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Bristol City Profile: The Buzz about Boise

If there is one place that seems to be getting a lot of buzz these days, it’s Boise. And it’s not just because of its economy, which boasts an impressive unemployment rate of less than 4%.

6 January 2016

Indeed, while quality jobs are important, overall quality of life matters even more. Boise aims to become “the most livable city” in the country – and so far, they appear to be doing all the right things.

Let’s look at what makes Boise such an appealing destination.

Location, Location

Nestled on a plain near scenic foothills, mountains, and forests, Boise offers plenty of access to the great outdoors. Biking, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and camping are all within reach – and when the winter chill arrives, skiing opportunities abound at places like Bogus Basin. And, at just under 3,000 feet, Boise offers a mountain vibe at a manageable elevation.

But its location doesn’t only offer spectacular scenery and ample recreation. According toSperling’s Best Places, it brings good weather, too. Boise boasts around 206 sunny days per year, and significantly less rainfall (and humidity) than the national average. At the same time, Boise’s weather is variable enough that it gives residents a little bit of everything – and a taste of all four seasons. The average January low is 22 degrees Fahrenheit, while the average high in July is around 90 degrees. This means Boiseans get to bundle up in winter coats, celebrate summer in shorts, and enjoy everything in between. 

Boise is also far enough from other major cities to be its own center of gravity, rather than being an extension of some other metropolis or part of a megapolis. And yet, it is hardly isolated. As an integral part of the Pacific Northwest region, Boise is counterpoised against Portland and Seattle – offering a prairie contrast to its port-city sisters. Best of all, those seeking a little variety will find that they can be in either city in under 8 hours, making them perfect destinations for long weekends.

A City of Surprises

Those who have never been to Boise may be in for a surprise as it offers a range of amenities typically seen in much larger cities. But with a population of just more than 205,000 (and around 664,000 when you factor in the surrounding metro region), Boise has just enough people to support a steady stream of arts and athletics – but not so many people that the city is overwhelming or isolating.

For example, those who want to enjoy nature’s splendor without leaving town have a variety of options, starting with the Idaho Botanical Garden. The property features multiple specialty gardens, each with a different theme, including an English Garden, Meditation Garden, a Children’s Adventure Garden, an Heirloom Rose Garden, and even a Native Plant Garden. Each season brings special events for all ages, such as the Scarecrow Stroll in October and the Winter Garden a Glow holiday program beginning at the end of November.

If you want something a bit more active, visit the 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt – a project that transformed a dumping ground into a clean and scenic waterway with public access and amenities. Best of all – it is enjoyable for all ages and abilities. For example, citizens and guests can even turn their walk or ride into a scavenger hunt for the city’s history!

There are plenty of arts and entertainment options, too. One popular event is the First Thursday Art Walk, which offers residents and visitors “the chance to stroll through the unique shops and galleries in downtown, while enjoying in-store entertainment and special events.” Those interested in more formal arts and entertainment options should check listings for performances at Ballet Idaho for stirring dance performances, theSapphire Room for fine dining and intimate concerts, the Morrison Center forBroadway musicals (and much more), and the Stage Coach Theater for live community theater.

Boise also has you covered when you don’t feel like getting dressed up, but would rather play. For example, those with children may enjoy the Wahooz Family Fun Zone, which has everything from arcade games and mini golf to a water park.  Those who want a tamer kind of fun should head to Zoo Boise or the Discovery Center, both which make science and nature fun and interesting for young minds (and hands). And if you’re not tired after all of the hiking, playing, and learning, cheer on the Boise State Broncos at a home game!

Charming – but with considerations

Boise has the charm of a small town and the services of a big one – set against the splendor of nature. And yet, it remains affordable compared to other destinations. Visit Idaho reports that Idaho’s cost of living is the second lowest in the 11 Western States, with the median home value in Boise at just under $235,000. It also brags that Boise has a lower tax burden than the largest city in 44 other states. Meanwhile, those who move to Boise praise the short commutes, and appreciate that it is family-oriented, friendly, and health conscious – no surprise for a city full of parks and recreation!

Yet, all of these pluses are bound to come with a few conditions. One is that air quality can be poor in the winter due to a phenomenon called inversion. Another is that, like many places in the West, Boise was hard hit by the recession, and although it continues to recover, the wages are often lower than they would be elsewhere (according to its median household income is less than $50,000). Also like in many western states, public transportation options are limited – which can make the city less affordable or appealing to those relying on public transit, more congested for those who are forced to drive a car, and more polluted for everyone. Finally, many note that the state is one of the least diverse and most conservative – which may be a very comfortable fit for some, but less so for others.

One way to gauge if the city is a good match is to take a predeparture tour with one of our area experts, including real estate agents and destination services providers. Our professionals can give neighborhood tours, provide valuable information about schools and local amenities, and can answer any questions to help transferees prepare to live in Boise!


Boise is getting its share of buzz these days, and it is a promising destination in the Pacific Northwest. Smart Asset named it one of the top ten state capitals to live in, citing its thriving arts scene, quiet atmosphere, and low crime rate. All of this sounds pretty good – especially when it is accompanied by a relatively affordable price tag. Potentially transferees should keep in mind, however, that every place has a few downsides, and Boise is no exception. Even so, most people find that their experience in a new city is based on what they make of it. And in Boise, you get a head start, because all of the ingredients for a high quality of life are right outside your back door.

Further Reading:  30 Awesome Things to Do in Boise


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