Museums, Musicals, and Everything In Between: Local Culture, Art, & History in Southern Idaho
Southern Idaho takes its arts and history seriously — some of the region’s smallest towns boast the finest performing arts venues, and every county features a historical museum where you can browse through the past.
Herrett Center for Arts and Science – Soar through the solar system in the newly upgraded Faulkner Planetarium or peek at a planet from the Centennial Observatory. Explore the museum galleries where you’ll see a complete mammoth skeleton, fossils, contemporary art, and artifacts from ancient cultures. Planning a special event? The Rick Allen Community Room might be the perfect place. And don’t forget to visit the Herrett Center Store. You’ll find unique gifts, jewelry, and educational toys. Located on the College of Southern Idaho campus, just off North College Road.
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Twin Falls Center for the Arts – This headquarters for the Magic Valley Arts Council is home to professional offices and Elevation 486 and perches above the scenic Snake River Canyon. This multi-use community space includes an outdoor plaza for farmer’s markets and outdoor concerts, a two-story atrium with a view of the canyon, a 170-seat auditorium, and three multi-purpose rooms for art classes, lectures, and meetings.
Wilson Theatre – This incredible performance center, originally designed and built in 1920, has hosted vaudeville, musical performances, plays, and movies through many decades of Idaho history. In January 2000, a complete renovation began to bring the theatre back to life and its original splendor. In 2001 the Historic Wilson Theatre was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Over the past 15 years, no detail has been spared in re-creating the original art and architecture; the acoustical brilliance of this theatre delights performers and audiences alike. Located on Rupert’s Town Square, the Theatre also offers ideal spaces for meetings, conventions, and art exhibits in an inviting setting.
Howells Opera House – Howells Opera House was a treasure when it was built, and it remains a beloved community center today. Judge B.P. Howells erected the opera house — also known as the Oakley Playhouse — in 1907 for $22,000. As one of the only theaters (if not the only) between Salt Lake City and Boise, Howells Opera House was a vibrant part of community life.
The Howells sold the theatre to the LDS church in the 1920s, but by the 1970s it was facing the wrecking ball. Oakley residents came to the rescue by forming the Oakley Valley Arts Council, which transformed the theatre once again into a haven for the arts.
If you attend a show there keep an eye out for the building’s most famous resident, the dark-haired ghost of a woman who can sometimes be seen backstage or even watching performances among the crowds.
Oakley Valley Arts Council – Housed in the historic Howells Opera House, a building it saved from disrepair, the Oakley Valley Arts Council produces musical and theatrical productions year-round thanks to the efforts of devoted volunteers.
King Fine Arts Center – This center opened in 1999 and has attracted hundreds of thousands of attendees to Burley with a steady stream of arts and entertainment. The school is located at the southwest corner of Burley High School and has a 1,300-seat venue, advanced sound systems, a lecture chamber, and band and choir practice room. The center hosts productions year-round.
College of Southern Idaho Fine Arts Center – This center regularly showcases the talents of the CSI music, theatre, and communications departments. It includes a fine arts recital hall and an auditorium with outstanding sound systems. The center hosts youth camps during the summer and boasts an impressive number of art, theater, and musical productions throughout the year.
Minidoka National Historic Site – This is one of Idaho’s newest parks, and it explores one of the most painful chapters in the nation’s history: The forced internment of thousands of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II.
Between 1942 and 1945, this remote site served as a detention center during the relocation of 120,000 West Coast residents of Japanese ancestry. More than 10,000 internees were transferred to this spot in the high desert of Southern Idaho under orders from President Franklin Roosevelt. Internees included many ordinary families and notable people, including William K. Nakamura, a Medal of Honor recipient; Newton K. Wesley, who helped develop the contact lens; and composer Paul Chihara, among many others.
When the war against Japan ended in 1945, the internees were released; survivors and their descendants still farm in the area. The site became a national monument in 2001, and it’s still being developed.
This historic site is under development, so wear sturdy footwear and bring water. There is little to no shade but portable toilet facilities are available. There is no fee to enter this site.
Oakley Valley Historical Museum – Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places due to the collection of old stone and brick buildings in the area, which date back to 1883. This museum chronicles the history of the town and the surrounding area near City of Rocks.
Explore the rich heritage of the Oakley Valley with a stop at this museum. Learn about the Native Americans who lived in the area, battles between cattle and sheep ranchers, and the bustling business community of the early 1900s at the Oakley Valley Historical Museum.
Oakley Historical Area – This town, located south of Burley near City of Rocks National Reserve, was founded by Mormon immigrants in 1878. Today it is on the National Register of Historic Places due to the outstanding collection of old stone and brick buildings in the area, which date back to 1883. Oakley stone, an Idaho quartzite, is quarried nearby.
Minidoka County Historical Museum – This museum features Rupert’s 1906 railroad depot, a caboose and a genuine Russell steam engine that has been restored to its original colors.
You’ll see wooden wheeled carts once used by the firemen of yesteryear at the railroad depot in Minidoka. Exhibits include the marble soda fountain, stored since 1926, which still has its original supplies and a display of over 600 bottles and jars. Other artifacts include a permanent wave machine, an arc-light blueprint machine, a restored sheep wagon, horse-drawn farm equipment and items from the historic Minidoka Dam and power plant. See also Rupert’s first jail, a homestead shack, trophies and yearbooks from Rupert High School, built in 1913.
Twin Falls County Historical Museum – Located in the old Union School at Curry Crossing, the Twin Falls County Historical Museum offers its visitors a unique opportunity to take a step back to the early days of the Magic Valley.
You can see the farm machinery that was used to develop the land, and the daily items that made life easier for those who lived here. From steam tractors to lacework, the museum displays a wide variety of artifacts showing how life’s daily chores and pastimes were carried out. Butter churns, report cards, vintage clothes, photographs, patent medicines, plows, and postcards; all those little objects that together show us the way that folks went about the business of making a place to call home.
Jerome County Historical Museum – Discover the history of and see artifacts from the Jerome area at this county museum located next to the Jerome Memorial Library.
Exhibits include the Hunt Japanese American Relocation Center displays and the North Side Irrigation Project displays. A research center includes over 100 bound volumes of newspapers. Books and gift items are available for sale.
Lincoln County Historical Museum – This museum is housed in the historic Masonic Lodge in Shoshone, located just across from the Lincoln County Courthouse. The museum, run by the Lincoln County Historical Society, features the history of Shoshone — once a railroad powerhouse — and the surrounding area.
Hagerman Valley Historical Museum – You can see the actual fossils of prehistoric animals unearthed from the Hagerman Fossil Beds at the Hagerman Valley Historical Museum.
The Museum has a full-cast replica of the fossilized horse and a mural showing how the area might have looked when this ancient horse roamed what is now the Snake River Plain. There are regional family histories on file as well as pictorial and past news items.
Cassia County Historical Museum – Located on E. Main Street in Burley, this museum presents a display of clothing and items found in homes and businesses during the past century in Cassia County. Indian artifacts, fossils, farm tools as well as two train cars and many pieces of horse-drawn farming equipment are housed in additional buildings.