Located in the heart of Treasure Valley about 20 miles west of Boise, Nampa is a city that combines small-town charm with the attractions and amenities of a major downtown area.
One title is the Ford Idaho Center, which hosts major events throughout the year, from concerts by top recording artists to one of the top 12 rodeos in America.
For the Epicureans, Nampa is on the east side of the Snake River Valley, the heart of Idaho’s thriving wine industry. There are over 50 wineries on track in Nampa, and we’ll be covering some of them within minutes of downtown.
Meanwhile, Boise and Meridian are just minutes away, putting family attractions, historic sites, major landmarks and museums within easy reach.
1. Warhawk Aviation Museum
In a large hangar at Nampa Municipal Airport on the east side of the city, there is an excellent museum that tells the history of air combat.
The Warhawk Aviation Museum deals with aviation technology during World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War.
A beautiful fleet awaits you, including the Fokker DR-1, MiG-17, MiG-21, P-40E Kittyhawk, P-51C Mustang, F-84G Thunderjet and F-104 Starfighter.
Perhaps the most notable is the Curtiss P-40N Warhawk, which returned to flying status in the 1980s and appeared in the movie Pearl Harbor (2001).
Display cases are filled with mesmerizing memorabilia, as well as binders with interesting personal accounts and preservation documents. Guided tours are offered, usually by ex-military members.
2. Canyon County Historic Nampa Railway Station Museum
The palatial Nampa Station is a well-preserved former passenger station built in 1903 on the Oregon Short Line.
It is a refined eclectic building, combining Romanesque and Renaissance details, but predominantly Neo-Baroque.
It served as a station until 1927, becoming an office for railroad employees, and then the headquarters of the Canyon County Historical Society in 1973 after the organization opposed demolition of the warehouse.
The society is staffed 100% by volunteers, and the museum is open mostly on weekends and is a treasure trove filled with railroad artifacts and absorbing details about many aspects of Nampa’s past, from local businesses to Native American culture.
Some of the many novelties include Nampa’s first television, a 19th-century beard cup and an antique typewriter, while kids will love playing with the miniature train set.
3. Lake Lowell
Forming the western boundary of Nampa is an expansive reservoir, dammed in 1908, to provide irrigation to Canyon County farms.
Lake Lowell is one of the largest non-river reservoirs in the Northwest and an important breeding area for a variety of mammals and birds, and is thus surrounded by Deer Beach National Wildlife Refuge.
You can visit the shore in several places, the most convenient for getting to Nampa is the 20-acre Lake Lowell Park.
Swimming, boating, bird watching, hiking, fishing and hunting are available here, along with picnics, barbecues and disc golf.
Most of the lake is reserved for migrating wildlife, but boating is permitted within 200 yards of the upper and lower dams from mid-April to the end of September.
The Deer Flat Wildlife Sanctuary Visitor Center is nearby and features interpretive displays, wildlife viewing areas and hands-on activities for kids.
4. Ford Idaho Center
One asset that brings a lot of tourists to Nampa is this sprawling complex of sports and entertainment venues in the northeastern part of the city.
Established in the mid-1990s, the Ford Idaho Center is the largest facility of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and includes the 12,279-seat Ford Arena, which hosts a range of major concerts and sporting events, and the 10,500-seat Ford Circle Amphitheatre, which has hosted Bob Dylan, Shania Twain, James Taylor, and others.
Add to that the Ford Theater and the 110-acre Race Park, the Northwest’s leading horse track.
That brings us to the biggest event on the center’s calendar: the Snake River Rodeo, which stops the third week of July and is one of the top 12 rodeos recognized by the Professional Cowboys Association.
There’s a lot going on in both Nampa and the Ford Idaho Center during these five days, from parades to ropes and runs to lamb sabotage and the Miss Idaho rodeo.
5. Nampa Farmers Market
The Nampa Farmers Market is set up on Saturday mornings from April to October, rain or shine, and has been running for over three decades.
This Nampa institution brings more hustle and bustle to the historic city center, with an average of 60 to 70 vendors per week over time.
There is always an enticing selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, as well as specialties such as organic herbs, local honey, jams, chocolate truffles and freshly roasted coffee.
The market also boasts a collection of craft vendors, weekly live entertainment and a range of ready-to-eat items like Hawaiian-style shaved ice, Tex Mex or gourmet hot dogs.
6. Lake View Park
The oldest park in Nampa is 44 acres in what was once a homestead dating back to 1888.
That’s where the name comes from, which refers to the man-made reservoir that was once on the property.
The lake is long gone, but its name and the creek that fed it remain. In addition to beautiful mature trees, rose gardens and spacious lush lawns, Lakeview Park has a plethora of amenities.
You have areas for baseball/softball, soccer, basketball, to name a few, as well as swimming pools, bike paths, horseshoe pits, picnic shelters, duck ponds, volleyball courts, and an amphitheater.
The pool has a beach entrance for smaller swimmers and features a number of splash pad water features.
7. Vizcaya Winery
The closest of all the wineries in the area, just 10 minutes from downtown Nampa on Greenhurst Road.
Vintners began growing grapes for other wineries at the Windy Ridge and Vizcaya vineyards in Meridian and Kuna in 2004, before starting to produce their own wines.
You can try these in their tasting room near Nampa, open Friday and Saturday. Known for its superb Tempranillo, Vizcaya has won several regional and national awards over the past decade (Idaho Wine Competition, Wine Business Monthly).
Malbec, rosé, Albariño, Pinot Gris and mixed reds, Wind Ridge are also well worth a sip.
8. Roaring Springs Water Park
The largest water park in the Northwest is located just 10 miles (15 minutes) east of downtown Nampa, near Meridian.
With more than 20 attractions, Roaring Springs has plenty to love for parents, thrill-seeking teens and the youngest family members.
For high-speed fun, take the two-person bowl slide, Viper’s Vortex, the dizzying Cliffhanger and Corkscrew Cavern, the Northwest Territories’ first 360° loop water slide.
There are many gentle options for younger children, such as the Kiddie Kowabunga tube slide, the many small slides and rides at Bearfoot Bay and the mild shallow waters at Leisure Lagoon.
Families looking for a little extra luxury can rent a cabin with comfortable pool furniture, hand-delivered food and beverages and free Wi-Fi. .
9. Wahooz Family Play Area
For a fun combination, head to the Family Activity Centre next door to Roaring Springs and connected by a walkway.
The Wahooz Family Play Area is perfect for those sweltering summer days, with many indoor attractions such as high-tech rides, laser tag, laser maze, 80 game arcade, clip ‘n climb, ropes courses, multi-level indoor playground, 24 lanes Bowling bumper cars and more.
Outside there are two 18-hole miniature golf courses open year-round, as well as go-karts, batting cages and bumper boats for all ages.
10. Sawtooth Winery
70 acres of scenic countryside 10 miles west of Nampa, just off Lake Lowell, is one of the top wineries in the Snake River Valley.
Sawtooth Winery was established in 1987 when the Pintler family realized the viticultural potential of their steep, south-facing ranch.
The high altitude of 2,700 feet, long daylight hours and cool summer nights are ideal for making fine, aromatic wines.
Grape varieties such as Merlot, Pinot Gris and Tempranillo have earned Sawtooth a reputation, while their Riesling and Merlot have won several awards.
You can sample these creations in the boutique tasting room, with fantastic views of the Owyhee Mountains from the vineyards.
11. Wilson Springs Pond
South of Nampa is a lovely piece of nature, set on 55 acres of ponds that were once swampy pastures for livestock.
Purchased by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game in 1989, the land was slowly gifted by nature and is now a quiet stroll and a much-loved urban fishing area.
You’ll find four ponds, spread over 25 acres, fed by springs that provide important resting places for migrating ducks and geese.
For fish, largemouth bass, bluegill and trout, hide in deeper shade and forage in the shallows. If you have a valid permit or license, you can fish at the South Pond with a small pier.
12. Indian Creek Winery
You can continue your Idaho wine experience at Indian Creek Winery, approximately halfway between Nampa and Kuna, home to 40 years of winemaking expertise.
Now in its second generation, Indian Creek is widely recognized for the quality of its wines and a great place to taste it.
The winery is set in five acres of gardens where hundreds of dahlias bloom in summer. Popular Indian Creek wines include Pinot Noir, Pinto Blanc, Viognier, Star Garnet, Mountain Lilac and Dry Rosé.
There are also some small batch wines to choose from, including Chardonnay, Merlot, Moscato, Cabernet Sauvignon and Port. Come visit, flyboard and one of the many events held throughout the year.
13. Nampa Dog Park
Opened in 2009, this fully fenced dog park attracts dog owners from miles away and is an invaluable resource for anyone who needs to exercise their puppy on a leash.
If you’re in town with your own four-legged companion, you might be surprised by the quality and range of facilities at Nampa Dog Park.
All in all, there is a swimming pool, shade canopy, walking paths named after dog breeds, lots of trees, drinking fountains (for both dogs and humans), lots of seating and designated areas for large and small/senior dogs.
14. Redhawk Public Golf Course
The local public course in Nampa couldn’t be more beautiful, right on the shores of Lake Lowell with the Orwich Mountains in the distance.
The 18-hole course was landscaped in 2014, and its undulating fairways and smooth, fast greens present a rewarding challenge.
If you need to improve your game, the practice facilities are top-notch, including a driving range, putting green and practice bunkers.
Green fees are affordable, there is no difference between weekend or weekday rounds, and twilight discounts for rounds starting after 3pm.
If you want more, the highly rated Ridgecrest Golf Club (27 holes) and Centennial Golf Course (18 holes) are also in Nampa.
15. False Basin
In winter, there is a ski resort in Bogus Basin, an hour’s drive from Nampa, more than 30 miles to the northeast.
You’ll get there following a winding mountain road that takes you from the state capital into the Boise Mountains.
The Bogus Basin is unusual for a number of reasons, one of the biggest being that it is run by a non-profit organization that invests all proceeds into the facility and the wider community.
Despite being easily accessible from Treasure Valley, the sprawling ski area covers 2,600 acres with 91 designated runs and is served by 11 lifts, making it the second largest ski area in the state.
The season usually runs from Thanksgiving to mid-April, and when summer comes, activities like hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and river tubing are in store.
Where to Stay: Best Inn (ID) in Nampa, Idaho
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