Idaho’s natural resources and magnificent scenic beauty are just some of the state’s defining characteristics. Key word: some. The Gem State has a deeply-rooted history that is on display in its various museums, scattered across the state. Did you know they have an entire museum dedicated to cleaning, or an eerie museum housed inside a former prison? Where else can you find something so unusual and unique? If you’re looking to explore an interesting side of art, history, and culture that you’ve never seen before, step inside these 10 fantastic Idaho museums.
Appaloosa horses are thought to be the North American contribution to the genetic line of domesticated horses, and the local Nez Perce tribe historically bred these native animals. In the 1800s when white settlers were first introduced to the breed, they called them, ‘Palouse horses’ after the great Palouse River that fed the fertile grounds of the Palouse Valley. The name evolved from ‘a Palouse horse’ to Appaloosa. Spotted and bred with the spirit of the Old West, die-hard Appaloosa fans will not want to miss this historical little respite. Plan to spend a day learning about the native Nez Perce people, their beautiful craft work, and of course, the distinctly spotted horse that personifies the spirit of freedom and the legacy of the untamed frontier.
If you don’t feel like fighting the crowds of popular spots like Yellowstone, you can watch a geyser erupt as faithfully as Old Faithful herself in Soda Springs. And after the great geyser experience, plan on visiting the Ender Hotel and Museum. Restored to its former glory, the renovated mansion gives guests and visitors a peek into the day and life of typical Frontier America. Built in the early 1900s, the museum holds many pieces popular of that era, including a doctor’s office that once treated a couple of the “Hole in the Wall” gang members.
If you have ever had a burning desire to visit a nuclear reactor, well, here is your chance. And for those inquisitive little Tesla-ites at home, they can learn about the history of nuclear science, splitting atoms and of course, everything nuclear. Tucked far out in the rugged expanse between Idaho Falls and Arco, the Atomic Museum is not one to be missed. Pack up your nuclear family and plan on a day of historical significance, military presence, and perhaps, glean some insight into our global—and nuclear—future.
Idaho is a great state for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike. So what could showcase Idaho’s historical heritage better than a public outdoor archaeological venue. Once the hunting grounds of an ancient and now extinct Native American tribe, Celebration Park showcases these early native people’s artifacts by safeguarding and protecting their uniquely beautiful petroglyphs. The area is open to the public and offers guided tours during the regular season.
After a long, dusty day tramping around the sage and bitterbrush of Celebration Park, a trip to the Museum of Clean might be in order. Do you like things clean and tidy? When you were little, instead of a doll or bicycle did you beg your parents for you very own miniaturized vacuum? Maybe your house is in a constant state of disarray, but you’ve always dreamed of living in an organized, clean home, then this is the museum for you. Learn about the history of vacuums, the origins of cleaning supplies, and just plain “living clean.”
Art is often subjective, innovative, and sometimes provocative, but it’s always encouraged and endeared by the City of Boise to all of its Treasure Valley residents. Often the place of field trips and galleries, the Boise Art Museum (BAM) also offers art classes and hosts many community events. You must make a reservation in order to visit the museum but with the many exhibits and pieces on display, your planned tour will be worth the wait.
Quarried out of local sandstone by the inmates themselves, this historical site is sure to impress, complete with its gothic architecture, looming watchtowers and barbed-wire, bringing your mischievous little ones here might make them rethink about ever trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Built in 1872, these stonewalls have housed some of the nation’s most notorious and dangerous criminals. Open daily, the museum also has a collection of military memorabilia as well.
If you’ve got a military aviation history buff in the family, then a trip to the Warhawk Air Museum is a must-see. Learn about our nation’s role during World War II, the sacrifices, courage and faith that our soldiers faced, showcased through the extensive memorabilia on display. For those uber-aviation enthusiasts, there are opportunities to even fly in one of these historic military airplanes.
People from around the world come to visit the legendary powdery snows of Central Idaho, coveting the vertical runs at Bald Mountain, so why not take in a little historical knowledge as well. The museum has a collection of early wooden skis used to traverse this rugged country, as well as mining artifacts, sheepherding, and some collections from a rather well known resident/writer that also called Sun Valley home.
Part of the cultural landscape in 1800s Idaho, was the immense amount of mining. Once gold and silver was discovered among the rocky ledges of Idaho’s remote mountains, the state would never be the same. The Wallace District Mining Museum offers a glimpse into that often harsh, dangerous and deadly world of mining. The riches, the deceit, and drama that often went hand-in-hand with the profession. Of course, for those brave-enough, you can also visit a museum of another profession that also seemed to coincide with the influx of miners: The Oasis Bordello Museum, conveniently located down the street in Wallace as well.