by Emmalyn McCarthy
Southwest Idaho is home to a section of the Snake River, natural canyonlands, an extremely productive agricultural region, mountain communities and Boise, the state capital. Travelers find a region rich with diverse offerings—outdoor adventure, urban amenities and a countryside perfect for exploring award-winning wineries and a robust farm-to-fork movement. For the culturally curious, this unique region also offers a dive into its fascinating history, its vibrant arts scene and a welcoming Basque community. Join us for a glimpse of the captivating region that is Southwest Idaho.
Sunnyslope Wine Trail
Along the scenic Snake River Valley sits one of the best climates for an agricultural region full of farms and vineyards. The Sunnyslope Wine Trail has 18 wineries to explore, each with its own tasting room and vineyard views.
One special winery on the wine trail, which was awarded Idaho Winery of the Year, is Huston Vineyards. Settled on Chicken Dinner Road, this winery offers a cozy tasting room where they host many special events, such as festive farm-to-fork dinners and even release parties. Take the chance to hear about the Snake River Valley growing region’s history while tasting a flight of their award-winning wines.
Stop in at Williamson Orchards and Vineyards, owned by the descendants of one of the first settlers in the valley, who farmed the land before irrigation. Taste their award-winning wines and enjoy the surroundings on this century farm.
For a first-rate tasting experience in a stunning tasting room with views of the valley, head to Koenig Winery, one of the vineyard pioneers of the Sunnyslope region. This winery is an extremely popular stop on the wine trail, so a reservation for a tasting is recommended.
Another must-see on this wine trail is Indian Creek Winery, known for its variety of events, from live music and catered eats to yoga on the lawn, a 5k wine run and local fundraisers.
Find more about the Sunnyslope wine trail at sunnyslopewinetrail.com.
One Boise restaurant that really showcases its passion for sourcing local ingredients is Alavita, a name that means “to life.” As a restaurant that celebrates life, they put their culinary talent into their handmade pasta and create a familial ambiance. Italian inspired, a local designer crafted a space with an open display kitchen where diners can watch their individual meals brought to life. This fine-dining establishment supports local farmers, ranchers and artisans, and shares that information with their diners. To book a reservation or check out their inventive menu visit alavitaboise.com/loyal-to-local.
For those more interested in beer and spirits, Bittercreek is Boise’s biggest eco-conscious alehouse. With quality craft beers and a pub-style menu, Bittercreek offers one of the most unique bar experiences in Idaho. They support local, regional and independent Pacific Northwest breweries and bring a variety of other cultures into their food with a selection of poutine, beignets and halloumi tacos. For more information visit bittercreekalehouse.com.
Near the city of Caldwell, you can dine right on the farm at Peaceful Belly Farm. As a restaurant, farm and cider house, you can’t get more local than this. An eclectic, internationally inspired menu offers sophisticated creations that lean vegan and vegetarian, although some meat options are also available. Check it out at peacefulbelly.com.
For a true immersive cultural experience, the Bar Gernika is a pub that serves Basque comfort food with microbrews on tap. This quaint spot was saved from demolition and is open to all on Boise’s Basque Block. You’ll find appetizers, soups, sandwiches and wine in this welcoming and friendly atmosphere showcasing Boise’s Basque heritage.
This wonderful Basque Block is just one block in downtown Boise, but its impacts are plentiful and is one of the reasons Boise is such a dynamic city. This block was home to many Basque immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s who came to Idaho from their home region bordering Spain and France. Here, they were able to keep their traditions, food and language, Euskera, alive. This living, ethnic community works on conservation, restoration and documentation of the Basque culture and even has a Basque Museum and Cultural Center. With restaurants, a Basque Market and even Oinkari Basque Dancers with their street performances, you’ll find that this block is alive with culture and is devoted to sharing this heritage with all generations. For more information or to visit this ethnic neighborhood check out thebasqueblock.com.
Another wonderful experience is the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, a professional theater offering a variety of shows, from “Little Shop of Horrors” to “As You Like It.” With a mission of creating great theater, entertainment and education, this popular summer festival has reached thousands and is usually a sellout. Performed in a state-of-the art outdoor amphitheater surrounded by a habitat reserve along the Boise River, the festival runs from May through October. Check out their website at idahoshakespeare.org to find which shows are running during your visit.
When it comes to outdoor excursions, Southwest Idaho has plenty to offer. One such destination is Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, America’s deepest river gorge. Hells Canyon is a place full of myth and adventure and is home to some of the best white water in the nation. With many different ways to explore, such as white-water rafting, jet boating, fishing, backpacking and hiking, you can enjoy the breathtaking terrain from every angle. Check out some of the many sacred sites that celebrate the Nimiipuu who have lived on the lands for thousands of years. Or take your adventure nearby to the Elkhorn Bed and Breakfast and visit the sheep, goats and Anatolian Shepherd Dogs the owner raises.
For a sandier adventure experience, check out Bruneau Dunes State Park. Explore the tallest, single-structured sand dune in North America. There, you’ll find camping, fishing, boating, picnic areas, horseback riding, star gazing and the exciting sandboarding experiences. Make sure you bring or rent the proper equipment and wear long sleeves to protect you from the hot sand which can reach over 80 degrees. There is also a Bruneau Dunes Observatory which allows you to enjoy the night sky through one of their many telescopes. For more information visit parksandrecreation.idaho.gov/parks/bruneau-dunes.
For a more relaxing excursion, check out Boise’s ultimate greenbelt. This 20-mile Urban trail follows the Boise River where there is much to see and do. On the river, you can experience the Boise Whitewater Park from a kayak, check out the MK Nature Area and explore some of the water-side parks, such as Esther Simplot Park. Walk along the trail to find coffee shops, wineries, brewing companies, the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho State Museum, the Boise Zoo and even a golf course. One stretch takes you through the downtown area, and it could take years to explore every adventure offered alongside it, including over 10 different parks. This greenbelt trail will have something to pique anyone’s interest and is a great way to see every aspect of Boise. To see everything the greenbelt offers, visit visitsouthwestidaho.org/boise-greenbelt.
For a more up close and personal wildlife experience visit Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. With over 10 miles of trails and a nearly 9,000-acre lake, Deer Flat is home to over 250 different bird and fish species and even some deer and coyote visitors year-round. Check out their visitor center with interpretive displays of the history and, if you’re lucky enough, spot some of the wildlife from the large windows or from one of the many viewing platforms. Hunting, fishing and ice fishing are also allowed during the appropriate seasons with updated certifications. If those aren’t your speed, there’s also a space for boating, hiking, biking, swimming, horseback riding and snowshoeing creating many opportunities to connect with nature. To learn a little more about Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, visit fws.gov/refuge/deer-flat/visit-us.
Southwest Idaho truly has many unique experiences and adventures to explore which will connect you with all of the many cultures of the area. Take a chance to learn something about the history of the beautiful landscape and maybe even learn a little something about yourself along the way. To see all Southwest Idaho has to share, visit visitsouthwestidaho.org.
Jaialdi is a popular Basque festival where thousands of people from around the world gather for Basque food, traditional sports and dancing. visitsouthwestidaho.org/how-to-do-jaialdi/
Spirit of Boise All Aglow takes place in Ann Morrison Park, where hot air balloons launch by day and are anchored and fired up at night. visitsouthwestidaho.org/spirit-of-boise-all-aglow
Treefort Music Fest is Boise’s annual arts and culture festival. visitsouthwestidaho.org/6-reasons-to-visit-treefort