With vast acres of rocky mountain edges and crisp, cool blue lakes, Idaho is quickly becoming a top destination for travelers and residents alike. As a low cost of living allows for greater affordability and more opportunity, many people are choosing this beautiful landscape for their new home. Only 560 miles apart via air, Idaho has all the familiarities of California in a smaller, more personal, community-centric package. U.S. News recently highlighted Idaho as the state with the lowest crime rate in the West. Additionally, Idaho still maintains the lowest cost of living in the Western states, with one of the most favorable state tax rates in the country. It is a place centered around community, as more homes are owner-occupied in an incredibly affordable setting.
If you’re moving to Idaho, you’ll likely need to do some research before you pull up your California roots. Here are our top tips and information for moving to the Potato State.
What to Know Before Moving to Idaho From California
The Gem State. The Potato State. The Niagara of the West. America’s Final Frontier. The Northwest’s Playground. No matter what you choose to call Idaho, there is one undisputed fact: Idaho is quickly becoming a top destination for travelers and new residents alike. Here are some things to know before you make the move:
It’s Less Expensive
A recent article by News 7 KTVB in Boise proclaimed Idaho a new favorite for Californians planning their next big move. Patrick Crewdson, a Boise resident, offers this simple explanation of why Californians are leaving the Golden State behind: “Because it’s so expensive.” Indeed. In its 2016 community survey, the U.S. Census found that 21% of all new Idaho transplants did in fact hail from California, and it’s easy to see why. Idaho offers all the feel-good vibes of small-town living, coupled with the perks of urban areas.
You don’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity here, where safe, clean, country living offers greater stability and a lower cost of living. The average annual household income in 2016 was $49,174, compared to California’s $63,783, and yet the quality of life in Idaho far surpasses that of California. And, with the population at just 19 per square mile compared to California’s 239.1, there is plenty of room left for growth, with a wealth of natural resources just outside your door.
The Scenery is Gorgeous
Beyond its bustling rivers and glassy lakes are unspoiled acres of untamed nature, bringing its people one step closer to Mother Nature herself. Visit Idaho proudly proclaims, “It’s been said if you flatten all the mountains in Idaho, the state would be the size of Texas.”
Sandwiched between the Rocky Mountain states, Idaho is home to 1.6 million people and over 83,000 square miles. Central Idaho is known for its mountain ranges, while the northern part showcases the vibrant greenery of forests and hillsides. The southern area is made up of a beautiful, and convenient, blend of both urban and farmland areas.
You’ll Experience All Four Seasons
Given its placement in the Pacific Northwest, Idaho finds itself primarily impacted by the whims of the Pacific Ocean, which swells and crashes only 300 miles away. A four-season state like California, the weather affects the parts of Idaho differently. The northern part of the state is dominated by frequent precipitation, while the southern half benefits from warmer temperatures. Overall, Idaho’s northern placement gives it cooler temperatures than even northernmost reaches of California, so it may require you to wear some extra layers.
Academics Are Excellent
Among Idaho’s mountains and farmland, both academic and employment opportunities abound. Idaho boasts an 87.4% high school graduate rate – no doubt a result of the state’s well-funded education system. There are also three NCAA Division I schools within the state: Boise State, University of Idaho, and Idaho State. Rexburg’s Brigham Young University – Idaho is the highest rated university in the state, and Boise is home to the Renowned World Center for Birds of Prey, drawing scientists from all over the world.
Business is Growing
Idaho shows more job growth than California. Both The Kauffman Foundation and Thumbtack awarded Idaho the “Most Friendly State for Small Business,” with CNBC naming it the most improved state for business.
Although lesser known, Idaho too was a part of the California Gold Rush, and its lands were heavily mined for gold, copper, and lead. Around the time Idaho achieved official statehood, the focus changed from mining toward agriculture, and state officials also began to embrace tourism, with a specialized focus on hospitality. Travel and tourism now nets over $3.4 billion annually for the state. It’s not hard to see why, with attractions like Yellowstone Bear World, a drive-through wildlife park, skiing at Boise’s famous Bogus Basin, and hiking at Shoshone Falls, Snake River’s “Niagara of the West.”
The people of Idaho are solid, sturdy, and hard-working people, with one in 10 Idahoans serving in the military. US News reports that other top industries include manufacturing, computer technology, energy, food production, and aerospace. It also has the third highest projected job growth rate by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Diversity is Wanting
The religious prosecution of the 1800s brought a substantial Mormon population rushing to Idaho in search of refuge. Today’s population continues those roots, with much room left to grow in terms of diversity. With a 94% Caucasian population, the community is only 12% Hispanic and less than 3% black or Asian. However, an influx of new transplants is slowly closing the diversity gap.
It’s More Conservative
Politically, there are some differences as well. While California is known for a more malleable ideology, Idaho remains staunchly conservative. Aside from the election of LBJ in 1964, Idaho has consistently voted Republican since 1952. However, Idaho was the 4th state in the country to allow women the right to vote, cementing its place as one of the more progressive states in the country.
Best Places to Live in Idaho
With affordable homes and an average commute of just 20 minutes, Idaho has become a new favorite for weary Californians looking to slow down and settle. With all the natural spoils that Idaho has to offer, it can be an overwhelming feat just trying to select a new hometown! Each municipality has unique features and perks.
We’ve broken down Idaho’s top areas in a helpful guide for you right here!
Last year, US News named Idaho’s biggest city, Boise, the 12th Best Place to Live in the United States. With a median resident age of 35.6 years, this is an area where rent rarely tops $900 and home prices fall within the low $220s. Known for its affordability, Boise is growing more each day with the downtown area booming from new construction.
Downtown “Basque Block” features French and Spanish-inspired architecture and culture that remains a huge draw for locals and visitors alike, and that’s just the start. Celebrate culture and society at the Opera and contemporary art at Boise Art Museum, or get your shopping fix at the impressive Capital City Public Market that sprawls across downtown. The city features several nature-focused activities, with the Discovery Center of Idaho, Zoo Boise, and the recently remodeled Aquarium of Boise all taking up residence in town. Nature enthusiasts will also adore Boise River Greenbelt, a 25-mile park perfect for walking, hiking, and biking along several trails.
Boise ranks high for property crimes, vastly exceeding the number of annual violent crimes, as well as the national average. Violent crime is not absent but relatively low, trailing most urban areas in the U.S.
The schools are highly-rated, including three perfectly-rated schools. Most notable among them is the Sage International Charter School, which enrolls students from kindergarten through high school.
There’s only a 3% unemployment rate in town, with St. Luke’s and Saint Alphonsus Health Systems as the lead local employers. Micron Technology, Wal-Mart, and Albertsons all driving the local economy as well. HP houses two of its headquarters in Boise.
Population: 99,926 last year
Meridian is the second largest city in the state and part of the Boise metropolitan area in Ada County. Here the average resident is slightly older than the typical Boise resident, with a mean age of 35.4 years old. The median income is around $64,337, and homeowners occupy nearly 76% of properties. The American Community Survey showed an impressive 0% homeowner vacancy rate last year, with over 31,000 total households reported in the city. The median rent is about $1,000, while the median home here is quite large – 6 bedrooms and an average value of nearly $200,000 – a bargain compared to California communities like Los Angeles or Santa Cruz.
Meridian is close enough to enjoy all the many amenities of Boise while retaining a suburban character all its own. Wahooz Family Fun Zone is a local treasure, and families love Saturdays spent at the Urban Air Trampoline Park. Enjoy a day of shopping and catch a movie at The Village, tour the local breweries on a brew cruise, or check out the Meridian Speedway.
The crime rate here is low (including zero reported murders last year), with property crime greatly exceeding violent crimes. The crime rate is even lower than nearby Boise, adding to its appeal for new residents.
Additionally, Meridian is known for its private schools, which, at 50, exceed the 30 public schools within the district. The public elementary schools shine, with the Compass Public Charter School leading the pack and accommodating the most students with PK-12 enrollment. Meanwhile, most parents find work at the same top employers as nearby Boise, with Idaho Power, Melaleuca, and Hewlett-Packard joining the lead.
Meridian is a comfortable, slower alternative to the hustle and bustle of downtown Boise, a fact reflected in both its popularity and affordability. For those who like the urban appeal of the suburbs, Meridian is the choice for you.
Nampa is smaller than Meridian but is still the third largest city in Idaho. It’s a hub for young professionals, with the average resident only 31.1 years old and almost half of the population unmarried. Rent here is more affordable too, with 38% of residents renting at a median of $817 per month. Home sales prices, meanwhile, average around $121,000. Nampa continues to experience steady growth, but like other Idaho cities, it falls victim to property crime.
Even though its namesake Nampa Senior High was featured on US News’ Best High Schools, the education leaves a bit to be desired. The school district for which your property is zoned can make a significant difference in your child’s education. Private schools far outnumber the public offerings, and they tend to test more favorably than the public schools. There are also plenty of opportunities to take education out of the classroom here. History buffs can’t miss the Warhawk Air Museum, and the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge and Nampa Greenbelt Park offer opportunities to experience the wonders of the outdoors. Wineries are popular, and there are three golf courses in town.
In 2017, the education field had the top number of hires, with the Nampa School District and College of Western Idaho topping the list. Wal-Mart and Alphonsus Medical Center also join the local workforce, rounding up a group highly centralized within education, medical, and public government.
Traveling across the state, we find Idaho Falls, Idaho’s largest city closest to the eastern Wyoming border. Idaho Falls is the fourth largest city in Idaho and welcomes a rapidly growing population of young 30-somethings.
Homeownership is the primary housing solution in Idaho Falls thanks to a low average home sales price of just $143,400. If you aren’t ready to buy, the average rent is $706 per month. Jobs grow much slower here than in more urban areas in the state, but the town still projects an impressive future job growth rate of 44.5% compared to the nation’s estimated 38%.
Idaho Falls is perhaps best known for the Craters of the Moon National Monument, a spectacular lava field from over 15,000 years ago. Naturally, given both this monument and Yellowstone, there is a strong emphasis on the outdoors. Camping, fishing, and skiing are all beloved pastimes. Or, for the more culturally-inclined, Idaho Falls has both an opera and symphony.
There is a strong emphasis on the sciences, with the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, which also employs the most locals. Idaho Falls city government also notes that it “is home of the largest concentration of technical professionals in the northern Rockies.” Not surprisingly, unemployment remains low.
Meanwhile, the school system reflects the city’s growth, with test scores surpassing national averages. The split between public and private schools is relatively even, offering plenty of options for cautious parents.
Property crime continues to be a problem here, with a few cases of violent crime each year. Still, Idaho Falls continues to maintain safer streets than its larger, more urban counterparts.
To the northwest is Rexburg, a Mormon stronghold and home to the celebrated Brigham Young University – Idaho. The town’s focus on academic excellence shows in its regular achievements – last year, Madison High School boasted a 94.8% graduation rate, and the school district ranked within the top three districts for ISAT scores.
It remains one of the safest cities in the country, with RexburgFun calling it “America’s Family Community.” Crime is so sparse that a recent article by BYU-Idaho noted that speeding tickets sometimes feel like the extent of criminal activity.
Given its concentration of college students, Rexburg is a predominantly young area, with the median age at only 23 years old and half of the population under 45. Rent is low, averaging $665 a month, and home values average around $180,000.
Due to the local university, renters outnumber homeowners here. The high student population creates transient community that fluctuates with the school term. The university, with its satellite campuses, also remains a top employer in town. Other top industries include healthcare, manufacturing, and technology, all contributing to Rexburg claiming the lowest unemployment rate in all of Idaho.
Yellowstone is the area’s biggest attraction, while the nearby Legacy Flight Museum pays homage to military aircraft over the years. Head to the Madison County Fairgrounds for the Whoopee Days Rodeo in July and the Madison County Fair every August. And don’t miss Mesa Falls, a long favorite for outdoorsmen and hikers. It features a waterfall created entirely from lava over one million years ago!
“The Playground of the Pacific Northwest,” Visit North Idaho proudly proclaims of Coeur D’Alene on its visitor’s page. Just 32 miles from Spokane on the northern edge of the state is this beautiful lakefront community. Set against the dramatic backdrop of snow-capped mountains, this vacation spot is known for its many upscale resorts and daily cruises along Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Antiquing and art remain favorite pastimes, along with outdoor activities of every form. Water sports are especially popular among tourists and locals alike. Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch continues to attract visitors in droves, and ski resorts beckon locals and travelers alike. Coeur d’Alene is a place for the modern traveler, a place to enjoy the spoils of nature in comfort and luxury.
With all the sights to see, it’s no wonder the Coeur d’Alene Airport is one of the busiest in the country. The Coeur d’Alene Casino, Hotel, Spa and Resort continues to drive the local economy, amassing the most local hires each year. However, tourism undoubtedly contributes to the crime rate, which is higher here than across the rest of the state. As is the trend in Idaho, property crime is high with some violent crimes reported as well. Aside from the thriving hospitality industry, most residents work in either healthcare or education, with the local government rounding out the list.
For residents, the government offers special accommodations, such as Citylink’s public transportation program, offering free rides for several purposes. Private school numbers double those of public schools, with Coeur D’Alene Charter Academy taking top honors for its 6-12 curriculum.
There is no shortage of places to settle in Idaho’s brilliant landscape. Sparkling blue waters set against pine-covered, ice-capped mountain ranges, unlimited natural resources, and spectacular wildlife – this state is a gem. The only question that remains is, where will you call home?
How to Prepare for Your Move to Idaho
No matter where you choose to live, the move from California to Idaho will bring change. There is much you can do, however, to begin acclimating before your relocation, and we’re here to help.
Keep the Clothes You Need
No matter where you choose to settle, you will likely learn to embrace cooler temperatures than you were accustomed to in your California hometown. Although there are still four seasons in Idaho, there is no doubt that the temperatures dip much lower and snow accumulates much faster here than in California. Take some time to acquaint yourself with the climate so you know which clothes you should keep in your wardrobe.
Prepare for Less Urban Living
Idaho is all about nature, so even if you opt for a more suburban lifestyle, you will likely need a car. Your new city (like Coeur d’Alene, for example) may have a public transportation system, so acquaint yourself with the local government and its public services. With all the mountain and country roads outside the cities, you may need your vehicle to get around.
Purge What You Don’t Need
Your California décor may not vibe with your new rural surroundings. Save yourself both the hassle and the expense by rehoming as many of your belongings as possible before your move so that you can start fresh in your new home!
Keep Climate in Mind
Keep in mind that the moving trucks may not be climate-controlled, so you should handle more sensitive items differently. On that weather-related note, try to move during milder seasons when extreme heat or snow and ice aren’t as likely to interfere. Additionally, try to avoid moving into popular areas during holiday weekends and high-volume dates. Events in town can severely hinder traffic and parking, particularly if you’re moving into busier urban areas, such as Boise or Coeur d’Alene.
Vet Your Movers
Take care to vet any prospective moving companies. You want to ensure that they have both familiarity and experience in your new state, in addition to all the necessary licensing, insurance, and certifications. Don’t ever skimp on insurance when your belongings are on the line! Cement your plans with a binding estimate. Your moving company should also review all items with you, preparing an inventory for both of your records. Great Guys Moving can help you find a licensed cross country moving company that fits the bill!
Speaking of moving logistics, use extra care when packing your belongings, adding padding and cushioning as needed for your more fragile belongings. Traveling across state lines may also limit what you can bring – for example, transport of firearms, medication, and alcohol is typically subject to the local jurisdiction. No moving permits are necessary, but it is undoubtedly helpful to familiarize yourself with local code and law – particularly given the historically odd whims of small-town government.
Make the Drive Fun
Moving is never fun, but you can quickly turn it into a fun adventure for you and your family! While a professional moving service handles the transportation of your belongings, map out a unique route to take on your way there. Make a final pitstop at a favorite California hotspot, and check out the scenic routes as you cross into the Midwest – Idaho has some of the most beautiful scenic byways in the country. Just be sure to check your oil and gas before hitting the windy roads – this is no time get stranded!
Forward Your Mail & Update Your License
And finally, be sure to forward your mail with the US Postal Service and check in with the local DMV about licensing information.
The more you plan, the smoother your move will be. For the rest, we’ll be there. Let’s get started! Fill out the online quote form now using the link and start getting quotes for your Idaho move.