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Boise, ID (Population: 208,000)

Boise is the capital and most populous city in Idaho, with an estimated population of 208,000 residents. Originally established as a fort, the area was given its name Boise (meaning wooded) by French-Canadian trappers for the abundance of cottonwood trees they found along the river, which was in great contrast to the arid deserts they had just crossed. Consequently, Boise is also known by its nickname "City of Trees." The area, and later the city, went through several transition periods, flourishing first as a trading post established by the Hudson Bay Company. Soon after, with its location along the river and with the discovery of precious metals in the area, it became a hub for transport and commerce.

In 1865 Boise replaced Lewiston as the capitol of Idaho. Today, Boise is home for several major companies to include the Washington Group International, Micron Technology, Albertsons, the J.R. Simplot Company, and Hewlett Packard's printer division. High Tech industries are becoming increasingly vital to Boise's economy with employers that include Blackfin, Treetop Tech, Keynetics, Sybase and Microsoft. Boise also has several in-bound technical call centers like Teleperformance USA, Qwest, T-Mobile, and DirecTV.

The Basque community in Boise is the largest in the United States and the third largest in the world outside Argentina and the Basque Country in Spain and France. Every five years their festival, known as Jaialdi is held in the "Basque Block." Boise is also a regional hub for jazz and theater. The Gene Harris Jazz Festival is hosted in Boise each spring. The city is also home to a number of museums, including the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Historical Museum, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Idaho Black History Museum and the Discovery Center of Idaho. Several theater groups operate in the city, including the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Boise Little Theatre and the Boise Contemporary Theater among others. On the first Thursday of each month, a gallery stroll is hosted in the city's core business district by the Downtown Boise Association.

Several recreational areas are available in Boise from extensive hiking and biking in the foothills to the immediate north of downtown and an extensive urban trail system called the Boise River Greenbelt that runs along the river. The Boise River itself is a common destination for fishing, swimming and rafting. Along with recreation, the city is home to The World Center for Birds of Prey and is a key part of the re-establishment of the Peregrine. The center is currently breeding the very rare California condor, among many other rare and endangered species.

Downtown Boise is the city's cultural center and home to many small businesses and a few skyscrapers. This area also has a wide array of shopping and dining opportunities. Centrally, 8th street contains a fairly large pedestrian zone which, with its street side cafes and restaurants, lends Boise a slightly European feel.