animals here have been handled from a young age to get them accustomed to contact with people.
The petting zoo, open in the spring and summer, is in three acres, keeping a wide array of animals including anteaters, sloths, alpacas, yaks, camels, kangaroos, zebras, lemurs and many more.
This hands-on attraction is open to all and you can buy animal feed for many of the species. There’s a gift shop here too, helping raise money for the farm with lots of cute trinkets.
7. Silverhawk Aviation Academy
On Caldwell’s outskirts, about ten minutes from downtown Middleton is a city-owned airport used by amateur pilots but also a number of aviation businesses.
One of these is Silverhawk Aviation Academy, founded in 1998 and billed as Idaho’s number one flight school.
If you’re new to flying you could come for a hands-on Discovery Flight in an R22 or R44 helicopter, or a Cessna, taking the controls.
The company also offers a menu of helicopter tours, giving you sublime panoramas of beauty spots in the Boise region, like the Black Canyon Reservoir, Snake River Wine Region, the Owyhee Mountains and Downtown Boise.
8. Sky Down Skydiving
Another company based at Caldwell Industrial Airport offers skydiving experiences for everyone from newcomers to experts.
For newbies, Tandem Skydives require no prior experience and almost no training. You’ll be attached by harness to a seasoned skydiver and will be free to marvel at the views after leaping from an altitude of 10,000 feet.
Sky Down Skydiving uses a modified Cessna 182 able to climb at a remarkable rate and carry up to ten skydivers.
And to help you remember your jump or show it off to friends you can choose from professionally shot video and stills packages.
9. Piccadilly Park
By the time you read this article there’s a good chance that this park on West Main Street will be transformed.
Sitting across the road from Middleton Middle School, Piccadilly Park was home to the city’s expansive main skate park at the time of writing.
But to meet the recreation needs of a growing population a master plan was in place to add facilities like a giant “play pyramid”, a zip line, a skateable pathway, outdoor fitness stations, a splash pad/interactive creek, a tot lot and an amphitheater.
The park’s focal point will be the plaza, bordering the road and hosting the Middleton Farmers’ Market.
10. 4th of July Parade and Festivities
There’s extra reason to look forward to Independence Day in Middleton, as the city has a packed timetable of events and activities throughout the day.
We won’t be able to squeeze everything into this entry, but you can expect a kids’ carnival, vintage car show, train rides, a climbing wall, food and craft vendors, dance performances and live music.
There are also plenty of fun competitions, for anything from watermelon eating to baking pies. At noon you can catch a parade through the city streets and the festivities are brought to a close with fireworks at Foote Park.
11. Boise Riverside Park
Another project underway when we wrote this article was a 100-acre park on the north bank of the Boise River.
Some of the work already undertaken involved collecting trash and clearing large areas of invasive weeds.
This has already allowed a lot of gorgeous wetland plants like willows to thrive in a short space of time.
Slowly a wide array of songbirds are flocking to the riverside, from marsh wrens, to willow flycatchers and warbling vireos.
If you’re lucky you may see a great blue, or even a bald eagle if you come by in winter. In the meantime, the neighboring city of Star has developed an inviting piece of waterfront at the Star Riverwalk Park, five miles east of Middleton.
12. Winter Wonderland, Caldwell
Another benefit to being so close to Caldwell is enjoying this festival taking place throughout the holiday season and centered on Indian Creek Plaza.
One of the big attractions is the Ice Ribbon, a unique loop of skateable ice that looks especially pretty lit up at night.
Downtown Caldwell is also illuminated with more than a million lights from late November to early January, adorning buildings, trees and bridges and painting the city with a magical glow.
Winter Wonderland kicks off in November with a fun-filled opening weekend, featuring a market, classic holiday sweet treats and the opportunity for kids to visit Santa.
13. Little Cow Mountain Farm
In bucolic undulating scenery north of Middleton is one of the area’s most visited agritourism attractions.
Little Cow Mountain Farm raises Aberdeen Angus cattle and poultry, which live happily in spacious fields, grazing on lush pasture.
The farm employs sustainable practices, remaining local and doing much of its business at the Boise Farmers’ Market.
If you want to see how a responsible, small-scale farm operates you can take a 90-minute tour during the spring and summer months for an insight in its day-to-day operation. You can also call in at the shop, selling farm fresh eggs and high-quality pastured chicken.
14. Cliff’s Country Market
On the farm-to-table theme there’s a thriving local store in Caldwell selling seasonal produce.
During the summer you can come here for corn, cherries, watermelon and cantaloupe from nearby farms, while the peaches are sensational thanks to the long ripening season in this part of Idaho.
Cliff’s Country Market is strictly GMO free, with a host of private label products and making its own jams and salsa.
There are also two separate bakeries under one roof, one making only gluten-free products and another that also maintains that GMO-free policy.
15. The Haunted World
Just across the Boise River from Middleton is a seasonal attraction dubbed the “scariest haunted house in Idaho”.
The Haunted World is on an impressive scale, with spooky indoor and outdoor environments that will take 90 minutes to get through on weekdays and two hours on weekends.
Open from mid-September to Halloween, this attraction has been going for more than 20 years now and has a large team of dedicated and energetic actors, extraordinary production values, great costumes and all kinds of creatively designed animatronics and mechanical props.
The attention to detail is off the charts, resembling a theme park and offers lots of new frights with each season.