NESTLED ALONG THE FOOTHILLS OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS IS THE CITY OF BOISE. Its name is French for wooded, and you need only view a panoramic shot of the City of Trees to see that its nickname is well deserved. This American beauty has plenty to offer visiting groups, conferences and conventions-from its unique cultural heritage activities to its vibrant wine scene and overabundance of scenic expeditions.
Bask in Boise’s Basque Culture
If you’re looking for something to do that is uniquely Boise, look no further than the Basque Block, a cultural district located in downtown Boise. The city is home to the largest population of people of Basque descent in the United States and this area’s venues helpkeep their heritage alive.
Groups of up to 30 can take a private tour of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, the only one of its kind in the U.S. The museum showcases photographs, exhibits and artifacts from Basque and non-Basque immigrants, who began settling in the community in the 1800s, working primarily as sheepherders. The museum’s Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga House is one of 300 remaining boardinghouses in the U.S. and the oldest brick residence in the city.
After you’ve learned all you can about the history of Boise’s Basque community, throw an authentic Basque block party with the help of The Basque Market, which will take care of catering, décor rentals (think tables, chairs and sheep wagons, of course) and any other little details to complete your Basque bash.
Guests can enjoy traditional Basque dishes or paella, a crowd favorite. Though technically Spanish, not Basque, it’s a popular choice and the market can prepare paella for up to 200 outside (although they have prepared for 500 in the past), right in the middle of the block. Add Basque dancers or musicians for a dinner-and-a-show feel. Live entertainment options include the Oinkari Basque Dancers, a lively troupe of Basque descent, or the acclaimed Boitzetik Basque Choir. The Basque Market owner Tara McElhose-Eiguren succinctly sums up the experience, saying, "Good food. Good wine. Good music. Fun people."
Want to take the party indoors? Head to the Basque Center, where you can have a seated soiree in the main hall for up to 400 (450 standing) or a slightly smaller banquet in the lower hall for 300 standing and 175 seated. Built in 1949, the center has a public bar and hosts events throughout the year, including monthly dinners, holiday shows and alumni association events.
Centre of It All
If you need something a bit larger, try the 85,000-square-foot Boise Centre, which has 20 Wi-Fi-ready meeting room combinations featuring 50,000 square feet, including banquet seating for up to 1,800 and a 349-seat auditorium (temporary seating can be added to bump the capacity to 375). The center also incorporates numerous green initiatives to assist you with meeting your sustainability goals.
The convention center is located within three blocks of 800 hotel rooms, including those of The Grove Hotel, which has 36,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including 20 breakout rooms overlooking the CenturyLink Arena and the 6,800-square-foot Grove Grand Ballroom. As a post-meeting wind-down, your guests can take a fitness class or enjoy a relaxing massage or pampering facial in the state-ofthe- art Grove Fitness Club & Spa. For dining, head to the hotel’s Emilio’s Restaurant for local, organic fare; the Fireside Bar for casual meals and live entertainment by a Grammy Award-winning pianist; or The Zone, a sports bar overlooking the Grove Plaza.
Be sure to add to your agenda Boise’s urban outdoor offerings, including the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt. This tree-lined pathway follows the Boise River through the city, passing a dozen parks along the way, including the MK Nature Center, where wildlife fans can enjoy a living exhibit of fish via underwater viewing stations and educational sites. The greenbelt itself is home to 150 different birds and a host of other critters.
Another notable stop along the trail: Julia Davis Park. Opened in 1897, it’s the city’s oldest park and host to a number of attractions including Zoo Boise, Boise Art Museum, Idaho Black History Museum and a rose garden, where about 2,400 roses bloom each year. Hit any of the park’s tennis courts, bocce courts or horseshoe pits; picnic at one of its pavilions; or if you’re there in the right season, take a paddleboat around the pond.
Say your guests are looking for a more exhilarating excursion, however. Less than an hour north of Boise, thrill-seekers can relish in a white water rafting and dinner experience in the Boise National Forest. After rafting along the Payette River, up to 600 guests can enjoy a dinner on its banks catered by Cascade Raft and Kayak. "In the summer, white water rafting is always a must," says Lisa Edens, convention sales manager at Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Also traveling through the Boise National Forest along the Payette River is the Thunder Mountain Line, Idaho’s only scenic train ride. Up to 400 guests can take in panoramic mountain views while enjoying dinner and entertainment in the summer months. If you’re interested in a more intimate affair, the caboose fits up to 10.
For a true taste of Idaho, explore Idaho wine country, known for producing vinifera varieties (think syrah and viognier) and classic varieties (think merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and riesling). In Southwest Idaho alone, there are 17 wineries spread across the state’s fertile volcanic soils, which guests can browse via an interactive map on IdahoWines.org before scheduling a small group tour, wine tasting or catered event.
One of Idaho’s newest wine experiences is located right in downtown Boise at Bodovino, home of the largest collection of WineEmotion machines in the U.S., a unique system for selling and preserving wine by the bottle. Enjoy a self-guided wine-tasting tour of Bodovino’s 144 bottles of wine on tap, which range in price from $10 to $200 and are grouped by Old World, Regional/Domestic, New World, High End and Seasonal. Up to 36 guests can wine down in Bodovino’s private event space. They may even want to take home a special bottle to help reminisce about their time spent in beautiful Boise.