Post Summary: It seems like everyone is moving to Boise, Idaho. See why it’s the hottest new city to live in and if it’s right for you.
Does it seem like everyone is talking about Boise these days? Seriously, one quick scroll through Google, and you’ll find everyone from Forbes, Livability, Lonely Planet, Jetsetter, and Thrillist touting the glories of why you should be visiting or moving to Boise. The Boise metro area is one of the fastest-growing cities in the US and is seeing a surge of younger millennials moving to the “city of trees” for its economic opportunity and higher quality of life. Perhaps that’s why Jetsetter listed Boise as one of the 7 US cities that are hipper than you think.
As a full-time travel family wandering the US to find where we want to live, how could we not include Boise in our list of places to visit? So we did. We spent four months in “the Treasure Valley” to see if it lived up to its hype and if it could be a place we would be happy to call home. Read on to see why everyone’s relocating to Boise, our thoughts on this up and coming city, and if we’re moving to Boise.
Living in Boise, Idaho: Pros and Cons
First, here’s a quick summary of the pros and cons of living in Boise.
-Genuine, friendly people
-An abundance of outdoor activities
-Low unemployment rate
-Burgeoning food and wine scene
-Rising development and house prices
-Lack of quality public transportation
If you have followed our prior summary posts of the cities we’ve visited, you’ll know we have some core “wants” from each city we visit. In a nutshell, we’re looking for natural beauty, human-made beauty, affordability, a dynamic food scene, creative culture, diversity, access to urban amenities, a mid-size city, low traffic, community feeling, and chemistry. You can read more about what those mean to us in our are we moving to Asheville, NC post.
Here’s our rating system done in a completely subjective unscientific scale of 1-5 stars
1 Star – Nope, next.
2 Stars – Below average and leaning towards no.
3 Stars – A little, but I’m not bragging about it on social media.
4 Stars – Yes, solid yes.
5 Stars – Wowza, holy moly you’re perfect!
The number one thing you’ll hear about why people move to Boise is because of it’s extraordinary access to natural beauty. I never got tired of driving on the 84 towards downtown Boise and seeing the sweeping views of the snow-topped mountains cradling the city. If you’re a nature lover, Boise is a fantastic place to live. In the winter, there’s nearby Bogus Basin to get all your winter mountain recreation in, the foothills for unlimited hiking and mountain biking, and the incredible Boise River that flows through the city for fishing, tubing, and kayaking. Not to mention the rest of Idaho’s wilderness that’s only a short road trip away. Within one to two hours of Boise, you can visit one of the tallest sand dunes in North America, soak in a natural hot spring, or visit a 60-foot waterfall – swimming hole. Plain and simple, Boise is for people who want to enjoy the gifts of the natural world.
That being said, it is a high desert city. Even though its nickname is the “city of trees,” don’t be fooled to think it’s a lush forest town. No siree. You’ll need to travel to Northern Idaho if you want that kind of environment. We lived in a desert metropolis for over 15 years, and we know without a shadow of a doubt that we are not desert people. We want tall lush forests where the trees envelop you, rather than the sweeping desert views you get on Table Rock, the most famous hike in Boise. So while we recognize that Boise has spectacular beauty, it’s not the right kind of natural beauty for us.
Read our post on 10 amazing day trips to take from Boise
HUMAN MADE BEAUTY
While natural beauty is a MUST for us, we also like to see if the city we’re visiting puts pride in the aesthetic and upkeep of its city. We love downtown Boise and if it were in our budget, living in the historic North End would be a dream. It borders Downtown, and its close location to the foothills makes it a stellar option for those who want easy access to hiking trails. We love the mix of Victorian and Craftsman homes. If you’re not into that style, Boise does have a love affair with the mid-century modern aesthetic, and you’ll find a lot of updated mid-century modern homes in “The Bench” neighborhood.
Boise has a lot of charm to it, and its Downtown is one of our favorite downtown areas in the entire US. It’s clean, not too big, not too small, a great mix of local shops and well-known shops, and excellent walkability.
I’d be remiss not to mention all the outstanding public parks in Boise. The city, along with businesses and prominent Boisean families, have done great work in offering a bountiful supply of beautiful unspoiled land that everyone can enjoy. My personal favorite is the Boise Whitewater Park and the Military Reserve Bike Park, both funded in part by the Albertson family.
Boise is soooo affordable….if you moved here five years ago. Sorry guys, while Boise was once an incredible place to move for its affordable homes, that is not the case anymore. Boise home prices have dramatically risen, and Boise is now one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. As of February 2020, the median home price was $355,590, an increase of 11.25% from the last year. The steep increase in home prices has caused frustration and ire among long time residents who’s paycheck hasn’t increased with the rising costs. Who can afford these more expensive homes? People from out of state. It’s a contentious topic, and I’ll get more into that later.
That being said, Boise is still a more affordable place to live than other costly cities in the Pacific Northwest. Overall, the cost of living in Boise is 1.2% lower than the national average. Here are a few stats from Nerd Wallet on living in Boise:
-The median price of a two-bedroom apartment is $1,189.
-If you were making 60,000 a year salary (pre-tax) in LA you would need a 40,743 salary to maintain your standard of living.
Affordability is a metric that is going to be different for every person and their lifestyle. For us, Boise appears to be heading in the direction of Portland and may become inaccessible and too expensive for us.
DYNAMIC FOOD SCENE
It’s not that Boise has a bad food scene or a lack of high-quality restaurants serving inventive, excellent food; it just doesn’t have A LOT of that…yet. I do not doubt that with Boise’s rising development that there is big potential for an exciting foodie scene. There’s even a new 19,000 square-foot food hall slated to open downtown in the near future that will focus primarily on renting to local businesses. There are a lot of great restaurants in the downtown area, but what they’re mostly lacking are diverse food options. So many great places to get a craft beer, healthy eats, and general American fare, but if you’re looking for excellent Thai, Ethiopian, Vietnamese…you’re going to have to wait for Boise to catch up to other cities.
Boise does have a popular craft beer scene, exciting up and coming wineries, a plethora of hip coffee shops, and two fabulous farmers markets that open up in the spring. Boise may not be in full foodie status yet, but it’s only time till it starts to carve itself out as a fun food destination.
Where To Get An Amazing Craft Beer In Boise
5 Great Places To Get Dessert In Boise.
Having a city where the arts are thriving, and creative pursuits are not only accepted but applauded, is something that we think is very important to the vibrancy of a city. Boise has a fantastic art scene! It’s an excellent place for those who are creatively inclined and are looking to be in a creative community. Walking around the downtown area, you’ll see Freak Alley, the largest outdoor gallery in the NW. You’ll find the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Shakespeare company, the Boise Jazz Society, and numerous music festivals that make their way in the spring and summer. The most famous music festival being Treefort, a 5-day indie rock festival that takes over downtown Boise. There’s also Garden City, (technically it’s own city and not in Boise) the “hipster” neighborhood that is having an urban renaissance into a thriving live-work-create community, complete with galleries, hip restaurants, and wineries.
Yeah, it’s pretty white here. I’ll let the raw statistics speak for themselves.
-Two or more races: 3.28%
-Black or African American: 2.12%
-Other race: 1.66%
-Native American: 0.61%
-Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.15%
For us, the lack of diversity in Boise gives us serious pause. We’re hoping to raise our son in an environment where he can see that humanity comes in many different backgrounds and cultures. The lack of diversity does not mean that Boise is an unwelcoming place or deeply divided. Far from it, my personal experience as a multi-ethnic woman was one of staggering friendliness and warmth. Of course, it goes without saying that my single experience doesn’t speak for the whole. Overall, Boise is becoming a more liberal city (they even have a female Democratic mayor) that is exceptionally welcoming to people. In fact, Boise has a large refugee population and has taken great strides to be a haven for people from Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and Congo. Currently, Boise has over 19,000 refugees from all over the world.
ACCESS TO URBAN AMENITIES
Boise has access to everything you could want. Great hospitals, an international airport, a fun selection of restaurants, thriving local businesses, community events, Boise State University, and every big box store you could ever want.
MID SIZED CITY
Boise has an estimated population of 228,790 people. For us, that’s a great number that isn’t overwhelming. Of course, with Boise being the fastest growing city in the US, those numbers are rising every year. From 2010-2018 the population in Boise rose by 18.2%, and the population is growing every year by around 2 – 3%. Do you want to hear something crazy? It’s predicted that by 2040, Ada County will have over 1,000,000 people. Of course, Ada County is made up of more than just Boise, but there’s no refuting that Boise’s population will continue to grow.
You ask me if there’s traffic in Boise? No. You ask a long time resident? It’s awful. Can’t get anywhere these days!
I don’t know how to break it to you guys, but the traffic is not bad in Boise. I understand that if you lived here, you would see the change in commute times, but in comparison to the rest of the US, time spent in the car in Boise is very low. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, drivers spend an average of over 25 minutes for commute time in their vehicle. In Boise, the average time spent commuting is 17 minutes. The only time we ever saw traffic in Boise was when we were in the neighboring cities of Meridian and Nampa.
Is traffic going to get worse in Boise? Probably. It’s what happens when a city grows.
Boise gets an A++ for its community. You guys, everyone says hi to you here. Even when you’re in your car, they wave…from their car! For real, the people are incredibly friendly, welcoming, and warm. Boise may be a mid-sized city, but it has retained its small-town charm. I don’t mean to paint it as this utopian Mr. Rogers society, because there’s going to be rude people wherever you go, but the Boise community stands out for its genuine nature. People from Boise love their city and put a lot of love and pride towards creating a community-focused environment.
If you’re thinking about relocating to Boise, Idaho, because you have kids and are looking for a family-friendly place, then you can’t go wrong with Boise. Boise is listed by MSN as the eighth safest city in the world. In fact, Idaho, in general, is one of the safest states in the US.
25 Fun things to do in Boise with kids
So how was the chemistry for us? Did it excite us? Did it feel like…maybe I want to see more of you? Yeah. It did. We really enjoyed our time there. It took a little while. But once the weather warmed up and we spent more time outdoors we saw the great potential this amazing city has.
Will people hate me if I’m from California?
If I’m going to talk about moving to Boise, I have to address the narrative that Idaho despises California and all of its residents selling their mini-mansions, scooping up Boise’s cheap property (to them), and raising the housing prices for everyone. Is it true? Partially. There is a massive influx of people moving to Boise, and a lot of them are from California. They’re also from Washington, Utah, and Texas. In truth, the biggest group of people moving to Boise are residents from within the state. That doesn’t mean that their concerns about the Californication of Idaho are unwarranted.
I’ve spent a small amount of time in Idaho now, four months in Boise, and several months in Northern Idaho. No one ever treated me like a pariah when I told them I used to live in California. Mostly they would just joke with me not to tell anyone, and then we would move on. It’s easy to hate a faceless group who you don’t know who you’ve stripped of their humanity; it’s a lot harder to despise an actual breathing human who’s standing in front of you with their cutie pie two-year-old telling you how great your city is.
Because I’m a super curious person, I did ask every single person I talked to about their feelings on the rapid development and if they hated me because I once lived in the state of California. Sidenote: I’ve also lived in Maryland, Texas, Boston, and Georgia, so I’m not sure if I’m an actual Californian. What makes one a Californian? I digress.
Here’s what I’ve gleaned from my small sampling of Boiseans. If you’re going to move to Boise and you are coming from a state that rhymes with schmalifornia, here is what you should NOT do:
-Talk about how much better your state is
-Talk about how much better your food is
-Talk about how much smarter and better you are
That’s it. Just stop talking about how much better you are. Stop living up to the stereotype that Californians are elitist snobs. Look, people in Boise are incredibly nice. If you are warm and show a genuine love for their great city, they’re not going to hate you.
But if you are moving from California to Idaho, you might want to change your California plates as soon as possible.
Final thoughts about moving to Boise, Idaho
We loved our time in Boise, and we went back and forth on if this is where we want to live. The high quality of life, the outstanding nature, the growing downtown area, and the warm community vibe left us with a lot to think about. Ultimately, we’re not sure yet. While we love the natural beauty here, we crave a different type of nature with thick dark forests we can get gleefully lost in. We’ll see. Our journey isn’t over yet, and we still have so much more to see. Stay tuned.
Are you thinking about moving to Boise, Idaho? Let us know your thoughts below or if you have any questions.
Also, check out our sister post on living in Asheville and our thoughts on the funky mountain town.
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This is such helpful overview (in addition to your Asheville one)! I’m trying to determine where to move to from the Bay Area and Boise and Asheville are at the top of my list. Your criteria of what you’re seeking in a place is very close to my own. Which other places are you considering? I look forward to seeing which place you’ll choose to call home.
Hi! I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the post. Boise and Ashevile are fantastic cities. I would say that Asheville has a grittier feel than Boise. The pandemic put a major halt on all the places we were planning to visit. We were hoping to make it to Portland, Maine and Boulder, Colorado. Both places look amazing, but might be out of our price point. ALso, they have looong winters. Good luck on your future move. Let me know if you have any questions!
As a born and raised Boisean your review was spot on! Having lived in NY and Maui (both amazing places) Boise will always be home. Best of luck to you in your adventures and finding your new home!
Hi Brandy, to hear from a Boisean that we got it right made my day! Pretty amazing that you’ve lived in NY, Maui and Boise. They’re all so different. Thank you for stopping by our little corner of the internet.
I Love the Review and some of your Rating Points are beautiful. But the point concerning diversity sounds pretty racist to me. A city doesnt choose diversity. In my opinion that Happens. You explained your Self really good in that Part, still your Start is so negativ which gives the whole section negativ Vibes. „Yeah its pretty white here“ as that is a Bad thing. I don’t get why you Would say that.
Hope for a Dialog and Not just a delete of my comment as I just want to encourage a positive Attitude concerning what ever Race someone is. Where are all humane and that is what its all about.
Kindest Regards Form an Immigrant 🙂
Hi Leon, thanks for checking out the blog and giving your feedback. We don’t delete comments unless they’re hateful and provide no real value to the world. We don’t think that about your comment! I understand where you’re coming from and welcome your opinions. For us, stating that “it’s pretty white here” is a statement of fact rather than a judgment. At this moment, Boise is not a hugely diverse city. The statistics show that to be true. It’s up to each person to decide how they feel about that and up to each person to decide if having a diverse city is important to them. We truly love the city of Boise and if you haven’t been there, we hope and recommend you visit someday.
My husband and I just moved from San Diego to North End, Boise. Your review is spot on!! Our neighbors have been friendly and welcoming. We feel very safe in our neighborhood. The only thing that is a real bummer right now is the pandemic. No farmers markets, street fairs, public events, etc…Same as everywhere else in the country. I do miss the diversity of culture we had in CA. Other than that, we like it here.
The North End is beautiful! Such a great neighborhood. We’ve explored a lot of Idaho, and Boise really stands out for its friendly atmosphere. I think as Boise grows, the diversity will grow with it. Enjoy your new home! You’re going to love it even more once everything passes and you can really experience the city.
We are thrilled that you got the chance to enjoy the city we have fallen in love with over the last 10 years.
We moved here from Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho and what you desire in trees that surround you we exchanged for sun that more regularly makes a visit here in Boise. We improved our relationship with the sun from 174 days to 206 in addition to the fact that we are one hour ahead here in Boise. Plus, we desired less snow maintenance and were told when we moved here that Boise can get snow in the city but it usually melts away by the afternoon. In the 10 years we have lived here 3 of the winters have been a little more serious than that and we have had to shovel snow… but it’s rare vs a regularly activity up in CDA which is only 80 miles from the Canadian boarder. The overall effect for us has been a tremendous improvement in mood and quality of life.
You are also spot on with the mid-century scene here in Boise!
Although The Bench where so many of these homes exist are not exactly walking distance to downtown these homes to have a little more elbow room both in floor plan and lot size and you can get to downtown on a bike in less than 15 minutes and by car in less than 5 minutes. If you factor in the price difference between the North End vs the Bench some may decide that the 25-35% less is worth being still relatively close to downtown.
Your review of our city was very spot on and we will likely begin utilizing this for anyone wanting to learn more about the possibility of calling Boise their new home. Thank you! 🙏
I grew up in Boise and have been living in both LA and Boise for the last year. I’ve been in SoCal (mostly LA) for 16 years.
Just a few things.
-Everything else said in article.
-Downtown Boise is one of the best Downtown’s in the country. When things are normal there are a variety of happenings all year round. As noted – it is big enough, but not too big. Relatively safe.
-Food: Actually there’s more diverse food offerings than you may have known. You just have to get outside of Downtown. There’s a few African offerings, ethnic food trucks, Halal shops and more. Mostly on the Bench. And as far as American fare it is some of the best around. There isn’t quantity, but there are good options.
Clean + Low Crime: Boise and most of the Valley is just really clean and safe.
Accessible outdoors: Boise is great. You can fish and float the river that is in a city of 250,000. Hiking and biking within the city. Endless opportunities outside of the city too.
-Weather: Boise has decent to nice weather from April-ish to October. Winters are mild and becoming more mild with only a handful of very light snow days that usually melts by the afternoon. Summers can be brutally hot – but dry. This means evenings are generally quite comfortable throughout summer and the sun doesn’t set till after 9pm during the summer.
Neutral and the Bad (subjective):
-Expensive: February 2021 median for ALL of Ada County is now above $450.,000. I can only afford Boise if I bring a job to Boise. Salaries are still very low. Downtown, North End and much of SE/NE Boise are beyond what most people can afford. Not too far off from nice California suburbs. If you are from California and have equity and/or a great job that is remote Boise can still work. But most people can’t get a home on a single salary. So you probably don’t want to run around saying how “cheap” Boise is.
-Traffic: Boise itself doesn’t have much traffic. But if you move outside of Boise, traffic can be frustrating. There is only one freeway plus it’s spur in a Valley of 800,000 people. So your commute may literally contain miles of stop lights. Boise was just ranked the most painful commute in the country on the basis of how few miles you can travel at rush hour compared to off peak times. It may seem like an obscure way to calculate but it shows that congestion is going to intensify. Idaho also has Conservative tax laws that make it nearly impossible to adequately fund local road projects and public transit. A great example is Highway 16 near Star. It is an expressway that is only two miles long.
Public Transit: Within Boise you can fairly easily get around with a bike or walking. Otherwise I can confidently say Boise likely has one of the worst transit systems in the country for an area this size. Buses don’t operate on Sundays, very limited Saturday offerings and most lines end in the very early evening. They operate strange routes and few people here could tell you where/how to catch a bus.
-Politics: Boise is progressive and has been for awhile. There’s this idea that this is a new thing because of California. Not true. The community in *Boise* is generally supportive of diversity and social justice causes. However, there has been a push back on Progressive candidates as newcomers and locals fear a “new California”. Idaho itself is very Conservative and they work on and sometimes pass a lot of “anti” this and that to make political statements. Some may like this. It may make others queasy. There’s a growing dichotomy between urbanizing Boise and rural Idaho which still has control of the legislature. COVID brought this out as anti-maskers came into Boise to harass politicians and businesses.
Remote: Boise is said to be one of the most remote metros in the lower 48. This brings some Boise more cosmopolitan offerings sometimes but you’ll have to fly to get to almost any larger city. Salt Lake (which is just a less interesting and bigger Boise IMO) is 5-6 hours away by car. Portland is 6-7 hours by car. Everything else is further. The Boise Airport is adding lots of destinations though and all major West Coast cities have plenty of non-stop flights with low fares if you buy ahead. Other major US and world cities are usually just one stop away.
Air quality: Boise can suffer from pretty dismal air quality. While it isn’t as consistently bad as bigger cities it can have terrible long lasting poor air quality in winter from Inversions (cooler stagnant air gets trapped in the Valley). Summer can be “moderate” on its own from heat but can be unbearable during fire season. Recently most smoke has been from Coastal states but Idaho has a long history of its own mega fires.