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Rugged Idaho occupies an almost mythical place in the American imagination. The final home of Ernest Hemingway, the qualities that transformed the writer into a literary icon are the same that have made Idaho legendary.
It is a harsh landscape of jagged peaks, waterfalls, and deep canyon gorges, where the hardiest outdoorsmen can find adventure. Idaho also offers opportunities for fly fishing, skiing on pristine slopes, and viewing wildlife in its natural habitat, all in a dynamic environment that has, to a large degree, remained unspoiled.
In the early 1800s, explorers Lewis and Clark dazzled Americans back east with descriptions of Idaho. Pioneers began to trickle into the territory, growing Idaho from frontier outpost to posh locale. The real estate market has exploded, particularly in resort areas, with several celebrities taking up residence. Sun Valley, the state's original ski destination, is now a magnificent vacation spot.
Idaho is a perfect destination for outdoor recreation, from boating and white-water rafting to rock climbing and horseback riding to skiing and dog sledding. But, unlike neighbouring Colorado, the state remains hidden away, tucked into a far corner of the US. Even the fashionable resort towns, like Sun Valley, Ketchum and Coeur d'Alene, for all their luxury remain laid back and unhurried. In spite of its increasing popularity, Idaho has maintained its small-town, friendly nature. Boise, the state capital and largest city, has fewer than 220,000 residents. It is this atmosphere that makes Idaho the ultimate escape.
Idaho's appeal is firmly rooted in active outdoor pursuits, unspoiled wilderness and a no-nonsense pioneer heritage. Idaho conjures images of lonely mountain cabins rather than strip-malls and fast food joints. In many ways a visit to the state feels like a refreshing exit from modern America.
Idaho's greatest draw is its ski slopes. This otherwise overlooked state regularly features on lists of the top ski destinations in the US. The famous Sun Valley ski resort is a long-term favourite and is generally considered Idaho's most popular tourist attraction. Boise, the capital, also has its own backyard snow playground in the form of the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area.
Boise boasts some interesting cultural sightseeing, beyond the city, the vast majority of Idaho's top attractions are scenic. The lunar landscapes of the Craters of the Moon National Monument are a unique sight. The Sawtooth National Forest, in the centre of the state, promises pristine forest and mountain landscapes, as well as more than 300 lakes. Hell's Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America, attracts adventurers down its gorge.
In the 1830s a flood of immigrants from the Basque Country (Spain and France) arrived in the United States, Idaho being one of the five US states with notable Basque heritage. The mission of the Basque Museum and Cultural Center is to preserve the Basque history and culture through education, research, collections, and activities. The museum provides a look into traditional Basque heritage as well as the lives of Basque-Americans since settlement in the US through their collections of books, manuscripts, photographs, and unique oral history archives. The museum's calendar is filled with many interesting events, and visitors may get the chance to see colourful dancing, taste delicious food, and shop at the market.
The small city of Wallace, in the centre of Panhandle Region, has a historic pedigree and quaint demeanour that make it the quintessential American small town. Every building in its downtown centre is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Because of this, there have been several Hollywood films set in Wallace, including Dante's Peak and Heaven's Gate, in downtown Wallace. The little town has fewer than 1,000 permanent residents but is a favourite with travellers. Located along the I-90 in northern Idaho, this pretty town in Silver Valley is home to the Oasis Bordello Museum, Northern Pacific Depot Railroad Museum, Wallace District Mining Museum, and the Sierra Silver Mines. Nearby Kellogg is a nice excursion from Wallace, with tours of the Crystal Gold Mine, and a number of eye-catching scrap metal sculptures.
Bogus Basin has grown from a small ski hill with a rope tow into a large holiday ski destination with three lodges, numerous chairlifts, night skiing, and Nordic trails. Rental, repair, and retail shops are available on site, as are a ski and snowboarding school and tubing hill. During the summer, a Frisbee golf course is set up on the thawed-out trails, and nature hikes and children's camps are offered. Only 40-minutes' drive from downtown Boise, Bogus Basin is a popular day or weekend excursion from the city and one of the most popular snow playgrounds in Idaho.
The Craters of the Moon in Idaho was formed by volcanic eruptions about 15,000 years ago. The National Monument and Preserve offers a fascinating glimpse into the state's dramatic geological past with a vast landscape of hardened lava. The landscape may seem barren, but there is a large population of creatures and birds here. Calvin Coolidge described the park as 'a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself'. While it may not look exactly like the moon, the similarities were enough to encourage Apollo 14 astronauts to use it to prepare for their lunar expedition in 1969. Today visitors can take the Loop Road to most of the interesting sites, including the North Crater Flow, Devil's Orchard, Inferno Cone, the Tree Molds, and even lava tube caves. Craters of the Moon is located about 178 miles (286km) west of Boise.
Summers are hot and dry in this semi-arid continental climate, while winters are generally cold with snow on the surrounding mountains. There is very little annual precipitation in the city. Summer temperatures average 90°F (32°C), but hotter spells are common in July and August. Winter temperatures are typically between 24°F (-4°C) and 37°F (3°C).
Idaho has a diverse climate with differing temperatures between north and south, but overall the air is dry and clear with little humidity. Generally the south is drier and has hotter summer temperatures, while the mountainous areas experience long and very cold winters with lots of snow. The best time to visit Idaho is in the late spring (May and June) and early autumn (late August and September).
In Boise, the capital of Idaho, average high temperatures in summer climb to about 90°F (32°C), and heatwaves are common in July and August. Winter temperatures typically average between 24°F (-4°C) and 37°F (3°C).
Boise's Green Belt path system makes walking, jogging, and biking highly enjoyable. ValleyRide bus service is available, through all the major tourist areas and the airport. There are always taxi companies available for a relatively reasonable price. For those with rental cars, Boise offers many convenient and inexpensive parking options.
Boise is the capital of Idaho, and its largest city and cultural heart. While not known for world-famous landmarks and attractions, the city offers a number of interesting sights and activities for visitors.
Boise has a few excellent museums including the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Black History Museum, and the popular Basque Museum and Cultural Center. Also worth a visit is the World Center for Birds of Prey, which hosts live presentations and educational tours for the whole family.
There are some lovely parks in Boise. Julia Davis Park is home to a small zoo and rose garden, as well as a scenic railroad. Barber Park is known for its wildlife, and visitors can spot deer, elk, bald eagles, and other animals. Barber Park is also the starting point for a summer tradition in Boise: floating down the Boise River. The Greenbelt path system connects five major parks throughout Boise, providing wonderfully extensive space for exercise and recreation.
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