With roots dating back to the late 19th century, Pocatello has grown into a diverse and dynamic city.
Pocatello’s history is closely tied to the development of the railroad in the American West. Founded as a railroad town in 1889, it was named after Chief Pocatello of the Shoshone tribe.
The city played a pivotal role in the expansion of railroads across the region, and remnants of this history can still be seen in the historic Union Pacific Depot and the Old Town district.
One of the most intriguing facts about Pocatello is its nickname, the “Gateway to the Northwest,” highlighting its strategic location as a transportation hub. The Idaho State University, located in Pocatello, adds a dynamic cultural and educational dimension to the city.
With its blend of historical heritage, outdoor adventures, and cultural richness, Pocatello, Idaho, is more than just a city, it’s a gateway to the natural wonders of the region and a thriving community that captures the essence of the Gem State.
In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the heart of Pocatello, exploring its cultural treasures, outdoor opportunities, and the enduring spirit that makes it a beloved place for all who come to experience its unique charm.
Things to Do in Pocatello
1. Visit Idaho Potato Museum
The Idaho Potato Museum is a delightful stop for anyone interested in the fascinating history and cultural significance of Idaho’s most famous export—the potato. Idaho’s connection to this humble tuber runs deep, and this museum pays homage to the spud’s vital role in the state’s economy and culture. Inside, you can explore a variety of exhibits that shed light on potato farming techniques, machinery used in the industry, and even some quirky and amusing potato-related memorabilia.
But the real showstopper is the giant potato sculpture outside, a perfect photo opportunity that’s hard to resist. It’s not just a museum; it’s a celebration of Idaho’s enduring love affair with potatoes.
2. Do Winter Sports at Pebble Creek Ski Area
Nestled in the heart of Pocatello, the Pebble Creek Ski Area isn’t just a winter destination—it’s a part of the city’s cultural fabric. For generations, locals and visitors alike have been drawn to this snowy wonderland, making it a cherished aspect of Pocatello’s identity. When winter blankets the area with snow, the slopes come alive with enthusiasts eager to ski or snowboard down its well-groomed trails.
The terrain caters to all skill levels, from beginners seeking a gentle introduction to experts looking for thrilling challenges. Families can rejoice in the family-friendly atmosphere and the sheer joy of winter sports amidst a backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty.
3. Head to Bannock County Historical Museum
Delve into the captivating history of Bannock County at the Bannock County Historical Museum. It’s a place where the past comes to life, offering a window into the region’s Native American heritage, pioneer days, and more. As you step inside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by well-curated exhibits, each telling a unique story of the area’s evolution.
Wander through pioneer cabins and gaze upon historical artifacts that transport you back in time. But this museum is more than just a place to observe history—it’s an immersive experience. With events and workshops, visitors can actively engage in hands-on history, creating lasting memories and a deeper connection to Bannock County’s rich heritage.
4. Enjoy Nature at Ross Park
Ross Park is more than just a park; it’s a testament to the enduring spirit of community and a cherished gathering spot for generations of locals. This beloved destination stands as a testament to Pocatello’s commitment to outdoor recreation and leisure. Its history is interwoven with the stories of families who have picnicked on its grassy lawns, played on its playgrounds, and cooled off in its inviting swimming pool.
For wildlife enthusiasts, the park is home to a zoo where you can meet a variety of animals. And with the Portneuf River gently flowing nearby, it’s a picturesque setting that’s perfect for leisurely walks and picnics. Ross Park isn’t just a place to visit; it’s a place to create lasting memories.
5. Take Time Off at Lava Hot Springs
Lava Hot Springs, with its natural hot springs, has been a source of relaxation and healing for centuries. Native American tribes were among the first to recognize and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of these soothing waters. Today, this historic destination continues to draw visitors seeking relaxation and recreation.
It’s a place where you can unwind and escape the stresses of daily life while connecting with the healing power of nature.
6. Visit Fort Hall Replica
The Fort Hall Replica stands as a tribute to a bygone era and an important chapter in the region’s history. This reconstructed fur trading post, built in the early 19th century, played a significant role in the development of the American West.
Stepping inside the fort is like stepping back in time, where costumed interpreters bring history to life. Visitors can explore the fort’s various buildings, interact with knowledgeable guides, and gain insight into the fur trade era, a time of exploration, commerce, and cultural exchange.
7. Hike the Massacre Rocks State Park
The name “Massacre Rocks State Park” carries with it a somber history, serving as a stark reminder of the region’s past and the conflicts that once unfolded here between pioneers and Native Americans. However, today, the park is a place of natural beauty and contemplation. Its rugged landscapes and unique geology make it an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
You can explore its scenic hiking trails, including the Oregon Trail Loop, which offers insights into the pioneer experience and the challenges they faced. Birdwatching is a popular activity, thanks to the park’s diverse avian inhabitants, and the park’s remote location makes it a prime spot for stargazing.
8. Explore Old Town Pocatello
Old Town Pocatello is a vibrant district that exudes historic charm. Its streets are lined with buildings that reflect the architectural styles of bygone eras, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich past. This district is not just a testament to history; it’s a thriving hub of activity.
Don’t miss the opportunity to partake in events like the Friday Night Art Walk, where the streets come alive with creativity and culture. Old Town Pocatello hosts an array of festivals and markets throughout the year, providing an opportunity to connect with the community and immerse yourself in its vibrant atmosphere.
9. Learn to Play Golf at Juniper Hills Country Club
Golf has a longstanding tradition in Pocatello, and Juniper Hills Country Club is a key player in the local golfing culture. This club has witnessed generations of golfers teeing off against a backdrop of picturesque mountain views.
After a round of golf, you can unwind and socialize with fellow golfers at the club’s dining facilities or attend one of the many social events. It’s a place where camaraderie and recreation come together seamlessly, adding another layer to Pocatello’s cultural fabric.
10. Go to Farmers Market
Farmers markets hold a special place in the hearts of Pocatello residents, representing a tradition that spans generations. These markets are a bridge between local farmers and the community, connecting people with fresh, locally grown produce.
As you stroll through the market, you’ll encounter stalls brimming with a vibrant array of fruits, vegetables, and artisanal goods. Engaging with local farmers and artisans not only supports the community but also offers a chance to learn about the region’s agricultural heritage.
11. Head to Portneuf Greenway
The Portneuf Greenway is a testament to Pocatello’s commitment to preserving natural spaces for future generations. This ambitious greenway project showcases the city’s dedication to creating recreational opportunities and preserving the environment.
As you explore the greenway, you can walk or bike along the scenic riverfront trail, providing not only exercise and relaxation but also a connection to the natural beauty that surrounds Pocatello. The greenway’s development reflects a balance between urban growth and environmental conservation, highlighting the city’s vision for a sustainable and vibrant future.
12. Go to Holt Arena
Holt Arena, located at Idaho State University, is more than just a sports and entertainment venue—it’s a cultural icon and a focal point for community gatherings. Over the years, it has witnessed countless thrilling sporting events, concerts, and gatherings that have brought the community together.
Attending an event at Holt Arena is not just about the entertainment; it’s about being part of a passionate crowd that adds its own energy and excitement to the experience.
13. Take Your Kids to Pocatello Zoo
The Pocatello Zoo plays a vital role in wildlife education and conservation, making it a place of cultural and educational significance. It’s not just a zoo; it’s a sanctuary where families can connect with the wonders of the animal kingdom. As you enter the zoo, you’ll find yourself surrounded by a variety of animals, from exotic species to native wildlife.
The zoo’s well-designed exhibits provide not only an opportunity to observe these creatures but also to learn about their habitats and the importance of conservation. Interactive experiences and educational exhibits make it an engaging outing for visitors of all ages, fostering an appreciation for the natural world and the role of zoos in preserving it.
14. Explore the Japanese Friendship Garden
Pocatello’s Japanese Friendship Garden stands as a symbol of the strong bond between Pocatello and its sister city, Iwamizawa, Japan. It’s a serene oasis where cultural harmony blossoms amid meticulously designed landscapes. This garden is a testament to the power of cross-cultural connections and the beauty that can result from them.
As you wander through the garden, you’ll encounter ponds, bridges, and vibrant flora that create a tranquil atmosphere. It’s a perfect spot for relaxation, reflection, and an appreciation of the artistry that transcends borders.
15. Sample Beer or Wine at Pocatello Tasting Room
Craft beverages, including beer and wine, have gained popularity in Pocatello, adding a new dimension to the city’s culinary scene and cultural tapestry. The Pocatello Tasting Room is a place where craft beverages take center stage. It offers a cozy and inviting atmosphere where you can sample a variety of local craft beers and wines.
It’s more than just a place to enjoy beverages; it’s an opportunity to connect with the artisans behind these creations and gain a deeper understanding of Pocatello’s evolving culinary landscape.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Pocatello famous for?
Pocatello, Idaho, is known for its historical significance as a railroad town and gateway to the American West. It’s also recognized for its outdoor recreational opportunities and proximity to stunning natural landscapes.
Why visit Pocatello Idaho?
Visitors come to Pocatello for its outdoor adventures, including hiking, skiing, and exploring nearby national forests. The city offers cultural attractions, educational institutions, and a vibrant community.
Is it safe to visit in Idaho?
Pocatello is generally considered a safe place to visit. Like any city, it has its share of crime, but it’s not known for being particularly dangerous for tourists.
Is Pocatello a small town?
Pocatello is often described as a mid-sized city, rather than a small town, with a population of over 50,000 residents.
Does Pocatello have a lot of crime?
While Pocatello does have crime like any city, it doesn’t have a reputation for having an exceptionally high crime rate compared to other similarly sized cities.
Is Pocatello a Mormon town?
Pocatello, like many parts of Idaho, has a significant population of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon). However, it is a diverse city with various religious affiliations.
Why is Pocatello air quality so bad?
Pocatello, like many areas in the Intermountain West, can experience periods of poor air quality due to factors such as industrial emissions, weather conditions, and geographic features that trap pollutants. Efforts are made to improve air quality, especially during inversions in the winter months.