Idaho Falls Outdoor Art Gallery
We recently traveled to the western national parks- Grand Tetons and Yellowstone- via Idaho Falls. When we checked into the rental car counter, the man working there suggested we spend some time in Idaho Falls, rather than go directly to the parks. Since we'd already made some reservations, we discussed a few changes and ended up cutting our time at Jackson Hole short so we could see what this city of 60,000 had to offer. It was a pleasant surprise.
I normally check Instagram for a location when I want to see what people are doing or looking at for a new destination. For this city, it was obvious there was a great outdoor space along the Snake River and that's what we chose to explore. If you use Instagram, just select the magnifying glass icon, then click the search field, and select "places" which appears underneath. Then it will allow you to type in cities or use "near current location" which is what I used. You can look at top posts, as well as most recent. Tap an interesting photo and it will show you the location. Through this, I found out about a unique hide and seek game of painted rocks. We found one of these cool rocks along the river, and because of Instagram, I knew what I was looking at. It kept Omar amused looking for painted rocks.
The Snake River and a manmade waterfall run through this city center, with most downtown hotels and shops within walking distance. The Green Belt on either side of the Snake River is a place for socialization, recreation, and amazing art. Benches are scattered along streets in the downtown and along the river, in a program called, "Art You Can Sit On". Download the map to find all 47 benches. Each year, more art has been added, so the number might change in future. There's a Flickr file with 46 photos, if you want an overview, though it's much more fun to experience them yourself on a path of discovery. We spent about an hour just walking the river checking out the artwork and sat in the shade with a couple enormous portions of shaved ice. There were also creations using metal and topiary of wild animals which Omar thought was really cool.
Idaho Falls also has a Japanese sister city, Tokai-Mura, which encourages a student exchange between the cities. Because of this continuing relationship, the Japanese Friendship Garden was constructed in a place that would otherwise probably not have been used- under a bridge on a river island in Sportsman's Park. It all began with the gift of two Japanese stone lanterns to celebrate the 10th anniversary in 1991, and has morphed into a quiet beautiful park with water features, stepping stones and a lovely pavilion. The ribbon cutting was in October 2016 with visits from a Japanese delegation. I wouldn't have expected this in a western city, but what a nice addition to the downtown. We spent a half hour exploring the space, taking photos, and enjoying the shade of late afternoon.
If you're flying through Idaho Falls, I encourage you to take a walk and enjoy some of the downtown art. This city is definitely unique and worth a look. Plan an extra day and rent a bike at Bill's Bike and Run or Dave's Bike Shop. Both are within walking distance of the Green Belt. Hotels include all the modern chains and there are plenty of fast food and chain restaurants, as well as the local steakhouses.
For information about attractions and lodging, both far and near, stop in at the Eastern Idaho Visitor Center at 355 River Parkway, where you can ask questions of a local, browse regional brochures, or find maps for historic walking tours of the churches and downtown. We used this as the Google maps destination because we heard it was central to the downtown/Green Belt area. You're sure to enjoy your time spent here. We certainly did!