The Washington Times - December 8, 2008, 02:18PM

I like challenges. Not necessarily the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, since it’s become rather predictable.

But someone challenged me last week to come up with 10 things to do in Boise, home of the Humanitarian Bowl (which Maryland is headed to later this month).


This shouldn’t be taken as an endorsement of anything; after all, I’ve never been to Boise and I’m keeping an open mind about this trip. If it is no fun whatsoever, I have no problems saying as much.

But the sense I get is that it’s a good town that has more to do than just ice fishing, and that’s without thinking about many of the things culled from the Boise Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

So here’s 10 possible distractions for the few and proud who will be making the long jaunt to the land of the Smurf Turf shortly after Christmas:

1) All right, I’ll get one of my plans out of the way first; Boise State plays host to Eastern Washington at Taco Bell Arena on Dec. 29. The arena has hosted NCAA tournaments before, so it has to be somewhat hospitable. A meeting between a mid-level WAC team and a mid-level Big Sky team? Maybe not that appealing.

2) There’s always a guided tour of the state capitol; the best part is probably that it’s free.

3) Or a balloon ride of roughly an hour, which definitely costs more.

4) It’s a safe bet the Old Idaho Penitentiary is not as cool as Alcatraz was to visit last year. Nevertheless, I’d guess you could do worse with $5 and an hour or two than to see an old prison.

5) Here’s a link for a trolley tour of Boise at night to take a look at the holiday displays throughout the town (admission: $8)

6) A restaurant AND a distillery in the same place is never a bad combination —- such is the case at  the Bardenay.

7) Though its closed Sundays and Mondays, the Basque Museum (admission: $4) highlights the Basque communities of Boise and nearby areas. Apparently, Idaho was one of the main areas immigrants from the Basque region of Spain would come to, which I would never have guessed.

8) Yet another place closed on Sundays and Mondays (maybe it’s a regional thing), but it looks pretty neat —- the World Center for Birds of Prey, which would be at the top of my list if I wasn’t going to spend Sunday and Monday in town and Tuesday at a game. But that’s a bit of nature for you.

(EDIT: Turns out it is open on Sundays. Much thanks to the Peregrine Fund’s Susan Whaley for pointing out my miscue. The center, by the way, is in the official D1scourse plans for early Tuesday morning).

9) What would the Humanitarian Bowl be without the World Sport Humanitarian Hall of Fame. Bush 41’s smiling visage greets you (some of the time) on this site; the Hall of Fame is adjacent to Bronco Stadium, which should make it convenient for any fans.

10) Adjacent to the media hotel is Chandlers Steakhouse, which is the only non-chain restaurant in Boise I’ve heard of. Chances are, it’s probably pretty good —-but there’s no question it looks good (except to the people vetting my expense reports).

So, there. Challenge met. Only time —- and three days in Boise —- will tell if my scanning of Al Gore’s Invention to come up with interesting distractions will actually prove fruitful.

—- Patrick Stevens