It’s not very often that you get to experience what life was like over 150 years ago, back in the Wild West days of yore. Here in Idaho, we are lucky enough to have several historical villages where life at the time of the first settlers has been preserved or recreated for our enjoyment and education. Next time you feel like taking a trip into the past, check out one of these 10 historical villages in Idaho:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Idaho City
When it comes to historic towns, Idaho City is hard to beat. Just a short drive from Boise, this classic western village, with its wooden storefronts and "Wild West" reenactment events and festivals is nothing short of a trip back to the late 1800s.
At one point, Idaho City was the largest city in the Northwest--which is pretty impressive, to say the least! Gold formed the lifeblood of this town until it "panned out" in the late 1860s. Today, there are more than a dozen historical buildings throughout the town. The Boise Basin Museum on Montgomery St. is one must-visit during your trip; since being built in 1867 it has been repurposed to house some of the best collections of gold rush and prospecting memorabilia in the West. You can also check out the oldest general store in Idaho while you're here: the Boise Basin Mercantile! But the Pioneer/Boot Hill Cemetery is a classic stop, alongside the old territorial penitentiary.
For a true western experience, Idaho City has been known to host Frontier Days and is planning a western-style fall festival for the near future.
But alongside its Old West-style architecture, perhaps what truly makes this gem of a town so special and historic is that the landscape looks just about the same as it did when prospectors first started flooding in. Would you look at that view?
Often called the "Top of Idaho" because of its proximity to the nine tallest mountains in the state, it seems this hidden gem of a town is uniquely secluded from the passage of time by its mountainous neighbors.
Old-time saloons and the remnants of mining history fill the streets with nostalgic charm and even friendlier people. Plus, Mackay is home to an old-fashioned barbecue pit that is a throwback to pioneer-style wood cooking.
A visit to the most unique town in Idaho is also like stepping back in time. The vibrant historical architecture of downtown is a blast from the past. Combining the best of a multiple architecture periods, main streets don't get much more photogenic than this one! In fact, one stroll through the town and it's obvious why the entire city is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Seeing the vintage trolley drive around town carrying visitors to the Sierra Silver Mine, paying a visit to the wealth of eclectic museums, eateries, and even the old train depot is nothing short of a historic experience. Fortunately, this little northern gem loves to share its history with guests! Reenactments are a part of nearly every festival this tiny town hosts, alongside multiple events that are dedicated just to the city's history.
This hidden gem of a town is delightful in its vintage architecture and throwbacks to its mining history, but is perhaps best known for its Molly B. Damn days, Bedroom Goldmine, and Spragpole Museum. But there's is plenty more to see as you walk through town!
Jimmy Emerson, DVM/Flickr
Dozens of historic buildings still stand in old-fashioned wooden beauty. Murray is also home to the oldest active Masonic Hall, the County Court House and the GAR Cemetery where the Famous Molly B' Damn now rests. Although the celebration of this standout madame has given Murray a seedy reputation, the infamous lady of the night was also a dedicated entrepreneur, nurse, and humanitarian who helped shape the town.
Jimmy Emerson, DVM/Flickr
While we could have included hundreds of Idaho's unique and forgotten ghost towns on this list, Chesterfield is particularly unique.
Perfectly preserved just as it was abandoned over 100 years ago, visitors can still walk down main street and check out over a dozen historic pioneer cabins, general stores, and buildings, including the Ira Call cabin pictured above.
Much like Chesterfield, Roseberry is a perfectly preserved ghost town, but unlike its counterpart, is now owned by the Valley County historical society and available to rent for movies, events, and more. Just in case you wanted your next birthday party to be held in an old saloon.
Casual visitors are also welcome to wander around and explore the artifacts left behind, as well as the historic buildings. And since this gem is in close proximity to Donnelly and McCall, it's an easy day trip for the whole family with some truly unique photo ops!
As one of Idaho's earliest established cities, Montpelier already has an old-time, western settlement feeling about it. But since this is also the site of Idaho's most infamous bank robbery by the notorious Butch Cassidy, this little town plays up its claim to fame in the best ways possible. Most notably, with its Butch Cassidy Days - complete with reenactments - and its Butch Cassidy Museum in the old bank building.
Just about every town in Idaho is either a trip back in time on its own, or boasts a unique historical district that preserves some of the best parts of our state’s past. Where’s your favorite historical town in Idaho?