(Because it's not all potatoes and prairies)
So you're considering moving to Idaho, but you feel like you're missing some of the pieces of the "Should I or Shouldn't I?" puzzle. Well, you've come to the right place, friend. Just for you, we've compiled a guide to some of the biggest points of consideration from people looking to move to a new state.
Often referred to as the Gem State because of the 72 precious stones produced here, Idaho also has other shiny gems for you to discover - such as several national and state parks, beautiful landscapes and prairies, a blue football field nicknamed the "Smurf Turf," and the brightest view of the stars in the country. This place is simply sparkling.
Not convinced yet, eh? Well then, read on to find out why about 89,000 people move to Idaho (also called the Potato State, though less often) each year - including an impressive number of Californians - and why you just might consider being one of them. Hope you're hungry for knowledge (and potatoes).
So what do the 1,753,860 Idahoans (according to worldpopulationreview.com) do for a living? Well, government and healthcare employees make up the largest percentage of the workforce. Idaho houses the federal Bureau of Reclamation, the National Interagency Fire Center, the U.S. Forest Service, a federal court house and other government agencies in Boise. In addition, the Saint Alphonsus and St. Luke's health systems have large hospitals here.
Agriculture also accounts for a large part of the Idaho workforce - with 15% of all employment belonging to lovers and keepers of their land. This makes sense, considering the sparse population of the state and all of its wide-open farmland - someone's gotta take care of all that land.
The highest-paid workers in the state are those in the healthcare industry and government agencies, according to realestate.usnews.com. The fastest-growing job fields, however, include web development, property management, software development, animal care and real estate, as listed by zippia.com.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that Idaho's unemployment rate, as of December 2017, was just 2.9% - well below the national average of 4.1%. The current minimum wage, however, is only $7.25 per hour, according to minimum-wage.org. It's a good thing that Idaho ranked in 2017 as the state with the 6th-lowest cost of living, according to zillow.com.
While you personally may be fantasizing about living out of your RV on one of Idaho's many desolate prairies, most people will probably be looking to buy some type of stationary house when they move. With one of the fastest-growing populations in the nation, Idaho saw a population increase of 55% from 1990 to 2010, according to worldpopulationreview.com. So what could the housing market possibly be like, with all of these newcomers?
For starters, zillow.com shows that the average value of homes sold in 2017 was $160,500, with an average monthly payment of $1,212 with a mortgage, or $738 per month for a rental property. Apartment prices fall all over the spectrum, with a few giant 3-bedrooms going for as little as $100/month, but the rents ultimately average out, with 1-bed/1-bath joints going for $425/month.
Homes here are pretty new, too - zillow.com states that the decade when many Idahoan homes were built was the '00s (2000-2010). There's also new construction happening, but it seems to be around the edges of the state. Most new homes are popping up around Boise, (near the southwest corner of the state), followed by Idaho Falls (near the southeast corner), Twin Falls (in the south-central area), and finally around Dover (in the Panhandle).
Central Idaho seems to be pretty barren, as far as new development (and population) is concerned. So if you're one of many looking to move here to get away from other people, you may want to shoot for the bullseye - you'll have the lowest chance of being bothered by construction, traffic, new neighbors, and kids running and screaming all over your lawn.
Culture and Natives
As we were saying, Idaho definitely has an isolationist spirit - so much so that locals joke that their state motto should be "We Want to Be Alone." In 2017, statista.com rated Idaho as having the 7th-lowest population density in the country. Residents also joke that advertising farm tours as a main state attraction is an effective way to keep new people out.
It's interesting to note that most Idahoans actually aren't natives - less than half - 47% of the residents claim to be born and bred here, according to movoto.com. In fact, much of the state is now populated by native Californians, who make up about 12% of the total population, according to boisestatepublicradio.org.
Why do so many Californians pack it up and head for the Gem State? Apparently, they're looking for a slower pace of life - and a lower cost of living. But for all the rich Californian implants buying up the real estate and clogging the roads, a lot of hostility is fueled amongst the true lifelong Idahoans. They frown upon their more tanned counterparts who, they feel, are way too liberal, drive up their home prices and ultimately, drive them crazy.
Idaho is one of the main states in the American Redoubt - meaning it has been suggested as a territory to retreat to, should the American economy go completely belly up. One reason is that the area is a fair distance from many major cities, so it’s thought of as being safe from urban crime and heightened political violence. The geographical location also allows the state to avoid most natural disasters. Basically, it's a safe haven for even the biggest tinfoil-hat-sporting paranoids.
One of Idaho's catchphrases is K.I.S.S. - or, "Keep it Simple, Spudboy." Residents refer to themselves and others as "something else," and take pride in their self-proclaimed eccentricity. One of the state's most famous products was the 2004 film “Napoleon Dynamite,” featuring a protagonist who certainly was ...something else.
Idaho has been ranked as the 7th-most conservative state in a poll by Gallup; 90% of its inhabitants supporting hunting. While there are residents who are loners and just like to enjoy their peace and quiet, there are others who are Bigfoot hunters, and still others who have created a museum featuring more than 6,000 mops, brooms and vacuums. We can't make this stuff up.
Can't-Miss Idaho Fun + Activities
Whether you're a pitchfork-wielding loner or a frolicking social butterfly, the Potato State offers plenty to do.
Here are just a few of the state's main attractions:
- The "Smurf Turf": The nation's only blue football field is located in Boise - but we heard that players aren't allowed to be any more than three apples tall.
- Silverwood Theme Park: Located in Athol, the theme park offers unique main attractions such as Boulder Beach Water Park, an authentic steam train, an annual Halloween event called "Scarywood" and a Christmas event called "Merrywood." So there's something for every flavor of holiday cheer.
- Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve: This scenic wonder is located on the Snake River Plain in central Idaho; the park’s website declares that it’s a "vast ocean of lava" that "flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush," and dubs it a "weird and scenic landscape." Fans of weird stuff will definitely be happy in Idaho.
- Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival: Taking place annually at the University of Idaho in Moscow, the festival features two days of student performances, artist workshops and world-class jazz concerts. Music lovers, rejoice.
- Julia Davis Park: Boise's oldest park is considered the "cultural and historic heart of the city," and houses Zoo Boise, the Idaho State Historical Museum, the Boise Art Museum, the Discovery Center of Idaho and the Idaho Black History Museum. Animal lovers and history buffs alike are bound to freak out at this place.
Pros and Cons of Living in the Gem State
We're sure you can't wait to get over to Idaho so you can check out all the "weird stuff" here, but chillax for a second. There might be just a few additional things you want to ponder (while stroking your chin and looking towards the ceiling pensively) before packing up your car, van or RV.
Some Idahoan-approved PROs to living here:
- Low cost of living: For a single adult, only $10.64/hour is required to live comfortably, according to livingwage.mit.edu. Unless you spend a lot of your earnings on torches and shotguns to keep those dang kids off your lawn, Uncle Sam won't make you struggle too hard here.
- Good weather: Idaho residents brag about their four distinct, mild seasons. Because of this, there's an outdoor sport for all times of year. Those of us who experience freakish snow when it's supposed to be "spring" may be just a tad jealous.
- Both Heaven and Hell: That is, Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, featuring Heaven's Gate Overlook. Hells Canyon is North America's deepest river gorge and showcases "dramatic changes in elevation, terrain, climate and vegetation," according to Idaho's state website. The overlook sits high up in the park and features a view of four states: Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington. Now, that's just cool.
- Hot springs: Several hot springs are scattered throughout the state, allowing both locals and visitors to unwind and relax inside a natural retreat. Just be sure to make eye contact before attempting to share a spring with someone - they might be one of those angry loners.
- The view of the stars: because it’s so far from major cities and metropolitan areas, and has such a sparse population, Idaho is considered to have the best view of the stars in the country. Bring your pickup and a cozy blanket, and prepare to lie back and drink in natural beauty that'll make your eyes tear up with awe.
Now for the resident-consensus CONs:
- Poor-ranking education: The Gem State has ranked consistently in 48th or 49th place in the country for the past several years. Perhaps as a results, it also ranks in truly dismal 50th place for average weekly wages. Ouch - it might pay (literally) to get educated elsewhere and save up a bundle before making the move here.
- Trailer parks galore: Idaho has almost double the national average number of trailer parks within its borders. We're guessing it might be to allow natives an easier escape when those blasted Californians start arriving in droves.
- Haunted/abandoned mines and ghost towns: As if it didn't have enough weirdness already, Idaho is home to several ghost towns, abandoned mines and other locations that are rumored to be haunted. The infamous Bates Motel in Coeur d'Alene was the site of the terrifying Alfred Hitchcock classic “Psycho.” Other creepy sites include Bayhorse Ghost Town, Custer Historic Mining Town and the Old Idaho Penitentiary in Boise. If you're ever lost in Idaho, make sure you have your proton packs and other ghost-busting equipment strapped on.
- The barren mid-section: There's just not much happening in the middle of the state - where the population is at its sparsest - and there's little, if any, new construction. If you're looking for things to do, much of the Potato State may disappoint you. However, if you're after that "peace and quiet" vibe, this could very well be your personal oasis.
We know you came to get the goods regarding all-things Idaho, and we don't want to disappoint. That's why we've compiled a list of a few of the strangest, lamest, and downright "...Huh?" laws still in existence, for your enjoyment.
Here are a few from onlyinyourstate.com:
- Selling bad potatoes can lead to jail time: That is, specifically, Idaho Deluxe potatoes are not legally allowed to be sold with any rot or blemishes. The punishment for doing so can be up to a whopping six months in jail. Break out the magnifying glasses, potato sellers.
- Cannibalism is legal IF it's "necessary to survive." Otherwise, it's illegal. So you won't see any zombies in jail. Thank goodness.
- You must smile in Pocatello: In this city, it's illegal to "display gloomy and depressed facial appearances, which reflect unfavorably upon the city's reputation." Quite the strange (and intense) way to enforce pride in one's hometown.
- It's illegal to buy onions after dark without a permit in the city of Tamarack. So don't start your homemade pizza or burritos after sunset - they'll be missing something.
- It's illegal to hunt from a helicopter: We can actually understand this one - nobody's aim is that good.
- Only dogs may legally live in doghouses or kennels. And to think we'd just gotten the perfect set of curtains with bones on them...
Well, there you have it, folks - a laughably far-from-comprehensive list of important factors about the Potato State, for your consideration. We know that we can't possibly address all of your concerns when it comes to moving to a new state, but it's our sincere hope that we've given you a bite-sized overview that will allow you to start formulating your ever-important decision.
It's up to you to decide if the Gem State, with its many natural wonders, low cost of living, fantabulous weather and (possibly) paranormal activity sounds like the perfect next destination for you to drop your anchor. We hope you've enjoyed reading our little sneak preview of the state as much as we've enjoyed sharing it.
Good luck, and may your decision be well-informed and thoroughly mulled-over.