With the Snake River running through it and a series of man-made waterfalls adding natural beauty to the downtown, Idaho Falls is a lovely town in Southeastern Idaho. It’s about two hours west of Jackson, Wyoming, two hours south of the Montana border, and four hours east of Boise, making it a great spot for a long weekend when exploring the Northern Rocky Mountain states. From outdoor adventures to the local art and food scene, these are my favorite things to do in beautiful Idaho Falls.
Note: Some of my experiences were hosted. All opinions are my own.
Are There Falls In Idaho Falls?
When I mention Idaho Falls, one of the first questions I’m often asked is if there are waterfalls in Idaho Falls. Although the falls are man-made, the city is named for the urban waterfalls cascading down the Snake River in Downtown Idaho Falls.
Things To Do In Idaho Falls
1. Idaho Falls River Walk
As the Snake River winds its way through downtown Idaho Falls, the paved Idaho Falls Greenbelt Trail flanks it on both sides, linking several city parks. Active travelers can walk, jog, or bike the Idaho Falls River Walk for some of the best views of the river and urban falls. There are also plenty of benches to stop and rest or simply sit and enjoy the view.
2. The Waterfalls
While it’s easy to admire the calming beauty of the waterfalls flowing along the river in downtown Idaho Falls, you may not automatically appreciate their history. Unlike Shoshone Falls, Devil’s Punchbowl, and other natural waterfalls in Southern Idaho, the falls in downtown Idaho Falls are part of a manmade diversion dam used for hydroelectric power.
3. Japanese Friendship Garden
Built on a rocky island at the site of the first bridge to span the Snake River in Eastern Idaho, the Japanese Friendship Garden is a beautiful park celebrating a 30-year friendship with Idaho Falls’s Japanese sister city, Tokai-mura. The garden includes a Japanese garden gate, several water features, a large Japanese lantern, and a viewing platform. Despite being near a vibrant part of downtown Idaho Falls, it’s a peaceful spot for a picnic or quiet reflection surrounded by the calming sounds of running water and large trees.
4. Eagle Rock Fountain
Honoring the natural beauty of this region, a 26-foot-tall sculpture and waterfall rise from the center of a traffic circle connecting Snake River Parkway to South Utah Avenue and Bridgeport Road. As a sculpted mountain lion scrambles along rocks personally selected by the artist from the area, he looks to the sky where a larger-than-life eagle soars overhead. At the other side of the sculpture, Mother Eagle arrives with a salmon perched in her talons, ready to feed the hungry eaglets calling for her from a nest.
Pro Tip: For a fun photo op, stop by the northeast corner of West Broadway Street and Interstate-15 to check out the “Welcome to Idaho Falls” sign crafted from lava rock and featuring a series of waterfalls. The best place to park is in the southern corner of the lot by Shari’s Café and Pies.
5. The Museum Of Idaho
From a wooly mammoth to Idaho’s first inhabitants, from the European Americans who migrated west in search of new opportunities to the history of growing potatoes, the Museum of Idaho is the Gem State’s leading history and science museum. Located in the former Idaho Falls Public Library, the largest museum in the state features high-profile traveling exhibits in addition to its permanent collection.
6. The Art Museum Of Eastern Idaho
Located on the Snake River on the edge of Memorial Park, The Art Museum of Eastern Idaho (also known as The Art Museum or TAM) includes permanent exhibits showcasing a variety of mediums as well as regularly rotating temporary exhibits.
7. Idaho Falls Zoo
In the southwestern corner of Tautphaus Park, the seven-acre Idaho Falls Zoo houses animals from around the globe, including lions, zebras, red pandas, and lemurs. Both kids and adults will enjoy the Children’s Zoo, which features farm animals such as rabbits, goats, and pot-bellied pigs. The park is open seasonally from spring to fall.
8. Idaho Falls Chukars At Melaleuca Field
Baseball fans will love cheering for the Idaho Falls Chukars at Melaleuca Field when they visit Idaho Falls. Part of the Pioneer League, the Chukars play teams like the Missoula PaddleHeads, Billings Mustangs, Grand Junction Rockies, and Ogden Raptors. Although the Chukars are ranked toward the bottom of the standings in the North division of the Pioneer League, outfielder Calvin Estrada’s 0.428 batting average is the second-highest in the league. Player number 13 Dusty Stroup’s 24 home runs this season fall just behind league leader Jayson Newman.
Pro Tip: In case you’re wondering, a chukar is a sandy brown, quail-like bird, native to the high desert plains of Idaho, Utah, and Nevada, with zebra stripes on its side and a Lone Ranger-like mask.
9. Hell’s Half Acre Hike
Traveling west of Idaho Falls, the landscape quickly transforms from the tranquil greenspace of the River Walk to otherworldly. Just 30 minutes west of Idaho Falls is Hell’s Half Acre, the desolate remains of lava flows that pushed the Snake River to its current location. Wander interpretive trails — lower loop (an easy, 0.4-mile, wheelchair-accessible trek), short loop (a 0.3-mile, moderately difficult trail), and long loop (a 0.5-mile, moderately difficult trail) — detailing the geology and biology of the lava flow.
Pro Tip: While a wide range of wildlife roams the lava flows, like mule deer, rabbits, and foxes, keep an eye out for (and avoid) rattlesnakes when hiking Hell’s Half Acre.
10. Craters Of The Moon National Monument And Preserve
Another hour west of Idaho Falls, about halfway to Boise, a landscape of lava fields and cinder cones create a pockmarked surface that resembles the moon. Established in 2000 by President Clinton, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve includes three major lava fields and hundreds of acres of sagebrush grasslands. Drive the scenic, seven-mile Loop Road, hike up Inferno Cone for amazing views from the top of a volcanic cone, and explore a cave of underground lava tubes.
Pro Tip: When visiting Craters of the Moon, it’s best to leave your pet at home or make other arrangements as they are limited to the road, parking areas, and campground and are not allowed on any of the trails or in the visitor center.
Best Restaurants In Idaho Falls
Looking for the best places to eat in Idaho Falls? From breakfast to cocktails, these are some of my favorite Idaho Falls eateries.
Smitty’s Pancake And Steak House
Located about a block from the Idaho Falls River Walk, start your day with a stack of buttermilk pancakes or a fluffy, three-egg omelet at Smitty’s Pancake & Steak House.
The SnakeBite Restaurant
For lunch, grab a gourmet burger (like the Grand Teton or Blue Snake River) or another delicious sandwich from the grill (like the blackened salmon or buffalo chicken) at The SnakeBite Restaurant in historic downtown Idaho Falls. Be sure to pair your pick with their waffle fries — after all, you’re in the land of America’s most famous potatoes — dipped in the SnakeBite’s tasty fry sauce.
Jakers Bar And Grill
Enjoy happy hour — yes, even on the weekend — at Jakers Bar and Grill. Nearly everything in the kitchen is made from scratch daily and you’ll discover delightful discounts on appetizers, draft beer, house wine, and cocktails.
Pro Tip: Jakers Bar and Grill offers a dedicated menu for vegetarians and those following a gluten-free diet.
Copper Rill Restaurant
Chef Jud Wilcox, the culinary mastermind at Copper Rill, is a Southeast Idaho native who ensures perfectly prepared appetizers, pasta dishes, and entrees are delivered with impeccable service.
Best Hotels In Idaho Falls
Residence Inn By Marriott Idaho Falls
My favorite place to stay in Idaho Falls is the Residence Inn by Marriott Idaho Falls. Not only is it located right on the Idaho Falls River Walk across from the Japanese Friendship Garden, but as an extended-stay accommodation, each spacious room includes a full kitchen.
Candlewood Suites Idaho Falls
Another suite hotel with water views is Candlewood Suites Idaho Falls. This IHG property is on the east bank of the Snake River but is still in a convenient location for most of the recommendations on this list.
Other Highly Rated Hotels In Idaho Falls
Whether you want to explore Idaho Falls’s natural beauty, rich history, impressive art, or food scene, these are my recommendations for a lovely long weekend in beautiful Idaho Falls.
For more information on traveling to Idaho, check out these articles: