Occasionally I stop hitting the snooze button in the morning early enough to have time to get a cup of coffee before work. It doesn’t happen that often because I’ll take 5 extra minutes of sleep over caffeine any day of the week. But when I do manage to get up, I stop by one of three coffee shops depending on my mood. If friends are working, I head to Starbucks for a “double tall, 2 pump cinnamon dulce, nonfat, with whip, no sprinkles, light caramel drizzle, 2 pump sugar free cinnamon dolce latte.” (I used to work for Starbucks. We have the worst drink orders ever. Also we think its really funny to order a dirty chai.) If its Friday, that’s usually my excuse for a buttermilk cruller donut from DK Donuts (so good) with a cup of really awful coffee. But mostly I head into Java for a Bowl of Soul. It may be the single greatest drink ever. It starts with drip coffee, then adds steamed milk, espresso, Mexican chocolate, whipped cream made in house and sprinkled with a healthy dose of cinnamon and chocolate powder. (If you’re in a caffeine addiction mood, the Keith Richards will have even caffeine junkies bouncing off the walls. It’s milk, several types of chocolate and like 5 shots of espresso. Literal insanity).
Wow, that went off topic a bit. So my point was that I had enough time to stop for coffee and today’s choice was Java. As a neighborhood coffee shop, its always full of people, many regulars. So as I’m waiting for my bowl of soul, I overheard a couple guys talking about how they’d flown into Boise late last night, were grabbing coffee at Java and heading to Sun Valley. The condensed version of their conversation was that they come to Idaho a lot but only for Sun Valley.
Now don’t get me wrong, Sun Valley is great. There’s good skiing, some killer food and if you like celebrity sighting (which everyone does no matter what they pretend), its great. CK’s has phenomenal food, absolutely phenomenal. And of course Java is there too. Well its in Hailey which is like the same thing. But if you want to experience Idaho, you don’t go to Sun Valley. That’s like going to Vail and thinking you know what Colorado is like. Sure it’s fun but you’re not going to understand why so many people come back to Idaho. Sun Valley is the place you visit. The real Idaho is the place you live.
So since I was a bit horrified at the idea that Sun Valley represents Idaho (hello, we’re all about Mormons, Nazis & potatoes), I thought I’d share a list of what makes Idaho magical for me. I’ll probably move away at some point for a little while but I know I’ll come back. Something in my soul belongs to this state and the other half belongs to Texas. It’s a battle I’ve finally stopped fighting.
*If you are an Idaho native and are thinking she missed ____! I only named places that matter to me or that I’ve been to. Feel free to add on in the comments.*
Java: I basically covered this before. One of the best local coffee shops in Boise and an easy way to waste several hours. If you can smile at people, you’ll end up making a lot of friends with strangers. Also, the pastries are made in house and day-old ones are priced two for one in the afternoon. The sunrise muffins and cherry turnovers will rock your world.
Goldys: One of the best breakfast places in Boise. Actually, as far as cities go, we kind of rock the breakfast no matter what. Like Le Cafe de Paris’ bottomless mimosas at brunch. BOTTOMLESS MIMOSAS. BRUNCH. It’s like heaven. But seriously Goldy’s will ruin you for all other eggs benedict. The in-house Hollandaise is just that good.
Craters of the Moon: In the middle of Eastern Idaho is a jumble of caves and rocks that look like the moon. Technically its all lava fields and rifts and lava tubes, not real caves. For several years, NASA had astronauts do training work out here. It is honestly one of the coolest ways to spend a Saturday. You can explore the caves (though you’ll need a flashlight, protective head gear, and a coat even in the summer) and no matter what age you are, the caves are a blast. For those who are slightly claustrophobic, there are bigger caves that don’t close in as much. This is one of my favorite places to go with friends on a road trip.
Rodeos: I was born in Texas and raised in Idaho. Though I never competed myself, the cowgirl/hick is totally part of my nature. Now Idaho rodeos aren’t quite the same as Texas but the ones up in Riggins are pretty sweet. Also we have mutton bustin for the kids. That’s where they ride on a sheep and see how long they can last. Like bull riding for kids. It’s hilarious and some of the sheep are pretty badass. (Shut up, PETA).
Basque District: So the Basque people hail from a little space between Spain & France in the hill country. And their history is pretty cool and goes back into ancient times which is all explained at the Basque Museum. Anyway, Boise has the largest concentration of Basque people outside of the Basque country itself and as a result, there is a little district with phenomenal food. Also, there’s a festival every year and every five years people come in from all over the world. It’s AWESOME. We have the Basque Market which has the best tapas you will ever eat, Bardenay’s makes their own vodka (the huckleberry lemondrop is to die for) and Bar Gernika has croquetas that surpass just about any other food in the world. Wow, my whole mouth just filled up with saliva. Mmm.
Mile Marker 4: This sounds horrible and it can be with the wrong crowd of people. If you drive up towards McCall, Idaho, there’s a turnoff towards Stanley (& technically Sun Valley if you go that road). Once you turn, at mile marker 4 are hot springs. So people just park on the side of the mountain highway, hike up the side of the mountain and chill in the hot springs. Free and fabulous.
Summer Nights on Payette Lake: I think a lot of places have lakes where you can just let your troubles melt away. For me, sipping a hard cider on a dock at Payette Lake as the sun goes down is that place. All the hubbub of the day dies down and everyone finds a moment to relax. I have this insane fear of water too but for some reason, this is one of the most peaceful places on the planet for me.
Trudy’s Pie in Idaho City: It’s the best. Huckleberry. Boysenberry. Banana Cream. Any kind. The burgers and fries are also pretty awesome. Do note that Trudy’s, while a bit famous, is very much a local joint and locals get priority service. Which is really how it should be.
The Derailer: The Derailer is a drink served at various bars in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It is basically a bucket with ice, a little juice and like 8 kinds of rum. Grab a couple friends, stick some straws in and start chugging. Then disregard the idea that you might remember anything about the rest of the evening.
Eavesdropping on Botanical Garden Concerts from Table Rock: So Table Rock is the top of a foothill overlooking Boise that has a giant cross on it. The cross is technically on private property, though some annoying people like to get it taken down all the time. It’s a land mark people, just get the fuck over it. Anyway, there are little caves up there and you can drive up the road or hike up the front of the cliff to get to the top. There’s a stone bench at the top to sit on. On one side though are the Botanical Gardens next to the old Idaho penitentiary and in the summer, they host concerts. Like The Decemberists, Bob Dylan, Avett Bros kind of concerts. If you sit up at Table Rock, you can hear the concert for free. Sure it’s not the same but it works for those days when a concert is sold out.
Hyde Park: A little hideaway neighborhood in Boise’s historic North End district. The stores are all locally owned and there’s a heightened sense of community. Plus Hyde Park is much closer to the neighborhood feel of cities like Portland, Denver, and Seattle.
Part 2 Coming Soon!