Treefort Music Festival electrifies Boise, creating a vast network of downtown venues, crowds of people, endless events, and even city buses enhanced with live music late into the night. Treefort provides experiences that are unforgettable—maybe you want to see Lizzo in concert before she becomes well known (only 2017 Treeforters were this lucky), or catch Mac DeMarco’s last performance of his Salad Days album. If you dare to venture into El Korah Shrine at midnight, you might catch the greatest performance of your life; for me it was in 2019 stumbling into The Puscie Jones Revue’s fever dream-esque funk/soul performance, complete with astounding vocals, costume changes, and lots of dancing.
If you’re curious about the local music scene, there are dozens of bands showcasing their talents—most notably Boise’s claim to fame, Built to Spill. Local musicians thrive during Treefort; you’ll frequently find bands like Sick Wish and Juice dominating The Olympic to a packed crowd of new fans. And if you’re not 21 yet? No worries. Not only are there discounted tickets for anyone unable to enter 21+ venues, but the Boise All Ages Movement Project hosts tons of shows all week to make sure that Treefort truly is for everyone.
Treefort is a huge event, dominating all of Boise for a whole week in March. As a result, navigating it can seem pretty overwhelming. If you’re not sure where to start, park that car and take a new kind of walking and biking road trip through Boise. Here are some of my favorite events, restaurants, and places to go while Treefort is in town.
While music may be Treefort’s main draw, the festival expands far beyond just that. Foodfort and Alefort will keep you eating and drinking better than you thought was possible at a music festival, and you might even learn something along the way! Foodfort 2019 gave me the opportunity to take a break from the music and enjoy a Russian inspired meal from Chef Bonnie Morales of Kachka in Portland. There are also food trucks, skills workshops, and food events where local chefs create themed dishes.
The Alefort tent is conveniently located next to Main Stage, so you can wash down all that delicious food with one of the many beers brewed specially for Treefort. Local breweries partner with each other to create themed beer tastings. The “Wild and Funky Bar” this last year was one of the most unique sets yet, and I hear this year we can look forward to Winefort joining the mix.
Looking for a break from the crowds? Try out some local breweries. Cloud 9 is my year-round favorite, and it’s conveniently located near the Treefort Main Stage. Cloud 9 is an operational nano-brewery and restaurant, so they brew all of their beers in tiny batches on site. This means that in addition to year-round flavors, they also have experimental flavors using seasonal ingredients. It also means you can’t find their beer outside of their restaurant, so Treefort is the best excuse to go!
If you’d rather be in the middle of the action, Woodland Empire is a venue and brewery all in one. They usually brew for Alefort, so you can try those specialties at their location only a few blocks away if the Alefort tent is packed. It’s a huge space with games and music, and has one of the fastest growing presences in the PNW for craft beer.
The Alefort tent is conveniently located next to Main Stage, so you can wash down all that delicious food with one of the many beers brewed specially for Treefort.
If you’re looking to expand more than just your musical horizons, look no further than Storyfort, Hackfort, and Yogafort. All of these forts are included with a Treefort pass, and they are the perfect way to spend your days or pass the time between shows. One of Boise’s local authors, Christian Winn, works with a local nonprofit, The Cabin, to produce Storyfort events across the city. From writing workshops to slam poetry competitions, Storyfort will fuel anyone’s creative streak.
Hackfort is the go-to for anyone interested in the tech industry; panels of experts discuss innovative new ideas, and startups are notorious for finding interns and employees at Hackfort events. Yogafort usually kicks off Treefort festivities with group yoga classes that experts travel from all over to teach. It’s the perfect opportunity to de-compress between shows and events, while also learning techniques, meditation, and how to pick the best yoga equipment.
Thousands of people eagerly swarming Downtown Boise can lead to some parking struggles and long lines for food and drinks. If you want to escape the crowds and experience everything Boise has to offer, take a break and venture away from downtown. Boise Greenbike can help you get around the city without worrying about parking, and you can use one to cruise down to Boise’s historic district, the North End. Within this neighborhood, you’ll find a hidden gem spanning two blocks of 13th Street—Hyde Park.
A bustling network of restaurants and shops within a residential neighborhood, Hyde Park remains largely unaffected by Treefort’s huge crowds, making it the perfect place to grab a bite. Hyde Park Pub serves up burgers, sandwiches, and salads in a casual environment. It’s a family owned sports bar, and it always has delicious specials and soups made by the owner’s wife. If you’re looking for something a little fancier, Hyde House has locally sourced seasonal menus with great vegetarian and vegan options. The seating is mostly outside, but it’s beautifully decorated and there are heat lamps and shady areas for hot and cold weather. After dinner, stay in the area for dessert, because Goody’s Soda Fountain is just down the street, and it’s absolutely worth the extra stop. The ice cream is all made right there in the store, and pairs perfectly with all the homemade sodas and sundae toppings. There are also shelves of homemade chocolates, jellybeans, and almost every candy you can think of! It’s the best place to stock up on treats for the week, and a Greenbike station is right out front, making it easy to come and go from Hyde Park whenever you want.
If you’d rather start your day than end it in Hyde Park, check out Certified Kitchen + Bakery. Their homemade English muffins and cozy space are absolutely inviting, and their amazing breakfast sandwiches will fuel your day, whatever you have planned.
If you want to escape the crowds and experience everything Boise has to offer, take a break and venture away from downtown.
If you find yourself with some free time during the festival, check out everything else Boise has to offer. One of my favorite places to visit is the Old Idaho State Penitentiary—the state’s prison opened in 1872, and has been preserved today as a museum. Wandering old cellblocks and getting “locked in” to solitary confinement is a fun and spooky experience, and there’s over 100 years of history on Idaho’s most well known criminals. For all the paranormal fans, Ghost Adventures even filmed an episode there! It’s close enough to downtown to get there without needing to drive—the Greenbikes, Uber, or Lyft can take you there in a matter of minutes.
Once you’re in East Boise, both Boise State and Bown Crossing are close by. If you head over to Boise State, you can walk from the campus to Madre, home to one of Boise’s most innovative chefs and his delicious tacos. In Bown Crossing, you’ll find Locavore, a bistro that makes all its food from scratch. The patio is surrounded by beautiful scenery, and it’s perfect for a pre-fort brunch or lunch. East Boise feels more secluded, making it the ideal place to slip away from the crazy Treefort crowds.
Boise truly comes alive during Treefort, and it’s impossible to fully explain the unique experience of this festival. The only way to understand why Treefort has gained such a huge following, both in and outside of Boise, is to come and spend a week fully immersed in the event. Explore the city, discover new music, make friends, and create a new tradition of traveling to Boise every March to be a part of the best week of the year.
Story by Kati Durkin