Boise Places Worth Seeing

Idaho Historical Museum - Don't Feed the Two-Headed Cow

I have to tell you, my ugly wife flat-out refuses to go to the Idaho Historical Museum with me anymore.

"You read every single agonizing word, you nincompoop," she likes to say.

Yes, I'll admit that I actually read the interpretive text that accompanies the exhibits. The wife, on the other hand, likes to look at the pretty pictures and antiques. That means it takes me about five times longer to get through the museum than it does her, and she never forgets to inform me that, in her opinion, a museum is the worst place in the world to wait for someone. The last time that happened, I gave her a twenty and told her to go over to the nearby Table Rock Brewpub and have a beer and a shepherd's pie. By the time I got over there, the twenty was gone, she'd sampled all the brews, and she was debating the masculine merits of Paul Hogan with an Australian expat who kind of resembled him. Good thing I got there when I did, or she might have gone walkabout on me. Anyhoo...

Whether you're a history buff or a casual observer, the Idaho Historical Museum is the best place in the state to get your periodic reminder of everything that's happened in Idaho since the dawn of recorded time. The museum has existed since 1907, but it has only been in its current location since 1950. They've expanded since then, but part of the original facade can still be seen above the information desk when you first walk in.

Since this museum, like any good, self-respecting museum, continually rotates a lot of its exhibits, I can't guarantee you'll see such-and-such when you visit. But I can guarantee that you'll get a good helping of cowboys, Indians, explorers, missionaries, miners, politicians, shepherds, loggers, and farmers through various artifacts, vintage photographs, journal entries, historical texts, and interpretive videos. If you're like me, you eat that kind of stuff up, then promptly walk out the front door and forget about 95% of it. I think they overload you on purpose; otherwise, why would you ever need or want to go back?

One group of exhibits I doubt will ever change is the row of recreated historical rooms from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There would be too much involved in moving all that stuff out, and one of the rooms -- the recreated old Boise saloon -- is just so freakin' awesome they'd be crazy not to have it in there. It's not a dive saloon, oh no. It's a saloon fit for a real gentleman such as myself. In fact, this saloon is so beautiful, it brings a tear to my eye. The bar itself, with its solid countenance and lovely dark wood, would be the crown jewel of any man cave. According to an informative sign, the bar dates from the 1880's and was used at various Boise locations for 70 years. In addition to the bar, the hardwood floor, the furniture, the wood stove, the glassware, the spittoon, and the lighting are all perfect. I love the whole thing. I love it so much, I want to tear out the contents of my living room, family room, and dining room and replace the entire collective space with this very recreation. A picture doesn't do it justice; you have to see it for yourself. And if anyone out there offers to help me "borrow" the entire exhibit, I'll give you free drinks for life at Crandal's Man Cave Saloon.

Don't forget that the Idaho Historical Museum also has some historical buildings outside in what they call the Pioneer Village. There's an old cabin and a couple houses from Boise's early period. In days past, the Pioneer Village never seemed to be open so that you could actually walk through it, but in the last few years the gate has been open a lot more so you can actually step on the porches, look through the windows, and read the interpetive signs that explain who built the dwellings and why you should care.

A recent addition to the village is the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail, which took years to complete because of funding issues. The construction was eventually finished, and it's now a very nice tribute to the Lewis and Clark expedition, with plenty of interpetive signs and plants related to the expedition.

Place worth seeing: Idaho Historical Museum
Where: 610 North Julia Davis Drive
Boise, Idaho 83702-7695

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Hours: May through September
Tuesday - Saturday 9am to 5pm
Sunday 1pm to 5pm
Closed Mondays
October through April
Tuesday - Friday 9am to 5pm
Saturday 11am - 5pm
Closed Sunday & Monday
Cost: Adult admissions: $5
Seniors (65 and older): $4
Children (6-12 years): $3
Students (with I.D.) $3
Website: Idaho State Historical Society
Fun fact: There's a two-headed cow inside. Really.