Check out these fun ideas for historic homeschool field trip ideas in Boise, Idaho. Make history come alive in your homeschool with Boise field trips!
One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is experiencing hands on history. History doesn’t have to be something boring in a text book (in fact, if it is, put down the text book and find some fun living books to make history come alive!).
We love visiting historic locations, because it helps us get a better understanding of history. The location really helps with understanding.
I remember reading a book once, as a teen, that was set in Eastern Wyoming. Having only seen the Western side of the state (Jackson Hole area), I pictured forests and mountain passes. Later, we drove through the location of the book, and it was flat, desolate, and hardly a tree to be seen. It really changed how I understood that book when I actually saw the real setting. Visiting historic sites can do the same thing.
I asked in our state’s homeschool group for people to help me come up with a list of fun historic locations to visit in Idaho. There were so many fabulous answers that I started dividing by geographic location. This was originally something I was just doing for myself (since we were studying Idaho state history), but the more I thought about it, the more I thought it would be beneficial to a lot of other Idaho homeschoolers.
I decided to start with Boise field trip locations, because I know that so many of my fellow Idaho homeschool families are in Boise. While I’m on the other side of the state, I did grow up with dear friends who lived in Boise, and my sister lived there for many years as well, so I’m pretty familiar with Idaho’s capital city.
Updated on August 11, 2022:
I have done my best to try to find contacts, websites, and information for each of these locations. However, if I’ve missed anything (or any amazing locations), or if a link no longer works, please drop a comment to let me know, so I can keep it up to date and it can be a great resource.
Coming soon, there will be guides for Eastern Idaho, Western Idaho, Central Idaho, South Central Idaho, and Northern Idaho. I’ll link to them here, as soon as they’re complete.
So, without further ado, here are some fun, historic Boise field trip ideas.
Western Idaho Historic Field Trip Locations in Boise, Idaho:
Idaho State Capitol Building
Visiting the Capitol building is not only beautiful, but informative. During legislative sessions, you can view the House and Senate Chambers from the 4th floor, and get a chance to see legislative proceedings in action.
The Capitol building is open Monday through Friday (except on holidays) from 9-5. Although no tickets are required, you can schedule a guided tour here.
Old Idaho Penitentiary Site
The Old Idaho Penitentiary is a fascinating location. I remember first visiting it as a middle schooler. Built in 1870 (20 years before Idaho was even a state!), it’s the perfect mix of history and creepiness, which seems to be delightful to most kids.
The old Idaho penitentiary was in operation for 101 years. Visitors will learn what prison conditions were like during its operation, including getting to see the old solitary confinement.
An interesting read before visiting the Old Idaho Penitentiary is Prisoner 88 by Leah Pileggi. Though this book is fiction, it was inspired by the true story of James Oscar Baker, a ten year old boy who became the youngest prisoner in the state penitentiary.
Current displays include The Women’s Ward, Crafty Cons, WWI Idaho Forestry Soldiers, J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit (one of the nation’s largest collections of historic arms and military memorabilia), and Faces of the Idaho State Penitentiary.
There is a self-guided tour. Tickets are recommended, but free. It is possible to get a guided tour (for $2), but depends on staff availability.
The Basque Museum and Cultural Center
A relatively large group of Basque immigrants live in Boise (currently estimated at 16,000). In fact, it is one of the largest Basque communities in the United States! To see the Basque region, check out this Rick Steve’s Europe, where he visits Basque country in Episode 11.
In order to celebrate the rich heritage of Basques in Boise, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center was opened.
The museum is part of the Basque Block in Boise, which also includes the Basque Center (which hosts Basque gatherings, dances, and other events), a beautiful Basque Mural, a Basque Market, and several delicious Basque restaurants.
The Basque Museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 10-5, and Saturday from 11-4. Group tours can be arranged using this form.
Boise Train Depot
Unfortunately, the Boise Train Depot is not typicall open to the public. The building is opened several times a year for an open house. Check out the Boise Train Depot website for more information on the dates and times of the next open house.
A visit to the Boise Train Depot is still worthwhile in order to see the grounds, and the outside of the building, in my opinion.
Built by Union Pacific in a Spanish-style in 1925, the Boise Depot has a beautiful 96-foot tall tower, and is situated on a hill in Boise, with beautiful views. It is surrounded by the lovely Platt Gardens, which include a koi pond, seasonal flowers, and walkways.
MK Nature Center
The Morrison Knudsen Nature Center (MK Nature Center) is a 4.6 acre wildlife experience along the Boise Greenbelt, located in downtown Boise. Underwater viewing windows are always a hit with kids, and the MK Nature Center offers several.
There’s so much to see at MK Nature Center, if you take the time to look closely. There’s a replica eagle’s nest, a lovely mosaic, a picturesque waterfall, sturgeon, crayfish, trout, salmon, beaver dams (though it’s likely you won’t spy the beavers who built them), minks, numerous birds, a butterfly garden, and more.
If you’d like books to go along with your visit, try this DK Eyewitness Book about Eagles, this silly book about The Busy Beaver, an informative book about Salmon, a fairy-tale book about salmon, or this fun book about pond ecology.
The grounds are open daily from dawn to dusk, and the visitor’s center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10-3.
Self-guided tours are welcome (but please let them know ahead of time if you’re bringing a large group), or you can schedule a StreamWalk program for just $2 per person. You can also schedule a more specialized program, including owl pellets, aquatic insects and fish, composting, native plants, for just $2.50 per person. Find out more information and how to schedule by visiting the MK Nature Center website.
Idaho Military Museum
The Idaho Military Museum is located at Gowen Field, by the airport.
According to their site, “Covering a broad spectrum of military history, via photos and artifacts, you will see Gowen Field as it was during World War II as well as Idahoans in the Philippine Insurrection through Operation Iraqi Freedom/Enduring Freedom.”
The museum is open Tuesday-Friday from 10-4, and Saturday from 12-4. Admission is free, though donations are appreciated.
Older students might enjoy reading Idaho in World War II prior to going.
School classes are encouraged to visit, and tours can be scheduled for any age of children, by visiting the Idaho Military Museum website.
I hope you have a fabulous time visiting these historic Idaho sites!
They’re all a lot of fun, and they’re going to be homeschool field trips your kids remember for years to come!
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