Boise, Idaho: The New Meetings Mecca

Idaho: It’s the Gem State, named for its gorgeous scenery and abundance of the star garnets, jasper, opal, jade, topaz, zircon and tourmaline found in its mountains. But the state’s moniker could just as easily pertain to its capital city, Boise, a true hidden gem nestled between the Boise River and Boise Foothills in the Pacific Northwest. While the city’s somewhat off the radar—the two closest large cities being Salt Lake City (a five-hour drive) and Portland, Oregon (a seven-hour drive), its seclusion has acted as a blank slate for a recent boom in Boise’s growth and creativity.

That boom is creating an energy that travelers and the press are picking up on. In fact, Vogue named Boise one of the 10 hottest travel destinations in 2017. “[The city] is both urban and outdoor-centric; it’s super active,” says Carrie Westergard, executive director of the Boise CVB. “There’s also a young vibe with [Boise State] University being right here. And with everything being very close in proximity, there’s a vibrancy that’s happening at all hours.”

But it’s not just urban, outdoorsy and young. Boise is a mecca for meetings and events—it’s traffic-free, walkable, welcoming and affordable. Oh, and it’s richly creative too, with a thriving startup/bootstrapping culture, serious craft beer scene and offbeat heritage. And because it’s a smaller city, Westergard notes, “a meeting or convention that comes to Boise heavily becomes our focus. It gets a lot of attention and can take over the area in big ways.”

So, if you’re looking for that next cool meetings destination—the Austin of 15 years ago, the Portland of 10 years ago, the Nashville of five years ago—it’s Boise.

EXPANSION

Recently renovated, slated to open and being proposed: Growth is the buzzword for Boise’s downtown. The city’s convention center, Boise Centre, recently doubled in size, and there’s talk of a multipurpose sports arena being constructed in the near future. The university recently opened a new alumni center and broke ground for another modern element as well—a new fine arts building. Additionally, a number of new hotels are being built in the area to keep up with growing demand. In other words, there’s stuff happening here. Check it out:

Grove Plaza | 826 Main St.

It’s Boise’s central location for concerts and local events, and the landing place for local meetings and conventions. Grove Plaza’s free and favorite summer concert series, Alive After Five, gives attendees a fun opportunity to get together on Wednesday evenings after a day of meetings and enjoy summer vibes June through August. After undergoing renovations launched in 2016, the Plaza recently reopened with an enhancement to its iconic water fountain, new bricks, supplemental shade structures, urban trees, lighting and sound equipment, and open Wi-Fi access.

Inn at 500 Capitol | 500 South Capitol Blvd.

The newest boutique hotel in the area hosted its grand opening in February, and it’s just three easy blocks from the Grove Plaza. Check out two of Inn at 500’s special highlights any frequent traveler will love: valet service followed by a glass of wine or bottled water, and a private butler’s pantry in every room, allowing attendees to enjoy room service without opening their door. The hotel features 110 sleeping rooms and almost 2,400 square feet of event space in a corporate/social meeting room, private function dining room and sanctuary hospitality room. To top it off, the hotel is attached to Richard’s, a contemporary Italian-Mediterranean restaurant by well-known area chef Richard Langston.


Residence Inn Boise Downtown City Center | 400 South Capitol Blvd. | Hyatt Place Boise Downtown | 1024 West Bannock St.

Residence Inn, right down the street from Inn at 500 Capitol, is slated to open September 2017. It’ll have more than 4,700 square feet of meeting and event space with up to four meeting rooms, and 186 suites with a kitchenette in each room. The inn will also feature a fitness area, a pool, and a third-floor patio and bar.

And Hyatt Place, also opening this month, will feature 152 rooms and 2,700 square feet of meeting space distributed among four rooms. Other noteworthy features include a gym and outdoor pool, an on-site coffee and cocktail bar and a 24/7 Gallery Menu for late-night working.

Being Proposed

Old Boise General Manager Clay Carley, in partnership with Middleton, Wisconsin-based Raymond Group has proposed an eight-story, 144-room hotel—brand yet to be identified— for a Front-and-Sixth Street location.

CULTURE

Boise’s vibrant culture is its most treasured characteristic. From its eclectic food and drink scene to its rich history of Basque heritage to its lively and artistic festivals set against a stunning backdrop, there’s no doubt that anyone who visits Boise will quickly fall in love with the city.

Food + Drink | Downtown

With daylight brightening the sky until 10 p.m. in summer months, outdoor and patio dining is popular and super accessible in Boise, particularly along Eighth Street. In fact, around 100 restaurants and bars are within a few blocks’ radius of the main convention center. Boise’s craft beer and wine scenes are taking off as well, with 20 different breweries within the metro area plus designated wine country just 45 minutes outside of Boise.

A handful of delicious downtown musts include spots like Bodovino for tapas and a complete wine experience; Fork or Juniper for creative farm-to-table American dishes and craft cocktails; Prost for German beer and eats; and Bittercreek Alehouse and Red Feather Lounge for a range of draft microbrews and seasonal American comfort food. And from April through December, Capital City Public Market makes for a fun group outing on Saturday mornings along Eighth Street, where attendees can browse local specialty foods and artisan goods.

Basque Block | West Grove St.

Boise has one of the largest Basque populations per capita in the U.S., which brings an unexpected offbeat element to the city’s culture. Many original Basque immigrants came to Idaho in the late 1800s from Basque Country, a region that straddles parts of northern Spain and southwestern France, to work as sheepherders.  

Boise’s Basque Block preserves and celebrates the still-thriving Basque heritage with restaurants, bars, Basque Museum and Culture Center, and the Basque Market, which frequently hosts festivals and events. The largest festival, Jaialdi—which literally translates to “Big Festival”—brings visitors from all over the world and happens every five years, with the next slated to take place in 2020. The block’s Basque Center can be reserved for events, and the culture’s Oinkari—a traditional Basque folk dance troupe characterized by a flurry of flying feet, snapping fingers and lively cheers—frequently performs to ancient music and can be hired for gatherings as well.


Idaho Shakespeare Festival | 5657 East Warm Springs Ave.

It’s Boise’s beloved summer tradition, taking place from late May through early October, where picnicking is highly encouraged. But if attendees don’t want to fuss with grocery shopping and a picnic basket, there’s also an on-site Shakespeare Cafe that offers food and—yes!—wine. Groups can purchase tickets and gather to see live, world-class performances in a cozy outdoor amphitheater where, in the evening, deer often walk by and geese fly overhead. This year’s plays include Frederick Knott’s “Wait Until Dark,” “Hamlet,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “The Hound of Baskervilles.”

TEAM BUILDING

As team building activities become a popular aspect of conferences and events, Boise’s innovative vibe and proximity to ample active, outdoorsy adventures make it a perfect place for groups to get to know each other. Check out these three top spots that’ll have your group bonding in no time.

Jack’s Urban Meeting Place (JUMP) | 1000 West Myrtle St.

JUMP is an expansive community center and cool creativity hub in Boise. It was built to honor area entrepreneur and pioneer J. R. (Jack) Simplot by creating an interactive space for growth and innovation. Its gorgeous grounds hold an outdoor amphitheater, rooftop parks, play areas, space to roam, a climbing structure and a five-story slide (as a floor-to-floor alternative to stairs).

JUMP also has studio rooms that are perfect for events and teambuilding activities, including the Pioneer Room, JUMP Room, The Deck, The Loft, Garden Terrace and Inspire Studio. Fun classes are offered in various areas within the space as well, including topics ranging from cooking to 3-D printing to yoga and fitness and more.


Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area | 2600 North Bogus Basin Road

Just 17 miles from Boise, a trip to Bogus Basin will have attendees surrounded by mountains and completely removed from urban bustle. The recreation area is known for skiing, but it’s undergoing renovations, many of which are slated to be ready as early as this summer, to make it a year-round attraction. Proposed activities include a new ropes course, a canopy tour featuring zip lines and skybridges, an Alpine Coaster, summer tubing, a larger amphitheater, an upgrade to mountain biking trails and a fun zone.

Cascade Raft and Kayak | 7050 ID-55, Horseshoe Bend

One of Boise’s best-kept secrets is that it’s so close to some of the best whitewater rafting in the world. Cascade Rafts is just a 45-minute drive from the city and offers rafting excursions perfect for everyone from beginners to experts, the best team building option probably being “The Splash” trip. It’s an 8-mile, three-hour journey along the Payette River featuring Class III rapids—big, playful waves, but little maneuvering required. Between rapids are opportunities to swim, splash or relax on the raft, and, back at the Cascade Raft River Center, attendees can explore the gift shop, cafe and pictures from the trip. Full-day outings are also available and include a sandy, riverside lunch midway through the trip.

Plan your next event in Boise, Idaho, and share your experience with us. And be sure to explore our Meeting Planner Guide along with other helpful information here.