Historic Movie Theater
For much of its history, including when I was growing up in Boise in the '60s and '70s, this was known as the Ada Theatre. (Boise is in Ada County.) It nearly fell victim to the urban development that saw most of the surrounding blocks torn down in the '70s but made a terrific comeback. Since the restoration, the theater has changed hands several times and actually closed for a few months when Cineplex Odeon dropped out after showing what some feared would be its final (but appropriate) engagement, "The Mummy." Not only did another operator come in to save the day but the theater got yet another touchup. This is Boise's only surviving theater that even predates the 1980s. The last other vintage downtown theater, the Pinney, was demolished in the mid-'60s.
Touring the back roads of Idaho, you will find old mining towns, relics of the past and lots of history. There are some fascinating places and some are preserved. It makes for good exploring and nice day trips. Some trips can be weekenders and you can end up in very remote area.
Theatrics of the City of Trees: Shakespeare Fest
The Idaho Shakespeare Festival: A great way to spend an summer evening, features works of Shakespeare and generally one off-beat production per season.
This is an outdoor venue, the best seating is on a grassy hill near the stage, so bring blankets to sit on, unless you prefer chairs which are a bit further back but also great. (For budget seating there are spaces along the topmost section of the theater, I've sat there a number of times and the show is just as great from ahigh.)
Picnics are welcomed, or fancy yet pricy foods may be purchased on site at Cafe Shakespeare. I recommend bringing a bottle of wine, some cheese and crackers and have a wine tasting for two during the show. This is a great date night out, or just an evening with the friends.
I used to work behind the scenes with the festival in costuming and props, you'll have a hard time finding a better cast of actors or a more stunning design team, ISF is an asset to the community of Boise and a wonderful time out.
Shows run from June through Sept.
Tickets prices are based on seating type, see website closer to the summer season for current prices.
(Summer Drama Camps for kids are also available)
*Note that while wandering around the area there is a small walkabout behind the theater next the water and a nice stretch of the legs during intermission.*
Capitol with Emerging Identity
"Idaho Background: The Neglected State"
If one looks at the map, at the size and shape of Idaho, it becomes immediately apparent that perhaps Idaho was a state created from land not already claimed by other state territories. Indeed, once part of Oregon Territory, Idaho still had no permanent settlement by the time Oregon became a state in 1848, and during this period, the region was split between the Washington territory and Oregon. In any case, Idaho was the last state in lower 48 states to be actually settled and begin it's territorial identity. Even then, this process began primarily as a result of a belated and now familiar frenzy over gold mining beginning in 1860, so that by 1863 residents demanded a functional territorial government. It was in 1863 that Boise's old downtown was first established, but even as late as the 1880's new discoveries of gold and silver maintained Idaho's image as mostly one of lawless mining camps. However, severe labor troubles in the mines at the end of the century led to political and lawlessness against an estabished elite of mining and ranching bosses, an image Idaho still must contend with. Early state governor, Frank Steunenberg, who had used federal troops to put down riots and to combat outlaws, was shockingly assassinated in 1905--undermining regional pride and inducing a shame few states have had to overcome. The trial of William Haywood and others accused of involvement in the murder amplified this reputation of lawlessness by drawing national attention, but also marked the beginning of the long career of William E. Borah (who had prosecuted the mine leaders) as an outstanding Republican party leader in the state and nation. Later in this period, ranching and farming interests retained political control, firmly entrenching the power of the Republican Party in state politics, a situation that exists even today. Meanwhile, Boise, the state capitol, while clearly the largest metropolitan area in Idaho, at just over 200,000 residents, remains surprisingly isolated, provincial, and modest relative to that found in neighboring states of Utah, Oregon, and Washington. Situated as it is on the turbulent white water of the Boise River, with the stark backdrop of mountains in the high desert plateau, Boise presents itself as an otherwise safe and friendly city where nothing can go wrong, a family oriented capitol, with an emerging civic identity that is emergent, quite pleasing, and almost urbane.
"Urban Center in a Rugged Landscape"
Besides the apparent natural wonders of mountains and wild rivers, which attract fishing, mountaineering, and skiing enthusiasts year around, Boise is mostly an urban oasis of learning and civic pleasures within a vast region mostly devoted to hard work of ranching, farming, or mining. Thus, Boise has been slow to develop, and yet by being off the beaten path of culture and tourism, the center of town has managed in recent decades to redevelop its old brick buildings for restaurant and quaint shopping purposes, to create a system of city parks around the capitol buildings and river front areas. Boise is not only a capitol but a university town, and so there is a sense of excitement downtown on the weekends that is missing is some similar-sized state capitols, such as Salem (Oregon) or Jackson (Mississippi). Also, having faced a image problem of white racism and gun toting lawlessness, Boise civic leaders have endeavored to build monumental reminders of tolerance and freedom, something, for example, Jackson, Mississippi has not done.
"Boise Celebrates its Pioneer Image"
The name Boise has origins in the French word for forest, and the original Fort Boise was located some 40 miles from the present city, nevertheless, Boise celebrates Idaho's pioneer heritage related to the Lewis & Clark expedition and a territory crossed by the Oregon trail. The city has dedicated many memorials to this heritage around town, and easy bicycle lanes or paths link between most of them. Boise has in recent years become a very bicycle friendly city, and downtown is a great place to park the bicycle and dine for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. During pleasant summer days, couples and whole families bicycle around the downtown area without the least concern for crime nor traffic, and Boise has clearly adopted the craze for quality brewed espresso and beer so common in neighboring Oregon and Washington states.