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The arts and sciences are well-represented in Idaho. From large performing arts venues to exciting science museums, there is always something to inspire your creativity and thirst for knowledge.
Picture yourself exploring the stars at the Faulkner Planetarium or investigating the biology and nature exhibits at the Roy & Verna Marie Raymond Gallery. You could experience the wonder of the Centennial Observatory or marvel at the exhibits in the Jean King Gallery of Contemporary Art. All of this is possible with a trip to Twin Falls’ The Herrett Center for Arts & Science on the College of Southern Idaho campus.
Visitors with children will love the more than 150 interactive STEM exhibits at the Discovery Center of Idaho. Its mission is to create a lifelong love, or a renewed interest for adults, in science, technology, engineering, and math. Meanwhile, travelers to Idaho Falls won’t want to miss the natural environment of Idaho exhibits, as well as the cultural history displays on both Idaho and the Intermountain West at The Museum of Idaho.
History and Cultural Museums
Local histories are revealed through artifacts, documents and photographs in museums throughout the Gem State. The Mountain Home Historical Museum, Bonner County Historical Museum in Sandpoint and the Jerome County Historical Museum in Jerome have terrific museums exploring the growth of their regions. Jerome’s museum includes a moving gallery on the people sent to the Hunt Japanese-American Relocation Center in World War II.
Learn about Idaho’s role in “The Race for Atomic Power” or about “Lewis and Clark in Idaho” at the Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls – often referenced as the "Intermountain West's Premier Museum." And if your interest leans more towards cultural history, there are Idaho museums here sure to satisfy. You can learn about the Basque communities in Boise at The Basque Museum & Cultural Center and the people of Caldwell at Our Memories Indian Creek Museum. And if you find yourself in Coeur d'Alene, you will be drawn into the history of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the Cataldo Mission, as well as the stories revealing the early development of agriculture, sawmills, steamboats, and railroads in the region at the Museum of North Idaho.
Do you love all things potatoes? You are in luck! You can visit The Potato Museum and Gift Shop in Blackfoot, Idaho. You can learn about the development of the different types of spuds and its impact on the state. You can take pictures with the giant potato and even come away with a very special gift.
Julia Davis Park in Boise is the home of an exciting group of cultural attractions and public museums, including the Boise Art Museum (BAM). If your tastes run toward contemporary ceramics or contemporary realism in fine art, you’ll want to add BAM to your itinerary. They are also home to the largest public collection of art by James Charles Castle.
If you find yourself in Idaho Falls on your travels, investigate the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho. This Southeastern Idaho Museum is home to five galleries dedicated to the visual arts. They also offer lectures and tours, as well as art classroom, and workshop days. Touring exhibits have included “The Cowboy: Through Lens and Leather” and “The Art of Shushana Rucker.”
The Performing Arts
Also in Idaho Falls, is the historic Colonial Theater. It was founded in 1919 for hosting live performances for musicals, road shows and vaudeville acts, but in 1929, it was converted to a movie theater. It wasn’t until 1994 that the facility was restored to its original glory and purpose (and saved from demolition). It is now an integral part of the Willard Arts Center complex.
Pocatello is home to the L.E. and Thelma E. Stephens Performing Arts Center. This 123,000-square-foot hilltop facility in Southeastern Idaho sits on the Idaho State University campus. It hosts performances of theater, music, and dance, as well as lectures throughout the year.
The Teton Arts Council (TAC) is active in Eastern Idaho. Located in Driggs and working within the Community Arts Center, TAC encourages writers, actors, fine artists and more through classes and workshops. If you explore downtown, you’ll often find the work of TAC artists in places like City Gallery.
The Boise State University campus welcomes visitors to The Morrison Performing Arts Center. It opened in 1984, and it has been hosting Broadway touring shows like Miss Saigon and Rent, as well as dance performances, comedians, solo musicians, and touring acts ever since.
If you have a passion for opera, you will find kindred spirits through Opera Idaho which has been putting up productions for more than 40 years. Based in Boise, Opera Idaho has showcased world-class talent and continues to see growing audiences. In recent years, touring productions have been frequent guests in performance venues in Ketchum, Pocatello and McCall.
Classical music is also well-represented throughout the state. From the Coeur d’Alene Symphony Orchestra to the Boise Philharmonic, from the Idaho Falls Symphony Orchestra to the Idaho State Civic Symphony (said to be the oldest in the state, with a founding at the turn of the 20th century), you will find music to thrill the soul.
While musical theater and dramatic pieces can be found on the stages of the above arts venues, you may also find yourself enjoying the various theater festivals that are held throughout Idaho. Campfire Theatre Festival and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival are turning heads.
The Campfire Theater Festival creators have a goal of building a theater hub in Boise. And it all starts with their 3-day festival of guest performances, workshops and staged readings of new plays. The Idaho Shakespeare Festival is held in the Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater & Reserve facility. It’s a unique venue that features a 770-seat cutting-edge facility inside a habitat for plants and animals. It’s one of the few places that combines the drama of the spoken word with an inspiring variety of native plants and the sounds of ducks, geese, and water birds.