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The Best Places to Live in Idaho

Idaho is definitely a gem of a state (and not just because the state is loaded with rare minerals—hence the nickname, the Gem State). With wide-open spaces, majestic mountains, green forests, and crystal-clear lakes and rivers, it’s a dream come true for the outdoorsy type (but there are plenty of options for city folk too).

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re considering a move to this land of outdoor adventure. So, is the call of the wild calling you? Do you fantasize about the glories of small-town living? Do you love all things potatoes?

Then let’s put on those hiking boots and discover the best places to live in Idaho!

An Idaho Primer

Idaho's Best Cities Map

There’s more to Idaho than just potatoes, you know. Like we said, Idaho is super outdoorsy. With the Rocky Mountains and national forests filling up a huge chunk of the state, it can be a rugged place to live. But you’re surrounded by the beauty and splendor of the natural world. It’s like a nature documentary, but real!

No matter where you land in Idaho, you’ll experience all four seasons—sometimes to the extreme. There’s snow in the winters and heat during the summers (especially in southern Idaho where the high desert areas are). The pollen in Idaho is also extreme and can sometimes cover the lakes in a layer of yellow dust! So come prepared with all your best allergy remedies.

Idaho is also a relatively quiet state—with a total population of just under 2 million people.1 That’s a fraction of the population of many big cities. Those 2 million Idahoans are largely spread out and live in rural small towns. Even the biggest cities are pretty small in comparison to other states. So if you’re used to a lot of hustle and bustle, Idaho will be a definite change.

Still, there are great places to be found in this gem of a state.

The Best Places to Live in Idaho

While we did use some hard data (population, home and rent prices, etc.) as well as personal insights from some former and current Idahoans to make our list of best places to live in Idaho, the best place for you will ultimately depend on your personal likes and dislikes (as well as your personal budget). For example, some people love busy city life while others prefer a more laid-back small town. But in the end, all “best places” lists are subjective, including this one.

Coeur d’Alene

Ironically, we’re starting our expedition through the Gem State with one of the most un-rugged cities in all of Idaho. Located in Idaho’s northern panhandle, Coeur d’Alene is a modern resort city in the middle of the wilderness. There’s a bustling downtown with live music and theater, restaurants, and a casino. Theme park fans will even find nearby Silverwood—the largest theme park in the Northwestern United States.

But that doesn’t mean the outdoors aren’t part of the package in Coeur d’Alene (or CDA as it’s known by the locals). The city is located along the banks of Lake Coeur d’Alene (obviously!) and features all the amenities of a coastal town—including watercraft activities, romantic boardwalks and sunny beaches. You’ll find plenty of nature-based activities in both summer and winter, with mountain biking trails, camping, skiing and more.

Metro Area Population

179,7892

Median Household Income

$59,6993

Median Home Price

$719,3234

Median Monthly Rent

$1,3825

Average Annual Rainfall

33.9”6

*For each city, the metro area population numbers include the citytogether with the surrounding urban and suburban areas.

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Post Falls

Looking for all the excitement of a resort town like CDA but don’t want to actually live in the city? The answer lies a stone’s throw away from CDA in Post Falls. This city has all that CDA has to offer, plus its own options for outdoor recreation. The Spokane River borders Post Falls to the south and has lots of water-fueled fun.

See how much house you can afford with our free mortgage calculator!

Fun fact: Post Falls is actually sandwiched between two large cities—CDA to the east and Spokane just minutes across the border in Washington state. So you can have your choice for where to spend your Saturday nights (or, if you’re a parent, where to spend a day with the kids).

Metro Area Population*

179,7897

Median Household Income

$65,5928

Median Home Price*

$719,3239

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,09810

Average Annual Rainfall

 30.4”11

* Post Falls is within the Coeur d’Alene metro area, so these numbers are the same as CDA.
**The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Post Falls is a little older than the other examples in this list.

Moscow

South of CDA, also hugging the Idaho-Washington border, is Moscow. No, you didn’t just enter a wormhole in the middle of a mountain and instantly arrive in Russia. The only thing Moscow, Idaho, has in common with the City on the Seven Hills is the name. Moscow (Idaho) is actually a college town—the home of the University of Idaho. In fact, the university is one of the biggest employers in the whole city!

Moscow has a similar vibe to Austin, Texas—a quirky college town that’s a collection of diverse interests and lifestyles coming together in an interesting mishmash. The downtown area is full of unique shops, restaurants, coffeehouses and brew pubs that offer a wide variety of flavors to suit all kinds of tastes. There are also lots of events like farmers markets, film festivals, art walks and live theater to keep any resident steeped in the local culture.

Metro Area Population

39,46412

Median Household Income

$49,25113

Median Home Price

$514,00014

Median Monthly Rent*

$77615

Average Annual Rainfall

 25.7”16

*The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Moscowis a little older than the other examples in this list.

Lewiston

The last stop on our Rocky Mountain conga line of cities along the Washington-Idaho border is Lewiston. Located where the Snake and Clearwater Rivers meet, Lewiston was named for the famed explorer Meriwether Lewis, who came to the area with William Clark as part of their legendary expedition in 1805. The Lewis and Clark Discovery Center in Hells Gate State Park contains exhibits about the expedition’s trek through Idaho. The park is also near the entrance to Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in North America (even deeper than the Grand Canyon!).

Lewiston not only has a lot of history and natural beauty to it, but the town is also one of the most affordable places on our list based on the annual income of the jobs in the area and housing costs. It’s always important to find a place to live that’s within your means. A lot of people do some not-so-smart things to afford a home, which is why it’s good to use a mortgage calculator so you’ve got the info to make the right choices for your family. No fancy house is worth your peace of mind!

Metro Area Population

64,85117

Median Household Income

$60,58118

Median Home Price

$425,90019

Median Monthly Rent*

$78720

Average Annual Rainfall

 21.6”21

*The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Lewistonis a little older than the other examples in this list.

Boise

Boise, the capital of Idaho, describes itself as “a city you’d want to have a beer with.” How fun is that? With a friendly, relaxed vibe, it’s got the best of both sides of Idaho—the modern and the rugged. The city and its modern skyscrapers are surrounded by picture-perfect mountains and lush forests. In fact, there are so many species of trees planted in the city that Boise has become known as the City of Trees.

Boise is also the most populous city in Idaho and has lots to offer its residents. There’s a booming job market, a busy downtown with lots of shops and restaurants, many large parks and nature trails, a zoo, museums and more. The culture of Boise is an interesting cross-section of people, including the Basque Block founded by Basque immigrants from Spain and France. And Boise State University hosts the annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium with its signature blue playing field.

Metro Area Population

801,47022

Median Household Income

$68,37323

Median Home Price

$609,87524

Median Monthly Rent

$1,26525

Average Annual Rainfall

13.2”26

Meridian

The Boise metro area is a cluster of great cities, and Meridian is one of them. Billed as “the biggest small town in Idaho,” Meridian borders Boise on the west side and offers access all the big city’s amenities plus some of its own.

The center of commerce and culture in Meridian is the Village—a charming outdoor retail mall with shops and a lively common area that hosts special events, live entertainment, and festivals. Adrenaline junkies and speed demons can get their fix at the Meridian Speedway (Speedway! Speedway!) and events like their annual Eve of Destruction (Destruction! Destruction!). And the city offers lots of seasonal community events throughout the year.

Metro Area Population*

801,47027

Median Household Income

$85,20128

Median Home Price*

$609,87529

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,31830

Average Annual Rainfall

 12”31

*Meridian is within the Boise metro area, so these numbers are the same as Boise.
**The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Meridianis a little older than the other examples in this list.

Eagle

Another great city in the Boise metro area is Eagle, which is located to the northwest of the big city. Eagle prides itself on being a great place to raise a family—close enough to commute to the city, but far enough away from the hustle and bustle. Plus, there are lots of community events throughout the year that’ll help you get to know your new neighbors a little better.

So, even though it’s close enough to the big city to have all the benefits, Eagle is a classic, clean-cut American community with a small-town feel. Even the name is all American!

Metro Area Population*

801,47032

Median Household Income

$99,81433

Median Home Price*

$609,87534

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,51635

Average Annual Rainfall

 18.1”36

*Eagle is within the Boise metro area, so these numbers are the same as Boise.
**The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Eagleis a little older than the other examples in this list.

Nampa

The last city we’re highlighting in the Boise metro area is Nampa. This town is the furthest away from Boise, about 20 miles to the west. With a population of over 100,000 people, Nampa is the third-largest city in all of Idaho.37 The job climate in Nampa is an interesting combination of agriculture and industry—with farms, wineries and orchards right next to factories and big businesses like Amazon (which landed a distribution center in Nampa back in 2020).

Aside from its industry, Nampa also has its own culture and forms of entertainment. The city’s downtown area is full of shops and restaurants and hosts a farmers market. The Ford Idaho Center hosts events throughout the year like concerts, sporting events, and rodeos.

Metro Area Population*

801,47038

Median Household Income

$57,55239

Median Home Price*

$609,87540

Median Monthly Rent**

$1,07341

Average Annual Rainfall

 12”42

*Nampa is within the Boise metro area, so these numbers are the same as Boise.
**The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Nampais a little older than the other examples in this list.

Idaho Falls

Over in the southeastern part of Idaho is Idaho Falls—a town that got its name before its residents voted to build the man-made waterfall on the Snake River.43 So you could say the city was ahead of its time. That forward-thinking mentality may have played a part in the city’s historical connection to advancements in nuclear energy research at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Even the artificial falls were built for a hydroelectric plant!

Idaho Falls also offers lots of great outdoor amenities for its residents. It’s known for the beautiful River Walk—a greenbelt along a five-mile stretch of the Snake River that’s dotted with parks, walkways, piers, and spaces for public events like summer concerts and farmers markets. Like many of Idaho’s cities, the downtown area has plenty of charming shops and restaurants—plus, the streets are lined with creatively decorated benches. Idaho Falls is also home to the Museum of Idaho and is the closest major metro area to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.

Metro Area Population

163,29344

Median Household Income

$57,41245

Median Home Price

$482,25046

Median Monthly Rent*

$85647

Average Annual Rainfall

 16.9”48

*The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Idaho Fallsis a little older than the other examples in this list.

Pocatello

About an hour southwest of Idaho Falls on Interstate 15 is Pocatello, called Gateway to the Northwest. Founded in 1889 and named for a Shoshone chief, Pocatello has a long history as a center for both trade and transportation. Like Moscow, Pocatello is a college town—home to Idaho State University, which, like in many college towns, is the biggest employer in the city.49 But both health care and tech (like ON Semiconductor’s manufacturing plant) also have a presence in Pocatello.

The local culture of Pocatello is another interesting mix. Of course, there’s year-round natural beauty, like the Mink Creek Trail—perfect for mountain biking and snowmobiling. But there are also a few unique facilities, like the Zoo Idaho, the Idaho Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Clean (yes, that’s a thing).

Metro Area Population

97,64550

Median Household Income

$51,29351

Median Home Price

$462,45052

Median Monthly Rent*

$71453

Average Annual Rainfall

 20.7”54

*The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Pocatellois a little older than the other examples in this list.

Twin Falls

The last city on our “best of” list is not least in any way. Twin Falls is the third waterfall-inspired city we’re looking at . . . and the most ironically named. See, the city was originally named for a pair of waterfalls located in the Snake River Canyon. But a hydroelectric dam diverted the water away from one of the falls (womp womp). Don’t worry about that lone waterfall, though. There are lots of other breathtaking waterfalls in the area, including Shoshone Falls—dubbed the Niagara of the West.

But there’s lots more to Twin Falls. The Snake River Canyon is a beautiful natural backdrop for hiking, biking, dining, kayaking, ziplining and BASE jumping off the Perrine Bridge. Even Evel Knievel couldn’t resist jumping over this canyon (he didn’t make it across, but you can still see where he tried).55

The city is in the south-central part of the state, which means its residents are no more than a couple of hours away from skiing the slopes of Sun Valley, playing the casinos of Jackpot, Nevada (a favorite pastime of the locals), or enjoying the nightlife of Boise. Industry is big in Twin Falls, with Chobani and Clif Bar both operating plants in the city. Twin Falls also has a fairly nice climate and, like Boise, has very little snow during the winter (the winds are pretty strong, though).

Metro Area Population

118,25356

Median Household Income

$53,93657

Median Home Price

$441,95058

Median Monthly Rent*

$83759

Average Annual Rainfall

 14”60

*The latest data we could find on median monthly rent for Twin Fallsis a little older than the other examples in this list.

Best Places in Idaho for Retirees

Are you looking for a quiet place to hang up your spurs after years of blazing your own trail through life? With its relatively low cost of living and beautiful scenery, Idaho has become quite the hot spot for retirees—especially those who come from high-cost states who can get more bang for their buck in the Gem State. Here are some retiree-friendly cities we came across.

  • Garden City

Best Places in Idaho for Families

Got a family? Idaho is very welcoming to families and the many small towns are havens for people looking to raise kids in relative peace and quiet.

Moving with a family can be stressful—especially with all the stuff that kids have these days. And the cost of moving all that stuff can really get out of control. But having a real estate agent who’s prepared to help you with everything home-buying related can be a big help. They can keep you on track with your budget and even connect you with a company or community who will help you move.

Ready to Move to Idaho?

Now that you know there’s more to Idaho than just potatoes, the next step in your relocation expedition to the wilds of Idaho needs to be finding a real estate agent. But this agent has to be a cut above the rest—a real trailblazer who knows the territory like the back of their hand.

In other words, you need a RamseyTrusted Idaho real estate agent!

Our network of top-notch agents is dedicated to serving you the Ramsey way and working with you to understand your individual housing needs and budget. They’re the only agents we trust to get you through the wilderness of the whole house-buying process.

Find a RamseyTrusted Idaho real estate agent today!

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