Take a trip back in time and be inspired while exploring Idaho’s many museums and galleries. Walk the line at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, where the West’s most notorious criminals were locked up. Marvel at the Warhawk Air Museum featuring some of the rarest fighter planes still in existence. Or get your clean on at an Idaho museum of clean where you can see the very first vacuum.
1. Boise Art Museum in Boise
The Boise Art Museum showcases artwork through the ages, from antiquity to the present day. The permanent collection houses about 4000 pieces that range from watercolors and paintings to sculptures and textiles.
Works not only originate from Idaho and the northwest but also from all over the world.
2. Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls
The Museum of Idaho houses artifacts spanning 14,000 years of Idaho history. As the number one history and science center in Idaho, the museum welcomes almost 100,000 visitors a year.
The Village Improvement Society, a women’s club, founded the center in 1898 to preserve their home state’s artifacts. Today, the museum still follows the founders’ vision of sharing Idaho’s history, and it exhibits collections such as documents from EBR-1 Nuclear Reactor, Columbian mammoth specimens, and bodies inside out exhibit.
3. Idaho Potato Museum and Potato Station Cafe in Blackfoot
The Idaho Potato Museum is a fun and unique museum in southeastern Idaho near Idaho Falls. The center honors the history of Idaho’s most defining crop, from the first potato planted in Idaho to the Pringle’s Company in Tennessee.
The museum is inside the old Oregon Short Line Railroad Depot, a historic building that dates back to 1912. Best of all, they have a cafe where you can enjoy a loaded baked potato or even potato ice cream.
4. Oasis Bordello Museum in Wallace
The Oasis Bordello Museum is in the historic town of Wallace in northern Idaho. The bordello was active all the way up until 1988, when the occupants left in a hurry, leaving behind furniture, personal items, and even groceries on the countertop.
The property was purchased in 1993 and the interior was left exactly how it was when the women abandoned the place. Visitors can now have a guided tour of the museum’s basement, where the women lived.
5. Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa
Co-founders John and Sue Paul opened the Warhawk Air Museum in 1989 to preserve military aviation history. In the years prior, as John worked on restoring the WWII-era planes he had in his possession, people began to leave the couple WWII aviation memorabilia. The pair decided to open a museum to protect the artifacts they were starting to collect.
Today, this Idaho museum honors veterans’ history from every contemporary U.S. war where pilots flew. Airplanes, uniforms, photographs, and medals are among the collection’s items.
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6. Idaho Military History Museum in Boise
Another military museum, the Idaho Military History Museum, is dedicated to all facets of military history. The museum accepts donations and has a plethora of artifacts from contributors, including uniforms, medals, photographs, and weapons. The center also has military vehicles, such as tanks, aircraft, and an ambulance.
The museum focuses on Idaho military history and covers the present day back to the Spanish American War in the 1890s.
7. Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center in Salmon
The Sacajawea Interpretive, Cultural, and Educational Center focuses on Sacajawea and her role in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The museum also exhibits artifacts that show visitors the culture of her people, the Aga’idika Shoshone-Bannock.
There is much to see and do at the Sacajawea Center for all ages and interests throughout the year! The 71-acre park is located just 2 miles east of downtown Salmon, Idaho.
8. Old Idaho State Penitentiary Site in Boise
The Old Idaho State Penitentiary Site once held some of the West’s most violent criminals after it opened in 1872. Today, visitors can walk through the prison’s solitary confinement, cell blocks, and gallows.
The site holds thirty historic buildings, including the J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit, which showcases a historic weapon collection.
9. The National Oregon / California Trail Center in Montpelier
The National Oregon / California Trail Center is an interpretive center where live actors tell the story of the people who took the 2,000-mile journey from Missouri to the Oregon Territory. The center is in Bear Lake Valley in southeastern Idaho, where the historic Oregon Trail ran through.
Visitors get to immerse themselves in an interactive simulation where they prepare for the westward journey and join a wagon trail, just as pioneers did almost 200 years ago.
10. Discovery Center of Idaho in Boise
The Discovery Center of Idaho is the only Idaho museum with a hands-on science center. The center is a fun alternative to the traditional museum, with 150 interactive exhibits that focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Opened in 1988, the interactive museum provides exhibits for people of all ages to give everyone a safe space to explore.
11. Museum of Clean in Pocatello
A museum that is both focused and broad in its scope, the Museum of Clean is a bright and unique museum where people of all ages can explore the history of cleanliness. And the museum doesn’t only hold items you’d expect, like the world’s first vacuum cleaner, but it also explores other ‘clean’ topics, like clean water, clean jokes, and clean art.
12. Basque Museum and Cultural Center in Boise
The Basque Museum and Cultural Center presents the lives of the Basque people, an ethnic group from southern France and northern Spain. Their culture and stories are exhibited in the center, showing their struggles and accomplishments after crossing an ocean and a continent to settle in the American West.
The museum includes oral history archives, a library, records, tapes, manuscripts, and photographs.
13. Idaho State Museum in Boise
The Idaho State Museum explores Idaho’s history and its citizens’ relationship to the unique landscape. An interactive center that is fun for all ages, the museum is packed full of old and new items representing the state’s history.
14. Collectors’ Corner Museum in Idaho Falls
Jim and Nida Gyorfy opened the Collectors’ Corner Museum in 2003 and have run it together ever since. They decided to bring the museum to life to share their lifelong collecting bounty with the public.
This Idaho museum houses 125 different collections of collectible items, from Precious Moments figurines and mechanical monkeys to commemorative plates and coins.
15. Idaho Museum of Natural History in Pocatello
The Idaho Museum of Natural History in southeastern Idaho showcases Idaho’s natural flora and fauna. The museum’s main attraction is the Ice Age exhibit, where visitors can see the animals that roamed the Snake River Plains. Fossils in the center include saber tooth cats, ancient bison, and a giant ground sloth.
The Finest Idaho Museums
Idaho has some truly unique museums that are unlike anything else we’ve seen. All these great museums reflect the rich history and diversity that make Idaho such a great place.
We’d love to hear what your favorite museum was. Let us know in the comments below.
While you’re exploring these great museums be sure to check out these other Idaho gems,
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