The 99th largest city in the US, Boise is the most populous city in Idaho. Boise is separated into a number of neighborhoods, each unique and yet all sharing community spirit that is so defining of Boise life.
Downtown Boise is Boise’s cultural center and home to many small businesses and a few mid-rises. Centrally, 8th Street contains a pedestrian zone with sidewalk cafes and restaurants. The neighborhood has a number of local restaurants, bars and boutiques and supports a vibrant nightlife. The area contains the Basque Block, which gives visitors a chance to learn and enjoy Boise’s Basque heritage. Downtown Boise’s main attractions include the Idaho State Capitol, the classic Egyptian Theatre on the corner of Capitol Boulevard and Main Street, the Boise Art Museum on Capitol in front of Julia Davis Park, and Zoo Boise located on the grounds of Julia Davis Park.
The North End
The North End, generally defined as the part of Boise north of State Street, contains many of the city’s older homes. It is known for its tree-lined drives such as Harrison Boulevard, and for its quiet neighborhoods near the downtown area. Downtown Boise is visible from Camel’s Back Park. On 13th Street, Hyde Park is home to restaurants and other businesses. The North End also hosts events such as the annual Hyde Park Street Fair. In 2008, the American Planning Association (APA) designated Boise’s North End one of 10 Great Neighborhoods.
Southwest Boise contains sparsely populated neighborhoods built from the 1960s to the early 1980s. Many include acre-sized plots and the occasional farmhouse and pasture. In the 1980s, growth in the area was stunted to prevent urban sprawl. Since this has been lifted, there has been widespread growth of new homes and neighborhoods. The area lies near Interstate 84, theaters, shopping, the airport, golf, and the Boise Bench area.
Northwest Boise lies against the Boise Foothills to the north, State Street to the south, the city of Eagle to the west, and downtown Boise to the east. It contains a mix of old and new neighborhoods, including Lakeharbor, which features the private Silver Lake, a reclaimed quarry. Northwest Boise has some pockets of older homes with a similar aesthetic to the North End. Downtown is minutes away, as is Veteran’s Memorial Park and easy access to the Boise Greenbelt. Across the river sits the Boise Bench and to the west are the bedroom communities of Eagle, Star, and Middleton.
Boise State University
To the south of downtown Boise is Boise State University and its surrounding environs. The area is dominated by residential neighborhoods and businesses catering to the student population. The unique blue playing field at the 37,000-seat Albertsons Stadium on the BSU campus, home to the Boise State Broncos football team, is a major city landmark. Other cultural and sports centers in the area include the Velma V. Morrison Center for the Performing Arts and Taco Bell Arena. Broadway Avenue to the east and south of the BSU campus features many college-themed bars and restaurants.
Warm Springs and East End
Warm Springs is centered on the tree-lined Warm Springs Avenue and contains some of Boise’s largest and most expensive homes (many of which were erected by wealthy miners and businessmen around the turn of the 20th century; Victorian styles feature prominently). The area gets its name from the natural hot springs that flow from Boise’s fault line and warm many of the homes in the area. The Natotorium public swim center is located here.
East Boise and Harris Ranch
The far-east end of Warm Springs was once known as Barber Town, featuring a hotel with hot springs nestled into the foothills. It now has some new residential developments, with easy access to Highway 21, which leads to the south-central Idaho mountains, the Boise River, the Boise Foothills, and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival.
Southeast Boise spans from Boise State University to Micron Technology – all areas between Federal Way and the Boise River. The older area just south of the University can be described as a cross between the North End and the Boise bench. The rest of Southeast Boise was developed in the last thirty years with suburban-style homes. Columbia Village subdivision and the older Oregon Trail Heights were the first major planned communities in Southeast Boise with an elementary and middle school all within walking distance from all homes. The subdivision is located at the intersections of Interstate 84, Idaho 21, and Federal Way (former U.S. Highway), which are all major arteries to get anywhere in Boise. The subdivision, a baseball complex, and swimming pools were developed around the Simplot Sports complex. The fields are built over an old landfill and dump, and the fields and gravel parking lot allow radon gases to escape through the ground.
The Bench, generally bounded by Federal Way to the east, Cole Road to the west and Garden City to the north, sits on an elevation approximately 60 feet higher than downtown Boise to its northeast. Orchard Street is a major north-south thoroughfare in the neighborhood. The Bench is so named because this sudden rise, giving the appearance of a step, or bench. The Bench (or Benches, there are three actual benches in the Boise Valley) was created as an ancient shoreline to the old river channel. The Bench is home to the Boise Union Pacific Depot and older residential neighborhoods similar to those in the North End. Due south of the Bench is the Boise Airport.
West Boise is home to Boise Towne Square Mall, the largest in the state, as well as numerous restaurants, strip malls, and residential developments ranging from new subdivisions to apartment complexes. The Ada County jail and Hewlett Packard’s printing division are also located here. It is relatively the flattest section of Boise, with sweeping views of the Boise Front. West Boise also borders the city of Meridian, Idaho.