An increasingly popular place to live and visit, Idaho Falls is located in eastern Idaho on the banks of the Snake River. Named after the massive man-made waterfall that lies at its heart, it acts as a major economic and cultural center for the region.
The state’s second-largest metropolis, there is a wealth of things to do in Idaho Falls with interesting museums, historic sites and cultural landmarks to explore. While downtown has loads of brilliant local shops and restaurants, the highlight is its picturesque Greenbelt. This encompasses nature spots and parks along both banks of the Snake River, all connected by an idyllic riverside trail.
While more than enough nature is found within the city, many people use Idaho Falls as a base or gateway to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
12. East Idaho Aquarium
Despite being located so far inland, the city actually boasts an excellent aquarium. Aside from fish-filled tanks and hands-on exhibits, it has colorful birds, reptiles and snakes for you to check out.
Established in 2013, its aquatic ecosystems and sea creatures can be found towards the northeastern outskirts of town. While some sections focus on crabs and eels, others deal with jellyfish, octopuses and tropical fish. A beautiful albino boa constrictor also features alongside bearded dragons, iguanas and turtles.
Besides learning about the various fish and aquatic animals that inhabit Idaho’s lakes and rivers, you can also delve into the lives of sharks and alligators. The highlight, however, is the terrific touch tank where visitors can stroke stingrays swimming about.
11. Freeman Park
Home to vast swathes of gorgeous green spaces, Freeman Park lies alongside the Snake River, just south of the Idaho State University campus. Connected to the center by the River Walk, it has plenty of paths, picnic areas and playgrounds for locals and visitors to make use of.
Part of the city’s Greenbelt, its immaculate lawns and leafy trees lie next to a band shelter, baseball fields and a disc golf course. Particularly impressive is its stunning Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the lovely views you can enjoy over the river.
In addition to playing baseball or throwing a frisbee, you can walk, run, jog or cycle along a plethora of pretty paths. All in all, Freeman Park is ideal for those looking to immerse themselves in nature without traveling too far afield.
10. Idaho Falls Temple
Rising dramatically above the river is the delightful and distinctive Idaho Falls Temple. Certainly one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, it lies amidst lush grounds and gardens, some ten minutes north of downtown.
Built between 1940 and 1945, the gleaming white structure is topped by a striking single-spire that shines in the sun. Inside, the attractive Art Deco edifice is just as appealing as marble, hardwood and murals coat its ceremonial rooms. Scenes and important stories from the church’s scripture also feature.
At the Visitor Center, guests can learn all about the incredible temple and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After this, you can then stroll around its flower-filled gardens and down beside the winding Snake River.
9. Collectors’ Corner Museum
Described by many as a hidden gem, the Collectors’ Corner Museum is a fascinating place to visit. Located in the east of Idaho Falls, it contains an eclectic and interesting array of collectibles.
What started out over sixty years ago as a passion project has since morphed into a museum full of coins and clowns, hubcaps and commemorative plates. Its husband and wife team Jim and Nida are only too happy to accompany you around and point out rare, unusual and utterly bizarre items.
As you amble about the former grocery store’s cluttered rooms, you’ll spy everything from Barbies and troll dolls to stamps, model trains and mechanical monkeys. While its diverse range of over 125 collections will keep you interested for hours, chatting to the owners and hearing stories about their favorite things is just as special.
8. Grand Teton National Park
Although it lies about two hours’ drive east of the city, Grand Teton National Park is definitely not to be missed for its spectacular scenery. Known not only for its soaring mountains and sparkling lakes but wonderful wildlife too, it lies just across the border in Northwest Wyoming.
Founded in 1929, the picturesque park is named after the loftiest peak in the range, which reaches a staggering 13,775 feet in height. Its rugged slopes feature endless forests and untouched wild spaces with rushing rivers, rock formations and ravines dotted here and there.
Due to all this, Grand Teton is an outdoor lover’s dream with superb hiking, biking and camping on offer. As well as keeping an eye out for moose, bison and bears, visitors can also swim, rock climb and kayak amidst its awe-inspiring landscapes.
7. Japanese Friendship Garden
The gorgeous Japanese Friendship Garden is another scenic and serene part of the Greenbelt to stop by. Occupying a small rocky isle in the middle of Snake River, it has charming paths, stone lanterns and other ornamental features to check out.
Lovingly laid out, it was completed in 2011 to celebrate the city’s thirty year friendship with Tokai-Mura in Japan. Alongside a traditional Torii gate are a fantastic pavilion, water features and viewing platform that offers up sweeping vistas over the river.
A historically important spot, the island was the site of the first bridge to span the Snake River in all Eastern Idaho. Despite its proximity to the center, the tranquil garden feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
6. Giant Eagle Waterfall Nest
Just a short stroll further down the river is another of the city’s top attractions: the hugely impressive Giant Eagle Waterfall Nest. Disregarding its rather unfortunate setting at the center of a roundabout, the majestic monument makes for some fabulous photos and viewing.
One of the largest sculptures of its kind in the States, it depicts two enormous eagles protecting their nest and chicklets from a mountain lion below. Thanks to the extraordinary level of detail, the scene really does look larger-than-life as water splashes below the rocky mountain top roost. In total, it towers 26 feet tall with The Protector having been designed by Vic Payne back in 2006.
As the roundabout doesn’t really encourage you to linger, most people snap a couple of pics before continuing off along the River Walk.
5. Yellowstone National Park
Just north of Grand Teton in Northwest Wyoming is another of the nation’s most beautiful and best-loved national parks. The first to be established in 1872, Yellowstone’s volcanic confines encompass astounding hot springs, bubbling mud pots and spurting geysers.
While the west entrance lies around two hours drive northeast of Idaho Falls, many people still use the city as a base for exploring the park. Amidst its verdant forests and rugged mountain ranges are craggy canyons, gushing rivers and, of course, a gigantic geothermal area. Of its hot springs and geysers, Old Faithful and Grand Prismatic Spring are undoubtedly the most popular, photographed and impressive.
Besides enjoying all kinds of exciting outdoor activities, you can also spot moose, grizzly bears and wolves amidst its wild and remote reaches.
4. Lava Trail
Much closer to town are the incredible landscapes and lava tubes of Hell’s Half Acre that cover a huge area directly west of Idaho Falls. Within just half an hour, you can find yourself surrounded by all its tortured terrain, hiking along the terrific Lava Trail.
Thought to have been formed several millennia ago, the extensive lava field’s basalt rock formations and volcanic vents sprawl across a wide-open plain. Visitors can choose between two trails with one taking all day and the other simpler loop stretching just half a mile in length. Both take you past striking scenery with informative plaques on the lava flow, fauna and flora lining the route.
As the paths are flat and paved for the most part, the National Natural Landmark is accessible to all. Its fissures, lava tubes and sharp jagged rocks make for quite the sight at any time of year.
3. Idaho Falls Zoo
If instead of the great outdoors it is awesome animals you are after, then Idaho Falls Zoo is certainly the place to go. Tucked away in the southwestern corner of Tautphaus Park, it has over 300 amazing animals from all around the world.
Often called the ‘best little zoo in the west’, its spacious enclosures house everything from lemurs and lions to snow leopards and sloth bears. While some parts focus on Africa and Asia, others transport you as far away as Patagonia and Australia with about 130 species on show.
A firm favorite with families, it also contains a lovely little children’s zoo where guests can stroke and feed friendly residents. Playgrounds and picnic areas are also scattered around amidst the animal, bird and reptile exhibits.
2. Museum of Idaho
A must for those looking to learn more about the history of the state, the Museum of Idaho lies in the heart of downtown. Boasting an exhaustive list of artifacts and exhibits, its collection covers the various peoples and places that have shaped the Gem State.
Only opened in 2003, it occupies a magnificent modern building that connects the historic Carnegie Library and Masonic Temple. Its well-done displays and dioramas shine a light on not just the early origins and geology of the state but trappers, traders and modern technology too. Hands-on exhibits and activities help young ones stay engaged with play areas, photos and film clips dotting its floors.
On top of the museum’s excellent educational and outreach programs, it also regularly hosts top-class traveling exhibits.
1. River Walk & Greenbelt
A wonderful way to see as much of the city as possible is to walk, run or bike along the scenic River Walk. Hugging both banks of the Snake River, it connects the numerous parks and green spaces that make up the gorgeous Greenbelt.
One of the Pacific Northwest’s major waterways, the Snake River winds its way peacefully through the center of town. While some small rapids and waterfalls dot its course, lush green grounds and gardens coat its banks. These include Freeman Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden and South Central Park.
Aside from strolling along its banks, stopping by its parks and enjoying divine views over the river, there are plenty of outdoor art installations to check out. In addition, the River Walk passes by some interesting museums, historic sites and the city’s lively downtown.