This little town will surprise you with some cultural attractions worthy of a big city—including a fine aviation expo. And it’s surrounded by more wild nature than you could explore in a lifetime.
If you love the outdoors, southwestern Montana, northwestern Wyoming, and eastern Idaho just might be your idea of heaven—it is mine. The folks who live in Idaho Falls have easy access to it all. If you’re flying to Idaho Falls Regional from Missoula or Yellowstone, detour over Dubois to see the newly restored beacon, generator shed, and giant yellow arrow once used by pilots who flew America’s early air mail runs 100 years ago. Follow I-15 south and you’ll overfly the Camas National Wildlife Refuge, followed by a 162,000-acre lava flow called the Hell’s Half Acre Lava Field, created by an eruption 4,100 years ago.
Not just one, but two legendary trout-fishing rivers converge near Idaho Falls. The Henry’s Fork, primarily a rainbow fishery, comes in from the north and is great for waders. I should mention that if you really love fly fishing, land at the Henry’s Lake airstrip some time for the best lake fishing in Idaho. It’s about 10 nautical miles west of Yellowstone Airport and 75 nm northeast of Idaho Falls. Pick up fishing supplies in Idaho Falls at Jimmy’s All Seasons Angler or The Fly Rod Co.
Now that we’ve mentioned just a few of the natural wonders surrounding Idaho Falls, what can you find in the city itself? First, you’ll encounter the friendly folks at the Aero Mark fixed-base operation, owned by the Hoff family. The Hoffs have a multi-generation history in both potato farming and aviation; they host the Round-Engine Roundup each June. Each May they produce the Idaho Aviation Expo when they fill their giant hangar with gorgeous airplanes, including some of their own: You might see a Beech Staggerwing, Twin Beech, or Stearman. Visit the booths, attend a seminar, and indulge in locally crafted huckleberry ice cream. Free shuttles take you to hotels including Le Ritz, Fairfield Inn and Suites, and the Hilton Garden Inn. We like Le Ritz, so we can walk to the Snake River. Fine dining and waterfall views are yours at the Copper Rill, or you can choose the Snow Eagle Brewing and Grill, which also is home to the Wasabi Sushi Bar, or local fave Smitty’s Pancake and Steak House. Long summer evenings leave plenty of time to stroll along the Snake River Greenbelt (aka Riverwalk), paved for five miles. You’ll see the man-made waterfalls that lend their name to this town as they provide electricity to keep it humming. For daytime exploration, rent bikes or kayaks at Idaho Mountain Trading.
Idaho Falls is also home to the Museum of Idaho, a science and humanities museum that can hold its own with big-city museums. Idaho Falls even boasts a symphony, plus a minor league baseball team, the Idaho Falls Chukars, affiliated with the Kansas City Royals (Jose Canseco, Rick Sutcliffe, and Jake Peavy, among many others, played here). The historic Colonial Theater hosts national acts like the Blue Man Group, while its Willard Arts Center, ARTitorium on Broadway, and other Idaho Falls Arts Council programs provide cultural enrichment for adults and kids, year-round.
Summer Saturdays along the River Walk are perfect for visiting the Idaho Falls Farmers Market, which also has live music and crafts, gifts, and fun foods. The city also hosts art fairs every Saturday along the River Walk. And just in case you didn’t get enough fishing, you can fish the Snake right in town.
Golfers head to the links at Pinecrest, Sand Creek, or Sage Lakes, while others might prefer the zoo, aquatic center, ice arena, archery center, or the Japanese Friendship Garden in Sportsman Park, constructed as part of a sister city partnership with Tokai, Japan. That’s Idaho Falls for you: a little city with a lot of culture, surrounded by some of the most spectacular outdoor places in the United States.
Share your favorite destination in the AOPA Hangar: Places to fly, things to do, where to eat!