The history of Rexburg revolves around the school located there, now known as BYU-Idaho. First established in 1888, it was called Bannock Stake Academy, and was basically the equivalent of a high school. Through the years, the school grew and changed, gaining many different names. Fremont Stake Academy, Ricks Academy, Ricks Normal College. Finally, in 1923, it was renamed again to Ricks College, and established as a two-year junior college. It stayed that way for a long time, becoming a favorite place for many LDS kids to attend, sometimes to get an associates degree, sometimes as a stepping stone to another university. The college was key to the growth of Rexburg as a city. Around the year 2000, the college had as many as 7,500 students, while the city was registered in the 2000 census as having just over 17,000 residents. It was around this time the LDS church decided to have Ricks College make the transition to a full four-year institution. It was renamed one more time to Brigham Young University - Idaho.
Since the change, the population in Rexburg has grown quickly, increasing almost 50% from 2000 to 2010. The city is still small, sort of pleasant and quiet, obviously dominated by the LDS population. There are very few non-LDS students at BYU-Idaho. During a recent semester, it was calculated that 99.8% of the students were members of the LDS church. So it becomes clear why such a small city would have a temple built there. In fact, the temple district has more Young Single Adult and Married Student Stakes than "regular" family stakes. And now, the students and members of the community no longer have to travel to Idaho Falls to do temple work. The temple itself sits in the southeast part of town, just south of the BYU-I campus. There is a strong wheat motif in the design of the temple, representing the agriculture of the area. The temple was the first one dedicated by President Thomas S. Monson as president of the church, as President Hinckley passed away just a week before. The dedication was actually scheduled to be earlier, but was delayed as the transition from President Hinckley to President Monson was handled.
As noted above, Rexburg is a small town, and unless you are interested in the student activities, there is not a whole lot to do in the area. On campus, the BYU-Idaho Gardens are a beautiful demonstration of the talent being cultivated at the school, as students create exhibits in the gardens. There is also a Legacy Flight Museum, a labor of love of a local where you can see many types of working aircraft. Just a bit outside of town you can find Yellowstone Bear World, a wonderful place where they take care of bears and other animals who had to be removed from the wild for one reason or another. Or you can see the real thing less than two hours away at Yellowstone National Park, with some of the most spectacular geysers in the world, along with other natural wonders. On the way to Yellowstone, stop off and spend some time at one of largest remaining undisturbed waterfalls in the nation, Mesa Falls.
There are some great places to eat in Rexburg, not just the traditional college fare you might expect. Though if you are looking for pizza and burgers, there are some fun options, including the buffet at Pizza Pie Cafe, and the giant burgers at Big Jud's Country Diner. Instead of a coffee shop, they have the Cocoa Bean Cupcake Cafe, where you can pick up a scrumptious cupcake and hot chocolate. Or for a great meal with a Hawaiian touch, head over to Da Pineapple Grill. Regardless of if you are staying a few days in Rexburg or just passing through on your way to Yellowstone, you'll find places to keep you well fed and entertained, along with a healthy amount of LDS history to learn.