Each month the Old Idaho Penitentiary invites guests to explore the site during exciting new programs and signature annual events like Frightened Felons, Night Tours, Cemetery Tours and the 32 Cells Art Show!
Old Pen Events
32 Cells Art Show V
August 8, 2020 (6:00pm-10:00pm (last admission 9:15pm). Swell Artist Collective and the Old Idaho Penitentiary have partnered for the fifth year in a row to present 32 Cells! This art show will feature 32 works of art by local artists inspired by stories of women incarcerated at the historic Idaho State Penitentiary. Artwork will hang on prison cell doors for viewing. All pieces will be available for purchase.
Join us Saturday, August 8 from 6pm to 10pm (last admission 9:15pm). Self-guided tours of the site will be available, along with food available for purchase from La Crepe Boise. Timed entry is limited to 50 guests arriving per hour at 6pm, 7pm, 8pm, or 9pm. Choose your arrival time when purchasing tickets, and arrive within 15 minutes of your entry time. Admission is $8 at the door. Due to the graphic nature and subject matter of this show, it is recommended for ages 13+ only. All admission proceeds benefit Swell Artist Collective and Idaho State Historical Society education programs.
This project is part of Idaho Women in Leadership and the Idaho State Historical Society’s 2020 Idaho Women 100 Celebration 2020 marking the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, enshrining most women in America with the right to vote. Watch for more ISHS and Old Idaho Penitentiary events celebrating women’s history and the unlimited future of women’s history in Idaho.
August 21, 2020 (9:15pm-2:00am) Join Big River Paranormal as they use their unique equipment and knowledge to attempt to connect with inmates and guards of the past.
Participants must be at least 18 years old (ID required). Ticket sales begin Tuesday, July 21 at 10:00am here on our website.
See the Old Idaho Penitentiary’s newest exhibit, “Disturbing Justice: An Illustrated History of ISP Uprisings,” then join the Old Idaho Penitentiary team for a discussion of exhibit, with audience Q&A afterward! Doors open at 6pm with the opportunity to view the exhibit, followed by discussion and Q&A at 7pm. Admission is $6 per person, and FREE for Idaho State Historical Society Members. Pre-register at history.idaho.gov beginning Tuesday, July 28 at 10am as this event is limited to ensure social distancing.
“Disturbing Justice” tells the story of the major riots and disturbances that took place at the Idaho State Penitentiary through brand new, local, graphic novel-style artwork. We are excited to share these complicated, thought-provoking, and increasingly relevant stories with visitors.
“Captivating Conversations” is a new lecture series, hosted by the Old Idaho Penitentiary and featuring a variety of guest speakers and topics ranging from the history of the Idaho State Penitentiary to the issues facing correctional institutions today.
September 10-12, 2020. The Old Idaho Penitentiary and Idaho State Historical Society are partnering with i48, Idaho’s Film Festival and Competition for 13 Stories, featuring local filmmakers telling true stories of those incarcerated at the Idaho State Penitentiary.
Watch this space and our Facebook page for more information on this event!
September 26, 2020 (9:15pm-2:00am) Join Big River Paranormal as they use their unique equipment and knowledge to attempt to connect with inmates and guards of the past.
Participants must be at least 18 years old (ID required). Ticket sales begin Tuesday, August 25 at 10:00am here on our website.
October 17, 2020 (9:15pm-2:00am) Join Big River Paranormal as they use their unique equipment and knowledge to attempt to connect with inmates and guards of the past.
Participants must be at least 18 years old (ID required). Ticket sales begin Tuesday, September 21 at 10:00am here on our website.
November Night Tours
November 13 and 20, 2020 (6:00pm-10:00pm, last admission 9:15pm). Old Pen staff and volunteers will be giving historical site tours at 6:30/7:30/8:30 (limited capacity/first come first served), or you are welcome to do a self-guided tour and explore the Old Pen on your own!
Ticket sales begin Tuesday, October 13 at 10:00am. Tickets will be available at the door for these events as well! Idaho State Historical Society Member discount available.
Bring a flashlight and dress for the weather. This event is open to guests 13 and older due to mature content and site safety hazards.
December 4, 2020 (6:00pm-8:00pm, last admission 6:25pm). “Captivating Conversations” is a new lecture series, hosted by the Old Idaho Penitentiary and featuring a variety of guest speakers and topics ranging from the history of the Idaho State Penitentiary to the issues facing correctional institutions today. Stay tuned for more event announcements on this website and our Facebook page.
Site opens at 6:00pm. Presentations begin at 6:30pm. Free for Idaho State Historical Society Members!
December 14, 2020 (12:00pm-5:00pm, last admission 4:15pm). Saturday, December 14 marks the 45th anniversary of the Old Idaho Penitentiary being open to the public as a historic site and museum! Join us between Noon and 5:00pm (last admission at 4:15pm) for $1 admission! Tickets available at the door.
Join a guided tour, or explore the site on your own. Guided tours at 12:30, 1:00, 1:30, 2:00 and 2:30 (limited capacity each). Warm up near bonfire barrels for fireside chats with Old Idaho Penitentiary experts.
The prison first housed inmates in 1872 when it served the Idaho Territory. It became the Idaho State Penitentiary after Idahoâs statehood in 1890. 13,000 inmates called the penitentiary home at one time or another, including over 200 women, and inmates as young as ten and eleven years old. Today their stories are told through a wide variety of special exhibits and preserved cell house structures that allow guests to experience a taste of mid-century life as an inmate. The site also includes the J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit, a world class collection of historic arms and armament dating back to the Bronze Age and featuring brand new exhibits on the war efforts of Idahoans during World War I.
Romancing the Pen
February 14, 2021 (12:00pm-9:00pm, last admission 8:15pm). Looking for something other than roses or chocolates this Valentine’s Day? The Old Idaho Penitentiary is offering a unique alternative to your typical V-Day dates. Stroll through the site, snuggle up with your Valentine and find the true meaning of “ball and chain,” with special exhibits on love stories and love letters from the Idaho State Penitentiary.
Admission includes our Valentine’s Day “Partners in Crime” scavenger hunt, featuring unique looks into the site’s historic residents and what they loved – love of money, love of power, or commitment to those they loved.
Be sure to stop by the MARKED MEN exhibit on prison tattoos in its final weekend before closing to make way for our upcoming riots exhibit, and even score some temporary ink to remember us by.
The site will be open for self-guided tours in all publicly accessible buildings. Dress warm and bring a flashlight!
2021 Date and Times TBD. Experience a unique tour of the prison and its rarely seen inmate cemetery. Unlock the mysteries of the dead with us as guides explore where inmates died, what their final moments were like, and where they are laid to rest. Discover why more than half the cemetery is riddled with “Unknown” markers (or often no markers at all) and why some names cannot be found in any prison register.
Your Cemetery Tour ticket also entitles you to a self-guided tour of the prison the day of your visit and the information booklet, “Buried Secrets: Inmates of the Idaho State Penitentiary Cemetery.” Cemetery Tour tickets include admission to the Old Idaho Penitentiary site and exhibits.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary is open extended spring break hours March 21-27, 2020 (12:00pm to 7:00pm daily, last admission 6:15pm).
Cemetery Tours are offered at 2:00, 3:00, 4:00, 5:00 and 6:00 each day, March 21-27. Guests must be 18 or older unless accompanied by an adult. Recommended for ages 13+ due to graphic content. Tickets are $15 each or 2 for $25, and free for Idaho State Historical Society Members! Tours are limited to 30 people each – reserve your spot by pre-purchasing online.
Dennis the Cat's Birthday (Pet Tours)
2021 Date and Times TBD. Enjoy discounted admission on a summer Saturday with your pet food donation, in celebration of Dennis the Cat, the Old Idaho Penitentiary’s historic animal mascot. Watch this space and our Facebook page for more information on this event!
Between 1952 and 1968, Dennis lived among the staff and residents of the Idaho State Penitentiary, becoming one of the site’s best liked and most respected figures. Upon Dennis’ death in 1968, the prison population buried him nearby within the main yard, fashioning a durable engraved headstone marking his resting place during his funeral services. Today, guests of the Old Idaho Penitentiary regularly pay their respects at his stone, the only marked grave within the prison walls.
2021 Date and Times TBD. Come celebrate redheads and red fun at the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Show off your red hair or just celebrate ginger fun with friends! Complete our ginger-fied scavenger hunt, play family friendly games, listen to music and enjoy food, beer and wine. There will be special Best Ginger contests for adults and kids, and random participation prizes will be given out all night, and a grand prize scavenger hunt winner will be drawn after the event.
Yoga in the Yard II
2021 Dates and Times TBD. The yard is calling you… Enjoy the morning sunshine against the sandstone walls of the historic Old Idaho Penitentiary, as we present Yoga in the Yard! Eight sessions are available at $10 per session or $64 for all eight! Previous yoga experience is suggested, but all levels are welcome (18+ only). This is a small, intimate experience, limited to 15 people per session (spaced properly for social distancing and the safety and comfort of our guests), with instructor Josie Kunzman.
Guests must bring their own equipment, and a water bottle!
Sleepless in Stripes IV
2021 Dates and Times TBD. Due to popular demand and at long last, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is offering guests a chance to stay overnight! Sleepless in Stripes is a simulated prison experience, beginning with check-in, mugshots and even a souvenir “uniform” shirt! Guests will have chowtime in the yard and inmate “rec” time activities, a ghost tour of the site with Behind the Scenes exploration, and an overnight stay in our historic cell houses.
Ticket sales begin Tuesday, August 18 at 10:00am. Pre-sale for Idaho State Historical Society Members begins Tuesday, August 11 at 10:00am. This is an 18+ only event and photo ID is required at the door.
Frightened Felons XII
2021 Dates and Times TBD. 18+ only. We invite you to tour the site at night and dare to enter the only haunted cell house in Boise! The event also features special performances of the zombie “Thriller” dance, from Thrill the World, costume contests with cash prizes, actors portraying inmates of the past, our undertaker and historic hearse, music, presentations, games, prizes, palm readers, scavenger hunt, food trucks, coffee and hot cocoa, and alcohol available for purchase.
More information at our Frightened Felons page.