One of three Western states to share a border with Canada (albeit only a 43-mile-long one), Idaho is split into the northern region, which has mountainous terrain, curving rivers and beautiful, pristine lakes, and the southern region, which has warmer summers, fewer mountains and more plains. The 13th largest state in the nation, it also spans two time zones: the Mountain Time Zone and the Pacific Time Zone. Officials boast that if the state were stretched out flat, it would be larger than the state of Texas.
When thinking of Idaho, people envision potato fields, but the state has so much more to offer than its spuds. In fact, Idaho's history has proven that the state is worth its weight in gold. In the gold rush of the mid-1800s, Idaho was responsible for 19 percent of the total discovery of gold during the rush, which was more than $50 million in value. Known as The Gem State, Idaho has more than 72 kinds of precious stones, some of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
Idaho has 18 ski resorts offering skiing and snowboarding, including the famous Sun Valley Resort, which was ranked #2 in Western North America by Ski magazine in 2015. With over 3,100 miles of river, more than any other state in the nation, Idaho also offers several water sports including kayaking, white-water rafting and parasailing, to name a few. Visitors and residents can take in Idaho's vistas by horseback, often while hunting or fishing. Other attractions include Idaho's 50 vineyards, many of which are found in the Snake River Valley area west of Boise, a region that now claims two official appellations with a third one proposed.
With a population of over 1.6 million, Idaho ranks 39th for population and 44th for population density in the U.S. More than 91% of the state's population is white, and just over 11% of the state's population identifies as Latino or Hispanic. The median household income as of 2015 was $46,767.
Boise, the state capital, has the largest population in the state with approximately 205,000 people, while the greater metropolitan area has more than 664,000. Major companies headquartered in Boise include Albertsons, Micron Technology, WinCo Foods, Simplot and ClickBank. The city is also home to Boise State University, which has more than 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students.
Manufacturing remains Idaho’s biggest industry, producing goods like electrical equipment (computers and components), lumber, chemicals and fabricated metals. Other top industries include healthcare, tourism, agriculture and food and beverage processing. Agriculturally, Idaho is indeed the largest producer of potatoes, true to its reputation, but it also leads the nation in the production of trout, lentils and Austrian winter peas.
Idaho ranks 20% below the national average for cost of living, and 21% lower for serious crimes. In addition, the state has a high rate of home ownership at more than 70%. All of these strong livability factors helped make Meridian, Idaho, located just outside of Boise, the “Best Place to Live in 2015” according to 24/7 Wall Street. From 2010 to 2014, Meridian posted a population growth rate of 28% - quadruple that of the national average.
Statewide, the median home value in 2015 was $188,630 – just $6,000 above the national average - while the median rental price was $890. As for poster child Meridian, the median home value was higher at $256,420, having enjoyed an enviable five-year appreciation rate of 45% between 2011 and 2015.