Picturesque, Artsy Idaho Falls

June 4, 2009  
Filed under Travel

By Kay Grant, CNS

Snuggled into Idaho’s southeastern corner, Idaho Falls is an inviting, livable destination along the scenic Snake River. Its wide waterfalls, 20 feet tall, located in the downtown area, present a picturesque lure for visitors and locals.

Unlike many small city historic districts, the city center is actually used by the locals rather than merely a setting to draw tourists. The shops in this city of about 50,000 are the ones needed for everyday life — hardware, drugstores, clothing, office supplies, as well as art galleries and the public library.

A six-mile paved trail — the Greenbelt — has been preserved along the river, enjoyed by joggers, walkers, cyclists, children, and picnickers. The soothing sounds of the falls and ample places to sit and enjoy waterfowl make the greenbelt a delightful place to spend a sunny afternoon.

Utilitarian pieces of art mark this historic downtown. Sprinkled throughout the business district are more than 20 one-of-a-kind benches — in artistic shapes of a skateboard, a river, the stars and stripes, and other intriguing designs.

“Art you can sit on” marries the creativity of local artists with the need for functional resting spots. The benches range from the abstract to the whimsical, and the esthetic to the amusing.

Some of the benches glorify the Gem State’s natural beauty, such as “Fish in River” with glass bubbles by Russel Lewis; “Idaho Sunrise,” a metal work by Chris Layton and Kory Walford; and “Grand Teton” by Lane Boyce. The animal kingdom provides inspiration for several seats: “Swan” by Robert Carter has beautiful flowing lines; “Trout” by Davidjohn Stosich; and “Geese” by Marilyn Hoff Hansen, where the back of the bench is formed by graceful necks of geese with their heads meeting in the middle.

Of special interest are benches where the artist flings open the doors to whimsy: “Voodoo Chile,” a tile bench by Doug Warnock; “Pillows” by Peggy Gunnerson look fluffy and inviting even though they are made of concrete; and the popular “Skateboard” by Carol Poppenga, Warden Bourne, and Shane Ruckman.

On the edge of downtown, the Museum of Idaho exhibits a history of Eagle Rock (an earlier name of Idaho Falls — the current name was chosen in 1891 as a better way to market land) with rooms showing handsome shaving mugs in the barbershop, burial cases in the carpenter shop, ladies clothes, a sheriff’s office, a dry goods shop with penny candy, and rooms for rent “by day or week.” This museum also offers temporary exhibits, such as Egyptian artifacts, dinosaurs, and outer space.

The family friendly Collector’s Corner Museum, in a residential area, has more than 90 eclectic collections, sure to satisfy any age, in its 5,000 square feet. This is the home for more than 400 Barbie Dolls and her friends, including designer Barbies, Barbie as a sign language teacher, as Cleopatra, and as a Native American.

In the two cases of Disney collectibles, you’ll spot Minnie Mouse in a kimono. Elsewhere are GI Joe action figures, including a Russian infantry soldier, hubcaps, antique tools, trains, Japanese dolls of various kinds, miniatures, cloisonne eggs, trolls, antique planes, an Idaho centennial rifle, and much more. Whatever you and your friends collected as kids, you’ll find it here.

The Tautphaus Park Zoo holds more than 350 animals, highlighting a Primate Discovery Center and Asian Adventure, as well as a Children’s Zoo. Here you can see and enjoy penguins, primates, and red pandas, cranes, camels, and big cats.

Idaho Falls is home to other attractions, among them art galleries and the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho (aka Eagle Rock Art Museum) featuring local artists and educational programs.

Performing arts are not forgotten. This town has its own symphony, repertory theatre, storytelling, dance, opera, and an 80-member symphony chorale. Its renovated Colonial Theater attracts Broadway touring musicals. If you’re looking for sheet music, the Chesbro Music Co. has the largest inventory in the Western United States.

Our 43rd state is an outdoors person’s paradise, with plenty of al fresco recreation — fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, kayaking, and more. The town features minor league baseball, semi-pro football, golf courses, an aquatic center, and closeness to both Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, as well as the Jackson Hole Ski Resort.

Keefer’s island, 1.85 acres, is in the middle of the Snake River at Idaho Falls. It is home to a number of wildlife species, including some that do not swim. During low-water years, the creatures are able to walk to the island and take up residence.

While you’re in Idaho Falls, enjoy some delicious huckleberry ice cream from Harry Reed’s, a real dairy, where you can watch the cows from the back of the store.

Art you can sit on, museums, great trout fishing, a peaceful river walk, and picturesque waterfalls makes Idaho Falls a destination worth visiting.

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