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"A city of neighborly love ... "

The City of Boise was incorporated in 1863. At first, it was called Fort Boise, and included what is now known as The North End and Southeast Boise. The moniker of the city purportedly came about when French settlers happened upon the area and called out, "Les bois, les bois," which means "the woods, the woods" when they first got sight of the wooded Boise River. 

Today, we just call it Boise — and locals make sure to say it right: BOY-see. At about 64 square miles, it's the capital of Idaho, is fairly flat, has the Boise River running through it and is bounded on the northeast by the foothills and the Boise Mountains.

While there are 34 neighborhood associations in Boise, each one as proud of its place and peeps as any other, you can generally parcel out the city into about six geographical sections: Downtown, The North End, The East End, Southeast Boise, The Bench and West Boise.


Downtown Boise is basically between Broadway to the east and 15th Street to the west, the Boise River to the south and State Street to the north. It is totally walkable and bustles with pedestrian traffic during most days and nights, but especially during weekend evenings and sunny seasonal weather. The Statehouse is located downtown as is Zoo Boise, Julia Davis Park (and its famous rose garden), Boise Art Museum, the Black History Museum and the Idaho State Museum. Freak Alley, an open-air, ever-changing gallery of local art work is between Bannock and Idaho and Eighth and Ninth streets, in the alley, of course.

There are hotels, restaurants, shops and boutiques, a convention center, bars and nightclubs — and upscale high-rise apartments for the downtown dweller. One of the downtown darlings you won't want to miss: Flying M Coffee House at Fifth and Idaho, a Boise institution since 1992. And every March, Treefort Music Fest takes over and transforms the downtown into a five-day music festival.

The North End

The North End is one of Boise's oldest 'hoods. It lies north of State Street between Fort and Veteran's Memorial Parkway, although the heart of the North End is centered around the Boise Co-Op, Hyde Park and Camel's Back Park. Architecturally speaking, the North End is filled with many styles from Georgian to modern. A walk through the neighborhood offers an eclectic view from block to block.

The East End

The East End is off to either side of Warm Springs Avenue, which in itself is a treat to peruse. Historic homes line the avenue while one new addition is a replica of an actual castle, replete with gargoyles. You'll find The Old Idaho Pen and the Idaho Botanical Garden here, as well as Table Rock, an iconic entry point into the Boise foothills. There are hiking and biking trails that weave from front to back on the mesa and if you hike to the top you get a stunning view of the city. Further east are some newer residential developments, including the sprawling Harris Ranch subdivision, and Idaho Shakespeare Festival, which is located on a nature reserve.  

Southeast Boise

Southeast Boise is basically south and east of the Boise Depot and Vista Avenue, and is bordered by Federal Way and the Boise River, although it can also include more  on either side. This is home of Boise State University, the Boise Airport, Micron headquarters and all in-between. It also includes the planned community of Bown Crossing and the Oregon Trail Reserve, which, yeah, includes the actual Oregon Trail.

The Boise Bench

The Boise Bench is actually made up of three "benches," which are so named as geographical steps or elevated benches, each one higher. It is bounded by Federal Way to the east, Cole Road to the west and Garden City to the north and Overland or I-84 to the south.

This neighborhood includes many mid-century modern homes, as it was primarily developed during that time. Orchard Street and Curtis Road are main thoroughfares on The Bench, as is Fairview Avenue and Franklin Road. One of the oldest cemeteries in the city is The Bench's Morris Hill and Betty the Washer Woman on Vista is an iconic landmark. The Bench is also known for being "close to everything."

West Boise

West Boise is pretty much everything west of Cole Road, although some would now argue that boundary should be Milwaukee or even Cloverdale, as the city proper has steadily marched its way west. In the not so distant past, West Boise was pretty much empty with gigantic empty dirt lots at every major intersection. The "outskirts of town" were easily identified.

Today, those lots have mostly been filled with strip malls or other businesses, apartment complexes and residential housing developments. Also today, the next towns over, Eagle to the north, Meridian to the south, abut Boise; you can hardly tell when you're leaving one and entering another. Also, what used to be outer limits towns are now proper cities. In fact, Meridian is now the second largest city in Idaho.

West Boise includes Towne Square Mall and just on the other side of Chinden in Garden City are the Western Idaho Fairgrounds and home of the Boise Hawks and Expo Idaho. 

Garden City

Garden City is not a Boise 'hood. Technically, Garden City is its own city encapsulated by Boise. In addition to the fairgrounds, it has become a mecca for the arts and includes a First Friday art crawl, a number of art galleries including Surel's Place and Visual Arts Collective, which is also home to the Alley Repertory Theater. 

There's history embedded in each and every one of these 'hoods, along with culture and yes, each one is imbued with its own quirky personality.

To paraphrase the inimitable Mr. Rogers: It's a beautiful day in these Boise neighborhoods. Won't you be our neighbor?

Editor's note: A previous version of this story included  Esther Simplot Park and the Boise Whitewater as part of Garden City. They are in the City of Boise.

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