Retirement—that magical moment when all your time is your own; you can live anywhere and explore everywhere. If you are considering Idaho as your retirement mecca, there are some pros and cons to consider. For example, the cost of living is low, and so are the crime rates, but the winters are frigid, and there is limited accessible public transportation.
A variety of factors like economic stability, health, and even family locations can influence where you spend your retirement. However, if you enjoy spending time outdoors, trying regional food and beverages, and attending festivals and community events, Idaho would be a great fit.
To aid your decision-making, here are 21 pros and cons of retiring to the “Gem State.” After checking out our research, you might discover the hidden gem you were looking for during this exciting time in your life!
Pros: Scenery and Community in Idaho
There are many benefits of living in Idaho, from regional highlights to beautiful views to interesting foods, there is something for everyone. Retirement is a time to rest and reflect; in Idaho, you can recharge and explore and learn something new!
1. In Idaho, there is never a dull day!
For exploration and adventure, look no further.
When in Idaho, potatoes are king, especially in Blackfoot—home of the Idaho Potato Museum. This incredible preservation of history begins with the origins of potato farming in the states and includes exhibits like a giant potato sculpture and the world’s largest potato chip!
Because of its history as the Colorado Territory, Idaho has real western ghost towns! For example, in Stanley, folks can walk through the Custer Ghost Town and connect to the past. Across the state, there are other ghost towns like Silver City and the Burke.
On hot days, visiting Coolin, Idaho, can help you chill out. The Lionhead Natural Water Slides are rock water slides hidden in a perfect shaded forest! Taking a ride down these natural stone structures is fun and perfectly safe!
Finally, if you seek unique lodging and are traveling through Cottonwood, Idaho, the Dog Bark Park Inn, a travel lodge shaped like a giant beagle, can help you find a place to curl up and take a rest.
2. Friendly residents and culturally diverse
Idahoans are friendly and have a deep respect for the natural surroundings of the state.
Outdoor activities are popular with people who live in Idaho due to the state’s position among mountains, rivers, and forests. Meeting neighbors or friends for a hike or bicycle ride is common and enjoyed by many.
Culturally, residents of the state have sought to include performing and presentational arts; from theatre to festivals, communities often come together to celebrate artistic expression.
As the population grows, so does diversity. The Mormon community once inhabited most of Idaho, but now the state is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds, including Hispanic, Latino, Native American, and German.
3. The economy is thriving
The Idaho economy is booming due to increased population growth.
Market reports have found that Idaho’s gross domestic product has soared by an annual rate of 2.8 percent annually since 2015, which is faster than most states. Today, the most significant industry in the state is science and technology, accounting for more than 25 percent of the state’s income and above 70 percent of the state’s exports.
And as a result, high-tech products are leading the charge in the incredible economic gains Idaho is experiencing.
An economic forecaster with Idaho Power, Jordan Prassinos, recently briefed the Idaho Legislature regarding the state’s economic outlook. He said, “Idaho is the best place to raise a family, best place to walk a dog, and it is a wonderful place for those things, but more importantly, Idaho’s economy is first in the nation for a lot of hard economic data as well.”
4. Regional Highlight: Moscow
Grandkid friendly and filled with family fun!
Moscow, Idaho, offers year-round activities for the whole family. With a charming, small-town feel, the city is safe for visiting grandchildren and filled with cultural attractions to keep them busy and happy! Specifically, Moscow has one of the best candy shops and most incredible indoor playgrounds in the United States!
5. Idaho has a state-wide low crime rate!
Idaho is a safe place to live.
Because Idaho is vast with lots of open space, people have plenty of room to roam and often know their neighbors well. Even if you prefer to live in one of Idaho’s larger cities, like Boise or Twin Falls, the crime rates are still lower than other similar cities across the year. Indeed, Boise is one of the top municipalities in the country, employing high numbers of police per capita.
6. The state values sustainability and is environmentally conscious
The state capital is the only one in the country that uses renewable energy to stay warm!
The largest city in the state, Boise, is leading the charge in promoting environmentally beneficial shifts. Indeed, the town has publicly stated that a “sustainable community promotes, protects, and conserves our environment in areas of energy, materials management, air quality, water resources, and open spaces.”
With many residents feeling a deep connection to the natural beauty surrounding them, Idahoans take personal responsibility for maintaining sustainable living and environmentally friendly practices.
7. Regional Highlight: Boise
Where adventure-seekers meet their match.
The capital of Idaho, Boise, is the largest city in the state with over 225,000 people. Filled with activities and attractions, from ballets and operas to comedy clubs and unique small businesses, Boise boasts something for everyone. Local craft breweries are booming in the metropolitan area, so find your designated driver and check out each one!
Even governing happens in Boise! The Idaho State Capitol is in Boise. In 1863, the municipality of Lewiston temporarily held Idaho’s capital, but the legislature moved to Boise the following year. Interestingly, Idaho’s State Capitol Building is the only state in the country heated by geothermal energy, originating from hot springs located approximately 3,000 feet underground.
8. Idaho experiences all four seasons
Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter—experience them all in Idaho!
The seasonal distinctions are immediately apparent. Winters are freezing, and snow is abundant. Then, summer arrives with humidity and heat. If you like the idea of wearing both wool sweaters and mittens and seasonal sundresses or shorts, then Idaho offers the ideal seasonal situation.
9. Regional Highlight: Sandpoint
Rural beauty in the northern part of the state.
Sandpoint has been named America’s Most Beautiful Town in the past. Located in the northern tip of Idaho, it is surrounded by the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains. Sandpoint has plenty of indoor and outdoor experiences to enjoy.
The town has over 100 miles of shoreline and dense, lush forests. Exploring Sandpoint’s 19th-century heritage museums can transport you back in time. After you’ve immersed yourself in nature and history, find the town’s culture in local restaurants or the Panida Theatre. In addition, the city has expanded to cultivate local breweries, like Laughing Dog Brewing, and wineries like Pend d’Oreille Winery.
10. Music fans can fill their ears with awesome country music
Country music is a way of life in Idaho.
From concert tours to community shindigs, country music echoes throughout Idaho. Indeed, the Mountain Home Country Music Festival is a local hit. The festival includes barbecue, beverages, and, of course, lots and lots of country music. For more than 20 years, the Mountain Home Country Music Festival has been a community staple.
11. Gems in the “Gem State”
Over 70 rare gems are found in Idaho, including jasper, opal, jade, topaz, and more!
Rock and gem excavators from around the globe travel to Idaho for treasure hunting. Among the many stones found in Idaho, one—the Star Garnet—is exclusive to Idaho and India! The rare pointed crystalline star is usually plum or purple.
Having these incredible gems literally in your backyard could be a neat benefit to living in Idaho.
12. Regional Highlight: Idaho Falls
Hike for a stroll through peaceful, scenic views.
Within the Rocky Mountains and along the Snake River, Idaho Falls is the perfect place to commune with nature. Known for its beautiful natural views, Idaho Falls also happens to be the third-largest city in the state. This incredible blend of urban and rural provides an ideal situation for those who love to explore nature, then grab a latte from the local coffee shop.
13. The Fry Sauce, Huckleberries, and Caviar
Idahoans enjoy the “Idaho Fry Sauce,” a mayonnaise-based dressing; it is out of this world!
The Idaho Potato Commission has weighed in on what exactly is “fry sauce.” Their spokesperson—Dr. Potato—explains specifically that fry sauce is “a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise, sometimes with an added spike in spiciness with Tabasco or dried chili powder.”
But, head’s up, the great fry sauce debate rages between Utah and Idaho, with one restaurant in Utah claiming the fry sauce origin story. Either way, try the pick sauce on your fried foods once you get to Idaho!
Specialty foods range from fresh fruit to fish eggs.
The huckleberry is Idaho’s official state fruit and packs a flavor punch. Similar to the blueberry, the huckleberry is famous within and outside of the state. Taking nearly twenty years to fully mature, when the huckleberries are ready, everyone runs. There are many locations where people can pick their berries, and there are many more recipes for turning huckleberries into delicious pies or sweet jams.
In addition to huckleberries, Idaho Sturgeon Caviar, or the American Beluga, is also unique and unforgettable. Experts believe the fresh Idaho spring water enhances the flavor of the caviar!
14. Regional Highlight: Hailey
Get away from it all in Hailey and enjoy the small-town atmosphere.
While the population of Hailey is relatively small, the municipality is known for its bustling arts scene. Hosting film festivals and regionally-renowned rodeos, as well as being the home of the Blaine County Historical Museum, Hailey might be the perfect place to settle for retirement.
Cons: With the ups come (just a few) downs
While Idaho boasts many benefits, there are some considerations you should make when planning your retirement. Weather, transportation, and cultural views are just a few. Below we list some items to review before committing to your escape to Idaho.
15. Finding the perfect home could be pricey
Idaho’s real estate market is a “seller’s market.”
The demand for housing is high as new residents enter the state, and the population continues to increase steadily. Therefore, alongside Idaho’s accelerated population increase, the real estate market is expected to grow in correlation, which might mean increased competition for homes. The median home listing price in the state is about $335,000, while the median rent hovers around $1400 per month.
16. The winters can be frigid
There’s cold, and then there is cold.
In a tiny mountain town, Stanley, Idaho, the temperatures are often recorded as some of the coldest temperatures in the continental US.
In Idaho, on average, 292 days of the year are below freezing, and the state has experienced a record low of -54°F.
Because of the snow, Idahoans have found ways to live and have some fun during the winter months. One example is taking a swim in a natural hot spring. Idaho has 340 geothermal hot springs across the state, and more than half are the perfect temperature for a winter plunge.
Additionally, the Boise National Forest includes Bonneville Hot Springs; for snowshoers, this particular spot is popular for hiking into the park then soaking in the spring to relax after exercise.
17. Infrastructure improvements are needed
Transportation is necessary to move across Idaho, and it is not great right now.
The rapidly growing population in Idaho is adding to travel congestion and deterioration, but the growing number of citizens is not the only problem. Roads and bridges have needed upkeep for several years. Fortunately, state officials recognize the problem.
While the roads and bridges need some work, the Governor is well aware of the issue. Governor Brad Little is traveling across the state hosting transportation roundtables, hearing from people about what is needed to fix problems. Specifically, the Governor plans to improve Interstate 15 from Pocatello to Idaho Falls and the I-15 and Highway 20 connector in Idaho Falls.
18. Public transportation is not easily accessible
Hopping on the bus probably will not be an easy option for travel.
Vehicle ownership is almost required to live in Idaho because of how far different cities or shopping centers are dispersed throughout the state. Indeed, Idaho is larger than New England combined, including Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.
While the larger cities, like Boise, might offer ride-sharing services, Uber and Lyft do not operate in the state’s rural areas. In addition, towns with some publically available transportation often are not well equipped to support it, so the transportation systems are ineffective.
19. Luxury shopping trips are off the table (within the state)
Idaho has beautiful hand-crafted items for sale, but finding a Birkin bag is out of the question.
While options for day-to-day shopping are very accessible—think Walmart and The Home Depot—other specialty stores may not be available for your use. As Idaho’s population continues to grow, retailers may join the fray; luxury shopping might expand in the coming years.
20. Limited Professional Sports Teams
It can be tough to watch live professional sports in Idaho.
Most professional sports do not have a home in Idaho. So while watching college athletes play on campus at Boise State might fill your sport-watching desires, seeing your favorite NFL team play would require travel to Seattle or Denver. On the other hand, those in Idaho practice tailgating regularly, even at high school events, so pack the cooler, call your neighbor and cheer on the local kids!
21. Annie, get your gun
Idaho may not be the place for you if guns are not your thing.
Hunting is a way of life in Idaho. With acres of farm and forest land, most people in the state own some firearms. Furthermore, Idaho places importance on personal protection. Indeed, Idaho is an open carry state, meaning that any resident can carry a gun anywhere. As a result, spotting holsters around hips is very common, even in larger cities across the state.
So, is Idaho A Good Place To Retire?
Definitely, maybe. Idaho is known for its gorgeous landscapes and is exceptionally welcoming to those who want to spend their lives relaxed and entertained.
What’s more, Idaho is tax-friendly for retirees; notably, Social Security Income income is not taxed. However, it is necessary to consider costs when finalizing retirement plans. Since the housing market might be a detractor in your pro and con list, retirees could consider living in a senior facility. Because facilities are inclusive, living expenses can be bundled and can help to budget.
Idaho is a retirement playground from regional highlights to specialty foods—but make sure you are ready for the winter!
Related: Pros and Cons of Retiring in Wyoming