Once overlooked as a small blip on the land of flat and potatoes, Idaho’s capital city grew up and got kinda cool while we were stuck in traffic, with a steady trickle of diverse, liberal newbies planting roots, a fresh field of breweries, and up-and-coming music and comedy scenes. (Plus, motoring down its football-field-wide highways feels like car travel as spa treatment.)
Tuck in at midcentury gem Modern Hotel (from $129), where a former Ace Hotel Portland concierge doles out city tips between bright cocktails. Then explore Spanish wines and delicious pintxos bites priced by the toothpick at friendly Basque Market (the leading edge of a deep Basque food scene fueled by a century-plus of immigration).
This walkable burg comes alive in summer, especially the Boise Greenbelt, a 25-mile patchwork of interconnected parks and paved trails lining both banks of the Boise River. At Esther Simplot Park, families play on the man-made beach while stand-up paddleboarders glide across a placid pond. Less than a block away, surfers at Boise Whitewater Park effortlessly ride a perpetual wave, like a magic trick, on a river buttressed by fluttery cottonwood trees. Post-splash, chow down nearby on crazy-good artichoke heart tacos and chug local Payette Brewing lagers at the Yardarm, a sand-on-the-floor, open-air surfer shack ... complete with a bar crafted from a shipping container. Yeah, not what you expected, right?
Travel Time: 1-hour direct flight from Portland