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Southwest Idaho’s Meridian a bustling family tourism destination
MERIDIAN, Idaho (May 3, 2023) — As Idaho’s fastest-growing and second-largest city, Meridian boasts a variety of attractions that make it an ideal, budget-friendly destination for family vacations this summer.
“For the longest time, Meridian was known as a bedroom community of Boise and Nampa where people lived and commuted to work from,” Meridian Chamber of Commerce CEO Sean Evans said. “But over the last 10-15 years, Meridian has established itself as a great place to live, work, and play.”
He said the “play” component is really coming out, with Meridian home to one of the nation’s largest water parks — Roaring Springs — plus the adjacent Wahooz Family Fun Zone amusement park, a brand-new Topgolf driving range, and the Meridian Speedway NASCAR motorsports racetrack. The Children’s Museum of Idaho is another popular tourist attraction, as well as art galleries like the Initial Point Gallery at Meridian City Hall, which is free to the public and highlights a new artist every month.
Evans said the city also offers spectacular shopping and antiquing, with The Village at Meridian featuring 80 different upscale apparel, home goods, personal care, and specialty retailers and entertainment venues, as well as 30 restaurants and eateries. The Village Cinema there sports giant-screen auditoriums, Dolby Atmos immersive 360-degree sound, D-BOX motion-experience seating, RealD 3D technology, and a 21-and-older VIP section.
Chief among Meridian’s most noteworthy dining establishments is Epi’s, a purveyor of fresh, traditional Basque cuisine that is the city’s highest-rated restaurant on Tripadvisor. Idaho possesses the highest concentration of Basque people outside of the culture’s traditional homeland in Spain, and 12 miles down the road from Meridian is a vibrant Basque Block to explore in downtown Boise.
Melissa Cleland with the Southwest Idaho Travel Association said Meridian’s central location within the Boise metropolitan area and its proximity to Interstate 84 and the Boise Airport makes it an ideal basecamp for exploring attractions in the region like the Basque Block.
“Meridian doesn’t just have a lot of fun things to do there,” Cleland said, “it also has great access to all the attractions and outdoor recreation activities we have available in the Treasure Valley and Southwest Idaho.”
Other noteworthy regional tourism favorites include The Peregrine Fund’s World Center for Birds of Prey, Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, Eagle Island State Park, Lucky Peak and Lake Lowell reservoirs, the Boise River and Boise River Greenbelt, Boise Whitewater Park, and Ada/Eagle Bike Park. Popular summertime events in the area include Meridian Dairy Days June 22-24 (the city’s oldest festival), the legendary Snake River Stampede rodeo July 18-22, the Western Idaho Fair Aug. 18-27, Idaho National Guard’s Gowen Thunder Airshow Aug. 26-27, and Ford Idaho Center’s many concerts and expos.
Cleland said Meridian also has an abundance of hotel rooms.
Evans concurred: “In the last 5 years we’ve gone from 600 hotel rooms in Meridian to 1,200 today. And when the final projects that are currently in planning are completed in the next 5 years, we will have close to 1,800 rooms.”
Cleland said Meridian is the fifth largest Idaho Travel Council grant recipient in Region 3, behind Visit Boise, SWITA (the organization she represents), the McCall Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, and the Nampa Chamber of Commerce.
What’s on the horizon for Meridian? According to Evans, a lot.
“The new Scheels sporting goods store that’s opening in April 2024 — which will have a two-story Ferris wheel in its lobby — will be a regional draw by itself,” he said. “And we’re going to have the first In-N-Out Burger in Idaho when their new Meridian location opens towards the end of the year.”
Evans said The Village at Meridian is looking at adding another 100,000 square feet of retail space — nearly doubling in size to about 240,000 square feet. Meanwhile, he said hotels are popping up in the community almost faster than its planning and zoning department can deal with them and that the Meridian Chamber has three ribbon cuttings planned for new hotels in the next two months.
The chamber will continue focusing on family experiences, for which he said Meridian hotels are better suited than those in downtown Boise.
Evans expects Meridian will continue to see more sports tournaments, such as the 2023 U.S. Youth Soccer Far West Regional Championships June 23-29, which contribute to the city’s popularity as a destination. In addition to hosting myriad soccer and softball tournaments from throughout the region, Meridian and Boise hosted the Northwest Pickleball Championship in 2021. Evans said a private third-party is currently looking at adding indoor pickleball courts.
He anticipates the city’s restaurants, retailers, parks, activities, and attractions will continue to grow, as well. And with single-family homes comprising 85 percent of Meridian’s housing, multifamily housing is currently being built at almost the same scale as the city’s hotel growth. Business travel has rebounded, too.
“Our hotels are starting to see business travel pick back up, especially with companies choosing to locate their offices in Meridian instead of downtown Boise,” Evans said. “Plus, we have a lot of office complexes going up or on the drawing board, with more than a million additional square feet of office space coming to Meridian.”
Visit https://choosemeridian.us/the-massive-meridian-things-to-do-list for more vacation ideas, information, and links to attractions.
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