Boise at a Glance
Location: Southwestern Idaho
Access: Boise Airport, interstates 84 and 184
Hotel Rooms: 9,000
Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau
Built: 1990, expanded in 2017
Exhibit Space: 86,000 square feet
Other Meeting Spaces: 31 meeting rooms
Guest Rooms: 250
Meeting Space: 17,229 square feet
Guest Rooms: 303
Meeting Space: 21,275 square feet
Who’s Meeting in Boise
Northwest Credit Union Association
Idaho Education Technology Association
Boise is a breath of fresh air — literally.
Located in western Idaho, the city boasts stunning views of the foothills of the Boise Mountains. The 102-mile-long Boise River runs directly through it, 200-plus miles of hiking and biking trails are accessible from downtown, and a 25-mile greenbelt hugs the waterway’s banks, all beckoning folks outdoors. The Boise, Payette and Snake rivers converge here, and the cottonwoods lining their banks give Boise its nickname, the City of Trees.
It’s no wonder the state motto is “es perpetua,” Latin for “may it last forever.”
“What surprises visitors is the mixture of urban amenities and outdoor activities that surround Boise,” said Carrie Westergard, executive director of the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.
A compact, walkable downtown offers culture and entertainment — the Boise Philharmonic, Opera Idaho, Ballet Idaho, the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Historical Museum and an architectural historic district — all within steps of its prominent convention facility, the Boise Centre. New entertainment venues include a gastropub, Base Camp Pong + Axe, where corporate groups can throw axes, play ping pong, sip specialty drinks and chow down at a made-from-scratch buffet.
This college town is home to the Boise State University campus and to Idaho’s Capitol, the only one in the U.S. heated by geothermal water from underneath the building. More than 100 shops plus restaurants, microbreweries, wine tasting rooms and a lively nightlife scene have instilled Boise with a hip new vibe.
“A group of 400 can own the city,” Westergard said. “They might get lost in a bigger one, but Boise’s small enough that we can make sure people know they’re in town through signage, an airport welcome and PR/marketing support.”
As a balance to the city’s urban appeal, its topographical features allow visitors to speed down black diamond ski trails, splash through rapids on whitewater adventures and hike mountain trails bedecked with spring wildflowers.
“Boise is that now-and-next cool city that’s a real draw for planners and their attendees,” said Ali Ribordy, director of sales for the Boise Center.
Searching for a better life in America, many Basques left Spain in the post-California Gold Rush 1890s and headed cross-country as far as western Idaho, where they became shepherds, built community and hosted friends who resettled from the old country.
Today, Boise has more Basques per capita than any other city in America. Boise’s Basque Block, including the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, is a cultural district smack in the neighborhood of Grove Centre, Grove Plaza and Restaurant Row. Tara McElhose-Eiguren, who with her husband, Tony, owns the Block, is known for her group cooking classes that offer wine tasting, paella and, of course, Basque history.
“If a planner rents the entire Block, its streets are roped off and turned into a huge dining room, with bar, for from 40 to 900 guests,” said Tony. “They’re treated to Basque dancers in full costume, a meat and seafood buffet and Basque wine.”
For meetings groups, teambuilding — all about taking risks and stepping outside one’s comfort zone — is on the menu at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place, known locally as JUMP0, a nonprofit, interactive creative center and community gathering place. One offering for groups of 10 or more is competition in cooking classes that encourage creativity and collaboration.
Attached to the Grove Hotel, the Idaho Central Arena has bowl seating for 5,000 — up to 6,000 for concerts — and 34 luxury corporate suites to observe big events in luxury, and the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial provides a contemplative spot with an outdoor classroom amid miniscule rushing waterfalls.
Major Meeting Spaces
During a $47.5 million expansion five years ago, the Boise Centre added 36,000 square feet to its existing 50,000 for a current total of 86,000 that accommodates groups of up to 2,000. Its 24,426-square-foot Grand Ballroom can accommodate 1,670 for a banquet, and it can be divided into three sections. Its in-house catering team focuses on local produce, meats, cheeses, craft brews and wines. The facility’s location is excellent.
“The center is in the middle of downtown Boise, where attendees are surrounded by opportunities for authentic experiences,” Ribordy said.
The center’s covered outdoor terrace overlooks a local landmark — Grove Plaza — a happening space that hosts events for up to several thousand people. With views of the foothills and downtown, groups can enjoy a plaza reception with a band, a bar and a fire pit.
This year, the new Warehouse Food Hall, with 20-plus independent restaurants and retail outlets, will open across the street.
Winner of a 2021 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice Award, the Grove Hotel, Boise’s convention hotel, is next door to the center. Accommodating meetings of up to 300, this AAA Four-Diamond property features a 6,845-square-foot ballroom, a restaurant with an open kitchen for chef-watching and an outdoor terrace with a city view and a fireplace.
On the fifth floor, the hotel’s state-of-the-art spa has a jacuzzi with a view, a lap pool, yoga classes and massage therapy.
A mile away, the Riverside Hotel boasts more than 21,000 square feet of meeting space and over 4,000 square feet of outdoor event space, all in a resort-style atmosphere with water views. Its Waters Edge Terrace accommodates 330.
After the Meeting
Idaho is known for its whitewater. And Cascade Kayak and Raft can get groups of 18 to 418 out on either a screaming rapids ride or a gentle float on the Payette River, depending on the majority’s preference, for teambuilding, spouse tours or pure family fun. For landlubbers, this multigenerational outfitter also has a 17-element ropes challenge course and zip lines.
After working up a sweat, guests can chill outdoors with area microbrews, specialty wines and a catered meal.
Voted one of USA Today’s Top 10 Best Wine Tours in the Country, Snake River Wine Tours takes groups of up to 14 along the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, the “Heart of Idaho Wine Country,” only 40 miles from Boise. Wine enthusiasts visit up to four wineries in an afternoon, learning the hows of production and history of each while taking in gorgeous Snake River Valley vistas.
Only 16 miles from the city, the Bogus Basin Mountain Resort shines in the wintertime with skiing, snowboarding, tubing and snowshoeing. Come summer, when temperatures are 10 degrees cooler on the mountain than in Boise, activities include scenic chairlift rides, mountain biking and speeding downhill on a mountain coaster.
Two lodges offer event spaces for up to 120, with additional outdoor gathering space in summer.