Why Are People Moving to Idaho?

Idaho is attracting nationwide attention as an ideal living destination and for good reason. Boise, the capital, is a thriving city with many favorable lifestyle features including trendy restaurants and bars, miles of walking trails and a great variety of recreation and family entertainment. The healthy business climate highlighted by tech giants HP and Micron, is a major employment draw.

While breaking down the extensive list of attractive qualities is necessary for a complete picture, truthfully, the swelling interest in Boise as a destination stems from the sum of it’s parts and not one feature in particular.

A few reasons people decide to relocate:

  • High crime rate
  • High taxes
  • Heavy regulation and intrusion
  • High property prices
  • Restriction of personal freedoms
  • Population density and traffic
  • Wildfires

No place in the world is perfect, but there are destinations where the plus column so vastly outweighs the minus column that the attraction and draw is very strong and compelling. Let’s explore just a few of the factors that may explain the swelling interest and fascination with Idaho, and the Boise area in particular.

Idaho state capitol and downtown Boise at sunset

Should I Move to Boise?

So much has already been written, but the attractive qualities of this little city just keep on multiplying and strengthening. When so many favorable lifestyle elements synchronize with a talent-hungry business sector, the resulting environment is proving to be irresistible to many seekers and is contributing to the low unemployment rate which is about 1.5% below the national average. For Baby Boomers looking to retire and simply enjoy what life has to offer, Idaho has much to offer.

Boise, Idaho should absolutely be on your short list of cities to move to if you are seeking an environment with many of the familiar city attractions such as a concentration of dining and entertainment choices but without the vast, impersonal expanses of a huge metropolis. The business climate is bustling and the nightlife is varied and exciting, and it’s all within walking distance. Southwest, Alaska, Delta, American and United all serve Boise from several California cities and often with fares of $200 or less round trip. With reasonable airfares and many hospitality choices in and around Boise, a good plan would be to visit for a weekend and see the area for yourself. But be forewarned, you may fall in love with this place.

It’s the Economy

Job market growth in Boise is running between 3-4% annually, outpacing the national average and on course to approach 50% in the 2020’s. In contrast, national job growth over the same period is expected to reach the mid 30% range. The economy of Boise is alive and well and all indications are that it will continue to grow and thrive in the coming years.

The hottest growth sector of the Boise economy is science and technology, and dozens of talent-hungry companies have settled in Boise, successfully tapping the talent stream flowing from Boise State University and other tech-strong institutions. BSU is also on the national college football radar with it’s potent NCAA Division 1 football team, the Broncos. Boise is Bronco crazy and the bright orange and blue team colors are seen everywhere. Boise State football is a powerhouse of the Mountain West Conference with a bowl record of 12-7. The Broncos all-time winning percentage of .731 is the highest in all of collegiate football. The Broncos have an amazing fan following and the excitement of football season is totally contagious in the Boise area. And they play on blue turf!

Manufacturing, energy, medical services, banking, retail, food production and recreation are some of the other sectors contributing to the low unemployment rate and healthy business climate.

Restaurants, Bars, Art and Music

The Boise restaurant and bar scene is a delightful surprise for the new arrival. Whether searching a distinctive micro brew or a Sunny Slope varietal wine, the choices are plenty. Many establishments feature locally sourced Idaho produce and meats across a culinary spectrum that compares favorably with much larger metropolitan hubs around the country. You’ve got everything from local specialty burger joints to high end steak houses, Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese, seafood and sushi, Mexican, artisan pizza, Italian, Indian and Basque to name just a few. One example of a unique restaurant experience is Barbacoa Grill which touts “inventive Spanish-American fare with open-fire grilled steaks served in a vibrant and stylish atmosphere.” A personal recommendation is the “hot rock” filet with flaming cognac sauce. The steak is served on a thick slab that has been heated to hundreds of degrees. The waiter pours cognac sauce on the hot “rock” which flames up and surrounds the sizzling meat creating an Argentine campfire atmosphere. Besides the impressive menu, Barbacoa is full of local art and museum pieces which will entertain guests for hours. barbacoa-boise.com

Another personal favorite is Mai Thai, offering a wonderful asian fusion menu including sushi. maithaigroup.com Enjoy brunch along the Boise River at the Riverside Grill or Sandbar Patio and Grill open Spring through Fall. riversideboise.com/feast Explore top notch steak and seafood, a taste of India and Caribbean fare at Chandlers Steakhouse, Cottonwood Grill, The Brickyard, Bombay Grill and Casa Blanca Cuban Grill. Check out the Bittercreek Ale House for great burgers (I highly recommend the Lava Lakes Lamb Burger) and a cold local brew. bittercreekalehouse.com The Boise area supports the second largest ethnic Basque population in the Country as evidenced by the bustling “Basque Block” near the Capitol. Check out Bar Gernika bargernika.com and the Basque Market thebasquemarket.com for excellent basque fare and drinks.

Folks, this only scratches the surface of what the Boise area restaurant scene has to offer. There are many fine bars stocked with microbrews and excellent Idaho wine. downtownboise.org/explore/nightlife Even in-house distilled liquor is on hand at Bardenay which claims to be the first restaurant/distillery in the country. Sip a hand crafted cocktail while you enjoy the popular menu selections. bardenay.com

Thai cuisine at Mai Thai in downtown Boise
Sampling Thai Delights With Our Kazakh Friends in Downtown Boise

A local artist recently lamented, “we have an underground culture (In Boise) that is underappreciated. We have great food, healthy and athletic people, educated people, people who are dreamers. It’s a shame the nation doesn’t know what Boise has to share with the rest of the world.” But the word is getting out and the draw to Boise is multi-ethnic and diversified.

The art and music scene is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance of culture that shows itself in street murals, local artist galleries, street music and annual festivals such as the Treefort Music Fest which describes the event as follows; “Treefort offers us all a unique opportunity to take a break from our normal routine to discover new favorite bands, films, writers, yogis, hackers, thinkers, comics, makers, artists, ales, and foods while getting a little rock’n’roll wild with our friends and neighbors.” What’s not to like about that! Jazz lovers will be drawn to the annual Gene Harris Jazz Festival hosted by Boise State University.

Check Out the Local Produce and Meats on Your e-scooter

The Boise Farmers Market is open during the warmer months and offers a great variety of local seasonal fruit and vegetables, locally raised meats, pastry and bread, honey and jam, and fresh-roasted coffee. A wide selection of ready-to-eat food is also available. Downtown Boise is not huge and is entirely walkable and family friendly. As a walking alternative, hundreds of E-Scooters and E-Bikes are available for rent everywhere you look and are approved for use in most city areas and on the miles of greenbelt. Expanded areas are designated for ADA accommodation.

Recreation Everywhere

Thanks to forward thinking by city planners back in the early 60’s, the city began developing the “green belt” along the Boise River which now stretches nearly thirty miles and provides a paved walking and biking path along some of the most scenic areas of the city. Numerous parks offer family recreation and peaceful settings for observing nature and wildlife. The corridor along the Boise River features trendy restaurants, bars, and wine tasting, all accessible by walking or biking the greenbelt.

The Boise Parks and Recreation Department offers many adult recreation programs including basketball, flag football, golf, hockey, ice skating, pickleball, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball. Though far from any ocean waves, surfers can ride the mechanically shaped wave the city created in the Boise River at the Boise Whitewater Park. The waves can be shaped for various skill levels of whitewater kayaking or surfing. It’s a very cool recreational attraction. Plans are in place to add additional water features that will accommodate all levels of family recreation in the river.

Brundage Mountain is Visible from Payette Lake in McCall

Winter Recreation in Idaho just takes the cake for snow sport enthusiasts. Onthesnow.com names the five best overall Idaho ski resorts as Sun Valley, Tamarack Resort, Bogus Basin, Brundage Mountain Resort and Lookout Pass Ski Area. The nonprofit Bogus Basin is just a 45 minute drive from Boise and tops out at 7590 feet with 1800 feet of vertical rise. Eleven lifts can handle almost 10000 riders per hour. Night skiing is popular on this substantial mountain where all skill levels are accommodated. Mountain biking and hiking are popular summer recreation options and the Glade Runner coaster offers a 3/4 mile cruise through the trees and mountain scenery on your own sled and at your speed.


The unsuspecting visitor strolling through The Village in Boise’s neighboring town of Meridian, will be forgiven for thinking they have stepped into the center plaza of a European village far from the state of Idaho. Featuring upscale apparel and specialty retail, fine restaurants and cafes, Village Cinemas, and luxury office space., The Village is a delightful destination in any season. An outdoor ice skating rink and warming fireplaces in the winter create the look and feel of a European winter market topped off with a mesmerizing show fountain choreographed with music. Check out the Village business directory and map here. thevillageatmeridian.com/pdfs/directoryMap.pdf

Hunting and Fishing is Superb in Idaho

Hunting and Fishing in Idaho is fantastic and the cost of the related licensing is a nice benefit. The cost of a resident fishing and hunting license in California is just over $100 while the combination license in Idaho runs $39 unless you are over 65 in which case you pay $13.75. A disabled veteran pays only $5.75 for the same privileges. The avid fishing and hunting enthusiast will appreciate the Combo Sportsman’s Package for fishing and hunting privileges including tags for deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, wolf, turkey, salmon and steelhead. That package runs $144.60.

Wines From the Sunny Slope Area of the Snake River Valley AVA

Idaho Wines Are on the Map

Californians in particular that are considering relocating to Idaho will wonder if Idaho wines will truly be able to satisfy in terms of quality and variety. After all, California wines are known the world over and the choices of AVA, variety, vintage and quality are virtually endless. There are three primary AVA’s in the wine growing regions of Idaho; the Snake River Valley AVA, the Lewis-Clark Valley AVA, and the Eagle Foothills AVA. Some 60 wineries produce over 160,000 cases of wine annually creating over 200 million dollars of economic activity for Idaho.

And yes, you will find good and great wine as you sample your way through the tasting rooms. Whites and reds are both well represented including Riesling and Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and the bolder Tempranillos, Cabs and Malbecs. On your next visit to the Boise area, take a few hours to taste along the Sunny Slope area of the Snake River Valley AVA. It won’t be long before you too are sold!

And Homes are Still Affordable

For many, the lower cost of home ownership is a huge factor in considering the move to Idaho.  While home prices in Boise and the surrounding Treasure Valley have been increasing at a rate above the national average, homes are still priced on average below many other appealing destinations.  Boise recently ranked number 5 in the nation for housing affordability for first time home buyers.  And for those moving from metropolitan areas in California, where prices and growing equity have outpaced most of the country, enticing options could include purchase of investment property in addition to a primary residence, major home upgrades and ownership of desirable properties possibly out of reach in many real estate markets.

A Large Home Being Built Overlooking Lake Lowell
A New Home Nearing Completion Overlooking Lake Lowell in Canyon County

The Pros and Cons of Moving to Boise, Idaho

No single article can enumerate all of the pros and cons of moving to Idaho. While the Idaho experience of this author has been altogether positive, some would seek an honest listing of some of the not-so-good features of the Boise area or the State as a whole. While the cost of housing is lower than many parts of the country, so are prevailing wages. This is not felt as much in the high end tech, professional and specialty fields but can certainly be a factor when building the family budget in anticipation of a move.

Idaho ranks #8 nationally in crime rate according to US News and World Report. While the overall crime rate is relatively low, some crimes are on the rise such as drug related crimes. More specifically, the #8 ranking in the report breaks down two separate areas showing that Idaho ranks #5 nationally in public safety, which is the measure most would value when thinking about crime against citizens, but #24 in corrections, considering many broader issues such as prison infrastructure, overcrowding and other factors.

The quality of the education system is always near the top of the list for families considering a move. Idaho’s high school graduation rate is just a bit below the national average but it is on the rise. Improving the quality of Pre-K through 12 education is a top Idaho leadership priority and progress is being made. Good schools and teachers are plentiful in Idaho but there is always room for improvement. The state education budget is being expanded in keeping with the current Governor’s stated priority of elevating the quality of education in Idaho.

Why Are People Moving to Idaho? The Bottom Line….

The bottom line is this; Boise, Idaho is a goldilocks zone that has proven to be more than a passing fad. A synergistic balance of lifestyle and employment opportunities is found here that simply attracts people and with good planning and leadership, the model should be sustainable long into the future.

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