Somehow, I ended up living in Denver for almost 20 years. That’s as long as I lived in Texas. I say “somehow” because I never intended to live in Denver as long as I did. I moved there to finish my bachelor’s degree, and then just never left. I love Colorado but Denver was definitely getting too big and crowded for me. My rent had steadily increased every year and the traffic was nuts. Getting anywhere in the city took forever. I had been jonesing to try another town for quite awhile. So, when life recently gave me the opportunity to move to Boise, I jumped at the chance. (My mom says wanderlust runs in the family so I come by it naturally.)
I’d heard nothing but good things about Boise. It’s frequently described as a smaller Denver, with tons of outdoor activities like biking, hiking, and skiing, breweries, mountains, a music scene, and a fun vibe. Plus, the Boise River runs right through the middle of town, with easy access to tubing, kayaking, and rafting!
Now that I’ve lived in Boise for exactly one month, I’ve had just enough time here to get a taste of the city and state. I’ve been immersed in the business of settling in, like buying a new car (because my old one died right before I moved to Denver), finding a new hair stylist (like one of the most difficult and potentially traumatizing experiences a girl can go through), and figuring out where to buy groceries (there are no Super Targets in this town, apparently). In the midst of all that, I’ve been getting to know Idaho, kicking the tires on Boise and the Gem State. Here are my favorite things so far, along with some observations and a few things I’m not so crazy about.
Bike On the Boise River Greenbelt
The Boise River Greenbelt runs alongside the river right through the middle of the city and is gorgeous, y’all. The greenbelt is lined with trees, and sometimes feels like you’re out in the country, not in a city. The City of Boise website says the greenbelt is 25 miles long. But I found another website that says it is 46 miles, and someone told me it connects with other bike trails to make 100 miles. Anyway, all I know is, I biked 26 miles on it and had a blast. I guess I’ll just have to bike the whole thing end-to-end and let you know how long it really is!
Ski at Tamarack, The Abandoned Ski Resort
Now, I’m definitely not much of a skier. I just barely started learning to ski right before I left Denver. But one thing I do know is, Colorado ski resorts are crowded. You’ll grow old and gray waiting in line at the ski lift. Driving the congested highways to Colorado ski resorts takes so long, you’d get there faster if you got out and strolled.
And then there’s Tamarack Resort just two hours north of Boise. This resort has a nutty story. It was originally planned as a $1.5 billion luxury resort with 62 ski runs and 7 chairlifts. Construction began in 2003 and ski runs opened in 2004 before construction was complete. Then the owners filed bankruptcy and the resort was closed for several years. The local community rallied and reopened the resort in 2010. There are 44 runs open and 6 lifts with 1,020 skiable acres and 2,800 vertical feet.
And when I went to Tamarack Resort in March, with tons of fresh powder begging to be skied, there was almost nobody there! I swear I’m not making this up. There were only about 25 cars in the parking lot when I first got there around 9 a.m. It took me only about 20 minutes to rent gear, buy a lift ticket, and get on a lift! The drive there was scenic and civilized, with almost no traffic.
Cruising through the resort was weird, because construction had been abandoned partway. There were huge, luxurious lodges along the runs that were empty and boarded up. But there were a couple of restaurants open at the base of the resort, right by Discovery Chair.
Listen to All Kinds of Great Live Music
The live music scene in Boise is happening. Boise might not be quite big enough to draw, say, U2 (yet). But big names like Chris Stapleton, Jason Mraz, and Kenny Chesney are playing here this year. There are also lots of smaller venues with local and up-and-coming bands. Here are my favorite music venues so far, all with completely different vibes.
Go Honky Tonkin’ at the Ranch Club
Ranch Club is a neighborhood watering hole and country bar, with a hipster and honky tonk mashup (and I know a thing or two about honky tonks). You get clued in on the vibe even before you get in the front door, on account of the giant horse statue outside and the rustic exterior. Inside, you’ll find a dance floor, animal heads on the walls, tall bar tables, and beer signs. People of all ages go to the Ranch Club. I saw Andrew Sheppard, a local Boise outlaw country artist, play there. What a great band! People were even two-steppin’.
Mingle with the Downtown Crowd at Pengilly’s Saloon
Pengilly’s Saloon is one of Boise’s favorite bars. Located in downtown Boise, Pengilly’s has a classic, old school ambience chased with cheap drinks, a fun crowd, and live music almost every night of the week. When I went in early March, an awesome rock band with a rockabilly edge was playing. (Oops, I didn’t get their name!) While leaving Pengilly’s that night, I saw a drunken brawl out on the sidewalk, a gaggle of people half heartedly flailing at each other while trying not to fall down in a tipsy heap. Then suddenly, everybody stopped and made up, went back inside, and kept drinking. Getting rowdy!
Folk Out at The High Note Cafe
The High Note Cafe is a teeny, quaint local cafe with fresh, yummy food, art-adorned walls, and a laid back atmosphere. I saw Whitaker and Oliver, a folk duo, perform there and really enjoyed them. Both play guitar and switch off on lead and harmony vocals with a mix of covers and originals. You get the feeling they’ve performed together for a long time.
Imbibe At My New Favorite Speakeasy
There are more than enough drinking establishments in Boise to keep you busy, from local neighborhood pubs and breweries to martini and wine bars, from upscale to dives and everything in between. There are tons of breweries, like Cloud 9, 10 Barrel, and Payette. I’m partial to breweries, but my favorite bar so far has been Press and Pony, a speakeasy. I just happened to stumble upon the entrance to this dark, cozy, tiny bar one night, hidden behind a velvet curtain. Inside, there’s an intimate, prohibition-era vibe. I had the best Manhattan there. The bartender did this crazy thing where he took a swig of hooch, lit a match, and blew flames across the bar!
And Other Impressions About Boise
- I’ve been on one hike so far in Boise, at Table Rock right on the outskirts of Boise. This was a great way to start, but I hear there are lots of other trails close to Boise and all over Idaho. You can bet I’ll start exploring (and blogging about) those as the weather gets warmer.
- Boise really is like a small version of Denver…….mountains, trails, any outdoor sport you can think of, breweries, live music, arts, culture, nightlife. Lots of awesomeness to explore here!
- It really is true that you can get anywhere in Boise in 20 minutes. Traffic jams just don’t seem to happen.
- The cutest, hippest neighborhood in Boise is the North End and I love it.
- The cutest, hippest neighborhood in Boise is the North End and I hate it, because I can’t find a place to live there to save my damn life.
- The license plates here say “Famous Potatoes” but I’ve yet to see an actual potato field.
- Apparently there is such a thing as potato ice cream, but I haven’t found it or tried it (yet).
- Boise is growing like crazy, and while locals recognize that this growth “is good for the economy,” they are also in deep mourning for the small town character of Boise. They wonder how Boise will ever maintain its niceness, its sense of community, with the rapid influx of people from out-of-state.
Whoever Says Housing is Cheap and Easy To Find in Boise is Smoking Crack
That’s right. If anybody tells you housing is cheap or plentiful in Boise, they are straight up crack smokers and are so disconnected from reality, I advise you to turn around and walk quickly away from them before their skewed views rub off on you.
I did not just up and move to Boise without first checking out the housing market. In January, I looked at Zillow and found that there were reasonably priced options for rentals and buying. And then, by the time I got here, the inventory dried up, y’all. According to a couple of real estate agents I’ve met with, this time of year is typically tight on inventory. But the huge growth in population is also a factor. The Idaho Statesman predicts a 15.3 percent growth by 2025.
Well, let me tell you, I’m grateful for the temporary apartment I’m currently living in. I’ve been in Boise for about 6 weeks and actively looking for a rental house the entire time, with no luck. In fact, I’ve had a couple of crazy and traumatic experiences with potential landlords, one who had no idea how to pull a credit report and another who wanted me to hand over a check but refused to provide anything in writing.
The Bottom Line Is…
Moving to a new city and all of the big life changes that go along with that can be challenging. I’m excited to keep getting to know Idaho. But Boise has a ways to go with making me feel welcome from a housing perspective.
Well, I could always buy a van and live down by the Boise River.
Have you ever up and moved to a new city? Let me know how it went for you!