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Boise Offers the Authenticity Increasingly Preferred by Meeting Attendees

Photo of downtown Boise from a freeway with car lights.

More and more, attendees crave authenticity in a meetings destination, with industry reports ranging from Destination International’s 2023 DestinationNEXT Futures Study to SITE’s 2023 Incentive Travel Index revealing that younger travelers, especially, place a premium on local culture and travel experiences.

While not a top-tier draw, the booming destination of Boise, Idaho, does indeed offer an “only-in-Boise” experience that ranges from maker-inspired artisans to locally flavored restaurants, stores and activity options.

Join Us for Meetings Today LIVE! West in Boise August 4-7!

Photo of Carrie Westergard.
Carrie Westergard. Credit: Visit Boise.

“As the younger planners and meeting attendees come up, they really don’t want to be just in one [venue] the whole time, they want to experience the destination,” said Carrie Westergard, executive director of Visit Boise, adding that a recent group of VIPs brought in by Freeman implemented a “campus concept” utilizing venues such as The Egyptian Theatre, restaurant buyouts for a progressive dinner, JUMP (Jack’s Urban Meeting Place) and Boise Centre, the destination’s main convention venue. “They really utilized the whole downtown and they had the highest ratings they’ve ever had, and these are very discerning VIPs that actually produce events all over the world. I think that goes to show that people really do want to experience and get to know the community that they’re in. They don’t want to just come and attend and leave and feel like they’ve never been to a place.”

Singular outdoor activities are on tap everywhere in Idaho, with its biggest city being no exception. Whitewater rafting on the Payette River—the area features more than 3,100 miles of whitewater rafting—and Urban Wine Trail tasting tours are among the many great group options available. A rafting excursion as well as an Urban Wine Trail tour will be offered during Meetings Today LIVE! West in Boise, held August 4-7 and headquartered at the new Hotel Renegade.

[Related: 5 Downtown Boise Stores That Showcase Authenticity]

“We have over 200 miles of foothill trails that are really accessible to downtown. You can pretty much go walk or bike outside your door and end up on a trail or along the river,” Westergard said. “There’s a great paved path that’s on both sides of the river, so you can definitely get outside quickly and feel like you’re in nature, although you have all the urban amenities.”

One of the most unique aspects of the region is its Basque heritage, boasting the largest Basque population outside of Spain. Boise’s Basque Block showcases this fascinating heritage—the Pyrenees culture developed in such seclusion that linguists have struggled to pinpoint where the Basque language, which predates Spanish, originated. Groups frequently close off the Basque Block for private events such as receptions featuring Oinkari dancers as well as activating the Basque Museum and Cultural Center and Basque Market.

Photo of two men in Boise's Basque District, overlooking a giant pan of paella.
Basque Block. Credit: Visit Boise.

The destination’s food scene has also come into its own in a unique way, with Boise’s status as a refugee relocation community since the 1980s resulting in a diverse selection of cuisines being introduced, such as the Sunshine Spice Bakery and Cafe, which is run by Afghan sisters whose father fled his native country to ensure his six daughters could get an education. Boise also recently welcomed its first James Beard Award-winning chef, Kris Komori, co-owner of downtown’s Kin restaurant.

“We’re getting a lot of chefs that have grown in their profession in other markets, and then they’re coming here and they can really be showcased and shine instead of being one of thousands,” Westergard said.
Following are some “only-in-Boise” venues attendees will cherish in the capital of Idaho, a city bursting with authenticity and becoming increasingly popular for meetings and events.

[Related: On the Scene: The Beauty and Bounty of Boise, Idaho’s Meetings and Events Offerings]

Old Idaho Penitentiary 

Holding an event in a penitentiary may seem a bit odd, but such former institutions are popular venues in more than a few destinations.

“It’s actually a really cool venue, especially at night,” Westergard said. “It’s got that sandstone with uplighting, and they’ve got these great rose gardens and a big open court that used to be a basketball court where we’ve had tables—it’s like having a buffet line through a penitentiary.”

Groups can rent various cell houses and other areas, with a capacity from 50-125. Power and lights are available but limited and the buildings are not heated or air-conditioned.

Westergard mentioned that local event company TMN Events, which has organized events in Boise for more than 20 years, and Boise Meeting Pros, a group of local event planning professionals, are both great resources for ideas on dressing up the penitentiary for an event.

Photo of Old Idaho Penitentiary.
Old Idaho Penitentiary. Credit: Idaho State Historical Society.

Idaho State Museum

The Idaho State Museum offers the 3,150-square-foot Idaho Room, which is warmly illuminated by a 1910 stained-glass dome and can seat 160 banquet-style or 84 classroom-style. Adjacent to the Idaho Room is The Gem State Gateway, the historic facade of the museum that is often pressed into service as a backdrop to greet guests or afterhours small receptions.

Photo of Idaho State Museum.
Idaho State Museum. Credit: Shutterstock.

BoDo District

Boise’s Downtown, aka BoDo, has welcomed some splashy entertainment options in recent years that are primed for special events and offsite activities. 

Treefort Music Hall is a state-of-the-art music club that can host more than 1,000 standing and 350 theater-style; private rentals include access to a variety of seating options and also sound and lighting technicians and a venue manager. The venue recently added the rooftop Hap Hap Lounge that is only available for rentals on Mondays. 

Attached to Treefort is BoDo Cinema, a nine-screen movie theater that offers cocktail service and luxury electric recliners. The third major element of the BoDo District is The Warehouse Food Hall, a nearly 30,000-square-foot venue featuring a diverse menu of vendors and which is attached to Treefort Music Hall.


JUMP, which stands for Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, is a nonprofit creative center and community gathering space on the campus of agricultural company J.R. Simplot. 

Numerous indoor venues are available—including five studios and 10 uniquely designed spaces built to foster creativity, innovation and collaboration—and include standard audiovisual equipment; catering is offered exclusively through Thomas Cuisine Management.

The venue’s three-acre outdoor park offers an amphitheater, a lawn area, plaza and playground equipment such as the eight-person Team Slide.

A highlight of the venue is its collection of 51 vintage tractors, part of a collection of 110 left behind in 2008 by founder J.R. (Jack) Simplot to demonstrate the important role farmers play in society.

Photo of exterior of JUMP event venue in Boise.
JUMP. Credit: JUMP.

Boise Depot

Built by Union Pacific railway company in 1925, this landmark station’s more than 3,500-square-foot Great Hall atrium can accommodate up to 300 standing and 165 seated, with the outside of the building also frequently used for events.
The Spanish Mission-style building is also home to Platt Gardens, designed by Spanish landscape architect Ricardo Espino and built by Union Pacific in 1927.

Photo of exterior of Boise Depot.
Boise Depot. Credit: Visit Boise.


Visit Boise 

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Read next: Boise Is Booming With New Meetings and Events Lures


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About the author
Tyler Davidson | Editor, Vice President & Chief Content Director

Tyler Davidson has covered the travel trade for nearly 30 years. In his current role with Meetings Today, Tyler leads the editorial team on its mission to provide the best meetings content in the industry.