Idaho america

Low-key roadside adventures in rural Idaho • Salt Lake Magazine

MUSEUMS

EBR-I (EBR-1, Arco, ID 83213): The Experimental Breeder Reactor-I is the world’s first nuclear reactor. During its operational day, it supplied electricity to the first nuclear-powered city, near Arco, ID. Now a fully curated museum, the facility gives tourists a great insight into the innards of the place, with visitors having a fascinating chance to climb, stoop and weave their way through a good-sized building that provides information about a very particular slice of United States history. The facility is located on Route 20, approximately one hour from Idaho Falls; although remote, road signs are sufficient to get you there.

Farnsworth TV and Pioneer Museum (118 W 1st S, Rigby, ID 83442): Now here is a real corker. In Little Rigby you’ll find a museum dedicated to the life and work of pioneering television visionary, Philo T. Farnsworth. But the actual space devoted to the building’s namesake is minimal, with exhibits and exhibits dedicated to him, but also to taxidermy, skiing, local horsemen, antique farm equipment, and special exhibits, such as a quilt show that was literally broken down by the time we arrived. Its other name, the Jefferson County Historical Museum, does better justice to this sprawling place, as a host of odd bits and pieces from the area’s past are housed here. Special mention should be given to the many mannequins found throughout the space, each one looking more eccentric than the last. Did we mention taxidermy? All of these curiosities for the mere $4 admission price.

Idaho Potato Museum (130 NW Main St, Blackfoot, ID 83221-2239): I have to be honest: this one seemed to have a real repeat factor, but the reality is that the Idaho Potato Museum is full of some pretty interesting, well-organized, and even entertaining micro-exhibits about the history and the impact of the potato on agriculture. There’s a bit of whimsy (ala the well-represented Mr. Potato Head), but it’s mostly a simple, not the least bit boring approach to making this choice. Best of all, you can get fries or a stellar baked potato at the on-site cafe. This place was surely a bit of a surprise, found in the heart of little Blackfoot, ID, halfway between Pocatello and Idaho Falls.

The Cleanliness Museum (711 S 2nd Ave, Pocatello, ID, 83201-6520): A gentleman named Don Aslett had a mission in life. And it wasn’t just to start a nationwide cleaning business, which he did, before focusing on the very specific goal of curating a cleaning products museum. Across multiple floors, Aslett’s sprawling collection includes a bit of everything, with an in-house cinema showing highlights from his dozens of network television appearances, where he preached his gospel of cleanliness. It’s quirky and charming and well worth the modest admission. On any given day, you’ll also find Aslett, wandering through her collections, courting visitors. To say it again: charming; weird.

The Idaho Museum (200 N Eastern Ave, Idaho Falls, ID 83402-4029): On a daily basis, the Museum of Idaho contains several exhibits of hyper-regional interest, with natural history at the heart of its permanent and curated collections. Currently, the space also houses what is clearly a traveling exhibition, “Genghis Khan: Conquest and Culture”. It’s a grand sight that will hold most of your attention as you wander through two floors of exhibits interpreting Mongolian culture. While appearing to be a bit conceptual for a small-town museum, a drive in any direction from Idaho Falls will take you through lands that might not differ all that much from Mongolia. So here is. Good job, curators!

SPORTS

Atomic City Tour (1769 N 2650 W, Atomic City, ID 83215): In all transparency: the day we crossed Atomic City, the circuit was closed. And it’s that way almost every day, with the exception of a dozen nights each summer, when weekends are noisy in this small town that was once home to many EBR-1 facility workers. In fact, you can still find some of these workers (who now handle tours rather than write-offs) at the Atomic City Bar, which is located just across the track. The bar is open and it’s a decent place to enjoy a cold, cheap beer, while learning about the history of this town and the approximately 40 people who still call it home. Catching a run here would definitely be a treat.

Idaho Falls Chukars (568 West Elva, Idaho Falls, Idaho 83406): A member of the Western States Pioneer League, the Chukars are an independent baseball team that serves as something of a relay for the Kansas City Royals system. The team’s 3,400-seat single-story stadium is Melaleuca Field, located just minutes from bustling downtown Idaho Falls. As you’d expect, the games here are typical of unaffiliated minor league action. There is an adorable furry mascot (Charlie Chukar). There are sound effects and commercials for a local auto glass company, heard with every foul ball leaving the park. Concessions are affordable and offense is the rule, with most hitters on the team in 2022 hitting over .300 and ERAs consistently 5.00 and above. America’s pastime in this environment is both quite cheap and quite fun. Just be careful not to collide with a child; they are everywhere.

ZOOS

Idaho Falls Zoo (2925 Rollandet Street, Idaho Falls, ID 83402-4654): The eponymous “Best Little Zoo in the West” affects the displays and exhibits of a larger zoo, with monkeys, tigers, kangaroos, penguins and other popular stuffed animal-ready animals. We would definitely say the place makes smart use of a literal river running through the zoo, while the place is generally well shaded. Although we arrived with less than an hour of operation to spare, we were able to tour the entire facility. Some of the exhibits have clearly been updated in recent years, while others could, quite frankly, be closed until further expansion (ala the primate house which features a sad gibbon, who deserves a better life). The overall vibe here is family-friendly, and the location, in a public park, gives it a relaxed feel.

Idaho Zoo (2900 South 2nd Avenue, Pocatello, ID 83204): To its credit, this 1932 facility is undergoing major construction, part of a long-term plan to revitalize the space. Already, some exhibits feature an updated feel, with larger, more contemporary enclosures. A few, however…well, they seem to have not changed much about them in the 90 years since they opened, with large mammals like mountain lions and black bears found in spaces small enough to cause obvious agitation to animals inside. That said, the 25-acre park is seamlessly integrated with a hill and the surrounding meadows, giving it a unique look. And kudos to the zoo’s many marmots, local smarties who figured out they could eat and drink as they pleased, while mingling with official zoo residents like elk and bison. Clever little mammals!

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