It didn’t happen all at once. When we first visited Boise, it was January and the city seemed to be asleep. I enjoyed the Basque restaurants, hiking in the foothills with friends, and The Modern Hotel and Bar…but I wasn’t yet in love with the city. When we returned in June, the city was awake and alive, in the full throes of summer. That’s when it happened. Here’s what helped Boise earn a place in my top five list of cities where I’d happily live*:
Sitting in a park under the stars, drinking wine, eating tasty food, watching a play. I love this stuff. You can bring your own food and wine, or you can buy (or supplement) there. The Shakespeare Festival reminded me of Ravinia in Chicago, an outdoor music festival that I miss, except that people don’t go to the same extremes with their “tablescapes.”
According to our buddy Joe, outdoor concerts are a great way to enjoy Boise in the summer. We went to hear Polecat at Alive After Five in the Grove Plaza. Alive After Five is a weekly outdoor concert series with snacks, beer, wine, lottery tickets, and music. Kids actually swim and splash in the fountains, there are local characters like Tai Chi grandma and touchy-feely old dude, and the whole thing wraps up in time to grab dinner downtown. The mix of people of all types and ages made it feel like the entire community turned out. In Chicago, festivals seemed more tailored to select groups of people; here everyone shows up. The sound system isn’t great, but hey, it’s an outdoor music festival. If you like the band, hang out by the stage. If you’re there to socialize, stand in the back.
The Toyota Dealership
I’m always too honest with mechanics. If they try to upsell me on something, knowing that I’m just passing through and won’t be a regular customer, I’ll usually want to go along. Luckily, Paul’s there to talk me out of going for the fuel injection system cleaning or the alignment. I always dread getting our car serviced, so I rolled into Peterson Toyota with a sense of apprehension. But this time, there was no upsell. There was no pressure when we just wanted to buy a part rather than buy the part installed (thanks to my little road hazard bump up in Santa Barbara, which we still haven’t fixed). There was a free hand car wash and vacuum – Rocky looked better than he has looked since we rolled out of Chicago. There was free popcorn – I didn’t die of starvation in the two and a half hours we sat in the waiting room. Our rep was sincerely honest and nice and helpful. Why can’t it always be like this?
Boise is in the Mountain time zone, but it’s farther west than Las Vegas, which is in the Pacific time zone. In the summer, the sun sets after 10pm. It stays light even later. I wouldn’t get much sleep in the summer, but that’s what summer’s all about, right?
The Guy in the Grocery Store
Dealership guy was talking up Boise, obviously our Boise friends love Boise, and people we’ve met along the way love Boise. Then there was the guy in the grocery store talking up Boise as we checked out. “Come on,” I said, “I’ve never been somewhere where people are so happy just to live there that they talk it up to total strangers, unprompted.” I mean, it was all starting to be too much. Did I have something on my forehead that said, “make me want to live here, please?” “Well,” he said, “it’s just that great of a place.”
The Surrounding Area
It’s not just Boise either – the surrounding area is amazing too. Hot springs, mountain lakes, mountain towns, mountain roads. Mountains. Read more about it all in my earlier post.
The Parking Cops
That’s right, I really said the parking cops. Supposedly, they’re tough, but as we found out, they can also be awesome. One day, we spotted a parking cop writing a ticket for an illegally parked scooter. As we waited to cross the street, the scooter owner sprinted up, hopped on his bike, and furiously tried to start it, all while ignoring the cop. Finally, the cop said, “Relax, I already have your plate number written down. I’ll let you go if you just acknowledge my existence.” The scooter guy mumbled, “Hi, sorry.” Then he sped off.
*The rest of the top five, in no particular order: Ithaca, NY; Durango, CO; Paso Robles, CA; Boston, MA. Warning…my list looks slightly different than Paul’s list.