18 Pros and Cons of Living in Boise, Idaho

Boise is the capital and largest city in the state of Idaho. You can find it sitting on the banks of the Boise River, ranked 99th out of the top 100 most populous communities in the United States. When you combine it with Nampa and Meridian for the entire metropolitan area, which is known as the Treasure Valley, then about 710,000 people call this place home.

The government established Fort Boise in the region in the 1830s with the help of Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1830s, but it was abandoned after only two decades. When settlers and local tribes began battling each other, the fort was re-established in the area in 1863. The region was called Boise long before anyone from Europe or the United States came to the region.

Now the city is the cultural center for the state of Idaho. It is home to numerous small businesses, although there is somewhat a lack of dining or retail options compared to what you can find further west in the region. Boise State University helps to fuel the economy.

If you are thinking about a move in the near future, then these are the pros and cons of living in Boise, ID, to consider.

List of the Pros of Living in Boise, ID

1. Boise offers a low population density to enjoy.
Even though the Treasure Valley is the home to over 700,000 people, the population density in Boise is surprisingly low. There are only 2.59 people per square mile, and this is where a significant majority of the state’s population happens to live. If you drive a little further down the highway to Spokane, WA, then you will find a city of similar size to Boise with a population density of 3,500 people per square mile. If you like having some space and opportunities to avoid people without sacrificing too many amenities, then this is an excellent destination to consider.

2. The cost of living in Boise is still rather affordable, despite its size.
Living near a state capital can provide you with numerous conveniences that may not be otherwise available, but such privilege comes with a price in most states. That’s the not case if you decide to live in Boise, ID. Although the cost of living index is about 4% higher than what the national average is in the United States, the primary reason for that increase is the cost of housing in the city.

If you can find a reasonable place to live that fits with your budget or don’t mind commuting about 30 minutes each day, you can negate that one cost problem to create a surprisingly affordable way of life in Idaho.

3. Rent is still affordable when living in Boise, ID.
Although some households may struggle to purchase real estate when moving to Boise, you will find that the cost of rent in the city is competitive for a city of this size. Just a couple of years ago, you could rent a 1-bedroom apartment with excellent access to the downtown area for under $800 per month, which was over 10% lower than the national average in the United States. That savings percentage applied to larger homes as well, including single-family dwellings.

This advantage of living in Boise is disappearing. As of the first quarter of 2020, rental prices in the city increased 14.6% over the past year and 31.8% over the past three years.

4. The employment prospects you will have in Boise are excellent.
Boise sits in the heart of one of the greatest agricultural areas of the United States. Many of the jobs in the surrounding region involve farming directly or indirectly. There are more administrative, healthcare, and government positions to find as you move closer to the city as well. This unique combination of factors means the unemployment rate tends to hover around 2% when the national economy is going strong.

Even during times of recession, you can expect the unemployment rate for the Boise area to be two full percentage points lower than the national average because of the emphasis on agriculture in the region. There are high-salary positions in mining, manufacturing, and technical services as well.

5. The educational opportunities in Boise are excellent.
The educational systems in Boise have seen a tremendous upgrade in the last 20 years. What was once one of the worst places for learning has now become one of the best in the United States. About 95% of the students who attend the K-12 public schools in the city graduate from high school, which is about seven percentage points higher than the national average.

You also have the increasing popularity of Boise State University contributing to this overall reputation. Over 40% of local residents hold a Bachelor’s degree in their discipline, while the U.S. average is a little over 30%. About 1 in 4 people can say that they graduated from college at some point in their life here, which is also above the national average.

6. Boise does not have a high crime rate.
One of the most appealing reasons to consider moving to Boise is the fact that it is one of the safest communities of its size in the United States. Even though the city has the sixth-highest rate of gun ownership in the country, it is also the eighth-safest destination to live in the world today. It is not unusual for homeowners in the area to keep their doors to their vehicles and homes unlocked here still. The community works to support one another, and they quickly locate and detain those who attempt to interrupt this peaceful existence.

7. You can enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities when living in Boise.
You have access to the entire Snake Valley recreational area when you start living in Boise, and that is just the beginning of the outdoor activities that you can enjoy. You’ll have options to go mountain biking, paragliding, rafting, and skiing throughout various times of the year. Camping and golfing are always popular activities, as are fishing and hunting. Rock climbing is growing in popularity around the city these days. There is also a significant youth sports presence for the family to take advantage of while living here.

You can also wander into the hills of eastern Oregon for more exploration opportunities, head north toward Canada to see Banff on a day trip, or head south to see Yellowstone, all without unreasonable efforts.

8. Boise is a green city, and they are not afraid to boast about that fact.
You might have several opportunities to explore the outdoors when you step outside of the city, but Boise also offers plenty of green spaces to enjoy if you would prefer to stay at home. There are several parks that sit right along the river, connected by a 25-mile green belt that you can use for jogging, cycling, and other physical activities. Many of these spaces have pools or ponds to enjoy. You can just relax on a bench with a great view of the mountains if you prefer.

9. The entertainment options in Boise are numerous and interesting.
Although it would seem like living inland in a city like Boise might become boring, the culture of the city shines through with its many entertainment options. There is a local zoo in which families enjoy wandering throughout the year. You can attend local games in a variety of sports thanks to the presence of Boise State University. There are several annual events that come through the city as well each year, including shows, concerts, and the performing arts.

Because the city sits on the primary interstate system that eventually runs people toward Portland or Seattle, you’ll get the top acts each year stopping by for a visit. The arts are definitely thriving in Boise.

10. You will enjoy the culinary culture of Boise.
The wine scene in Boise has seen several years of development to offer local bottles that are very popular locally. Domestic brewing companies are beginning to take advantage of how hops can grow with the city’s climate to create several different microbrews. You have access to a diverse selection of foods and restaurants, although there is a dominant Mexican and Latino influence on the non-American restaurants in the city. There are more than 800 restaurants here that will help you enjoy experiencing various eating options.

List of the Cons of Living in Boise, ID

1. The diversity levels in Boise are lower than other U.S. cities.
When you start living in Boise, then you will notice that there is not a lot of cultural diversity other than the ethnic Basque population in the city. Over 15,000 members of this community are here, which makes it the largest center for this demographic in the United States.

2. The weather in Boise can be challenging for some households.
You will experience all four seasons when you live in Boise thanks to its northerly mid-continental location. That means you can expect the summers to be dry and hot, while the winters are usually blustery and quite cold. There aren’t temperature extremes to worry about when you start living here since the average high during the summer is 72℉, but there is a period in July and August where daytime highs soar with humidity to become a little uncomfortable. Winters don’t usually bring a lot of snow.

You can expect to receive about 200 days of sunshine during the year when living in Boise, ID. There isn’t much precipitation either.

3. You might struggle to get into a house of your own in Boise.
The housing market is seeing a boom in Boise because of the number of people who are making their way to the city. Although you can still find several properties that are under $200,000 per year, the lower cost of living tends to keep wages lower than they would be in other communities. You can afford a house if you and your partner are each making about $14 per hour, but it does require a decent credit score and strong money management skills to make that happen.

You can still opt for the rental market without much difficulty when living in Boise. If your goal is to own a home, you will want to look over your options before finalizing your move so that you can know what to expect from the experience.

4. There are atmospheric inversions that happen during the winter in Boise.
If you have problems with asthma or other breathing issues, then the weather in winter in Boise can be a struggle to manage. There are inversions that happen with the valley-based location of the metro area, which means the pollution that the city generates stays underneath the primary layer until winds come through to push things along. You can go through stretches of several days where the air quality is questionable. Although the days tend to be sunny and cool during those months, you might want to speak with your doctor about having an inhaler available to use.

5. Some say the law enforcement community has a less-than-perfect reputation.
Police officers who get into trouble in Boise (or the rest of Idaho) and lose their jobs can be rehired at another agency. There have been safeguards in place since 2016 to safeguard against this process and new policies do a good job of revoking credentials, but there are some departments that do not conduct background checks or, according to the Idaho Statesman, may choose to ignore the findings. Over 300 officers across the state in the past decade have lost their jobs because of their conduct.

In one notable incident that occurred in the city, an off-duty police officer with his family attempted to pull over a driver, despite the fact that the officer was driving a minivan and didn’t have police credentials on the vehicle. Then the officer opened fire on the other driver, killing him.

6. The wages in Boise are much lower than they are in other areas of the United States.
You’ll earn about $4,000 less per year with your job when you decide to start living in Boise compared to the rest of the country. As your salary demands go up, the gap that you experience in wages continues to rise as well. The trends in wages were actually declining in the city last year even though most households in the U.S. were seeing increases, with a pay scale trend of -0.8% affecting the community. You will need to be very careful about managing your wages to ensure that you can make ends meet.

7. The layout of the city can be confusing initially when you first start living in Boise, ID.
Because the river cuts right through the city, you won’t have the traditional grid pattern to manage your navigation when you start living here. That means navigating can be a little tricky without your GPS until you get used to where everything tends to be. The growth in the city has been significant in recent years and the infrastructure has yet to catch up with the traffic demands, so it can take some time to get to your destination as well. The traffic is nowhere near as bad as cities like Portland or Seattle, but there are some moments where you will need to plan ahead.

8. Small businesses dominate the commercial community in Boise.
If you are not a fan of shopping in outlet stores, big chain retailers, and similar places, then you are going to love living in Boise. Most of the businesses tend to be smaller mom-and-pop shops that provide you with a local but more expensive option that can meet your needs. You may find that it is easier to shop on a website like Target for your errands so that the items can ship directly to your home.

Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Boise, ID

Many people say that their decision to move to Boise was the best one of their life. Although there are high levels of gun ownership in the city, the overall atmosphere is fairly welcoming. It isn’t your lifestyle that defines you in Idaho. You are defined by the choices you make, the people you help, and how much you want to belong to the community.

There are some challenges to manage when you are here. Boise is a large city that is a couple of hours away from its neighbors. You might need to travel to shop, and you will need to travel to see specific things.

After evaluating the pros and cons of living in Boise, ID, and after a couple of weeks of experiencing them personally, people usually decide to stay. You can enjoy the outdoors, experience the seasons, and enjoy the beauty of the Treasure Valley. Most of the people who make their way here say that there really isn’t a downside to experience.

Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.