Boise, Idaho’s capital, gets its name from bois, the French word for tree, and the city does not disappoint in that department. During a three-day stay in late September as part of a fam trip hosted by the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau, I saw hundreds upon hundreds of the more than 25,000 “street trees” maintained by the city’s Community Forestry program.
After a short layover in Seattle, I touched down at Boise Airport and hopped a 10-minute shuttle to the Grove Hotel, the only AAA Four-Diamond property in the City of Trees. The 250-room Grove would serve as the home base for our group of journalists and meeting professionals for the duration of our stay. The hotel sits at the intersection of Capitol and Grove streets in downtown Boise, and both the green and wood tones in the lobby and the abstract mural of interwoven aspen branches that covered one wall of my seventh-floor room brought the destination’s woodland spirit indoors.
After touring the Grove’s 36,000 square feet of event space, including the 6,845-square-foot Grand Ballroom, we peered down at the multipurpose CenturyLink Arena from one of the hotel’s large breakout rooms. Next up was Boise Centre, where an expansion last summer nearly doubled the convention facility’s meeting and event footprint to 86,000 square feet, which includes 29 meeting rooms and larger spaces like the nearly 25,000-square-foot Eyries Room. After the walkthrough wrapped up, we sat down to a hearty steak-and-potato dinner prepared by Boise Centre’s in-house catering team.
The next morning, we headed over to the six-story Holiday Inn Express Boise–University Area for a tour and a quick buffet breakfast; the property offers 159 guest rooms and 2,000 square feet of meeting space. Next on the agenda was JUMP! (Jack’s Urban Meeting Place), a nonprofit community venue with a massive lobby for receptions, classrooms, a terrace, and a rooftop deck complete with a giant slide where adults can — and should — test their daring.
We spent the rest of the morning on a quick city tour that included the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, with its winding, 108-foot quote wall inscribed with the wisdom of both the well-known and the unknown; and 89.4-acre Julia Davis Park, which encompasses Boise’s zoo and several small museums.
After a tour of the Hilton Garden Inn Boise Spectrum — a 137-room hotel with 4,000 square feet of event space, including the 2,924-square-foot, divisible Garden Room — we visited two vineyards on Idaho’s Sunnyslope Wine Trail. Vast, Gothic-inspired Ste. Chapelle is Idaho’s largest winery. There, our group sampled four vintages, including a tart, Riesling-grape-based ice wine. Ste. Chapelle’s tasting room, mezzanine, and grounds are all available for groups. At nearby Huston Vineyards, which can also host private events, we sampled boutique vintages like the label’s Chicken Dinner red and white blends, as well as its full-bodied 2014 Malbec.
After we’d drunk our fill, it was back to Boise for a walkthrough of the 186-room Hampton Inn and Suites Boise Downtown, which offers 4,000 square feet of meeting space. Next we were off to the 303-room Riverside Hotel for a tour of its 21,000-plus square feet of event space, followed by a seated dinner where we were served flank steak topped with mushrooms, a slice of Idaho salmon, and — of course — more potatoes.
The next day, we were up bright and early to check out the 162-room Courtyard Boise Downtown and its 1,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Our next stop was the Old Idaho Territorial Penitentiary — a historical attraction that from 1870 to 1973 served as an actual prison — followed by a drive through the Idaho Botanical Gardens, where visitors can see some 800 species of plant life.
More Basque-Americans live in the greater Boise area than anywhere else in the United States, and so a visit to the city’s Basque Museum and Cultural Center was a must. After a tour, we snacked on pinxtos — Basque small plates like fried cod balls and spicy fried peppers — saw a traditional dance performance, and browsed through the handicrafts at an Old World–style market.
After a walkthrough of the 182-room Red Lion Hotel Boise Downtowner, which can host groups of up to 250 in its 8,425 square feet of meeting space, we drove an hour north of the city for a lazy afternoon of rafting under the able guidance of Cascade Raft and Kayak. After we dried off, we dined on grilled flank steak and potatoes au gratin at picnic tables overlooking the banks of the winding Payette River before returning to the Grove to rest up. Because it turns out Boise is pleasantly exhausting.