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A Minute in Boise, Idaho, with Eilen Jewell

Aug 19, 2019

A Minute in Boise, Idaho, with Eilen Jewell

Welcome to “A Minute In” — a BGS feature that turns our favorite artists into hometown reporters. In our latest column, Eilen Jewell takes us on a tour of Boise, Idaho. The singer-songwriter just released her newest album, Gypsy.

My hometown of Boise, Idaho, is a cheerful little place. In fact, visitors to our fair city, or those who have recently relocated, often find the friendliness a bit off-putting at first. Queues tend to move more slowly than in most places, often due to the simple fact that people like to chat and exchange pleasantries. In this regard, there’s an innocence to my hometown, elements of bygone days still intact

But there’s a lot more to Boise than friendliness and a slow pace. We also have nearly boundless outdoor space within arm’s reach. We have great parks and libraries and historic buildings (including one the oldest synagogues west of the Mississippi). We have delicious, award-winning food, two thriving farmers markets, more amazing breweries than you can shake a stick at, and local wine that rivals California’s, in my humble opinion.

This is not the cornfields of similar-sounding Iowa or Ohio, though they are lovely places in their own right. This is Idaho, as in the Rockies, as in mountain lakes and whitewater rivers. This is where I keep returning to, especially when I’m in dire need of some elbow room, and always when I need to write.

Here are some places and activities that I recommend to anyone lucky enough to visit my hometown:

Rediscovered Books (180 N 8th St.) is a sweet bookstore in the heart of downtown, offering new and used titles of all kinds, but very well-curated. If it’s not quality they don’t sell it, and everyone in there really knows their books. They have fun events on a regular basis, including book signings and story time for kids. It’s where I do nearly all of my Christmas shopping every year.

Boiseans almost always use cardinal directions. The mountains are north, so as long as you can see them you can’t get lost. And you can almost always see them. So, moving slightly east from downtown we encounter the historic Basque District. For those unfamiliar, the Basque Country is that mountainous region of northern Spain and southern France. Many folks of Basque descent made their way to southern Idaho over the generations, mainly to herd sheep.

They stayed and thrived, and now Boiseans are very proud of their Basque heritage. We even boast of being the only town in America with a mayor who is fluent in Basque, Mayor Dave Bieter. You can learn about all of this at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center (611 W. Grove St.). For an authentic Boise Basque culinary experience, go to Bar Gernika (202 S. Capitol Blvd.) and order croquetas with a kalimotxo to wash them down.

Head just a bit south from there and catch a movie at The Flicks (646 W. Fulton St.). I love this place. They specialize in indie, foreign, and art films and often screen great documentaries. I like to enjoy a glass of wine while I watch. And their cookies are delicious too.

Next take a walk through nearby Julia Davis Park, and maybe check out one of our lovely museums there, like the Boise Art Museum (670 E. Julia Davis Dr), or perhaps the Idaho Black History Museum (508 Julia Davis Dr.). Then be sure to connect with the Boise River Greenbelt, just on the other side of the park from there. You’ll have over 30 miles along the river to bike or walk or birdwatch or whatever floats your boat. (You can even boat.) I always see wildlife along the river, even bald eagles once in a blue moon.

Head west along the Greenbelt and you’ll be able to quench your well-earned thirst at Lost Grove Brewing (1026 S. La Pointe St.), a fun neighborhood brewery my friends started a few years ago. They always have a solid variety of fresh brews on tap and a cheerful bartender or two to guide you through the selection process. By the way, Idaho is 10th in the nation in breweries per capita. Yeah, we like our beer.

Scoot a bit north of there, to what is known as the Linen District, and check yourself into The Modern Hotel (1314 W. Grove St.). Not only do they have one of the best restaurants in town, a killer cocktail menu, original artwork in each unique room, and a campfire out front on most nights, they also have gnome statues in the restrooms that hold up little turntables for your musical enjoyment while you powder your nose.

Just west of there is the Record Exchange (1105 W. Idaho St.). How do I sufficiently describe my love for this place? It has been the pulse of Boise’s music scene and all things good since 1977, and it’s one of the best indie record stores in the country. It’s also a really fun spot to catch an in-store performance by both local and touring acts.

Last but not least, no trip to Boise would be complete without a visit to our beautiful foothills and historic Hyde Park (1413 to 1620 N. 13th St.). This is a charming little neighborhood in Boise’s quaint north end, where I grew up. Nearby Camels Back Park (1200 Heron St.) never fails to deliver. Hike all around those gorgeous trails, then up the big hill and enjoy a sunset with the best view in town.


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A hike a day keeps the blues away ☀️

A post shared by Boise Parks and Recreation (@boiseparksandrecreation) on

Because we’re on the western edge of the Mountain Time Zone, the sun sets very late in Boise in the summertime. On a clear day, and most days are clear in Boise, you can still see a bit of light around 10:30 p.m. As you watch that sun sink down over the horizon, congratulate yourself on a day well spent in one of the prettiest little cities on earth. And come back soon. Just promise not to tell too many people.

Here’s a list of songs I’ve written that were directly inspired by Boise or the surrounding area:

“My Hometown”
“Always Coming Home”
“Boundary County”
“Half-Broke Horse”


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A Minute in Boise, Idaho, with Eilen Jewell
A Minute in Boise, Idaho, with Eilen Jewell