When the Bulls got their bid to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, we knew we had to call Robert O. Davies. Davies earned his PhD at UB in higher education administration and served as UB’s associate vice president for alumni relations. UB alums fondly recall that he would punctuate his letters in the alumni magazine with a hearty, “Go Bulls!”
Prior to his stint at UB, Davies was the executive director of the Boise State University Alumni Association for five years. His wife, Cindy, grew up in Boise, and still has family there.
Now the president of Eastern Oregon University, Davies was more than happy to provide this insider’s guide to a city—and for a fan base—that are equally close to his heart.
Dress for summer, dress for fall, dress for spring, dress for winter. When I was at Boise State we hosted what was then called the Humanitarian Bowl. I went to the first game in shorts and a T-shirt. Two years later the game was played in a blizzard. Given the current weather patterns, my guess is that it will be on the chilly side—not quite what you would get at Ralph Wilson Stadium at this time of year, but I would still be prepared with a heavy jacket, hat and mittens.
Boise is home to many fun, locally owned places.
Cobby’s Sandwich Shop is directly across from the stadium. They offer about 50 different homemade sandwiches. It’s a small place, but they have the best sandwiches. They don’t have beef on weck, but maybe they’ll import some with the Bulls coming to town.
The RAM is a microbrewery, again very close to the stadium. They have their own beers on tap and about 100 other microbrews.
Louis Basque Corner is a great Boise restaurant. Basque food and culture are very important in South Idaho and Nevada. Louis Basque Corner offers an authentic experience, with dinners served family-style. The special Basque drink is called a Picon Punch. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is an experience.
Cottonwood Grille offers fine cuisine in a beautiful setting right by the river. It’s not game-day food, but it’s a wonderful place to go for a nice dinner.
One of the best steakhouses in the Boise Area, The Stagecoach Inn is to the potato what the Anchor Bar is to the chicken wing. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the inside is classic old Boise. J.R. Simplot, who created a potato empire that would ultimately supply fast-food chains across the country, used to have dinner here.
Elmer’s, near the campus, is where Boise goes for breakfast every morning.
The Boise River Greenbelt is a loop of walking paths that extends through the entire city of Boise. It goes along the Boise River, which runs through the middle of town. The campus is on the river and downtown Boise is on the other side. It’s such a beautiful and pleasant walk any time of year, even when snow turns the Greenbelt into a white belt.
Boise is in a neat geographic position for arts and culture. Broadway acts performing in Salt Lake City usually head next to Portland. Boise is the natural layover stop in between, and this brings a phenomenal number of acts to the city. I happen to know “The Nutcracker” ballet is being performed the same week as the game at the Morrison Center, which is right on the Boise State campus. It is a premier center for the performing arts.
The classic architecture in the city is found in North Boise, along Warm Springs Avenue. This part of the city is home to many of the land-owning farmers. There are wonderful houses that bring Allentown to mind a little bit.
The Boise Depot is right in the center of town and definitely worth a visit.
The Idaho Botanical Garden is beautiful this time of year, with its extravagant holiday light show. And there is always a great display, even in winter, of Boise’s botanical life.
Though smaller than the Buffalo Zoo, Zoo Boise is open in the winter and makes for a nice afternoon jaunt.
For those with time, a trip to McCall, up in the mountains, is worth the drive. McCall is similar to Ellicottville, but the town sits on a higher elevation and provides spectacular mountain views.
Bogus Basin is a great local ski resort, but the adventurous go to Sun Valley, about an hour-and-a-half drive from the city. Many of the world’s greatest skiers trained there during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics of 2002. It is the best snow in the United States and attracts so many stars, in addition to skiers. During my last visit I rode a lift up the hill with Bruce Willis! It is an amazing resort—and convenient. You can head out in the morning and easily be back by the late afternoon.
The Westside Drive-In is an old-fashioned drive-in that specializes in the Ice Cream Potato. It’s not a potato, but an ice cream sundae shaped like a potato that’s big enough to share with two or even three people. It is an amazing ice cream experience that you will never forget. The ice cream is molded into the shape of a baked potato. Cocoa provides the coloring. A bit of hot fudge and whipped cream, and it’s the best ice cream you’ll ever have.
The University at Buffalo is going to win, of course!