Welcome to Boise, Idaho
Boise is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Idaho, and is the county seat of Ada County. Located on the Boise River in southwestern Idaho, the population of Boise at the 2010 Census was 205,671, the 99th largest in the United States. Its estimated population in 2016 was 223,154.
The Boise-Nampa metropolitan area, also known as the Treasure Valley, includes five counties with a combined population of 709,845, the most populous metropolitan area in Idaho. It contains the state’s three largest cities; Boise, Nampa, and Meridian. Boise is the 80th most populous metropolitan statistical area in the United States.
Living in Boise, Idaho
The name may instead derive from earlier mountain men, who named the river that flows through it. In the 1820s, French Canadian fur trappers set trap lines in the vicinity. Set in a high-desert area, the tree-lined valley of the Boise River became a distinct landmark, an oasis dominated by cottonwood trees. They called this “La rivière boisée”, which means “the wooded river.”
Main Street in 1911
The area was called Boise long before the establishment of Fort Boise by the federal government. The original Fort Boise was 40 miles (64 km) west, near Parma, down the Boise River near its confluence with the Snake River at the Oregon border. This private sector defense was erected by the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1830s. It was abandoned in the 1850s, but massacres along the Oregon Trail prompted the U.S. Army to re-establish a fort in the area in 1863 during the U.S. Civil War.
The new location was selected because it was near the intersection of the Oregon Trail with a major road connecting the Boise Basin (Idaho City) and the Owyhee (Silver City) mining areas, both of which were booming. During the mid-1860s, Idaho City was the largest city in the Northwest, and as a staging area, Fort Boise grew rapidly; Boise was incorporated as a city 156 years ago in 1863. The first capital of the Idaho Territory was Lewiston in north central Idaho, which in 1863 was the largest community, exceeding the populations of Olympia and Seattle, Washington Territory and Portland, Oregon combined. The original territory was larger than Texas. But following the creation of Montana Territory, Boise was made the territorial capital of a much reduced Idaho in a controversial decision which overturned a district court ruling by a one-vote majority in the territorial supreme court along geographic lines in 1866.
Designed by Alfred B. Mullett, the U.S. Assay Office at 210 Main Street was built in 1871 and today is a National Historic Landmark.
Most of the metropolitan area lies on a broad, flat plain, descending to the west. Mountains rise to the northeast, stretching from the far southeastern tip of the Boise city limits to nearby Eagle. These mountains are known to locals as the Boise foothills and are sometimes described as the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. About 34 miles (55 km) southwest of Boise, and about 26 miles (42 km) southwest of Nampa, the Owyhee Mountains lie entirely in neighboring Owyhee County.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 80.05 square miles (207.33 km2), of which, 79.36 square miles (205.54 km2) is land and 0.69 square miles (1.79 km2) is water. The city is drained by the Boise River. The City of Boise is considered part of the Treasure Valley.
Boise occupies a large area — 64 sq mi (170 km2) according to the United States Census Bureau. Like all major cities, it is composed of several neighborhoods. These include the Bench, the North End, West Boise and Downtown, among others. In January 2014 the Boise Police Department (BPD) partnered with the folksonomic neighborhood blogging site Nextdoor, the first city in the Northwest and the 137th city in the U.S. to do so. Since the app, which enables the city’s police, fire, and parks departments to post to self-selected, highly localized areas, first became available in October 2011, 101 neighborhoods and sections of neighborhoods have joined.
The area’s largest private, locally based, publicly traded employer is Micron Technology. Others include IDACORP, Inc., the parent company of Idaho Power, Idaho Bancorp, Boise, Inc., American Ecology Corp., and PCS Edventures.com Inc.
Technology investment and the high-tech industry have become increasingly important to the city, with businesses including Hewlett Packard, Healthwise, Bodybuilding.com, CradlePoint, Crucial.com, ClickBank, MetaGeek, MobileDataForce, MarkMonitor, Sybase, Balihoo, Intracon NA, Wire Stone, and Microsoft. The call center industry is also a major source of employment; there are over 20 call centers in the city employing more than 7,000 people, including WDSGlobal (a Xerox company), EDS, Teleperformance, DIRECTV, Taos and T-Mobile.
Varney Air Lines, founded by Walter Varney in 1926, was formed in Boise, though headquartered at Pasco, Washington. The original airmail contract was from Pasco to Elko, Nevada, with stops in Boise in both directions. Varney Air Lines is the original predecessor company of present-day United Airlines, which still serves the city at the newly renovated and upgraded Boise Airport.
Idaho’s ethnic Basque community is one of the largest in the United States, on the order of nearly 7,000 people in 2000, many of whom live in Boise. A large Basque festival known as Jaialdi is held once every five years (next in 2020). Downtown Boise features a vibrant section known as the “Basque Block”. Boise’s mayor, David H. Bieter, is of Basque descent. Boise is also a sister region of the Basque communities.
Boise is home to several museums, including the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Historical Museum, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Idaho Black History Museum, Boise WaterShed and the Discovery Center of Idaho. On the first Thursday of each month, a gallery stroll known as First Thursday is hosted in the city’s core business district by the Downtown Boise Association.
Boise also has a thriving performing arts community. The Boise Philharmonic, now in its 49th season, under the leadership of Music Director and Conductor Robert Franz continues to grow musically, and introduces excellent guest artists and composers year after year. The dance community is represented by the resurgent Ballet Idaho under artistic director Peter Anastos, and the nationally known and critically acclaimed Trey McIntyre Project also make their home in Boise. All of these perform at the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts, on the Boise State University campus. The Morrison Center also hosts local and national fine arts performances. Rounding out the classical performing arts is Opera Idaho, under the direction of Mark Junkert, which brings grand Opera to various venues throughout the Treasure Valley.
The Boise City Department of Arts and History was created in 2008 with the goal of promoting the arts, culture, and history of the city among its residents and visitors. Since 1978 Boise had a public arts commission like many cities to promote public art and education. The Arts Commission provided expert advice on public art installations to the city and private groups, as well as to develop many educational programs within the city promoting the arts. In 2008 the city and the Arts Commission made the decision to introduce history into the scope of the art commission and rename this new commission the Boise City Department of Arts and History.
The Boise City Department of Arts and History oversees several ongoing projects and programs related to art, culture, and history, and a number of short-term projects at any given time. Ongoing projects include maintenance of a public art collection valued at over $3 million, creation and maintenance of city historical and art walks and tours, maintenance of a city historical research collection, artists in residence, and the Fettuccine Forum.
In 2013, Boise celebrated its sesquicentennial, the commemoration was also known as the Boise 150. The commemoration was led by the City of Boise’s Department of Arts & History. The Department of Arts & History focused the commemoration on the themes of Enterprise, Community, and Environment. For the sesquicentennial year, the Department of Arts and History inhabited a storefront at 1008 Main St. This Boise 150 headquarters, also known as the Sesqui-Shop operated as a store, exhibit space, and event venue. Local merchants produced authentic local products as part of the sesquicentennial. Sesquicentennial events included Thinking 150, Anniversary Weekend, Re-Art Children’s Program, Sesqui-Speaks, and Walk 150. Legacy pieces of the sesquicentennial included the Share Your Story Program, a Commemorative book featuring local writers, and a commemorative CD featuring local musicians. As part of the sesquicentennial, the Department of Arts & History also awarded a Legacy Grant to the Shoshone-Bannock Culture Committee, as well as 36 smaller community grants.
According to a 2012 study performed by Americans for the Arts, arts, both public and private, in Boise is a forty-eight million dollar per year industry. The same study also cited the arts in and around Boise as a supplier of jobs for about 1600 people and producer of roughly $4.4 million in revenue to state and local government.
The Boise Centre on the Grove is an 85,000-square-foot (7,900 m2) convention center that hosts a variety of events, including international, national, and regional conventions, conferences, banquets, and consumer shows. It is located in the heart of downtown Boise and borders the Grove Plaza, which hosts numerous outdoor functions throughout the year including the New Year’s Eve celebration, the Idaho Potato Drop hosted by the Idaho New Year’s Commission.
The Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center offers a streamwalk with water features and wildlife experiences just east of downtown. It is located adjacent to Municipal Park. It features live fish and wildlife exhibits, viewing areas into the water, bird and butterfly gardens, waterfalls and a free visitor’s center.
Boise has diverse and vibrant religious communities. The Jewish community’s Ahavath Beth Israel Temple, completed 1896, is the nation’s oldest continually used temple west of the Mississippi. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated a temple there in 1984. The Boise Hare Krishna Temple opened in August 1999.
Boise (along with Valley and Boise Counties) hosted the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games. More than 2,500 athletes from over 85 countries participated.
In 1972, John Waters set the final scene of his low-budget film Pink Flamingos in Boise.
Boise’s sister cities are Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai, Russia and Gernika, Spain.
In Julia Davis Park is Zoo Boise, which has over 200 animals representing over 80 species from around the world. An Africa exhibit, completed in 2008, is the most recent addition. Boise is also home to the Idaho Aquarium.
The Bogus Basin ski area opened in 1942 and hosts multiple winter activities, primarily alpine skiing and snowboarding, but also cross-country skiing and snow tubing. “Bogus” is 16 mi (26 km) from the city limits (less than an hour drive from downtown) on a twisty paved road which climbs 3400 vertical feet (1036 m) through sagebrush and forest.
Professional sports teams in Boise include the Boise Hawks of the short-season Class A Northwest League (minor league baseball), the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL (minor league hockey), and the Treasure Valley Spartans (semi-pro football) of the (Rocky Mountain Football League). An arenafootball2 franchise, the Boise Burn, began play in 2007 but is now defunct.
On the sports entertainment front, Boise is home to an all-female, DIY, flat track roller derby league, the Treasure Valley Rollergirls, which beginning on Labor Day Weekend 2010 hosted an international, two-day, double elimination tournament, the first Spudtown Knockdown, featuring eight teams from throughout the American West and Canada.
The Boise State University campus is home to Albertsons Stadium, the 36,800 seat football stadium known for its blue Field Turf field; and Taco Bell Arena, a 12,000 seat basketball and entertainment venue which opened in 1982 as the BSU Pavilion. Boise State University is known primarily for the recent successes of its football team.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl football game (formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl and the MPC Computers Bowl) is held in late December each year, and pairs a team from the Mountain West Conference with a Mid-American Conference team.
Boise is the site of the only human rights memorial in the U.S., the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, located adjacent to its main library.
The World Center for Birds of Prey is located just outside city limits, and is a key part of the re-establishment of the peregrine falcon and the subsequent removal from the endangered species list. The center is currently breeding the very rare California condor, among many other rare and endangered species.
The city has been cited by publications like Forbes, Fortune and Sunset for its quality of life. In an article published by Forbes in 2018, Boise was named the number one fastest-growing city in America. Its population of around 220,000 grew 3.08% in 2017, as well as employment by 30.58%.
The cornerstone mall in Boise, Boise Towne Square Mall, is also a major shopping attraction for Boise, Nampa, Caldwell, and surrounding areas. The mall received upgrades and added several new retailers in 1998 and 2006. Home prices, a proxy for wealth, increased 11.58%–number four in the U.S.
The state’s largest giant sequoia can be found near St. Luke’s Hospital.
Post-secondary educational options in Boise include Boise State University (BSU) and a wide range of technical schools. The University of Idaho (UI) and Idaho State University (ISU) each maintain a satellite campus in Boise. As of 2014, the city has two law school programs. The Concordia University School of Law opened in 2012, and the University of Idaho College of Law now hosts second and third year students at its Boise Campus. Boise is home to Boise Bible College, an undergraduate degree-granting college that exists to train leaders for churches as well as missionaries for the world.
Boiseko Ikastola is the only Basque pre-school outside of the Basque Country.
Public transportation includes a series of bus lines operated by ValleyRide. In addition, the Downtown Circulator, a proposed streetcar system, is in its planning stage. The construction of the underground public transportation hub (UPT Hub) in Boise in the parking lot site near the intersection of W Main Street and N 8th Street was completed in 2016.
Commercial air service is provided at the Boise Airport. The terminal was recently renovated to accommodate the growing number of passengers flying in and out of Boise. It is served by Allegiant Air, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines. The east end of the airport is home to the National Interagency Fire Center. The Gowen Field Air National Guard Base occupies the south side of the field.
Amtrak passenger train service was previously available in Boise until May 10, 1997, when Amtrak discontinued the service. Previously, since 1977, the Pioneer had twice-daily service through Boise as the train made its way between Seattle and Chicago (via Salt Lake City/Ogden and Denver). A short line railroad (Boise Valley Railroad) currently serves industries in Boise.