Moving to Idaho
Archived Q&A and Reviews
Moving to Boise
We are becoming fed up with the cost of living in the Bay Area and wondering why we are crazy enough to live here and pay what we do (for housing, food, gas...you name it!) The reasons are obvious to me (my family is here, the climate is great) but I'm opening my mind and researching an eventual move to Boise, where I've never been, but where my husband has traveled for business - and he's enamored with it. (although he hasn't been there in the winter!)
We are pretty comfortable here...we own our home, squeeze in a vacation or two a year and are happy with our daughter's school and our school/church/neighborhood communities. We also have a preschooler and one on the way, and the thought of living in a larger house half the cost of ours, on the same single salary with the ability to easily save for college and retirement with fewer financial worries has me daydreaming of packing my bags. I love being close to family, but in all honesty, we could afford to fly back and forth to see them as often as we do now, which is maybe 6 times a year.
We are planning an exploratory trip to Boise this fall, if only to rule it out entirely. Prior to that, any tips, information or suggestions would be appreciated: neighborhoods, lifestlye, community...has anyone lived in Boise, contemplated a move there or know someone who has? California Native
I've been to Boise twice (both times in the summer) and and I understand the allure of wanting to live in a simpler, less expensive place. The first time was for a conference and I loved it so much I took my family back the following year --mainly for a rafting trip on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, although we spent some time in Boise. We considered buying a vacation home there but decided against it. What I loved about the area: cute, small, affordable, nice small city feel with some music, food, art and jewelry stores, fantastic outdoor access--attracts folks who have outdoor interests, close to Bay Area. What I didn't like: much less ethnic diversity (the city does boast a Basque population) and the number of churches in the surrounding areas where we might have bought property. The latter implied to us that we might be out of place in this environment, since we are a mixed ethnicity family. Boise fan
I've never lived in Boise, but my in-laws do so I've spent a couple of weeks a year there for the past 10 years or so. Everytime we get back I tell my husband how I am so happy we do NOT live in Boise.
Why? Because I love being in Berkeley where we can walk to the library, the store, the Cal campus, church, etc, etc. I also love the variety of buildings and shopping choices we have here. You'd better hope gas is cheaper in Idaho because you will be needing a lot of it! The area is growing rapidly, but it is all in poorly planned, spread out subdivisions located off 4 lane streets with terrible traffic. Every store is a big box store with a huge parking lot around it. You are very lucky if you can walk to get a cup of coffee.
My in-laws live in Meridian (the closest suburb to Boise), but we go into Boise for shopping & entertainment. If I was going to move to Boise, the ONLY places I would consider are the North End or Hyde Park area of Boise proper. This is one of the oldest areas of the cities so it is not so reliant on the car. There are commercial strips you can walk to and there is a little more variety in the housing stock. Downtown Boise is not a bad place either (restaurants, shops), but there's not a lot of family-friendly housing near Downtown (BoDo).
From what I understand, the winters aren't all that bad. But I don't enjoy driving 50 mph on the previously mentioned horrible roads when they have ice on them! Summers get hotter than they do in Berkeley, over 100 degrees.
Of course there are positive points - the view of the mountains is lovely. There seem to be a lot of families there. The housing prices are lower than they are here (although not hugely cheaper in the areas I mention), but you get what you pay for. Fine for some, but not for me.
From a friend who move to Boise in '95: Well, a lot of people have relocated to Boise from all sorts of places, but I believe the majority are from neighboring states. Folks from Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wyoming kind of move here to be in a western Florida. . . .
If you are moving from the Bay Area to Boise, you can find some of the stuff you are used to, some of the time. There's pretty good coffee, an arts community, and beautiful recreation areas. However, the urban amenities are fewer and farther between than in a more densely populated area. You can't buy hard liquor at the grocery store. There is one real mall in southern Idaho.
Be aware that Idaho is a very Republican state. Many people in this area have extremely conservative views on religious, social, and political issues. You can check out the Boise paper at www.Idahostatesman.com to get a flavor of this community. Be sure to read the letters to the editor. Note that many residents view The Statesman as extremely liberal.
Economics - Idaho has a tough couple of years ahead. Still, it's probably doing as well as most states, in these difficult times. There are small, high tech firms based here, and Boise is a medical center for a large area. Still, the overall base of employment is much shallower here than in a more densely populated area. Do some research with the chamber of commerce and/or state agencies on the employment outlook. Idaho does try to encourage small business startups.
Religion - The two largest groups in this area are Roman Catholics and Mormons. The greater Boise area does have considerable diversity in religion, due to Boise State and the high tech community. For example, we have a Hare Krishna temple here, which serves a primarily Indian congregation. We also have a long-established Reform synagogue.
One additional thought from my friend who moved to Boise: The first winter is hard for Californians. I've learned to bear in mind this local wisdom: If you make it through January, it's all downhill from there. Just remind yourself of this every morning until April. The good thing about winter is no yard work.
Moving to Boise, Idaho
I have a good job offer in Boise, Idaho. It's only about 70% of what I make now, but the equity in our Berkeley home could buy a decent home there with little or no mortgage and I could send my kids to a good public school. A ''long'' commute there is 20 min. We are looking for a more relaxed pace of life- if I or my husband were unable to work here or even want to cut back, we would have to sell our home. We can't save for college etc., even though we work very hard at 2 good jobs. It makes little sense to downsize here and pay way too much for a smaller house or take on an extra hour commute each day.
I would like to hear from anyone who has lived in Boise. It's a nice medium size, a beautiful natural setting, and the weather doesn't seem too bad in the winter (although I prefer sandy beach to the ski trail). Our concern is that although we are a ''pale-white'' family ourselves, I love Bay Area diversity and find it invigorating to work with people of all stripes in my current job- and Boise is 98% white, overwhelmingly Christian/ Mormon. We do not attend church, are socially liberal (support gay marriage and right-to-choose) and traditional swing-voters who have swung quite liberal under the current Presidential reign (but not quite radical-Berkeley-liberal). I'm thinking I might hate it socially and working in the public sector, and my kids will get grief for being little heathens and will be exposed to gay-bashing and racism. I know Boise is the most liberal town for 150 miles in any direction, but it's the only big town for 150 miles in any direction. I want to raise my kids in comfort and have more quality time with them, but I want them to be open-minded world citizens, too.
Help me out here with any impressions you might have to offer. Anon
My husband grew up in Boise. It's a nice little town and we'd consider settling down there if the opportunity arose, and we are a totally blue state racially mixed family. Don't worry about the red state vs. blue state stuff. I've lived in a lot of different places and people everywhere display their intolerance in different ways. The Bay Area is no different except for being in denial about it. I've seen plenty of postings from parents whose Bay Area raised kids have been exposed to racism, sexism and gay bashing.
I grew up in Boise, and I've lived here in Berkeley for 3.5 years. So now you know my bias. I understand your concerns. Idaho has this reputation for being a little backward, etc. And I must admit that there were only a few African Americans in my whole school (more Asian- and Hispanic-Americans) But Boise has changed a lot in the past few years and is becoming more and more diverse all the time. I love it there. It's still largely white and Christian but those things are not bad in and of themselves. (The US as a whole is something like 75% Christian, so what do you expect?) No one in Boise will think you are weird for not going to church or for not being religious (kids at school thought the religious kids were weird). Your kids won't be considered heathens. No one will think any thing of it if your kids have black/white/purple friends. About the gay-issue. It might surprise you to know that there is an annual Gay/Lesbian Pride parade in Boise. There is a fairly large gay population there in proportion to the size of the city. I wish I had numbers, but I don't.
Besides, so much of what your kids end up believing and becoming is influenced by what you as parents teach and value. I went to public school and don't recall any teachers inappropriately preach their political agenda--liberal or conservative. And most of my friends ended up on the liberal side. Granted, 'liberal' in the bay area is further left than 'liberal' in the Boise, but that's true of MANY places.
I have no reason to try to persurde you to make the move there, but I would like you to know that Boise is a wonderful place to grow up. And you can even get pretty decent sushi there, too, believe it or not!
Anyway, I'd love to answer any other questions you have if I can. sz
I can't think of anywhere affordable that will have Bay Area diversity and open-mindedness but I can't help thinking the cost of living here has to be driving out some of the diversity- especially socio-econmically. So I don't know specifically about Boise but I'm sure you'd find a nice community, however small, among the conservative majority. Exposing your kids to the sort of culture you describe, that would be the hardest part of the choice for me as well, but ultimately you can't shelter them from hatred, ignorance, et al. but try to use their experiences as teaching/ learning experiences. and on the bright side, if you move you may be able to afford to visit the bay area AND the tropics or other cultures yearly.... good luck
I lived in Boise about 20 years ago, and have to say that I would NEVER live there again. I found the social atmostphere intolerable and I left. Yes it's cheap, yes the wild life is beautiful, but how many rock climbing conversations can one handle without going insane?