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Idaho Bucket List for Families

Idaho is full of beautiful natural places to visit and many Idahoans spend a lot of time in nature whether white water rafting, mountain climbing, skiing, fishing, boating, camping, or foraging.  What's lesser known, even to most Idahoans is all the man-made attractions we have in our state.  From history museums to amusement parks, here are 10 places you must put on your family bucket list.

The Cataldo Mission at Old Mission State part in Northern Idaho is the oldest building in the state.  It was built between 1850 and 1853 in a cooperation between Catholic missionaries and the Coeur d' Alene (CDA) tribe.  If you're coming through Idaho on I-90, this park a few miles outside of CDA makes a great 1-2 hour educational and cultural field trip and a lovely place for a picnic.

A few years ago, we visited the Reptile Gardens in Rapid City, SD, and really enjoyed it.  We missed their raptor show, though.  Ever since then, we've been talking about visiting the rescued birds at the World Center for Birds of Prey.  Located in Southern Idaho, the center features live raptors, a museum on falconry, interactive exhibits, and shows throughout the day.  The center only allows 20 people at one time, so as to not overwhelm the birds, so tickets must be bought in advance.  Click on the colored text to reserve your spot.

Although Louis and Clark went many places in the west, Idaho seems to have claimed them as their own.  I think because it's one of the only historical moments we have (wink).  The Sacajawea Interpretive Center in Salmon, Idaho (southern) is a historical and cultural area with reenactments, Native events, artifacts, and more.  The museum celebrates Sacajawea's contribution to the expedition, Agaidika Shoshone-Bannock crafts and artifacts, mountain man culture, and the early days of the American frontier.  Different history interpreters are nearby most of the summer to teach both Native and pioneer skills.

If you're looking for thrills, chills, family fun, and a waterslides, then you need to visit Silverwood Theme Park in northern Idaho.  At over 400 acres (only 100 less than Disneyland), the park features over 70 rides, attractions, shows, water slides, and more.  It's also the northernmost theme park in the whole USA (I just learned that).  I'm convinced that it's not as much fun now as it was when I was a kid, but it's still on our family lists of must-do things before the kids leave the house.

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with pioneer life and the Oregon Trail.  My family visited the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Bakers City, OR, but we never got around to visiting the museum in Idaho.  The National Oregon/California Trail Center (NOCTC) focuses on the pioneers, who came across Idaho on the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail (I'd be surprised if they didn't at least touch on it).  The NOCTC has museum interpreters who take visitors on experiences that pioneers faced including buying provisions, riding in wagons, and more.  Families interested in Oregon Trail history should also look into the Three Island River reenactment and campground about 4 hours away.

Over 300 animals call the Boise Zoo home, including tigers, red pandas, penguins, and many more.  According to Wikipedia, the zoo began in 1916 after a monkey escaped from a traveling circus.  After the circus pulled out, the monkey was found and the city opened a zoo to host the monkey.  The Zoo now resides in the Julia Davis Park, which is also home to the Idaho Black History Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the Rose Gardens, and the Historical Museum.  It sounds like a long weekend could be spent just on this section of Idaho alone!

Idaho is called the Gem State because it has the greatest variety of gems in the western world.  More than 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones are found in the state, including rubies, star garnets, opal, etc.  Gold, lead, copper, silver, and other important metals were also mined and entire town grew up around the mines.  Wallace, Idaho calls itself a living ghost town and is the only town left to have the entire premise listed as a national historical place.  Not only is there a lot to do in the area outdoors (camping, hiking, ATV riding, biking, etc), the town itself has mine tours, a historic bordello, a train station, and a museum.  It's also home to the center of the universe plaque.  Come to play and stay in the Silver Valley.

About the only thing most people know about Idaho is that we grow potatoes.  To capitalize on our large potato crops, the Idaho Potato Museum was born.  The museum celebrates the tuber and talks about the history of the potato in the world and the it's importance in US history.  Grab your potato themed toys and gifts at the museum gift shop and eat some potatoes at the cafe.

If large tanks of water are your forte, the Aquarium of Boise has 250 species for your enjoyment.  The attraction features marine species like sharks, rays, and turtles, as well as land animals like birds and reptiles.  Also, they somehow managed to snag a mermaid, so that's pretty cool!  The entire facility is designed to be as interactive as possible, with lots of opportunities for kids to touch or hold animals.

You may not know this, but we're a WWII Warbird family!  We have taken a few road trips to visit airplane museums and have even more on our bucket lists.  My boys (7 and 6) love talking about WWII planes and flying them on the flight simulator (see more about their obsession here).  If your kids (or grown-ups) like airplanes, you should add the Idaho Warhawk Air Museum to your list, too!

Anyone else wanting to pack the family up now and go on an Idaho field trip? Just me? Ok, then! Let me know in the comments what attraction you love and what state I should highlight next.

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