In 2019, Forbes named Boise, Idaho the fastest-growing American city, and last year, the city of trees took the top spot for overall livability when it was ranked the best place to live for millennials. But looking beyond the weight of impressive accolades, a casual visit to Boise quickly reveals a city whose spirit tells its own narrative.
With the easy-going charm of Canada’s west coast, and the “come as you” are tolerance of the Mountain states, all jammed into the ever-evolving bustle of a budding metropolis attempting to carve out a new identity, there’s something familiar, compelling, and, if you give in, undeniably irresistible about Boise. Because below a sprawling mountain backdrop, and adjacent to Boise State University’s famously blue football field, the city’s wide sidewalks, bike-friendly streets, and noticeable street culture invites destinationless exploration.
Due to this, it’s difficult to imagine a festival like Treefort Festival — the city’s exceptional multi-genre, multidisciplinary music festival, now in its ninth year—serving as a better representation of the very best of the city come to life. And because of its ability to capture the life-sized humility of a small town with world class musicians, internationally renowned artists and writers, and a remarkably curious approach to programing rooted in inclusion and representation; it’s similarly difficult to imagine Treefort happening in another American city.
With past headliners including Vince Staples, Toro Y Moi, and Parliament Funkadelic, 2020 brings welcoming silken-pop revisionist Omar Apollo, electronic-everything innovators Chromatics, sun-baked desert rockers Calexio, and, as always, local boys Built to Spill, the festival continues to offer a slice of something for everyone.
Idaho State Museum — 610 Julia Davis Dr Originally built in 1950, the Idaho State Museum celebrated its grand reopening two years ago with an ambition to accurately tell the story of the state, through the story of its people. During Treefort festival, the museum morphs into the landing site of a diverse range of talks on subjects like exploring the human diaspora, and understanding the benchmarks of activism, alongside more eclectic talks like a deep dive (pun intended) into the the state’s river systems.
Rhodes Skatepark — 1555 W Front St. Stretching across 1.2 acres under Interstate 184, Rhodes skatepark is impressive due to its sheer size. Since its construction, the world-class skatepark has served as a crucial community hub and support for at-risk youth, but those with a flair for adventure might come looking for something more. For the last three years, the park has hosted the X Games Qualifier, offering the opportunity to see pros at the top of their game.
Food and Drink
Petite 4 — 4 N. Latah St. Sarah Kelly cut her teeth as a self-taught chef at both grocery stores and fine dining restaurants before opening the beloved Bleubird sandwich shop, which she shuttered with partner David to open Petite 4. Serving a wide range of French bistro-inspired dishes, expect staff in pinstriped aprons, a rotating dessert menu, or if you’re in luck, a Friday night oyster cart announced 24 hours in advance via Instagram.
Madre — 1034 S La Pointe St It’s very likely that even the most devoted taco aficionados have never had a taco quite like Madre’s non-traditional upscale tacos. James Beard House is devoted to using sustainably-sourced ingredients. Ever had an Idaho spud and chorizo taco? Or a vegetarian pineapple al pastor taco? Now’s your chance.
Mai Thai — 750 W Idaho St. For Chef Josh Maciolek, pretty good doesn’t cut it. The Thai restaurant sets its sights at the cosmos with an approach to Southeast Asian fusion that blends both classic and contemporary styles of regional cuisine through an always innovative menu. A beloved local favourite, if they’re pad thai doesn’t convince you, their 12 year streak of being voted the city’s best Thai restaurant will.
Guru Donuts — 928 W Main St.Main St Stationed in the historic Idanha Building, Guru Donuts does away with artifice to create a uniquely crafted donut experience made fresh daily, from scratch, and with local ingredients. This Month for Treefort Fest, the storefront wears a new coat. While you munch on a “Hipster Berry,” “Funfetti,” or “Girl Scout,” you can also take in a writing workshop or panel discussion.
The Record Exchange — 1105 West Idaho St. To call The Record Exchange an institution would be an understatement. For the last 40 years Idaho’s largest independent record store has sold vinyl, books, candy bars, collectibles, and everything in between. Keep an ear out for their always free, all-ages, in-store events which might include a meet and greet, album signing, or concert.
Maven — 928 W. Main St. Maven opened in the basement of the Idanha Building after the closure of the Garden City Projects pilot program that created a dynamic multi-use DIY space that cradled art shows, live performances, and poetry readings. Now in its new home, a recent testimonial describes the space best: “A cool collective / mini art museum / gift go-to place. The best Boise has to offer in funky little wares crafted by local creatives. Prints, jewelry, vintage clothes, crafted candles and so much more.
Neurolux — 111 N. 11th St. Think of Neurolox as a glorious combination of the best parts of your local dive, the likely spot where a wildly buzzed-about out of town band will probably play, or the place you might catch a set of eyes from across the hall, and make an unsuspected new friend. The best part? The giant luminescent clam in the background, acting as a mascot, chaperone, and cheerleader to a raucous night.
The Balcony — 150N 8th St. From the moment you take the outdoor elevator up to the the top floor of The Balcony and turn the corner, you know what kind of night you’re in for. Spectacularly sprawling, you’re just as likely to sink into the crowd (or decide to take centre stage). Think of this as the city’s go-to destination for both a sweaty night of dancing, or the crowning site where the city’s next best drag queens perform.
The Funky Taco — 801 W Bannock St Imagine a beautiful place where life’s two delicacies of live music and tacos meet. Welcome to The Funky Taco. An even blend of Asian, Indian, Mexican, and Americana cuisine? Check. An unreal balcony performance space with sightlines around the restaurant? Check. A robust live music and DJ schedule? Check. A pivot from “farm to table” towards “farm to funk.” You’re sold.
The Olympic Hotel — 1009 Main St. Perched above Mulligans Pub & Eatery, Boise’s newest venue in the heart of the city hosts a wide range of programming most nights of the week, including rising local bands and international acts on a stage with a delightful wraparound balcony. During Treefort, the venue morphs into an important landing site, running full steam nearly all night long.