Boise's Big Meeting Attractions

A growing city with an expanded convention center, rich outdoor activities, and great dining in a walkable downtown

Boise hot air balloon

Planners looking for a new destination with a great blend of indoor and outdoor event spaces -- including a convention center wrapping up a $38 million expansion -- a compact and walkable downtown core, and plenty of great outdoor activities right in the center of downtown should take a close look at Boise, ID.

"Boise has a great blend of the outdoors and the indoors," says Carrie Westergard, executive director of the Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau. "You have indoor meetings, and then, especially in the spring, summer, and fall, there is daylight well into the evening -- as late as 10 p.m. in the summer -- so you definitely can go out and explore the 100 miles of trails, with something for every level of ability."

The outdoors begins in the downtown core proper, which is host to a pair of large parks on either side of the Boise River, as well as the Boise Green Belt walking and biking path that runs for 25 miles and is centered in downtown.

"The city has done a great job of preserving open space," Westergard says. "It's just a beautiful, beautiful location that has more than 200 days of sunshine a year. It is five minutes from the airport to downtown, and once you are in the downtown core, everything's very walkable and accessible."

Boise's downtown also has the dining, nightlife, and culture of a college town, with more than 100 restaurants and bars within an eight-block radius and a growing brewery and winery scene, with a number of wineries that can host groups about a mile away. Cultural institutions range from the Boise Art Museum and Zoo Boise in downtown's Julia Davis Park to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival about seven miles down the river.

Growing Meeting Demand

After a stretch of six years without new hotel construction, there are currently five new properties either under construction or proposed and going through the approval process. Together the new properties could add as many as 500 rooms to the city's 1,200 existing downtown rooms.

Among these are the newly opened Inn at 500, a 112-room downtown boutique property located next to Julia Davis Park, which runs along the Boise River and is home to the Boise Art Museum and Zoo Boise, along with several other cultural institutions. The Inn at 500 has three meeting and event spaces: the 1,764-square-foot, divisible Capitol Room, which can host up to 150 theater-style, a 12-person boardroom, and the Sanctuary, a 14-person event space with a private bar.

Just across the street from the Inn at 500, a 186-room Marriott Residence Inn is under construction, slated to open this spring. And a few blocks away on West Bannock Street between 10th and 11th Streets, also in the downtown corridor, a new, 152-room Hyatt Place is rising. Expected to open this spring, it will have four meeting rooms.

All of this construction is driven by the ongoing, $38 million expansion of the Boise Centre, which a recent study predicted will require the city to add some 600 rooms to the downtown core. And there is definitely a need for the new space. Just last year, the Boise Centre had to turn away more than 20 meeting groups for lack of space, according to the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The convention center has added a new building, the Boise Centre East, with a 14,000-square-foot ballroom, catering kitchen, and more than 4,000 square feet of pre-function space overlooking the civic plaza. In addition, eight new meeting rooms are being added to the adjacent Clearwater Building, bringing the convention center's total to nearly 90,000 square feet of meeting and event space. Phase 2, a covered walkway connecting the two buildings, will wrap up this spring, and the final phase, a refresh of the existing building (which will not see it close) is starting now.

Another fairly new event space in town is the year-old Jack's Urban Meeting Place (JUMP), a $70 million, 65,000-square-foot building with meeting and event spaces, an outdoor amphitheater, public park, and five interactive learning studios.  

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This article appears in the February 2017 issue of Successful Meetings.