Study: Best Cities to Live in Idaho

If you think there's nothing more to Idaho than potatoes and dry, rocky landscapes, you don't know what you're missing. With more than 80 mountain ranges, 3,100 miles of river and one of the largest national park areas in the U.S., Idaho is truly a natural wonder. While many new residents are drawn to the scenic beauty, it's not the only thing that makes the Gem State an amazing place to call home.

In terms of housing, health care, transportation and food, Idaho is one of the least expensive states in the West. It's also one of the safest, with a serious crime rate that's roughly 20% below the national average. The manufacturing, agriculture and tourism industries provide ample job opportunities for current residents and newcomers alike. There's also a strong emphasis on education, with Boise State University, the University of Idaho and Idaho State University among the top schools.

If a move to Idaho is in the cards or you're interested in relocating to a different part of the state, choosing where you'll live should be at the top of your to-do list. We've ranked the 10 best Idaho cities for you to make your decision that much easier.

10 Best Cities to Live in Idaho

Study Methodology

Our experts considered these five factors to determine each city's ranking:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

With a few exceptions, violent crime is a rarity in many of Idaho's cities. We looked at the odds of being the victim of a violent act to determine which places are the safest overall.

Sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic is no way to start or end your workday, but when you live in a larger city, it's often a reality. Fortunately, each of the cities on our list has an average commute ranging from roughly 13 to 23 minutes.

Tip: Use a gas credit card to help save money at the gas pump.

While the country continues to feel the effects of the Great Recession, Idaho has followed a steady pattern of growth over the last few years. To help you find those cities where employee pay is the highest, we looked at the median income for each spot on our list. We also considered the percentage of residents who earned a bachelor's degree or higher, since this often has an impact on wages.

Obviously, potatoes are a part of any Idahoan's diet, but fresh fruits, vegetables, wild game and fish also tend to feature heavily on the menu. Whether you're in the mood for a regional specialty or something more mainstream, each of the 10 cities on our list features a healthy number of restaurants per capita.

10. Twin Falls

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 265.5
  • Commute Time: 14.8 minutes
  • Income: $41,589
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 16.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 350 inhabitants

Named after a waterfall on the nearby Snake River, Twin Falls is one of the largest cities in south central Idaho. Shoshone Falls, dubbed the "Niagara of the West," is a major attraction, as is the canyon rim trail system, which follows the borders of the river. If you work up an appetite, you'll find delicious food served up at the Canyon Crest restaurant, along with some amazing views.

Did You Know: The Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls is a popular spot among thrill seekers who are eager to try their hand at BASE jumping.

9. Post Falls

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 544.1
  • Commute Time: 20.3 minutes
  • Income: $49,524
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 19.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 494 inhabitants

Close to Coeur d'Alene National Forest, Lake Coeur d'Alene and the Spokane Valley, Post Falls is one of northern Idaho's top tourist destinations. An average commute of slightly over 20 minutes and median incomes near the $50,000 range also make the city a top pick among working professionals. If you're looking for authentic French fare, locals agree that Fleur de Sel is the place to go.

Did You Know: Renowned knife-maker Buck Knives is headquartered in Post Falls.

8. Rexburg

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 2,875.4
  • Commute Time: 13.8 minutes
  • Income: $26,441
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 36.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 628 inhabitants

Rexburg is home to the Idaho campus of Brigham Young University, which boasts an enrollment of more than 15,000 students. Education, a major driving force in the economy, has been largely attributed to the city's dramatic population increase over the last decade. In terms of crime, Rexburg consistently ranks as one of the safest cities in Idaho and the nation. If you're looking for a fun way to spend the day, you're less than 90 miles from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.

Did You Know: In 1976, Rexburg suffered severe flood damage after the nearby Teton Dam burst.

7. Chubbuck

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 363.1
  • Commute Time: 19.7 minutes
  • Income: $47,108
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 23.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 506 inhabitants

Chubbuck is a suburb of Pocatello, located less than 10 miles north of the metro area. Originally settled by fur traders, the area's economy is now centered primarily on education and small business. Residents enjoy a relatively short commute, at just under 20 minutes, and the median pay is above $47,000. You'll find plenty of well-known chain restaurants, but if you're looking for dinner and a show, try out the Mystique Theater.

Did You Know: In the 1800s, sugar beets were one of Chubbuck's leading agricultural exports.

6. Coeur d'Alene

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 174.1
  • Commute Time: 17.7 minutes
  • Income: $41,064
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 25.4%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 270 inhabitants

Along with Post Falls, Coeur d'Alene is another up-and-coming tourist town in northern Idaho. There are a number of resorts in the area that offer visitors breathtaking views of Lake Coeur d'Alene, world-class golf, top-notch skiing and the ultimate spa experience. The tourist trade presents a number of opportunities for job seekers, but mining and manufacturing are also major draws. Coeur d'Alene features more restaurants than any other city on our list, including Hudson's Hamburgers, which has been serving up classic diner food for over 100 years.

Did You Know: The Coeur d'Alene Reservation spans approximately 345,000 acres in the Palouse region of north Idaho.

5. Moscow

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 757.6
  • Commute Time: 13.4 minutes
  • Income: $30,790
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 52.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 402 inhabitants

Moscow is an outdoor lover's dream with plenty of spots to enjoy skiing, biking, hiking, camping and whitewater rafting. The University of Idaho is the city's largest employer, but agriculture continues to play an important role in the economy. The short average commute makes Moscow a great pick for professionals, but it's also excellent for families who are looking for a safe community.

Did You Know: The nearby Emerald Creek Garnet Area is one of only two spots in the world where 4- and 6-ray star garnets may be found.

4. Pocatello

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 391.4
  • Commute Time: 16.8 minutes
  • Income: $41,978
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 30%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 468 inhabitants

Pocatello wears many labels, including the "U.S. Smile Capital," thanks to its friendly and welcoming people. The fifth largest city in Idaho, Pocatello manages to convey a small-town feel while still offering many of the amenities you'd find in a larger city. A number of residents are employed by Idaho State University and several large corporations, including Heinz Foods, have headquarters here.

Did You Know: "Tarzan" creator Edgar Rice Burroughs was once a resident of Pocatello.

3. Idaho Falls

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 417.5
  • Commute Time: 17.4 minutes
  • Income: $46,291
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 26.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 391 inhabitants

The largest city in eastern Idaho, Idaho Falls lies roughly 30 miles southwest of Rexburg. As a gateway for travelers headed to nearby Jackson, Wyoming, Idaho Falls sees plenty of visitors but the nearly 60,000 people who call the city home know it's an all-around great place to live, work and play. The average commute is less than 18 minutes and the nearby Idaho National Laboratory provides plenty of job opportunities for locals. If you've got a sweet tooth, check out the Candy Junction where you can stock up on all your favorite retro sweets.

Did You Know: Idaho Falls hosts the annual War Bonnet Roundup, the oldest rodeo in Idaho.

2. Lewiston

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 587.9
  • Commute Time: 14.4 minutes
  • Income: $44,817
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 20.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 396 inhabitants

Lewiston sits just over 30 miles south of Moscow, close to the Washington-Idaho border. Considered the hub of the Lewis-Clark Valley, Lewiston serves as an important manufacturing and port town, offering a valuable connection to the West Coast. The average commute is one of the shortest on our list, at under 15 minutes, and the city also scores high marks for safety.

Did You Know: Lewiston is close to several well-known wilderness areas, including the Nez Perce National Forest and Clearwater National Forest.

1. Meridian

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 839.9
  • Commute Time: 22.5 minutes
  • Income: $64,107
  • Residents With a Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 33.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 583 inhabitants

Meridian is Idaho's third largest city, located less than 15 miles west of Boise. Despite its size, this city of 80,000 residents maintains a small-town atmosphere, which is just one of the reasons why it ranks at the top of our list. Violent crime is rare and the drive to work takes under 23 minutes on average. Residents earn the highest median income of any city on our list and they're also among the most educated. The Meridian Urban Market is a downtown hotspot favored by locals, and you'll find plenty of restaurants along Main Street. Epi's, which specializes in authentic Basque cuisine, comes highly rated by residents and visitors alike.

Did You Know: The annual Meridian Dairy Days event celebrates the city's dairy-farming origins.

If you're seeking a fresh start in a beautiful and safe setting, Idaho has everything you're looking for. While the capital city of Boise is a regular feature on many national top ten lists, we believe that each of the communities we've profiled is among the most well rounded choices when it comes to overall livability.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

The Top 10 Cities to Live in Idaho

RankCityViolent Crime OddsAverage Commute TimeMedian Household Income% Bachelor's Degree or HigherPeople per Restaurants and Bars
1Meridian1 in 839.922.5$64,10733.3%582.5
2Lewiston1 in 587.914.4$44,81720.8%395.7
3Idaho Falls1 in 417.517.4$46,29126.7%391.2
4Pocatello1 in 391.416.8$41,97830.0%468.2
5Moscow1 in 757.613.4$30,79052.7%401.6
6Coeur d'Alene1 in 174.117.7$41,06425.4%269.7
7Chubbuck1 in 363.119.7$47,10823.4%505.9
8Rexburg1 in 2,875.413.8$26,44136.2%627.6
9Post Falls1 in 544.120.3$49,52419.3%494.0
10Twin Falls1 in 265.514.8$41,58916.6%350.1

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at

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