DAY IN DOWNTOWN BOISE / by Kassandra Horn

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Happy New Year!! I can’t believe 2019 is already well underway – my 35th year around the sun is off at a fast pace with major hopes, dreams and plans in the pipeline, including TRAVEL.

The bug hit me hard again this holiday with my first trip back to Idaho to see my mom’s side of the family in 10 years, and the very first visit to my grandma’s ‘new’ home in Ontario, Oregon. I put ‘new’ in quotations because she’s lived there for four years now and, yes, I feel guilty it’s taken this long … But I’m so happy I went. There’s something extremely calming about a reunion with my country roots, even if it means bundling up and being entirely unprepared for 26-degree weather. Because it also means long walks and talks with my mom and grandma, staying up late to watch Christmas movies, waking up early to huddle around her counter top sipping coffee in our robes. It’s a chance to slowww down, unwind and live in the moment.    

As much as I can get caught up in the city life, the competitive chaos and excitement, the ‘work hard, play hard, no time for sleep’ mentality, deep down I’m a small-town girl with a thirst for the outdoors and adorable coffee shops where the barista knows your name. Thankfully, my parents share the same spirit so we couldn’t leave Boise without some quality time in the city.  

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First stop on our list: Dawson Taylor Coffee Roasters. Their origin story starts in 1995 as a response to Boise’s need for a local roaster of ‘exceptional quality coffees.’ And I can vouch for the exceptional. My almond milk cappuccino was better than delicious; left me wishing it was twice as tall. Buzzing with a mix of youthful suits and college students, the café’s friendly staff and carefully curated pieces from local artists adorning the walls gave off familiar Portland vibes. My mom even discovered a bin filled with burlap sacks for $1 and couldn’t resist buying a couple for her DIY projects.  

Meanwhile, I have always had a thing for stickers. Don’t make me begin to explain why. I’ve never used them – merely collected, kept and admired. Someday I’ll unpack the many boxes hat boxes filled with them but for now I added this one to my budding collection.

According to the website, Dawson Taylor uses European-style drum roasters and a hands-on method to bring out the best flavors in its daily roasts. It’s also an environmentally conscious company, mindful of the social impact and need for delicate sourcing from coffee-growing regions. HELLO, it’s about more than plastic straws! I’m more than happy to support their artisan coffee experience.  

We finished our coffees, along with fresh pumpkin and banana bread, and made our way down the street to Freak Alley – a recommendation by my cousin Carlee, tucked away in the middle of downtown Boise. Established in 2002, Freak Alley has become known for its murals, graffiti and public art; said to be the largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest it relies solely on donation and volunteer work to operate. What began with a painting of a single alley doorway now extends from the alley to a gravel parking lot, with new murals added or incorporated into the old ones every few years.

What I love most about Freak Alley is that it accepts anyone interested in becoming a part of this culture. There are pieces inspired by music, movies, heartbreak, hope.

The spirit of inclusion is unmissable with art from creative minds as young as 6 years old. I could get lost in the cracks and doorways reading words that someone may have never felt comfortable saying out loud but found a voice here in these walls. Or experience the texture and beauty of a piece that was built into brick from contrasting raw materials like glass and metal.

I stood in the middle of the gravel parking lot feeling full of wonder. So much curiosity about these artists, where they came from, who they loved or lost. I’ve always had a fascination with street art, its ability to transform something utilitarian into a story board. To create a common thread across cities, countries, and give a new canvas to creators who don’t have access to or aren’t accepted by ‘traditional norms’ of the art world. Digital mediums are great too but seeing this kind of work out in the open air makes it come alive.

We took some photos to remember and, after losing feeling in my hands (again, 20-something degrees out here ppl) we walked a few blocks to check out the Boise State Capitol, stunning as ever dusted in snow and sunlight. Followed by a quick car ride down to Julia Sterns Park along the Boise River, making a trail of footprints until we found ourselves surrounded by a beautiful mountain range. The air is unbelievably crisp and clear here. Honestly, what is this life?!

Spending time in Boise was my perfect little gateway drug to close out 2018. I’m coming into this new year with vim, vigor, an intention to GET CURIOUS AND KEEP EXPLORING >> myself, others, the world, the universe. Anything that lights up my soul will be getting a ‘hell yes’ and anything that doesn’t, you get the picture. So, let’s do this. Here’s to more adventures outside the city, more creating my own works of art and more quality time with people who want to be part of this path.  

And if there are any hot travel destinations on your list, please drop a comment and share those tips!  

xx