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Visiting the Idaho State Museum in Boise With Kids (2024)

People are often surprised when they ask me for something fun to do with kids and I recommend the Idaho State Museum here in downtown Boise. It's surprisingly a really great museum for people of all ages. Not only will you learn so much about the story of Idaho but you'll enjoy the interactive visitor experience as well. It's a common field trip for students to learn more about Idaho history and take part in their excellent educational programming but don't wait for your kids' school to take them - check it out for yourself!


The first time I went I had NO idea what to expect. I did zero research and just assumed it would be so boring and not at all a fun place for kids. I personally really hate history (snooze fest) and we all know that some museums are very NOT kid-friendly. I was SO wrong. The Idaho State Museum has over 80,000 square feet of exhibit space with hundreds of artifacts showcased across various exhibits to tell the story of Idaho and Idaho's people.


a museum exhibit with a fake brick wall with a sign on it that says Welcome to Boomtown idaho
Boomtown, Idaho on the basement level

I recommend starting in the basement if you go with little kids. You can take the stairs down from the main level or use the elevator. Once you hit the basement level you'll see a big sign that says “Welcome to Boomtown, Idaho. Come play in Idaho’s past” and it'll be obvious that this space was made with kids in mind. 


There is a really fun section where you can use a bunch of cool wooden pieces to plan your own town and a big space to use giant foam building blocks to build up fun towers, forts, etc. - a fun, interactive experience. I bet our boys could have played in these two little rooms for hours and we were just getting started. 


Across from there was a room with a bunch of big touch screens where kids could explore Clark’s map and design a “new old house” - which was fun for all of us! In this area there was also a cool historical timeline activity with pictures in Idaho over the past several decades. Around the corner from there was a fun “Learn the Good Old Ways” farm tool activity and a gem stone matching activity. There's also a cool collection of old children's toys that was fun to see.


Down the little hallway is a show-stopping train engine. Kids can throw “coal” into the “boiler” to fire up the engine as well as move gears and blow the train’s whistle. If you have a little train lover they will lose their minds over this! 


a model blue and black train engine in a museum
Perfect for little train conductors!

Next to the big train was my favorite section - The “Prosperity Gem Mine.” There is a section of stone wall where kids can insert pretend sticks of dynamite into holes then push down the plunger to cause an “explosion” where there is a big BOOM and the dynamite pieces fall out. On the opposite side of this stone wall is a mock coal mine where you can put the “coal” into a cart and push it to the other side to put on a conveyor belt that carries the coal through the wall and drops it out on the opposite end. Kinda hard to explain but I promise your kids will love it. Our kids could have done this on repeat for hours. 


There are a few other fun areas in the basement that are packed with activities and exhibits for every age group. We often find that we have the whole space to ourselves and it feels great to spread out and get loud and annoying without getting in trouble or in anyone's way!


two kids looking at a two headed cow exhibit behind a glass box
Have you ever seen a two headed cow?!

The first level is nice and open and includes their incredible gift shop. You'll find the coolest gifts and Idaho memorabilia. Be sure to make time for a walk-through on your way out! Behind that is The Origins gallery which introduces you to Idaho’s five federally recognized tribes. The tribal theater illuminates each tribe’s Origin Story, while the rest of the gallery identifies tribal roles in contemporary land stewardship and provides an introduction to the diverse landscapes throughout Idaho.


On the first level you'll also learn about Idaho's unique landscapes and enjoy the interactive water exhibit. My kids love touching the computer screens and watching the water change as the season's change.


Upstairs you'll get to learn the rich history of mining, forestry, and transportation and how some of Idaho’s natural resources are used around the world today. You can watch as a big screen tells the story of the "Big Burn of 1910" - it can be a little intense for little learners but is a really cool experience. 


Next to that you can experience what it’s like to ride a chairlift up Mt. Baldy and learn about the history of skiing in our state or sit around a campfire where you’ll learn about the first group to urge protections for Idaho's land. Learn all about local land management and Idaho's unique landscapes.


A potato field with a sign that says Certified 100% Idaho Potatoes and has a potato character
Learn about Idaho's agriculture through various hands-on exhibits.

Next you'll discover the hard road travelers faced on the Oregon Trail through interactive exhibits and large displays. You'll read about the challenges of developing agriculture in the desert and even be able to pull up potatoes and test your knowledge of the Gem State's natural resources. Be sure to watch the story of parachuting beavers and take a virtual bike ride through historic Pocatello or downtown Boise.


In addition to their permanent exhibits you'll find rotating exhibits where you'll learn more about our state's history and the lasting influence of the lives of Idaho's people. Follow their Instagram and Facebook pages for updates and their next events.



The Idaho State museum is the perfect place to learn more about Idaho's history and have a lot of fun, too! Be sure to bring the whole family down for an educational and memorable experience.

Idaho State Museum Details

Address: 610 Julia Davis Dr, Boise, ID, United States, 83702 (right next to Julia Davis Park)

Hours: Monday - Saturday 10:00AM-5:00PM and Sunday 12:00-5:00PM (note that there are often school groups that go though during the weekday morning hours)

Rates: Adults - $10, Youth - $5, Kids 5 and under - free admission. You can find Idaho State Historical Society membership information here where you'll also have access to the Old Idaho Penitentiary, Idaho State Archives and others around the state.


Special Events for Families:

Camps are a great way to provide hands-on learning opportunities for your family! Have a blast with camps at the Idaho State Museum. Experience history like never before as you play, explore, and make new friends. Spring and Summer camps are offered annually at the Idaho State Museum near the heart of downtown Boise. Register for week-long camps or single-day camps online. Camp activities incorporate STEM learning and tie into K-5 learning curriculum. Learn more at https://history.idaho.gov/camps/

 

Family Second Saturdays will take place on the second Saturday of each month. Families are encouraged to drop in any time to create and learn together through these hands-on activities. All ages welcome! Free with Museum admission.

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