As just about any kid will tell you, the best days of the schoolyear are field trip days – a distant second would be the occasional movie day (even those monotone documentaries were better than endless worksheets!) Whether to the zoo, the local museum, or to somewhere a little more exotic, getting out and learning a few new tidbits while seeing old sights is always worth it! But, I’ll let you in on a little secret… you don’t have to be eight years old to take a field trip or enjoy your state from a new perspective. In fact, if you cast your adult-hat aside and step back into childhood for a day, you might just find yourself caught up in awe of our historic and diverse state. Take the time to explore all those places you explored as a child, and you might just be surprised at how little (or much) things have changed. For a day of fun reliving your childhood rediscovering the joy of discovery, here are 12 places you’ve probably already visited, but should definitely take a second look at:
1. The Idaho State Penitentiary, Boise
Nearly every school in the Treasure Valley takes the young'uns to this abandoned historical site at least once. And for many, it's the most memorable trip of their lives! The sickly green cell doors, aging and oxidizing with time. The dark, woeful emptiness of solitary confinement. The haunting silence of the execution room... While these eerie sights can't be fully appreciated by a young mind, the history and tragedy that echoes within these walls is utterly fascinating in adulthood.. and maybe even a little spooky if you choose a rainy day for your outing. The added historical displays are quite revealing!
Address: 2445 Old Penitentiary Rd, Boise, ID 83712
2. Three Island Crossing State Park, Glenns Ferry
The "Three Island Crossing" was the most difficult river crossing on the 2,200-mile Oregon Trail. Between 300,000 to 400,000 pioneers made the crossing of the Snake River Ford between 1841 and 1871, until Gustavus Glenn established a ferry crossing nearby. But the high, rapid waters that challenged pioneers makes this waterfront state park and campground a true gem - along with its onsite interpretive center, and recently revived annual reenactments of the historic crossing. While you're here, take a drive down a portion of the Oregon Trail Backcountry Byway.
3. Museum of Idaho. Idaho Falls
With regularly rotating exhibits that range from American Patriot history to Roman civilization, pirates, and even space, this is one museum that you can return to time and time again. Of course, this isn't the only museum Idaho has! Take your time to explore both small town collections and large holdings in Boise as well.
Address: 200 N Eastern Ave. Idaho Falls, ID 83402
4. Sacajawea Interpretive Center, Salmon
While there are a number of museums in the Northwest that focus on the Lewis and Clark expedition, often in combination with the later movements of the Oregon Trail, only Salmon's Interpretive Center focuses on Sacajawea, her role in the expedition, and the history of the Shoshone people in Idaho. Authentic Agai’dika crafts, displays, and classes offer a unique perspective, along with easy access to a number of beautiful hiking trails. Bonus: every year, this town's unique history is celebrated with a festival unlike any other. Featuring Native American dancing, food, crafts, and unlimited educational, opportunities, Salmon's Heritage Days are an Idaho classic!
Address: 2700 Main St. Salmon, ID 83467
5. Idaho State Capitol, Boise
The crowning jewel of Idaho's capital city, the Idaho State Capitol building is far more majestic and - dare I say? - entertaining than many people realize. In addition to the time-honored tradition of snapping a photo of the dome, looking straight up, this is one architectural treasure that is worth a visit no matter your age. Modeled after America's own White House building in Washington D.C., the interior of this downtown staple is a lavish spectacle of white marble, while the sandstone exterior was quarried locally and built by Idahoan hands. The design was also inspired by the grand St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St Paul's Cathedral in London, so you know that every last detail is magnificent, even down to the five-foot bronze eagle crowning the central dome. For young ones, the echoes of the crisp white marble interior are entertaining enough. To the adult, the small historical displays, towering statues, and peeks inside the legislation rooms are fascinating insights into the workings of our government. Walking tours are available for an in-depth look!
Address: 700 W Jefferson St. Boise, ID 83702
6. Discovery Center of Idaho, Boise
From slime walls and giant dinosaurs to static electricity and gravity, this childhood favorite isn't just for kids. Regular adult nights give the kid-at-heart in you the chance to come out and play, and regularly changing themes and STEM-based exhibits will pique your curiosity as well as delight. And for Shark Week fans... they've got you covered there too.
Address: 131 W Myrtle St. Boise, Idaho
7. Mission of the Sacred Heart/Old Mission State Park, Cataldo
Idaho's oldest building is also one of its most impressive. With wooden alters painted to look like marble and Italian chandeliers fashioned from tin cans, this Cataldo church was a primitive labor of love, designed to evoke the grandeur of European churches. Here, the Jesuits and Coeur d'Alene Indians worshiped side-by-side; today, the building remains in near pristine condition with an accompanying museum next door to walk visitors through the Mission's unique historical significance. The park grounds are also a beautiful spot for a picnic, a travel break, or an opportunity to drink in some phenomenal scenery.
Address: 31732 S Mission Rd. Cataldo, ID 83810
8. Sierra Silver Mine Tour, Wallace
One of the best preserved mines in the Silver Valley is tucked away in the picturesque town of Wallace. I addition to a tour of the main tunnels and demonstrations of vintage equipment, you'll also have the opportunity to hear from former miners themselves, take photos, and even ride a charming trolley up the mountainside to the mine site. Of course, this isn't the only open mine in the state! Be sure to check out the Crystal Gold Mine and the Mackay Mine Tour as well.
9. World Center for Birds of Prey, Boise
This "hidden gem" in Idaho is actually right in plain sight for just about anyone who lives in our state’s capital city, and it’s literally the only one of its kind in the world. In fact, this hilltop just outside of Boise is home to some of the planet’s wildest raptors, where the center breeds them to be released back into the wild. but you don't have to be a bird fanatic to enjoy this truly unique spot; you'll also get to see daily flight demonstrations, witness the ancient royal sport of falconry, and witness little hatchlings grow up and find their wings.
Address: 5668 W. Flying Hawk Ln. Boise, ID
10. Land of the Yankee Fork State Park, Challis
There's a lot to love about the remains of old ghost towns. Toss in a few Wild West tall tales and kids tend to fall head over heels for the strange historic architecture! But what make the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park is that there are multiple ghost towns housed within the park site, an interpretive center with additional education, and plenty of guides to answer questions. You'll also be able to see the remnants of the old mining equipment up on the hillside, have access to multiple hiking trails, and even peek into the harsh canyon that early miners had to climb their way up whilst dragging literal tons of equipment. It was quite the feat!
Address: 24424 ID-75. Challis, ID 83226
11. Nez Perce Historical Park, Spalding
Covering portions of four different states and designed to tell from a first-hand perspective the entirety the 1877 Nez Perce War, this park is an expansive, humbling, and beautiful one that is quite the endeavor to explore from start to finish. 38 landmark sites, interpretive signage, and visits to historic battlegrounds are included in the route, and you'll find it easy to get lost in the turbulent history that surrounds our corner of the Northwest. Starting at the visitor center and museum just north of Lapwai at the Spalding Mission, you can get an overview of the tribe's history and begin to plan your route as well as learn about special events an classes taking place.
12. Cloverleaf Creamery, Buhl
Odds are you never visited this place as a youngster, but it'll definitely take you back to your childhood. A truly rare gem, this small Idaho dairy is all about producing milk and dairy products the old fashioned way: healthy, all-natural milk sold in glass bottles, all from a small group of registered, pedigree Holsteins. Unlike modern industrial dairies, Cloverleaf treats its animals like family, tripling their lifespan and increasing the milk quality through solid ethics. The result? Out of this world delicious milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, and more. Stop by and pay a visit to the dairy to see where the magic starts, but definitely make a trip to the creamery as well to taste the delicious results!
Address: 205 Broadway Ave S. Buhl, ID 83316