Idaho might not be the most talked about state or the most glamorous, but it is full of unique and worthwhile things to see and do. While other states like Colorado and Utah might get talked about more when it comes to the mountain west area of the country, Idaho has its own distinct flair and many wilderness areas that look unlike any other. Be it museums packed with content unavailable anywhere else, or historical sites and more, there are so many things to do in the Gem State.
We’ve put together a list of some of the top things you need to check out if you’re ever in the state. This list might even inspire you to make Idaho you’re next destination in the United States.
10 LAVA HOT SPRINGS
Lava Hot Spring is a small city that sits in the Portneuf River Valley. Funnily enough, this town is also a place where the Oregon Trail once crossed. These natural hot springs are a great place to relax and take the entire family.
The waters are rich in minerals and consist of five pools that have different temperatures ranging from 102 t0 112 F. There is also a large pool, slides, and diving boards making this a perfect place to enjoy some warm water.
9 CUSTER GHOST TOWN
One of the best things about Idaho is all of the small and unique towns that dot all over the state. Custer Ghost Town grew out of the mining rushes of the 1800s. While this place might once have been bustling, it didn’t last for long. But, the entire town has been set apart as a historic site.
Many parts of the area have been restored to give visitors a realistic view of what life in a mining town would have been like. There are also docents in the area during summertime to give visitors information. Overall, Custer Ghost Town provides both a historical and educational experience.
8 YELLOWSTONE BEAR WORLD
When you think of places like Idaho, you likely think of mountains and wilderness. It’s true that there are many outdoors places to see here. If you’re lucky, you might see wild animals like deer, elk, and moose when hiking or camping. However, if you want to be sure to see them, Yellowstone Bear World is a great place to go.
Here, you can also see carnivores like wolves and grizzly bears in their natural habitat. Also, you can get a behind the scenes view and even watch bear cubs get fed by their handlers. This unique place is located in Rexburg, Idaho.
7 DOWNTOWN BOISE
While wilderness and nature might be abundant in the state, Idaho has more to offer than just greenery. Boise is the capital of Idaho and is also a thriving city. While it’s close to many outdoor activities, it also offers a nightlife and restaurant scene.
So, if cities are more your pace, you should check Boise out as it’s full of new businesses, a beautiful river, and a lot of trees.
6 OLD IDAHO STATE PENITENTIARY
If you like historical sites that are especially one of a kind, you can travel just out of Boise to visit the Old Idaho State Penitentiary. Opened in 1872 and lasting for slightly more than one hundred years, this prison housed countless prisoners during its heyday.
Visitors can go inside many of the buildings, cell blocks, and more. There are also historical exhibits in the buildings. This space gives insight into the history of Idaho and its relation to criminal justice.
5 SACAJAWEA HISTORIC BYWAY
There is a lot of rich Native American history in the state that deserves to be known and understood. The Sacajawea Historic Byway is a drive that offers stunning views. It’s also necessary to visit the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Education Center that is located in Salmon, Idaho.
Here you can learn about Sacajawea and her journey where she helped Lewis and Clark. The byway is 132 miles long. You can find so many natural wonders along the way including fossils.
4 SILVERWOOD THEME PARK
If you need another break from the natural aspects of the state, it’s worth noting that Idaho has an exciting theme park that is located in one of the state's most beautiful cities. Silverwood Theme Park is near Coeur d’Alene and only about 45 minutes from Spokane, Washington.
It’s a large theme park that features a water park as well as many roller coasters and other rides. Plus, while in the area, you can check out Idaho's beautiful northern panhandle area.
3 MUSEUM OF CLEAN
Most states have their fair share of unique or borderline strange museums, but it might be surprising to learn there exists a museum devoted solely to the idea of clean. This museum sits in a huge complex that’s all about how things related to clean impact life.
The exhibits cover information about clean air, cleanliness jokes, and clean floors. Many of the exhibits are also interactive, so this is a unique place that will make visitors think again about the importance of cleanliness.
2 LAKE COEUR D’ALENE
While most of the entries on this list so far haven’t been specific nature sites, this one is. There are so many places in Idaho perfect for the outdoorsy types, including the Grand Teton National Park and Island Park near Yellowstone National Park. All of these places are definitely worth visiting, too.
Lake Coeur d’Alene is distinct because it provides beautiful beaches and stunning scenery. The North Idaho Centennial Trail also goes along part of the lake.
1 BIG IDAHO POTATO HOTEL
Probably the number thing Idaho is associated with is potatoes, at least for those not from the state. Potatoes are definitely an important agricultural component of Idaho.
Many tourist attractions capitalize on this perception and jokes. In an area about 20 minutes from Boise, you can stay in a hotel that looks like a giant potato from the outside. You won’t be able to stay in a potato anywhere else, which makes this the perfect place to spend a night in Idaho.