A Travel Guide to Idaho Falls, Idaho

A Youthful Sojourn in Idaho: The Best and Worst of Pocatello and Idaho Falls

I decided to leave home on a whim, within a week I dropped out of college, quit my job, and packed what I could into a green Honda Civic. And at around three in the morning, I got in my Civic and started driving. After a week of driving, I stopped for the night in an Econo Lodge in Pocatello, Idaho. I would bum around each place I stopped getting a feel for the town, there was something about Pocatello and I wasn’t yet sure what that was so every morning for a week I stopped at the front desk and reserved my room for another night. Still uncertain after the week I rented a room in a historic apartment building along the railroad and made Pocatello, Idaho home, at least for now.

I loved the apartment. As you walk through the intricate wood front door, the kitchen is at your immediate left, and it is a good-sized kitchen with 1930s-style ornamentation and appliances, underneath the near end of the cabinet was a milk door as tall as, and around two-thirds the width of an oven. I remember the milk door well because a few weeks after I moved into the apartment the lock broke on my front door. Instead of calling the super to fix it—I, for whatever reason—left the front door bolted and I crawled in and out of my apartment through the milk door. I received several unusual looks from my neighbors who walked the halls and caught me as I was pulling myself up from a small hole in the wall under my apartment door, and rightly so.

The apartment was listed as a studio apartment; beyond the kitchen door, the apartment opened up into a single large square room. A small “L” shaped hallway in the middle of the right wall leads to the bathroom, in the corner of the hallway was a small closet. I had the corner apartment on the third floor and so I had large square windows one after the other along the outer walls. My favorite thing about the apartment, besides the 1930s ambiance, was a small room built into the rear wall, big enough for a queen-size bed. Separating the larger and smaller rooms was a set of French doors. The walls of this small room were large bay windows, except for the fourth wall, which was of course the French doors. I loved that little apartment.

Pocatello, Idaho was wasted on my youth. At twenty I couldn’t yet appreciate a town like Pocatello: the history, the historic downtown, the food, the uniqueness of a place like Pocatello, Idaho. Unfortunately, while I lived there, I spent most of my days sleeping (I was working the graveyard shift). Fortunately, I didn’t miss out on many great restaurants and coffeehouses in Pocatello, such as Butterburr’s Restaurant, The Yellowstone, the Fifth Street Bagelry, Gate City Coffee, and the Bru House Galilei. All of which are notable and worth the experience. After I quit my job at the processing plant, working twelve-hour days, seven days a week, throughout the night was making me stir crazy. I wanted to visit nearby Idaho Falls, a town I’d heard of but hadn’t yet visited.

I parked in a lot adjacent to the Idaho Falls Greenbelt Trail and wandered the historic downtown streets. I wanted to walk through the Ink & Blood exhibit at the Museum of Idaho taking my time walking to the museum, making a mental map of the downtown area and anything I might want to revisit after walking through the Ink & Blood exhibit. The Ink & Blood exhibit was about the history of writing walking to the museum. The Ink & Blood exhibit was about the history of writing, and I was a young, eager wannabe writer looking forward to making waves in the literary world. There are two museums within walking distance of Idaho Falls’ historic downtown, they are both worth a look. The second is the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho.

After walking through the exhibit, a fantastic display of the origins of writing, record keeping, and personal libraries, walking back downtown I stopped inside The Villa Coffeehouse on Park Avenue, a coffeehouse I noticed on my way to the museum. I fell in love with the Villa immediately. I could picture myself sitting there each morning, writing. The walls of the Villa are a smattering of local art, showcasing paintings, drawings, and photography of local artists. A fireplace is on the side wall near the back of the coffeehouse surrounded by couches and armchairs. I saw myself sitting in an armchair with a Chai as a fire snapped reading a book as snow fell furiously outside the Villa’s green decorous façade.

I sat at the counter and ordered a turkey croissant sandwich and a Chai. Melanie, one of the café owners, stood behind the counter and chatted with me between bites. I ate and talked and afterward sat at the counter scribbling on a napkin about my experiences throughout the day. I spent much of the late afternoon sitting there, people-watching. I left waving and thanking a few handfuls of people for our conversation—And I left the storied napkin on the wood bar. A couple of days later I drove back up to Idaho Falls again and found a seat at the bar of the Villa. Melanie recognized me; she discovered the napkin with my scribbles and saved it, hoping I might stop back in. Melanie asked me if I would rewrite it and submit it for publication in Idaho Falls Magazine. After Idaho Falls Magazine published my travelogue I started contributing to the magazine regularly. I moved into a small duplex in an old neighborhood east of historic downtown, Idaho Falls—on Lee Street.

            I lived in Idaho Falls for a month or so shy of a year and, like Pocatello, Idaho Falls was wasted on my youth. Idaho Falls would be a great community for a small business owner or a townie, perhaps someone who operates a well-liked restaurant, café, coffeehouse, or bookstore, in one of the few more popular parts of town. For everyone else, however, Idaho Falls isn't much more than a small, but growing town that offers very little. Idaho Falls is a traveler's town, not a vacationer’s town. If you are visiting and want to make the most of your experience stay at, either, Destination Inn on Broadway Street, downtown, or find a motel (or hotel) with windows or balconies overlooking the Snake River (most of which are along the west end, and most are not the nicest hotels, they are, at least, along the river. The Snake River RV Park is a nice enough place to camp in town if you’re traveling with an RV or a tent.

In the morning, you’ll want to walk along the River Parkway around the Snake River and take your time to enjoy the falls, cross the bridge to the historic downtown, stop at the Villa (on Park Ave.), and take an unfamiliar avenue back to the River Parkway with your coffee where you can feel the morning air along with the sounds of rushing water. Afterward, you’ll want to walk across Broadway. There's a path next to the KeyBank parking lot and follow the path to a footbridge into the Japanese Friendship Garden. As I mentioned before, the Museum of Idaho and the Art Museum of Eastern Idaho are within a short walking distance of there too.

The only reason to get in your car during your stay is to go to the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park (a great zoo for such a small town). Idaho Falls has a phenomenal fusion of food choices in the historic downtown area, and you shouldn’t leave Idaho Falls without trying. SnakeBite Restaurant, at the corner of Park Ave. and A Street, and the famous Bee’s Knees Pub in the FairBridge Inn & Suites parking lot (a friend of mine saw Henry Winkler eating there), the sushi at Blue Hashi is surprisingly good. The Teton House in Menan, Idaho (a twenty-five-minute drive from Idaho Falls on I-15 and N3400) is delicious.

    I lived in Idaho Falls in 2007, I was in my early twenties. While living there, I met and married a young woman, we had only known each other for several months before getting married. We lived together in Idaho Falls before moving to Salt Lake City, Utah. At that age, we are still getting to know ourselves as people, let alone the balance of getting to know another person, because of that I’m sure I wasn’t the best spouse. We were married for a couple of years before we divorced, amicably—for the most part. In the summer of 2021, I was living in Santa Fe, New Mexico (again), and was taking a week-and-a-half-long National Park tour. At first, I wanted to avoid going to Idaho Falls, but Idaho Falls is at the dead center of Craters of the Moon National Monument and Teton National Park. So, I went to Idaho Falls; it was my first time back since my ex-wife and I moved to Utah in 2008.

She had moved from place to place for a few years after we divorced but found her way back to Idaho Falls, she remarried and started a family; I didn’t tell her my trip was taking me through Idaho Falls, for several reasons. I never imagined that I would run into her. I was eager to eat at SnakeBite Restaurant, it’s my favorite restaurant in town, and it had been more than a decade since I had the pleasure so over the three days, I was camping in Idaho Falls, I stopped by SnakeBite every day hoping to get a table. My National Parks tour was during COVID-19, so although I was a little irritated, I wasn’t surprised when SnakeBite was closed. Granted the restaurant wasn’t closed indefinitely, they were keeping particular hours. On my last day in Idaho Falls, I stopped again at SnakeBite Restaurant, and with fingers crossed, to my everlasting surprise, SnakeBite was open. But my ex-wife, her husband, and grandmother were at a table directly outside the front doors.

          Some people talk about Idaho, and Idaho Falls, as one of the most appealing places to live right now, there are some great things to be said about the beauty of northern Idaho, and even of Idaho Falls, but Idaho Falls is not the majestic paradise that it’s being made out to be. Idaho Falls is centrally located, it’s not far from Jackson, Wyoming, Teton National Park, Island Park, Idaho, Salt Lake City, Utah, Craters of the Moon National Monument, Bozeman, Montana, and Yellowstone National Park, and for some there might be an appeal to settle somewhere so you can go elsewhere easily. Idaho Falls is best enjoyed as an interesting fairway to spend a weekend. I recommend that you make the most of your two or three days in Idaho Falls, in the downtown area, check out the small handful of restaurants, wander around the museums, the Snake River, and the Japanese Friendship Garden (avoid 17th Street if at all possible and then go somewhere else (like Jackson, Wyoming). The motto of southern Idaho should read, “You are now leaving southern Idaho—and we get it.”

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