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Weekend Getaway: Boise, Idaho

Editor's Note: As a special travel feature for September, offers a series of weekend getaways, each designed to help you find the Good Life. Enjoy!

Idaho is much more than the home of Napoleon Dynamite and Ore-Ida potatoes.

Thanks to its unparalleled scenic beauty, millions of acres of national parks and world-class ski resorts, it is rapidly becoming known as a high-end adventure-travel destination.

So it's no surprise that Idaho's capital, Boise, offers a unique welcome to the discerning traveler.

The wild west is tamer in Boise, and the city is making a concerted effort to present more sophisticated choices to go along with its rustic setting.

By far the most cosmopolitan city in the state, Boise is a small, friendly and comfortably compact locale, with a downtown that's easy to navigate on foot.

It's both a college town, sporting a youthful influence that is increasingly shaping local culture, and a corporate haven, housing major corporations such as Boise, Albertson's and Micron Technologies.

Another plus? Lodging is quite reasonable.

I stayed at Boise's only four-star hotel, the Grove Hotel ($159-$259), which was close to everything downtown and a convenient base camp.

Other notable options are the Statehouse Inn ($80-$95), The Anniversary Inn ($139-$289), and the unusual five-room Basque boarding house and restaurant Leku Ona ($65-$85).

Basking ... in History

Boise is home to a large and tightly knit Basque population, descendants of the northern Spanish sheepherders who settled the area in the nineteenth century.

The current Basque-American mayor won office by a landslide, and a sapling from the Tree of Guernika, the symbol of Basque independence, grows on the capitol grounds.

From the back of the Grove Hotel, you can stroll down a tree-lined walkway to Grove Street and head right into Boise's unique Basque central.

This is a several-block area that functions as a center of operations for the Basque population and provides a window into the culture for the rest of us, complete with restaurants, cafes, a museum and even a Basque market.

One interesting touch: The words of various Basque folk songs are inscribed on the sidewalks throughout the neighborhood.

The Basque Museum & Cultural Center contains exhibits and demonstrations that examine this unique heritage and functions as a cultural center for Basque activities.

Traditional Basque Dancers

(According to the museum's store manager, Nikki Gorrell, Idaho's Basque-descended population is the nation's second largest, behind only California -- but is tops when calculated per capita.)

Next door to the museum is the Basque Center . Built in the 1940s, it serves as a gathering place for the Basque population and features dancing, music and other events.

Some of the unique classes at the center are taught by a traditional children's dance group, 'Ko Gazteak.

The music group Txantxagorriak instructs students in the usage of the trikitrixa (accordion) and the pandareta (tambourine).

Take the time to sit at the center's bar and sip kalimotxo -- red wine mixed with Coca-Cola -- and listen to beret-topped locals speaking Euskera, the Basque language.
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