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Boise Neighborhoods

Is Boise the eastern edge of the Pacific Northwest or the western edge of the Rocky Mountains? Well, it depends on which of the Boise neighborhoods you're in. If you’re in Downtown, Warm Springs or the North End, the city feels very Pacific Northwest. In East Boise (and getting into surrounding farming communities like Nampa, Eagle and Meridian) where there are views of the Boise foothills and farmland (although the latter has markedly decreased during the last decade), it’s more Intermountain West. But that’s part of what makes Boise special. It isn’t easily categorized. It’s home to major corporations like Micron and Albertsons and also home to some of the best whitewater in the world. Some of Boise’s neighborhoods, like Southwest and Northwest Boise (both of which are primarily residential), are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Linen District

The newest Boise neighborhood, the Linen District, is really a mini-neighborhood within downtown. A six-block stretch with its heart at West Grove Street between 13th and 16th streets, the Linen District gets its name from one of its landmark buildings, the 1910 Linen Building, which is now a spiffy events center (art shows, concerts, weddings). Once blue collar, now many of the historic buildings are being converted into trendy condos and apartments. Retail is represented by Big City Coffee, Eyes of the World Imports, G-Fit Studio, Donnie Mac’s Trailer Park Cuisine—it’s as eclectic as the historic buildings.

Downtown

When Boise Towne Center opened to the west in 1988, many thought it was the end of Boise’s neighborhood in the downtown (BoDo)—and it very nearly was. Or of Downtown’s vibrancy. Obviously,the office buildings and Capitol weren’t going anywhere, but diners, shoppers and artists certainly could. Then Boise’s Capital City Development Corp. assisted in a downtown revitalization that today is the envy of many cities. The Eighth Street Marketplace, once a dilapidated warehouse district, is now full of boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafes that are packed all day (and night). Eighth Street Marketplace even has its own artists-in-residence program. Most of Boise’s nightlife, restaurants, non-chain shops, museums and art galleries are in BoDo or in the neighboring North End. The Capitol building is also here. Because this is Boise, where recreation is prized as much as retail, Downtown is also full of parks, and the Boise Greenbelt cuts right through. The Basque Block is also downtown.

West Boise

Two words: suburban sprawl. And, because three’s a charm, one more: traffic. A large portion of the city’s population lives in this Boise neighborhood, but our guess is that it’s out of convenience, not because charm is endemic to the area. There is Boise Towne Square, Idaho’s largest mall and the future home of the only Apple Store in the state (it was announced in February 2010, but no opening date was given), and an impressive number of strip malls. Between Boise Towne Center and the strip malls, we think nearly every national chain store is represented in West Boise.

North End

Doubting that Boise should be considered part of the Pacific Northwest? Pay a visit to the North End, whose heart is historic Hyde Park. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, Hyde Park is a rare instance of non-strip-mall shopping and dining outside of Downtown. On 13th Street, between Resseguie Street and Camel’s Back Park, you’ll find a coffee shop, several restaurants (where patios are packed when the weather is nice) and niche retailers. The rest of the North End includes residential Boise neighborhoods with cute, cottage-type houses (many of which are historic) and, of course, an abundance of parks.

Bordering Boise

Boise itself has plenty to do, but visitors often find it’s worth leaving the city limits behind. To the south and west of the city is one of the country’s newest—and fastest-growing—wine regions, the Snake River Valley AVA. Some wineries are 30 minutes from downtown Boise; others are over an hour away. Since Boise is the Whitewater Capital of the World (a disputed, but, we think, deserved title), you’ll want to head an hour due north to Horseshoe Bend, where Cascade Raft and Kayak leads trips of varying levels from their riverside headquarters. Boise visitors can drive 45 minutes north to Bogus Basin for skiing and snowboarding (winter) and hiking and mountain biking (summer). Forty-five minutes south (kind of putting you in the Boise neighborhood of wine country), the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area offers wildlife viewing, hiking, boating and fishing.

East End

Once known as Barber Town—after a family, not because it was popular with the city’s coiffeurs—Boise’s neighborhood known as the East End is unremarkable but for Barber Park, the traditional starting point for floating the Boise River on an inner tube.

Warm Springs

If you’re an HGTV junkie, you’ll want to tour this Boise neighborhood, home to the city’s grandest historic homes, many of which are Victorian. Think HGTV is an acronym for high-definition TV gone wrong? Then you can stay away from this leafy area centered along Warm Springs Avenue.  Are there shops here, cafes, etc? Nope. Just a great place to see some fabulous old houses.

Boise State University

Just across the river from downtown, Boise State isn’t really a neighborhood, no matter how much you expect it (as an area that is home to nearly 20,000 college students) to be. Perhaps because Downtown is right across the river, cafes, shops and restaurants decided to locate in BoDo and draw in more than just the crowd from Idaho’s largest university. Still, we’re calling this one of Boise's neighborhood because it has very obvious spirit, especially during football season. The BSU Broncos’ upset of Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl might very well have been the greatest day in Idaho sports. Look for Bronco Stadium, home to BSU track and field in addition to BSU football, on the way into downtown on Broadway Avenue. Sadly, you can’t catch a glimpse of the stadium’s “Smurf turf,” the only non-green football field in Division I college football (though Eastern Washington will soon rival with its new red turf). (It is uncanny how closely the field turf matches the Smurf’s blue skin color.)

Garden City

We’re calling this a Boise neighborhood, but it’s actually its own city that just happens to be surrounded by Boise on nearly all sides. Intrigued by the name of Garden City’s main street, Chinden Boulevard? It’s a mix of the words “China” and “garden.” Garden City’s earliest residents were predominantly Chinese. And they kept very impressive gardens. So Chinden. The name “Garden City” also comes from these Chinese gardeners. Evidently the gardens of this area’s Chinese residents were so impressive they eventually gave the city its name.

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