I spent a long weekend in Boise, Idaho, which has been called the best place for millennials to live in the US. Here's what surprised me the most.

Boise Boise
I recently spent five days in Boise to see why it's become such a hot spot.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

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  • Boise, Idaho, was named the fastest-growing city in the US in 2018, according to Forbes, and was ranked as the best place to live for millennials in 2019.
  • Newcomers primarily from California, Washington state, and Utah are moving to the Idaho capital en masse.
  • Spending five days there to see why it's become such a popular place, I saw a bustling downtown filled with trendy cafés and restaurants, and locals who enjoy easy access to hiking, biking, and skiing.
  • However, I also saw a severe lack of public transportation, and longtime locals said they're getting priced out by the influx of newcomers.
  • This story is part of our Next Stop series, in which Insider visits the 10 hottest US destinations for 2020. Click here to read more and see all the places we're exploring.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Boise is so hot right now.

11选5精准杀号法The Idaho capital was , according to Forbes, and was ranked as in 2019.

The city of about is attracting throngs of millennials primarily from California, Washington state, and Utah. And with these transplants come trendy new breweries, coffee shops, and restaurants that wouldn't be out of place in Brooklyn or Los Angeles. However, the area's explosive growth has also brought with it some growing pains.

I recently spent five days in Boise to see why it's become such a hot spot. Here's what surprised me the most about the booming city.

Its downtown area is super lively.

8th street boise
Eighth Street is where most of the trendy bars and eateries are clustered.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

11选5精准杀号法Eighth Street in Downtown Boise is the city's hip epicenter. On and around it, you'll find craft breweries, swanky bars, funky restaurants, trendy cafés, colorful murals, and quirky shops.

I was surprised to find just how many cool spots it was home to — Downtown Boise alone boasts . But what struck me the most, besides the sheer number of stylish eateries, was the variety: everything from dive bars with $2 well drinks to fancy cocktail bars with mixologists, and all within easy walking distance.

Between the bars, healthy cafés, and boutique gyms, I can see why so many millennials are relocating: Downtown is tailored to their wants and needs.

Its coffee scene rivals that of a much bigger city.

a cafe boise
The A Cafe could be in LA or Brooklyn.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

11选5精准杀号法New York City is such a hyper-caffeinated place that there's probably two cafés per block. Consequently, as someone with a hefty caffeine addiction herself, coffee shops — or a lack thereof — are usually one of the first things I notice when traveling. In Boise, there are not only plenty of cafés, but they are also all incredibly stylish. Downtown Boise alone boasts , according to the Downtown Boise Association.

I spent a Monday morning working at sipping on a delicious $3.50 cappuccino alongside fashionable people in peacoats and beanies hacking away at their laptops, feeling as though I was right at home in Brooklyn. However, when I had a delicious BLT with a giant side salad at the bright and airy , the illusion of Brooklyn was shattered when the bill came out to a mere $9.

Everything is reasonably priced.

Bittercreek Alehouse
Bittercreek Alehouse has 40 beers on tap, as well as good food and cocktails.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to money, I'm a jaded New Yorker. After 14 years of living in New York, I barely bat an eyelid at a $16 cocktail or $6 iced coffee. So an eyelid I did bat when I ordered a fancy cocktail at for $9, or a half-pint of beer at for $2, or a cold brew at for $2.85. Not only was everything cheap, but it was also very good.

The food was great.

tacos at the funky taco
The tacos at The Funky Taco were excellent.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

I had the best cinnamon roll of my life at , a delicious rib eye that rivaled anything I've had in a New York steakhouse at , and incredible tacos at

As a New Yorker, I'm used to eating well, and nothing I had during my stay in Boise disappointed.

In Downtown at least, chains were few and far between.

local sign boise
Chain stores were a rare sight in Downtown.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

11选5精准杀号法A surprising number of shops and restaurants in Downtown Boise were hyper-local. Besides a West Elm and a North Face store, I couldn't spot a familiar chain to save my life.

11选5精准杀号法The shopping in Downtown was quirky and unique, and many stores proudly featured signs like "handmade and local" and "we heart Boy-see." (I learned that this is the correct pronunciation for Boise.)

It's only once you leave the immediate Downtown area that you begin to see familiar national chains, such as Whole Foods, Trader Joes, PF Changs, and Chick-Fil-A.

The people are eager to chat.

Everyone in Boise was exceedingly friendly.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

Boise felt like a small town when it came to its residents, who were incredibly friendly and talkative. At first, I wondered if something gave me away as a tourist, but then came to find that people were simply chatty and genuinely seemed curious about each other's lives.

In New York City, most cab rides are conducted in complete silence — in Boise, every driver knew my life's story by the time they dropped me off, and vice versa.

It's both urban and suburban.

boise North End
These homes in the North End neighborhood are walking distance from the bustle of Downtown.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

A walk around the North End, which TripAdvisor named , really cemented to me why people are moving to Boise en masse. The neighborhood is walking distance from the many bars and cafés of Downtown Boise, but super residential, with gorgeous single-family homes.

11选5精准杀号法Turns out, Boise has also been named , with a , which is below the national average.

It's very outdoorsy.

Boise Greenbelt
The Greenbelt was filled with joggers and cyclists.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

Nestled between the Rocky Mountains and the Great Basin Desert, as well as where three rivers meet, Boise has plenty of hiking, skiing, rafting, and biking.

11选5精准杀号法Further, the Boise River dissects the city and is surrounded by a lush 25-mile trail called the Greenbelt that has tree-lined paths for runners and cyclists, as well as a wildlife habitat, picnic tables, access to 850 acres of parks, and even a golf course.

, Idaho has 114 mountain ranges and "some of the most rugged mountains in the Lower 48. With 3.9 million acres of Wilderness, it's the third-wildest state in the union." Ski resort Bogus Basin is only about 40 minutes from Boise, while the famous Sun Valley is about 2.5 hours away.

The weather was milder than I expected.

I visited in February and the temperature was mild throughout my stay.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

I felt pretty silly in my winter boots and down jacket when, in February, the temperature in Boise was a balmy 48 degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, winter in Boise sees moderate snowfall and average temperatures of .

There's a thriving wine region nearby.

Snake River Wine valley Boise Idaho
Snake River Valley has excellent wines.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

11选5精准杀号法Idaho just might be home to the next Napa Valley. Only about 40 minutes from Boise lies Snake River Valley, an award-winning wine region with , most of them family-owned. According to guide Samantha Maxey, Idaho is said to be the fastest-growing wine industry in the US.

I spent a day touring a few of the wineries, and was pleasantly surprised by how good the wine was.

Everyone seemed young and hip... and yes, from California.

Los Angeles sign Boise
Many of Boise's transplants are from California.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

Anecdotally speaking, it really felt like everyone I encountered was young, hip, and outdoorsy. I also met a disproportionate amount of California transplants.

It makes sense when you look at the statistics: In 2018,  to the city — or 21,018 people — moved from California, and almost (it's a college town), with another 14% aged between 25 and 34.

Boise is home to a huge Basque population. Basque Country is in the north of Spain and shares a border with France.

basque block boise
Boise is home to the "Basque Block."
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

Boise has one of the largest and most concentrated Basque communities in the US with around — it's even home to something called the "Basque Block," which features a Basque museum, cultural center, market, and various restaurants.

It's super bike-friendly.

biker boise
Boise is filled with bikers.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

There were bike lanes filled with bikers everywhere, and Boise even has a , though I didn't see many rental stations when I was there.

Apparently, the average commute in Boise is — another reason why people love it there.

That said, if you don't have a car, you really need a bike: Boise barely has any public transportation to speak of.

Despite a walkable Downtown, Boise is a driving city.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

11选5精准杀号法I spent so much money on cabs it's ridiculous (even though the fares were inexpensive).

Most of the time when I Googled how to get somewhere, I was told to Lyft to a bus stop, and then Lyft from the bus stop to my destination. In these cases, the trip would have also taken over an hour, versus a 10-minute drive. And even when there was a bus, they seemed to come sporadically at best. After walking three miles to the famous (it was a nice day out so I didn't mind) I checked the bus schedule to find that the next bus was… the next day.

Business Insider's Katie Warren faced the same problem on a recent trip to Boise and  "The Boise metro area has 25 bus routes but most buses come just every 30 minutes, at best, and stop running after about 7 p.m." There's also no light rail or metro system.

It can be eerily empty.

The streets were often devoid of other people.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

Since I didn't have a car, I walked a lot. And as I walked everywhere, I often found myself the only person for ages. Even on a sunny Sunday afternoon, in the heart of Downtown, among shops and restaurants, I encountered only a handful of people on the streets.

Coming from New York City, where empty streets are a rare sight, this disconcerted me a little bit. Since I didn't know the area well, it made me question whether I was somewhere I shouldn't be.

The "hip" areas are quite small.

North End Boise
Hyde Park in the North End has a few cute cafés and shops.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

As cool as 8th Street/Downtown was, the many shops and bars were clustered around a maybe six-block radius. Beyond that, I saw mostly office buildings and strip malls. The same goes for the cool North End neighborhood: Besides around three café and shop-filled blocks in the Hyde Park district, it mostly consisted of private homes.

Locals are bemoaning the growth.

welcmome to boise sign
Longtime locals fear getting priced out.
Sophie-Claire Hoeller/Insider

As I chatted with locals, one thing came up again and again: Boise's newfound popularity was causing prices to rise, they said, and was beginning to price them out. As , "the average home price in Boise jumped almost 12% from 2017 to 2018, and average rent has increased by roughly 7% in the past year. But wages haven't kept up, leaving many residents struggling to afford their living costs."

This story is part of our Next Stop series, in which Insider visits the 10 hottest US destinations for 2020. Click here to read more and see all the places we're exploring.


This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).

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