Ask a dozen Boiseans what makes their neighborhood “walkable” and you’ll likely get a variety of answers. That’s because walking is like meditation–while everyone might look similar doing it, their motivations can be vastly different. Some people want convenient access to great food and coffee; other people can’t live without a park nearby for their kids; while others just enjoy a serene sunset stroll as a way to unwind from a long day.
If you’re looking for a new home in Boise, you might already have a list of nearby must-haves in mind–and if not, it’s never too early to make one. To help you get off on the right foot, we’ve developed this insider’s guide to Boise’s most walkable neighborhoods. Our list includes something for every type of walker, so lace up your walking shoes and get ready to explore the next place you’d like to call home.
This one seems like a no-brainer–who wouldn’t want to live within blocks of 8th Street’s restaurant row? But Downtown Boise has a lot more to offer than just craft beers, haute cuisine and divine cocktails.
Residents gush about its intimate open spaces. Imagine grabbing an early-morning coffee at Flying M and then walking to C.W. Moore Park to greet the morning by watching its historic waterwheel turn. Or taking visitors for a tour of the state capitol building, followed by a picnic in Cecil D. Andrus Park.
Best yet, downtown is basically surrounded by grocery stores: Albertsons, the original Boise Co-op, Trader Joe’s, WinCo and Whole Foods, making planning for dinner a breeze (that is, if you can resist another evening out…).
One of the first things that attracts people to this historic neighborhood–aside from its rows of gorgeous, early 20th century homes–is its proximity to downtown. And that is certainly a selling point, but not its only one.
This is a neighborhood perfect for walkers–you could spend hours admiring your neighbors’ gardens and old-growth trees, hiking Camel’s Back Park (and the foothills trails beyond it), or slowly strolling down quiet residential streets as your child masters their first Strider bike. Within a square mile you’ll find the Boise Co-op plaza, a cozy hot yoga studio, and the neighborhood’s crowning glory: historic Hyde Park.
This cozy little strip has something for everyone–from coffee to craft cocktails and everything in between. The street is always bustling with families who are enjoying a relaxed patio dinner, ice cream at the local shop, or even a trip to G. Willikers Toys (diabolically located right next to the ice cream shop).
Serious runners and walkers rave about this neighborhood’s proximity to the Boise River and the Greenbelt–a 25-mile paved pathway that follows the river through town. And it’s true: no other neighborhood can top Southeast Boise for access to both.
But for those who prefer sweaty beers to sweaty bodies, this neighborhood’s still a gem. At Bown Crossing, you’ll find upscale pubs, a laid-back vibe and Locavore, a neighborhood favorite farm-fresh bistro. Meanwhile, the bars and restaurants along Broadway Avenue cater to the college clientele at nearby Boise State University–that’s where you’ll find younger crowds and cheaper eats, including two contenders for greatest pizza in the city (Flying Pie and Piehole).
As Boise’s largest neighborhood, residents here really have it all: you can walk for miles on quiet suburban streets or zip over to the bustle of Parkcenter Boulevard and have your pick of coffee spots, sandwich shops and burger joints. Or if you’re thirsty from your walk, you might slip into Barbacoa Grill for an ice-glass martini (yes, you read that right).
On top of the world-class river and diverse neighborhood staples, families adore the little library at Bown Crossing. Thanks to its size, the neighborhood has more great parks to explore than just about any other neighborhood, too.
This neighborhood has grown popular for having the same walkability to downtown as the North and East neighborhoods but at a fraction of the price. The State Street corridor also gives you easy access to an array of restaurants, coffee shops and grocery stores.
In addition, it boasts something no other neighborhood in Boise can claim: its own surf waves. Whatever the season, you’ll find residents on foot or on bike headed to Esther Simplot Park, along the banks of the Boise River, which has not one but two waves open for surfing and kayaking (depending on the day).
The park also has miles of nature trails that meander around three large, fish-stocked ponds that are home to minks, more ducks and geese than you can count, and even a family of beavers.
Casual walkers treasure this neighborhood’s mature trees, historic homes (especially along Kootenai Street), and the completely unobstructed, utterly breathtaking views of downtown found on Crescent Rim Drive. The historic Boise Depot is a popular walking destination–as are the now-defunct train tracks that run behind it. Almost a century old, the well-maintained Spanish-style building is worth a photo opp, as are the lush Platt Gardens that surround it. Although it no longer functions as a working train depot, it’s still a beloved destination for many Boiseans (especially teens looking for the perfect prom or senior portrait backdrop).
Morris Hill Park, which features a nice dog park for those who like walking with their furry friends, is also a favorite walking destination.
Adjacent to Morris Hill, on Saturday mornings you’ll find locals sipping coffee (or French drinking chocolate) and noshing on ricotta donuts, bouchons and madeleines at neighborhood favorite, Petit 4. You’ll find locals lounging outside waiting for a table most evenings, too.
In addition, the neighborhood offers plenty of shopping and dining options within easy walking distance along Vista Avenue, most notably in the Vista Shopping mall. BBQ4Life, a local joint with vegan options, is a favorite. And you can’t pass up a visit to Lee’s Candies–Boise’s beloved 74-year-old candy shop. Further down Vista you’ll find yet another popular pizza joint, Red Bench Pizza (Boiseans really love their pizza).
Bordered on two sides by the foothills and the Boise River (and with it, the Greenbelt), this newer neighborhood has plenty of options for avid walkers. If open spaces and parks are more your thing, the Barber Pool Conservation Area, a 712-acre natural reserve, Marianne Williams Park and Barber Park are also just a walk away. (If you prefer to get your steps in on the golf course, the Warm Springs Golf Course is also nearby.)
One of the most popular summer destinations in the Treasure Valley is also within walking distance: the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. This annual festival hosts plays penned by The Bard, and others, in its beautiful outdoor amphitheater all summer long–and it’s surrounded by even more trails that wind through nearby marshes and open green spaces.
Barber Valley is in the process of experiencing a burst of non-residential growth that is focused on cultivating local businesses (as opposed to big chains). Locally-owned grocery stores, restaurants and shops are being thoughtfully planned and will be constructed throughout the next decade.
For people who enjoy walking down wide, quiet streets–and don’t mind the occasional lack of sidewalk–Collister is perfect. Evening walks are practically a neighborhood pastime; summer nights are filled with people strolling through the streets, leashed dogs in tow. Families tend to congregate at Castle Hills Park, a 7-acre pennant-shaped park with many offshoot trails that feed into the neighborhood.
Collister also extends into the Boise foothills and is home to several great trailheads, like Polecat Gulch, that are a bit off the beaten path–and therefore, less crowded.
It’s also within walking distance of the Collister Shopping Center, which boasts a branch of the Boise library, Caffeina Roasting Company–a funky local coffee shop with big, comfy couches– and several restaurants (including a delicious local taqueria–Taquería El Torito).
Why Walk Score Didn’t Factor into Our List of Walkable Neighborhoods
Walk Score was designed to help users in large cities tell the difference between an industrial park and a thriving urban scene. In a place like Boise, the scores can be misleading. For example, the Central Bench neighborhood ranks very highly on Walk Score because it has quite a few drive-through restaurants and commercial businesses–which is exactly why few locals would consider it great for leisurely strolls.