7 Museums You'll Want to Visit in Idaho
Aside from allowing you to connect to history and culture, museums are also a space to connect to the people and community around you. In Idaho, there are over 100 museums. And each of them has something unique to offer you. Let’s go through this list of the seven most popular, engaging, and interesting museums you'll want to visit in Idaho. Make sure you bring everything you need and have as much fun as possible. Here is a list of our favorite museums:
1. Old Idaho Penitentiary
2. Museum of Idaho
3. Idaho Potato Museum
4. Idaho Military History Museum in Boise
5. Boise Art Museum
6. Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello
7. Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-I) Atomic Museum
#1 Old Idaho Penitentiary
If you’re looking for a chilling adventure, one of the best museums you’ll want to visit in Idaho is the “Old Idaho Penitentiary”. In Boise, the common name that locals use for this place is the “Old Pen”. It was first opened in 1872. This was during the time in Idaho was still just a territory of the US. It remained operational for over a century and finally closed its gates to inmates in 1973.
Even though a chunk of the property was burned and heavily damaged during the riots in the 70s, a museum that holds the chilling stories of more than a century of inmates remains. When taking a tour, you’ll hear the stories of prisoners and criminals of all kinds. For example, the youngest prisoner ever was a 10-year-old boy by the name of James Oscar Baker (we won’t be spoiling his wild story). Even being there can give you goosebumps while you imagine what it would have been like to live in that place.
#2 Museum of Idaho
The museum of Idaho is the perfect place for families to learn about both the cultural and natural history of Idaho. Visiting this museum is the perfect way to introduce yourself and your family to this wonderful state if you plan to move to Idaho and make it your home. Aside from some of the permanent exhibits, this museum is also popular for its nationally recognized traveling exhibits.
Here you can see and learn about some of the most popular stories and artifacts of the intermountain west. If you’re traveling with kids anytime soon, they are sure to love the Toytopia exhibit. Here they can learn about the science and history behind their favorite toys and games. And, of course, there’s something for the adult explorer, too, with the Way Out West exhibit.
#3 Idaho Potato Museum
As the quirkiest on this list, the Idaho Potato Museum is definitely one of the museums you’ll want to visit in Idaho. The existence of a museum like this shouldn’t surprise you in a state that is known for its potatoes. Even the state license plates feature a brag about the famous potatoes of this state.
When driving up to the museum, the first thing you’ll be greeted with is a giant baked potato sculpture that’s sure to let you know that you’re in the right place. Of course, once you enter, things will get a bit more serious. You’ll have a tour of the history of vegetables and their farming process. You’ll see old artifacts, make a stop at the potato-based science experiment corner and see one or more of the interesting films they offer. And you can end the day exploring the café, which obviously serves a variety of potato-based snacks.
#4 Idaho Military History Museum in Boise
Visiting a historical museum is a great way to get to know a new town or city before moving there. Sadly, it’s common for people to think that history museums are boring. But the Idaho Military History Museum in Boise is certainly one that no one will find boring. It features exhibits of the military history of Idaho from recent times, all the way back to the Spanish American War in the 1890s.
The majority of the artifacts on display are donations from contributors. The most common things you’ll find here are:
1. Historic military uniforms
4. Weapons (most of which are originals from the time)
5. Military vehicles - tanks, aircraft, and an ambulance
#5 Boise Art Museum
While it has been expanded multiple times throughout the years, the Boise Art Museum currently features a permanent exhibit. This is a collection focused on American art, both contemporary and historic. Aside from that, it also has a space for temporary exhibits. Most of these showcase artists from the Northwest. This museum pair exhibits with classes, walking tours, and workshops (some for children and some for adults). And you can also take a walk through the sculpture garden.
If you plan on moving to Boise, experts from peasleyboisemovers.com advise you to take this opportunity to explore the wonderful city. It’s a great way to not just get to know the area but also scope out potential neighborhoods and homes you’re interested in.
#6 Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello
The Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello is located in southeastern Idaho and features the state’s natural flora and fauna. Although there is a lot to learn about Idaho’s current natural beauty, the most popular attraction of this museum is the Ice Age exhibit. Here you can see the ancient animals that inhabited the Snake River Plains. The most popular fossils in the museum are:
1. Saber tooth cats
2. Ancient bison
3. Giant ground sloth
#7 Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-I) - Atomic Museum
To finish off this list, we would like to point you toward one of the most unique museums in Idaho – the Atomic Museum. This place used to be a nuclear reactor, but now it’s home to a museum that teaches visitors about the history of nuclear science. If you’re a fan of science, this is definitely one of the museums you'll want to visit in Idaho. This place will offer you a day of exploring both the historical significance and the future of nuclear research.
Why choose museums when traveling to Idaho?
As you can see, Idaho has many unique museums. Most of them are probably unlike anything else you’ve seen (The Idaho Potato Museum). And all of these museums you'll want to visit in Idaho show the rich history and diversity of this wonderful state. Most of them are great for all walks of life, from kids to adults. For example, visiting museums is a great option for travelers who are in addiction recovery. They give a non-enabling structure to your vacation to Idaho. They are also an affordable way to spend an amazing day of education and entertainment. We are sure that you’ll love learning, engaging with, and exploring each of these museums in their own unique way.
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