Exploring Idaho Falls: Adventure, Relaxation & Hidden Gems Await

Cathy Bennett Kopf Avatar
Gorgeous spring garden flowers at the Idaho Botanical Garden, one of the best things to do in Idaho Falls.

This post is sponsored by GetOutPass.Maybe you plan to pass through southeast Idaho on an epic road trip. Or, perhaps, you’ll be spending time there while visiting the region’s majestic natural wonderlands, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. Idaho Falls makes a great home base to explore this unique part of the USA.

It’s worth visiting Idaho Falls for several reasons. You’ll find budget-friendly chain hotels in Idaho Falls with elevated amenities and Western decor. The area doesn’t draw the overwhelming crowds that descend upon other National Park gateway communities like Cody and Jackson.

And, best of all, there are a ton of fun things to do in the city and within doable day trip driving distance in Utah and Wyoming. Here are 22 of the best things to do in and near Idaho Falls.

To get a discount on many of the things you can do in Idaho Falls and other parts of the state visit GetOutPass.com. When you sign on to the GetOutPass, you’ll get free admission to all the attractions in your geographic area.

Boy bottle feeding a bear cub at Yellowstone Bear World, a fun thing to do near Idaho Falls.
Bucket list experiences at Yellowstone Bear World include bottle feeding a bear cub. Photo credit: Visit Idaho

1. See the Animals at Yellowstone Bear World

It’s important to keep your distance from the wild animals in Yellowstone National Park. But you can get up close and personal with the furry residents of Yellowstone Bear World, a drive-through wildlife park in Rexburg, Idaho.

In addition to a variety of North American animals like elk, bison and Rocky Mountain goats, the park is home to grizzly and black bears. Bear cubs are fed by bottle; you can assist staff with the feeding for $75 – advance reservations are highly recommended. Other highlights include a petting zoo and Jurassic Creek, home to realistic roaring dinos!

This attraction is included when you purchase a GetOutPass.

Read More: The Best Dinosaur Museums in the US

2. Get Your Thrills at Lagoon

If a vacation’s not a vacation without a trip to an amusement park, then pencil in a trip to Lagoon in nearby Farmington, Utah. The park has a full complement of thrill rides for your teens plus tamer attractions for toddlers.

The outdoor waterpark, Lagoon a Beach, is a popular place to cool down during the summer’s hot, humid days. And Pioneer Village features more than 40 recreated Old West buildings with historic artifacts.

This attractions can be included as part of your GetOutPass.

3. Have a Soakin’ Good Time at Roaring Springs Waterpark

It’s already the largest outdoor waterpark in the Northwest, but Roaring Springs is aiming to be one of the largest in America! Phase One of a multi-year expansion is open and ready for fun.

There’s a wide variety of ways to get wet at Roaring Springs including Class 5 Canyon, an action river, and Camp IdaH2O, an engaging water playground. Luxury cabanas are available to rent and the park features unique opportunities for night water sliding on select summer dates.

This attraction is also included when you purchase a GetOutPass along with 80 other attractions in Idaho!

Children play with giant pink bug puppets during Bug Day at the Idaho Botanical Garden, one of the fun things to do in Idaho Falls.
Celebrate the pollinators during Bug Day, a popular annual event in Idaho Falls. Photo credit: Idaho Botanical Garden

4. Blossom On at the Idaho Botanical Garden

Gardeners can enjoy four seasons of exhibits at the Idaho Botanical Garden. Sited on the grounds of a closed penitentiary, the garden was established in 1984 with a mission to be the region’s “…preferred space to gather and experience nature and to encourage advocacy in environmental stewardship.”

Plan to spend about an hour or two exploring the seven main gardens. The plant collections, including a traditional English garden, are complemented by remnants of the old jail, artwork and water features. Insta-alert!

Headline bands like Chicago and the Avett Brothers have been featured at the garden’s summer concert series, held on the notoriously named Outlaw Field.

5. Be the Lewis & Clark of Beer!

There are two stops along Visit Idaho’s Brewer’s Trail in Idaho Falls. Don’t miss the opportunity to tick them off the state’s list.

Snow Eagle Brewing and Grill has a great location right on the Snake River and, weirdly, it’s a top spot for sushi. Pair your spicy tuna rolls with the “Samurai” Japanese lager.

Idaho Brewing Company on Capital Ave. is a popular spot for live music.

6. Explore the Collectors’ Corner Museum

Husband and wife Jim and Nida Gyorfy display more than 125 collections they’ve acquired themselves or through donations at the Collectors’ Corner Museum in Idaho Falls. All types of memorabilia are on display, including a large Barbie collection.

It’s one of the most beloved tourist attractions in the city. And the couple keeps things fresh by rotating exhibits throughout the year.

Chilean flamingos strutting their stuff at Idaho Falls Zoo. Photo credit: Idaho Falls Zoo

7. Visit the “Best Little Zoo in the West”

The Idaho Falls Zoo is a must if you’re traveling with littles. Located in Tautphaus Park, the zoo is arranged in regional displays including Asia and Australia. The resident critters number approximately 300,  including exotic snow leopards, a fab flock of Chilean flamingos and a petting zoo.

Seasonal events at the zoo include a summer concert series and Idaho Falls’ premier Halloween event, “Boo at the Zoo.” Regular zoo admission is wildly affordable. Adults pay $8; children 3-12 are $5. The Idaho Falls Zoo participates in the Association of Zoos & Aquariums reciprocity program. If you’re a member of another participating zoo, you may be eligible for free admission.

A visit to this zoo is included when your purchase the GetOutPass

Read More: Lions, Tigers and Bears! The 25 Best Zoos in the US

8. Grab Breakfast at the North Hi-Way Cafe

Or lunch. Idaho’s oldest continuously running cafe has been serving hungry patrons for more than 75 years.

The restaurant started as an automobile garage servicing Model As. The owner had a couple of tables and served car owners food while they waited for repairs to be completed.

Expect classic diner cuisine, served seven days a week, 5 am – 3 pm.

9. Meet the Fish at the East Idaho Aquarium

The East Idaho Aquarium is designed to be interactive with a range of fun activities for guests. Nine different animal and fish encounters are available including the always popular opportunity to feed and touch the resident stingrays.

Explore a variety of aquatic ecosystems including ocean life, freshwater fish and river habitats. This attraction is on the list of places you can visit at a discount with the GetOutPass.

SheBuysTravel: Depending on how enthusiastic your children are, you may want to have them wear a bathing suit if they’re participating in one of the marine life encounters.

10. Hike Hell’s Half Acre

The Lava Trail System is maintained by the US Bureau of Land Management. Hell’s Half Acre is a popular hiking trail, covering terrain created by volcanic lava flows from eruptions over 4,000 years ago.

The lava field is particularly beautiful when covered in seasonal wildflowers and is home to native wildlife including mule deer, antelopes and foxes. This hike is one of the best outdoor adventures in Idaho Falls.

11. Catch a Baseball Game at Melaleuca Field

One of my family’s favorite things to do when exploring America’s Heartland is to attend a minor league baseball game. It’s budget-friendly and the stadiums usually have a variety of fun activities in addition to the game to keep the whole family entertained.

Melaleuca Field is home to the Pioneer League’s Idaho Falls Chukars (a chukar is a bird, similar to a partridge). Games run from May through early September and the most expensive single game box seating price is $16 on weekends.

12. Ride the Snake River Ferry

Want to get a water view of Idaho Falls? The Snake River Ferry operates a number of daily tours that get you up close and personal with the famous falls. The narrated tour is intimate; the boat is pontoon-sized, not a large, Great Lakes-style ferry like Lake Michigan’s S.S. Badger. The 30-minute ride is a great way to begin a day of sightseeing, meet the city, learn some history and get some fresh air.

13. Attempt a Gnarly Escape

Escape rooms are my family’s new favorite rainy vacation day activity. We rush in like over eager private detectives and end, humbly admitting defeat 99% of the time. There are laughs and arguments and more laughs. We’re still talking about the Cuban jailbreak we almost completed in Key West.

So, if you’re traveling to Idaho Falls, put Gnarly Escapes on your to-do list, particularly if you have teens. They love escape rooms. Current rooms at Gnarly Escapes include the Green Belt Bank Heist and Buried Alive by a Creepy Dude!

14. Go Vroom! Idaho Falls Raceway

Race fans can head to the Idaho Falls Raceway for dirt track excitement sponsored by the Snake River Stock Car Association. The season opens in May and runs through early October with full days of racing scheduled on select weekend dates.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re not a race enthusiast, you will be surprised by the noise volume at the track. Come prepared with headphones, especially for the kids in your group.

15. Take a Ride on the Funland Merry-Go-Round

At the Idaho Falls Zoo, you’ll also find Funland, a charming amusement park operating in Idaho Falls since 1947. The park is the focus of a committed restoration project that will rehab the historic original rides and add new attractions like an 18-hole miniature golf course.

The current operating season is limited to a few weeks in late summer.

16. Check Out the Falls in Idaho Falls

The city’s namesake falls were created when the Snake River was dammed to create a hydroelectric plant. The Idaho City waterfall drops about 20 feet and is approximately 1,200 feet wide. Tours of the hydroelectric plant are available for those over 10 years of age, Monday – Friday between 8 am and 5 pm. Reservation details are available here.

The Idaho Falls River Walk provides the best views of the Falls on land; from the water, we recommend the Snake River Ferry. You’ll find four trail segments covering five miles along both sides of the river.

And, if you’re visiting in mid-August, check out the schedule of events for the annual Great Snake River Greenbelt Duck Race, a fundraiser held by the Idaho Falls Rotary Club to benefit River Walk projects.

17. Stroll the Japanese Friendship Garden

You’ll find the Idaho Falls Japanese Garden on a small island in the Snake River. It was built to celebrate the 30-year association with Idaho Falls’ sister city, Tokai-Mura in Japan. It’s a lovely serene space with water features, a “Dragon’s Path,” and a Japanese Pavilion.

18. Explore Russ Freeman Park

Named after Russ Freeman, the city councilman credited with starting the city’s extensive park system, Freeman Park is a great place to picnic during your visit to Idaho Falls., There’s a fun playground for the kids to let off steam and wide open grassy areas for lounging. The disc golf course is also a popular activity.

19. Engage Your Petite Picasso

ARTitorium on Broadway is a hands-on creative space for children. There’s a variety of colorful interactive exhibits for the young and young at heart, including a magnet wall and light installation inspired by the classic Light-Brite toy. Check the event calendar before your visit. There are many art and theater classes available throughout the year.

ARTitorium is owned and operated by the Idaho Falls Arts Council, the private nonprofit organization behind other cultural venues in the city including the Willard Arts Center and the Colonial Theater.

20. Relax at the Heise Hot Springs

Idaho is a hotbed for hot springs due to its unique geology. The Heise hot springs resort, located about a ½ hour drive from Idaho Falls, is a fantastic year-round tourist attraction. Choose the pool that’s just right.

There’s a hot, mineral rich pool for soaking away your aches and pains. If the 104-degree temp is too high for you, head to the warm (92 degrees) pool instead. In summer, an 84-degree outdoor pool with waterslide is perfect for cooling off on warm, humid Idaho days.

In addition to the pools, there’s ziplining, a golf course, pizza parlor, gift shop and campgrounds.

21. Visit The Art Museum

Officially it’s The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho, but I like the descriptive shortened version that’s also known as TAM. Include a stop at this boutique museum while strolling the Snake River Greenbelt.

You’ll find five galleries, interactive children’s programming and a great gift shop for sourcing souvenirs for friends – or yourself!

22. Pick Up Picnic Provisions at the Farmers’ Market

One of the reasons Idaho Falls developed into one of the largest cities in Idaho is because it has a rich agricultural economy. Sample its bounty at the local farmers’ market. You’ll find fresh produce, a variety of prepared foods and craft vendors.

The open-air market is located along the Snake River walkway on Memorial Drive on Saturdays from May through October, 9 am – 1 pm.

Where to Stay in Idaho Falls

Don’t expect to find a grand, all-inclusive luxury resort in Idaho Falls. If you’re looking for that type of lodging experience, you’re going to need to look in and around nearby Jackson, Wyoming.

What you will find are budget-friendly chain hotel franchises, some with Snake River views, others within walking distance of the area attractions. Here are three of the top spots:

  • The Hilton Garden Inn has a fab location on the Snake River. The 119-room property has a 24-hour free shuttle service to the airport, indoor pool, seasonal outdoor pool and an onsite restaurant.
  • The newly renovated Candlewood Suites is ideal for larger families who want the convenience of in-room kitchens. The pet-friendly property has free parking and wifi.
  • Love a free breakfast? The Hampton Inn Idaho Falls at the Mall is three minutes from the Grand Teton Mall and a short drive from the Zoo. Amenities include an indoor pool, free parking and wifi.

Getting To and Around Idaho Falls

A Rocky Mountains community, Idaho Falls is an easy drive from major destinations in the American West, including Boise (4 hours), Jackson Hole (2 hours), Grand Teton National Park (2 hours) and Yellowstone (3 hours, 40 minutes). Idaho Falls Regional Airport is the second busiest in the state, serviced by Allegiant Air, Delta, United, Alaska and American.

The city replaced its traditional transit system with an on-demand service in 2023. GIFT (Greater Idaho Falls Transit) operates like commercial rideshare services. You request a ride, up to a week in advance, via an app. The service operates within the city limits, six days a week for a very inexpensive $4 fare ($10 from 9 pm – 11 pm, Thur. – Sat.).

Downtown Idaho Falls’ street parking, with some exceptions in the historic district, is free for two hours. There are also several always free parking lots. If in doubt, park in one of the lots and stroll the very walkable downtown. Access Idaho Falls parking info here.

Cathy Bennett Kopf serves as the Daily Editor of SheBuysTravel, reporting to Editor-in-Chief Cindy Richards. She began travel writing after serving as the unofficial (and unpaid) vacation coordinator for hundreds of family and friend trips. She launched her blog, The Open Suitcase, in 2012 and joined the SBT (formerly TravelingMom) team in 2016. A lifelong resident of New York, Cathy currently resides in the scenic Hudson River Valley. She’s a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the International Travel Writers Alliance and TravMedia.
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