We spent 4 nights outside of Boise (at the Boise / Meridian KOA). I wasn’t expecting to like Boise. I had been to Boise once before, years ago, for work, and remember it as suburban sprawl. However, I had never been downtown. We spent each of our 3 days doing different things downtown and quite enjoyed the city. Here’s how we spent our 3 days.

Day 1: ‘Zoo Boise’

The zoo wasn’t as large as our hometown zoo in Portland, but there turned out to be some advantage to that. First of all, being there on a weekday we virtually had the place to ourselves. Secondly, we got to participate in two animal encounters, and for only $3 each (Portland has similar encounters, but they are very spendy).

First, we fed black beetle larvae to a sloth bear. This was a little silly, as it was through a tube that went through the wall that separated us from the bear. Still, it was neat to hear and feel the bear’s breath as it sucked the worms through the tube.  Sarah pretended to be brave for all of us as she picked up the wiggly little larvae and placed them in the tube one by one (the girls usually like playing with bugs, but they didn’t want anything to do with the larvae!)

Feeding the sloth bear worms through a feeding tube

Second, we fed a giraffe. This was very cool. We got a few pieces of broken up lettuce and lifted it up to the giraffe (which was positioned 5 feet below where we stood to make it easy to reach it’s mouth). It’s tongue was similar to a cow tongue (long and pointy and twists all over to grab its food).

Feeding the giraffe lettuce

The carousel was also a big hit.  Since our 5 year old was exactly 42″ tall she was allowed to ride without an adult for the first time!

After to Zoo, we checked out the recently built JUMP center nearby. This was an amazing piece of architecture– a community space built from the fortune and last wishes of J.R. Simplot, an Idaho entrepreneur who made a lot of his riches in potato farming. Although the 5-story slide wasn’t open during our visit, we were able to climb on the really really tall jungle-gym.

Day 2: Camel’s Back Park and Hyde Park

If we had only had time to do one thing while we were in Boise, this is what I would have chosen. This park was amazing (and the sunny 70-degree weather didn’t hurt). The green field looked luminescent with the backdrop of the dry dusty Camel’s Back hills. The hill was super steep and I didn’t think the girls would make it up on their own, but with the reward of two dimes enticing them they both scrambled their way all the way up and back down!

The park had a great playground.  The best part of the playground: a bodybuilding.com sponsored outdoor gym. Both the kids and adults enjoyed this!

While Sarah stayed with the girls on the playground, I had 45 minutes to myself to mountain bike through the single-track trails that start behind the park. I went as far out on the trail as I could get in 25 minutes– and although it wasn’t a lot of time, it was uphill the whole way and my heart was beating plenty fast by the time I turned around for the downhill ride back.

After the park we biked over to the Hyde Park neighborhood– a cute little area a few blocks long dotted with shops & restaurants– and we enjoyed our dinner at the SunRay Cafe on a lovely outdoor patio.

Day 3: The Discovery Center of Idaho

Our 3rd day in Boise was a rainy day, so we spent the morning swimming in the indoor heated pool at the KOA.  The pool was bath water warm– Sarah normally dreads having to stay in cold pools with the girls, but this pool she enjoyed.  Afterwards we went to the local science museum, the Discovery Center of Idaho. Since we’re members of our science museum in Portland (OMSI), we were able to get in for free– something that I expect to come in handy in many cities on this trip.

The girls’ favorite exhibits– our 3 year old loved the bicycling robot, and our 5 year old liked watching mom and dad lie on a bed of nails (which was surprisingly not too uncomfortable) as well as making a ‘rock’ by compressing clay using a hydrolic press.