Culture & History
Museums and Historic Sites
Discover Idaho’s natural, cultural and military past at museums and historic sites around the state. From Native American artifacts, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and the Idaho Gold Rush to World War II fighter planes and how the french fry came to be, you’ll encounter historic towns, interpretive sites and interactive exhibits that put the Gem State’s deep-rooted history on full display for all ages. Check out the Idaho State Museum, the Museum of Idaho, the Nez Perce National Historical Park and the Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural & Educational Center (to name a few) to learn Idaho’s story.
No matter the month or season, you can expect to find a celebration of Idaho’s rich culture and history at a variety of festivals around the state.
Idaho is home to the largest concentration of Basques per capita in the U.S.; and when it comes to celebrating their unique heritage and culture, the Basques know how to throw a party. Jaialdi is a six-day festival held every five years in Boise, where attendees are treated to authentic Basque food, music, games, performances, dancing and so much more (did we mention the food!?) The next Jaialdi takes place July 28-Aug. 2, 2020 (note: book your accommodations early because attendance can reach 50,000). In non-Jaialdi years, the San Inazio Basque Festival is held annually on Boise’s Basque Block in late July.
The Fall for History Festival showcases the colorful history of Wallace, Idaho. Learn why Wallace is on the National Historic Register, tour the Wallace District Mining Museum and visit the Center of the Universe — the town’s claim to fame.
Powwows — gatherings celebrating Native American culture and history — span the state and are typically held April through October. For a unique cultural experience, check out the Shoshone-Bannock Indian Festival in Fort Hall, Julyamsh in Coeur d’Alene, Hiitem’Waq’iswit (Dance for Life) in Lewiston or the Seven Arrows Powwow at Boise State University.
The Trailing of the Sheep Festival, held in Ketchum in October, is named for the annual herding of sheep from their mountain ranges down to lower elevation. The festival celebrates all things sheep, including fiber, food, shepherding and Idaho’s ranching history. Don’t miss the sheep dog trials and the famous Sheep Parade finale on Main Street. Celebrate Idaho’s logging heritage at Paul Bunyan Days in St. Maries. See logging competitions and water events, fireworks displays, a tug-of-war and Labor Day Parade.
Rock out at Treefort Music Fest — a five-day festival in downtown Boise, showcasing over 400 bands along with nine forts dedicated to food, beer, film, yoga, technology and much more. For a foot-stomping good time paired with food and a parade, make your way to the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival in Weiser. The Festival at Sandpoint lets you revel in eight consecutive summer nights of eclectic music on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Experience the thrill of period costuming, stunning sets and amazing voices at Opera Idaho. Enjoy the masterful sounds of a symphony orchestra in a spectacular setting at the Sun Valley Music Festival. Celebrate the works of William Shakespeare under the stars at an outdoor amphitheater at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Cinephiles shouldn’t miss the Sun Valley Film Festival or Boise’s Idaho Horror Film Festival.
Read these Travel Tips for more fun and unique festivals and events.
North Fork Championship (video)