Idaho Falls, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Greetings from Idaho! This city report will be a bit different than our last one in Rapid City, South Dakota, as we didn’t have a ton of time in Idaho. We did, however, want to share our experiences and photos with you.

As noted in that previous post, this is not a guide of what to do or where to go. It’s simply a rundown of what we did and where we went. If you feel you may get yourself wrapped up in knots over what we missed or what we should have seen, please see the full disclaimer at the beginning of that post.

You are, of course, welcome to share your ideas and what you think people should see down in the comments. We always love to hear from you! Now, let’s get it on.

Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

We actually went out of our way to go to Idaho. Not that we had a way to begin with, since our current “Fabric of America” trip is more about exploration and seeing what’s out there, than hitting famous cities or seeing ‘essential’ sights.

Why did we go, then? Because my folks lived there once upon a time. This was before I landed on this great Earth with a thump and a scream. I have been there before, but it’s been since I was a over twenty years. So, I thought it’d be nice to go back and see Idaho again. Also, my parents would probably like to see some shots of what it looks like today. So hey, why not?

Plus, Idaho is beautiful. Just ask this picture.

Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

That was on our route from Greybull, Wyoming, through Yellowstone and the Tetons, up and over Jackson, Wyoming, and down to Idaho Falls. Hello, Idaho!

To give you a quick rundown, Idaho Falls sits in the eastern part of the state, with about 56,000 denizens. It’s the commercial center for the area, and it mostly looks like a small city. Except it’s entirely surrounded by mountains. Quite a good look, eh?

Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

It feels like most people skip out on a visit to Idaho Falls in favor of Jackson to the east or West Yellowstone to the north. We are not most people.

Getting There:

As always, we’re interstate-less. None of those blue atlas roads for us, unless absolutely necessary. We had a long drive this day, coming all the way from the aforementioned town of Greybull, Wyoming. This brought us on US 14/20 through Cody, Wyoming, near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. After roaming around Yellowstone for a while, we headed south out of the park and into Grand Teton National Park on US 191.

At Jackson, Wyoming, we broke west on State Highway 22, up and over Teton Pass at an elevation of 8,341 feet. This brought us into Idaho, where we ran into the town of Victor and hopped on State Highway 31 in a southwesterly direction. Not done yet, we hopped onto US 26 at Swan Valley, which brought us up in an arc and back down into Idaho Falls. Phew!

Here are the details:

  • US 14/20 west from Greybull, WY
  • US 191 south inside Yellowstone National Park, WY
  • State Highway 22 west at Jackson, WY
  • State Highway 31 south/west at Victor, ID
  • US 26 west at Swan Valley, ID

Idaho Map by Jets Like Taxis

Sleeping:

We put our heads down and our workspaces up at the Motel 6 in Idaho Falls. We stayed three nights and had a wonderful time joking around and talking shop with Jessica and Varvara. You can read our in-depth review of the property right here.

You can expect reasonable prices at this location, as is the case with most hotels under the wing of Motel 6. This entire property has been renovated to the new Motel 6 design and standards, and was our first experience with it. We dug its euro-boutique look and minimalist concept.

The wi-fi was less than stellar, but our Verizon Jetpack backup made up for the single-device, daily fee, and extremely slow connection. Either way, we’d stay here again.

The location of the hotel:

1448 W. Broadway St.
Idaho Falls, ID 83402
Tel: +1 (208) 522-0112
Web: motel6.com

Motel 6 in Idaho Falls, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Eating:

Food! As you know from our Rapid City post, we love to eat. We love good food from local establishments that have a passion for culinary pleasure. And guess what? We nearly, completely failed you in Idaho Falls. We basically have zero recommendations.

That’s not to say there aren’t some great places to eat in the city. It’s to say we ran into a few issues. The first night we were there, we didn’t get settled until very late. So late that the only places open were chain pizza joints, and we had no other choice but to order up.

The second night we were there, we got in late from Island Park – more on that down below – and had a ton of work to do. So, we popped across the parking lot to a local spot called O’Brady’s Family Restaurant. Think Perkins but local. It was good and the service was great. Alas, we were so beat that we didn’t even bother taking pictures. However, if you’re staying where we did, you can easily stumble across the parking lot for a hearty breakfast and be almost entirely surrounded by locals. You can do the same for dinner.

The last night we were there was Sunday. And guess what? It seems as though everything closes on Sundays. We have no idea if it’s due to the religious leanings of the community, or if it’s just a local, cultural thing. Literally every locally-owned restaurant we wanted to go to was closed. That means only chain restaurants were open, so we headed to one and ate some “Italian” food.

So, we apologize for not being able to give you a more comprehensive food section in this post. However, we do welcome your Idaho Falls cuisine recommendations in the comments!

Food Fail by Jets Like Taxis

Activities:

Move it and shake it down in old Idaho. We spent a great deal of time checking out places that were once frequented by my parents, about forty years ago. We also did some touristy things, and headed up north to visit another small town in the region. Below is an overview of what we did, where we went, and who we met along the way.

Idaho Falls: As in, the actual falls. This long stretch of waterfalls sits in the center of town, with lovely parks on both sides. At some point, part of the falls were converted to synthetic ones with a dam and whatnot, but there are still a whole heck of a lot of natural falls there. You can see people hanging out on the riverbanks, feeding the geese (please don’t), fishing in the river, and walking along the paths that straddle both sides. They are a site to behold, and are a perfect location to hang out when the weather is appropriate. We’re sure they’re beautiful in the winter, too. But you know, cold temperatures and all.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

Historic Downtown Idaho Falls: The architecture here is insane. We’re not 100% sure why it was completely deserted when we were there, but possibilities include: “Hello, everyone but like five people are Mormon here,” and “It’s too hot, so everyone is at the river.” That also meant that every business was closed, so we couldn’t even go in anywhere. Alas, it’s chock-full of shops and independent restaurants. The buildings are all kept-up and top-notch, and a lot of them have beautiful handiwork that also shows the year they were erected. (We obviously have absolutely no knowledge of architecture.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

Many of the buildings also have rows of glass windows between the first and second floor, which is something we’ve never really noticed anywhere else. (This, too, surely has some sort of fancy name.) You can also download a free walking-tour guide, which is something we should have found while we were there, instead of when I was writing this post.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

We also met Robert. A former trucker from Miami, he retired to the area some years ago and simply loves living in this smaller city. He’s been all over the country numerous times, and was happy to share some of his adventures with us. He’s also extremely knowledgeable about downtown Idaho Falls, and we were delighted to spend over an hour listening to his tales about people and buildings in the downtown district.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

Idaho Falls Idaho Temple: Yes, it’s really called that – no commas and all. We saw this from across the river, and that’s about it. It is most certainly impressive, but we weren’t into going over there to check it out. Especially on a Sunday. Nonetheless, you should have a peek because it’s architecturally on-point, even if you’re not into the whole LDS thing.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

Centro Evangelistico Cristo Para Las Naciones: How’s that for a mouthful? This most certainly wouldn’t be on your ‘things to see’ list, but this is not a list of what you’re supposed to see. Remember? This is a list of what we saw. This was actually the church where my dad was an intern 40 years ago. Back then, it was a Lutheran church. That congregation has since moved to a new building, and an Evangelical, Latino congregation has had the property for the last several years.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

We just had to check it out, which is how we ended up walking into and listening to part of a Spanish-language church service.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

It was great to see a place where both my folks spent part of their formative years, and imagine them in there 40 years ago. We also got to speak a little bit with one of the deacons of the congregation and swap stories, which was lovely.

Idaho Falls by Jets Like Taxis

Yellowstone National Park: But of course! How could you come to this region without visiting perhaps the most famous of all parks in the U.S.? Located northeast of Idaho Falls, this huge park begs for your attention with its geysers, tree-covered forests, and eccentric wildlife.

Yellowstone National Park by Jets Like Taxis

Unfortunately, the only wildlife we saw in the park were thousands of RVs.

Yellowstone National Park by Jets Like Taxis

Regardless of that, it’s definitely a must for anyone visiting this region. Nature activities abound, and you’ll no doubt be awestruck by the natural beauty that draws in hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the world each year.

Yellowstone National Park by Jets Like Taxis

Grand Teton National Park: I’ve always found this park to be two things: Highly underrated, and much better than Yellowstone. I visited both as a kid, and my memories of the Tetons were always a wonder in my mind; whereas, Yellowstone was always a tourist trap. Coming back to this region as a grown man (by age, anyway), I stand by this statement of my youth.

Grand Teton National Park by Jets Like Taxis

Located just south of Yellowstone, the Tetons tower into the sky with their rugged peaks, crystal-clear lakes, abundant wildlife, and…less tourists.

Grand Teton National Park by Jets Like Taxis

We didn’t see a single bison in all of Yellowstone. But we saw a whole herd in the Tetons! Maybe they just have the same opinion that I do and they decided to move down yonder.

Grand Teton National Park by Jets Like Taxis

Bonus: The entry fee to Yellowstone gets you into the Tetons as well.

Grand Teton National Park by Jets Like Taxis

Jackson, Wyoming: This is the town that plays host to the world-famous ski area of Jackson Hole. I personally think it’s worth driving through even if you aren’t into all the high-class, fancy-pants snobbery that comes with high-rent ski resorts. It’s got its share of foofy restaurants, foofy people, and insane traffic, but its location deserves merit on scenery alone.

Jackson, Wyoming by Jets Like Taxis

If you’re into outdoor activities and can’t get enough in Idaho Falls, you can head over to Jackson and get your groove on. Of course, we sometimes act like children and make ridiculous shadow figures on top of mountain passes, so maybe we’re just not the right fit for such a place. Must be the thin air.

Jackson Hole by Jets Like Taxis

Island Park, Idaho: This very small town north of Idaho Falls serves as a gateway to the region and plenty of outdoor activities involving water and mountains. Ha.

Island Park, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

It’s interesting because it sits in a volcanic caldera – one of the largest in the world, in fact. This gives it a unique terrain and climate different from the surrounding area.

Island Park, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

It also makes it look quite sexy.

Island Park, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

The entire reason we went up here was actually to visit another place my parents lived, as my dad was an intern here as well.

We’re happy we did, as we got to meet Connie outside the post office, who spent a great deal of time talking to us about her experiences in the region. You might not meet Connie and might not care about what my parents did, but we do recommend a visit because there’s plenty to see and plenty of activities to take part in.

Island Park, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Macks Inn, Idaho: I’m not sure if this is part of Island Park, or its own entity. We saw various signs in both places that told us various, conflicting “facts.” Regardless of what the truth is, Macks Inn is an extremely tiny community, several miles north of Island Park.

Macks Inn, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Its central area spans what one could describe as half of spitting distance that contains a post office, church, playhouse, fire department, and cabins for rent.

Macks Inn, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

This is actually where my dad’s church was when he was a summer intern.

Macks Inn, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

It has expanded in the last forty years, and is now twice the size with a completely different front.

Macks Inn, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Fortunately, they’ve kept the old-school, log-cabin style of it between the original back and the new front.

Macks Inn, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

The actual inn at Macks Inn burned down – more than once, I think – but has been rebuilt and still plays hosts to both adventure- and peace-seekers in the warmer months. Also, fun outside the playhouse.

Macks Inn, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

We also jumped into the wilderness for a bit and visited a crystal clear spring that feeds the river, complete with its own little mill from the 19th century.

John Sack Mill in Macks Inn, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho: Situated on a back road between Island Park and Idaho Falls, Upper Mesa Falls is one of two waterfalls that crashes through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest near Island Park.

Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

This narrow canyon-like area of the park is fairly remote and not as well-traveled as a lot of other park areas, which gives one much more of a sense of natural isolation. The upper falls tumbles over the rocks and down 114 feet, and we love how close you can get without having to elbow your way through dozens of other tourists. That’s only 50 feet shorter than Niagara Falls!

Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

These are not nearly as grand as Niagara, but it’s a different vibe altogether when you’re down in a narrow canyon and staring at some ice-cold, rushing mountain water. Nah’mean? The weather wasn’t the best when we were up there, so we unfortunately decided to play it safe and skip Lower Mesa Falls. Also, it’s not the best (or easiest) place to get to in the dark.

Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Summary:

Okay, so we don’t have the most out-of-this-world, adventurous craziness to report to you. But, that wasn’t really the point of our journey. And as far as we’re concerned, we always have a good time. We love seeing new things, seeing how things have changed in places we’ve been before, and more importantly, meeting new people. Idaho Falls is full of great people, like Andy here. Andy is a manager at Fred Meyer in Idaho Falls, and we spent a good hour talking to him in the store. Seriously. That’s just what we do.

Idaho Falls, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

And while no one will ever claim Idaho Falls as the most beautiful city around, it has a lot of very interesting sights and a lot of character. It’s also centrally located to dozens of nearby state and national parks, many outdoor activities, plenty of peaceful scenery, and countless winding roads that make me giddy with joy to drive.

Upper Mesa Falls, Idaho by Jets Like Taxis

Next time you want to vacation in the region, try staying away from the typical base-camp cities in the area and give Idaho Falls a go. As we always say: Why not?

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Have you ever been to Idaho Falls or Island Park? Did you visit any of the places in our post? Do you have any suggestions for things people should see when they stay in the region? Any other thoughts? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!