Idaho Territory was less than ten years old when a certain prison was built east of Boise in 1870, and opened its doors in 1872. Today, you can visit this same prison - the Old Idaho Penitentiary - and learn how it grew from a single cell-house into a complex of several distinctive buildings surrounded by a high sandstone wall.
In fact, it was convicts that quarried the stone from the nearby ridges and completed all the later construction (but you can learn all of that when you visit, and more!)
The prison was home to some of the West's most desperate criminals, and boy, do these walls have some stories! A visit to the Old Idaho Penitentiary gives you an insight into over 100 years of history, as you visit the Solitary Confinement area, the cell blocks and even the Gallows.
The site is home to over 30 historic buildings, and even an exhibit displaying historic weaponry (in fact, one of the nation's largest collections!)
Kids can learn all about the history, meaning and method of prison tattooing through the centuries, and discover the stories of the 214 women who were incarcerated in the buildings, and what their daily lives would have been like.
The events and programs offer families an opportunity to relive the exciting past of daring escapes, scandals and yes, executions, and free guided tours on specific days!
A fascinating insight into the past, and don't worry kids, you are guests that are allowed to leave once you're finished!
$3 (Ages 6 to 12)
$4 for seniors
Guided Tours are included with regular admission, but have a limited capacity and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Check online for the times as they vary.
Grab something to eat in the area before or after your visit, there are plenty of places!
They offer guided tours for 4th grade to college (and get a rare chance to go inside the gallows!), plus self-guided programs for all ages, so give them a call to book in advance!
Stop by the Old Idaho Penitentiary Gift Shop for great reminders of one of Idaho’s most famous historic sites. Items in the shop reflect the storied history of the prison, from harmonicas and sheriff’s badges, to Old Pen key chains and shot glasses. Gift ideas include hoodies, hats and socks, and plush toys featuring true stories of animals that lived and worked at the Idaho State Penitentiary.
Give them a call to ask about the accessibility
Click here for lots more great things to do near you in Idaho
Memorial Day to Labor Day: 10am - 5pm (12pm open rest of year) Last admission 4:15pm)
Open 7 days a week, but closed most state holidays
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Old Idaho Penitentiary