In America’s picturesque Pacific Northwest region, Idaho is a state steeped in history and Native American culture. The state first gained prominence during the infamous Oregon Trail, which passed through large swathes of modern-day Idaho. Several of the biggest cities in Idaho were established during the mid-to-late 1800s to supply the travelling trailblazers.
Boise, Idaho’s capital and largest metro area, is among the fastest-growing cities in Idaho and the United States. It features plenty of exciting indoor and outdoor attractions to keep you busy. Idaho’s ski resorts are home to some of the best ski slopes in the world, while idyllic towns such as Lava Hot Springs and Pocatello provide attractions and landmarks to explore away from the hustle and bustle of city life. While Idaho’s potato industry might be the first thing you think about when picturing the Gem State, the rustic resort cities and sheer natural beauty of Idaho keep travellers coming back for more year after year.
Cities in Idaho
20 Idaho Cities To Explore
The biggest city in Idaho and the Gem State’s official capital, Boise is among the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States and a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, historians and artists.
The city lies in Idaho’s populous southwest near the Oregon state border and was once a stopover point along the Oregon Trail.
Boise has several attractions and some of the nation’s most exciting neighbourhoods, such as Boise’s North End and the city’s Basque Block.
Must-visit places include the Idaho State Capitol, the scenic Idaho Botanical Garden and Albertsons Stadium, the home of Boise State University’s Broncos football team.
2- Coeur d’Alene
Once a vital hub for mining and forestry, the city of Coeur d’Alene is today very much a trendy mid-sized city home to some of the state’s most scenic mountains and forests nearby.
The scenic lakefront city lies 33 miles east of Spokane, Washington, and is the largest city in the Idaho Panhandle region.
Coeur d’Alene is very much tourist-centric and is Idaho’s unofficial resort town, with world-class golf courses, ski resorts and two shimmering blue lakes at visitors’ disposal for fun and recreation year-round.
The city also features a lively downtown area with plenty of shops, eateries and bars to spend some time at, making it one of Idaho’s most popular cities to explore among travellers.
3- Idaho Falls
The second-largest urban centre in the state and regularly among the fastest-growing cities in Idaho, Idaho Falls is among the most scenic cities in Idaho that serve as the unofficial gateway to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.
Idaho Falls, named after the 22-foot-tall (7 m), 600-foot wide (180 m) waterfall in the city’s downtown area, serves as the economic and cultural hub of eastern Idaho and is home to some of the state’s most prestigious institutions.
From the fascinating Museum of Idaho to the scenic Snake River Greenbelt, there’s no shortage of fun and adventure in and around Idaho Falls.
Nestled between Idaho’s stunning Wood River Valley lies the city of Ketchum, a world-class skiing destination and a popular getaway destination for the rich and famous.
Ketchum was first known as ‘Leadville’ when the town was first established due to its then-prominent role as a smelting hub for the region’s prosperous mines, however, it has blossomed into a desirable tourist destination in recent decades.
Ketchum was once the home of Ernest Hemingway during the writer’s later years and two-time Academy Award-winning actor Gary Cooper.
The city has also been a filming location for countless movies and TV shows.
Surrounded by Bald Mountain and the Sun Valley, Ketchum’s natural beauty is hard to beat, with plenty of hiking trails, scenic lakes and dense forests to explore.
The city’s downtown area is also home to many exciting attractions, including the Sawtooth Botanical Garden and the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.
Packed with history, small-town charm and natural beauty, the mid-sized city of Sandpoint in northern Idaho sits adjacent to the state’s largest lake and is surrounded by three major mountain ranges.
Sandpoint is the region’s tourism and entertainment hub, with Idaho’s largest ski resort (Schweitzer Mountain) just outside the city’s downtown area.
Nearby Lake Pend Oreille provides travellers with some of the state’s best fishing, boating and swimming opportunities, while downtown offers travellers the chance to stop by attractions such as the Sandpoint Shopping District and the historical Panida Theater.
Always worth adding to any Idaho itinerary, be sure to stop by scenic Sandpoint to see just why it’s regarded as one of the most beautiful small cities in Idaho.
27 miles (43 km) west of downtown Boise, the city of Caldwell forms part of the broader Boise metro area and is in what was once a natural corridor for Native American tribes travelling around the Pacific Northwest.
Caldwell is a vital agricultural hub in Idaho thanks to the region’s fertile volcanic soil, probably why some of the state’s best wines are produced in and around Caldwell.
Travellers to the city get to experience a wide range of attractions and landmarks, including the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History and the annual Indian Creek Festival.
7- Lava Hot Springs
Lava Hot Springs is an out-and-out resort town tucked away in Idaho’s southeast corner renowned for its plethora of aquatic activities and attractions on offer year-round.
Despite featuring a permanent population of about 500 people, the city is a popular tourist destination due to its abundant natural hot springs, with water temperatures reaching a sizzling 112˚F (44˚C).
Not only is the city home to some of the best hot springs in the Pacific Northwest, but Lava Hot Springs is also an important historic site and a once vital stopover point along the Oregon and California Trails.
Packed with history and unique things to do, it’s little surprise that the city is among Idaho’s most popular vacation destinations among locals and travellers.
8- Twin Falls
Featuring the scenic Snake River Canyon and the iconic Perrine Memorial Bridge made famous by the daring stunts of Evel Knievel, Twin Falls is a city surrounded by some of the Northwest’s most stunning scenery.
Twin Falls is also home to the impressive Shoshone Falls nicknamed the ‘Niagara of the West’ and is within a short drive from popular outdoor attractions such as the Sawtooth National Forest and the Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Established in 1905 and named for the nearby waterfall along the Snake River, Twin Falls is easily one of Idaho’s best cities to visit, with access to world-class outdoor activities available everywhere you turn.
Moscow is a mid-sized city situated on the Washington-Idaho state border in the Idaho Panhandle region that’s perhaps best known as the home of the University of Idaho’s main campus.
The city was established in 1871 as ‘Paradise Valley’ by settlers before being changed to ‘Moscow’ in 1875, however, the exact origins of the city’s name remain a mystery to this day.
Moscow features a beautiful downtown area filled with historic brick buildings dating back to the early 1900s, hosting weekly farmer’s markets and a popular arts festival every June.
One of the finest cities in the Idaho Panhandle, Moscow is an interesting destination to stop by.
Pocatello is a city renowned for its hospitality and friendly residents, which have helped Pocatello earn the favourable nickname ‘United States Smile Capital’.
This friendly mid-sized city in southeast Idaho teems with history and culture and is home to quite a few one-of-a-kind attractions that make Pocatello worth visiting when travelling around the Gem State.
The city’s list of attractions and landmarks includes the Museum of Clean, the Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Zoo Idaho.
Pocatello also features a vibrant craft beer scene with independent breweries dotted throughout the city and one of Idaho’s best culinary institutes, making it a fun and unique city to discover when travelling around Idaho’s southeast.
Situated in Idaho’s scenic Treasure Valley, Meridian is regularly ranked as one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, with the city’s population ballooning from roughly 9,000 in 1990 to a staggering 117,000 just 30 years later.
Much of this rapid growth can be attributed to Meridian’s central location between Boise and Nampa, however, the city’s stunning public parks and a litany of family-friendly attractions certainly play a pivotal role too.
Meridian has countless landmarks and unique places to explore, ranging from Roaring Springs, the Northwest’s largest waterpark, to the Village at Meridian, the city’s shopping hub.
The city also features a sumptuous array of restaurants and dining options, as well as access to the popular Boise River Greenbelt hiking trail, making Meridian a favourite Idaho destination among many travellers to the Gem State.
12- Mountain Home
Established as little more than a supply station along the Oregon Trail, the city of Mountain Home is today an immensely historic destination packed with details about the infamous journey West.
Mountain Home is perhaps best known as the gateway to the otherworldly Bruneau Dunes State Park, home to North America’s largest single-structure sand dune.
The city has also been a significant point of interest for the United States Air Force, which has maintained a permanent military base outside Mountain Home since 1943.
The city is surrounded by some of Idaho’s most unique landscapes, which travellers can explore and experience at popular attractions such as the Bruneau Canyon Overlook, the Main Oregon Trail Back Country Byway and the Crater Rings National Natural Landmark.
Nampa is a midsized Idaho city in the heart of the Gem State’s Treasure Valley region, roughly 20 miles (32 km) outside downtown Boise.
This Idaho city is the third-largest by population in the state and forms part of the broader Boise metro area, with the city’s name originating from the Shoshoni word for ‘foot’ or ‘footprint’.
The city was partly established by the Oregon Short Line Railroad, which built a railway line through Nampa during the early 1880s.
Nampa borders Idaho’s Snake River Valley, renowned for its award-winning wineries and is just minutes from Meridian and Boise.
With attractions like the Ford Idaho Center, the Warhawk Air Museum and the Nampa Train Depot Museum vying for travellers’ attention in Nampa, it’s among the best tourist destinations in Idaho, with something for all ages to see and do.
14- Sun Valley
Despite what the resort city’s name might suggest, Sun Valley is one of Idaho’s most popular ski resort towns and a significant tourist destination in the Gem State’s central region.
Established in 1936, Sun Valley and the surrounding region became America’s first dedicated winter resort town and is the original American winter wonderland.
Skiers and snowboarders are attracted to the fantastic ski slopes of Dollar Mountain and Bald Mountain, or ‘Baldy’ as the locals call it.
This is where Ernest Hemingway penned his famous For Whom the Bell Tolls novel and is still a popular destination among artists and writers seeking inspiration for their next works.
Lewiston was established in 1861 during the famous Idaho Gold Rush and served as the Idaho Territory’s first capital from 1862 to 1863.
The city is the second-largest in Idaho’s Panhandle region behind Coeur d’Alene and is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike thanks to its rich natural beauty and storied past.
The city has interesting attractions and landmarks like the Nez Perce County Historical Society and Museum, the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and the Lewis-Clark Center for Arts & History.
Lewiston is also situated right in the middle of one of the most fertile wine-producing regions in the Pacific Northwest, making it an exciting city to visit with a wide variety of things to keep travellers busy and entertained.
16- St. Anthony
The small city of St. Anthony in Idaho’s east-central region was established during the late 1880s near the former fort of Major Andrew Henry, the namesake of Henry’s Fork River, which cuts St. Anthony in half.
St. Anthony’s history and founding is a hotly debated topic throughout Idaho.
Some claim the Mormon Church founded the city in 1888, while others claim it was established in 1890 without the Mormons.
Regardless of how you believe St. Anthony originated, the sheer beauty of this Idaho city is on full display from the famous 400 feet tall (122 m) St. Anthony Sand Dunes just outside the city.
Home to the main campus of Brigham Young University-Idaho, the city of Rexburg is a mid-sized urban centre in Idaho’s east-central region, roughly 13 miles (21 km) south of nearby St. Anthony.
Rexburg is named after its founder Thomas Edwin Ricks, who established Rexburg during the early 1880s.
The city has several attractions and is the gateway to the Idaho section of Yellowstone National Park and Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park.
McCall is a picturesque city in Idaho’s west-central region situated on the scenic banks of Payette Lake near the Oregon state border.
The city was once a major logging hub in the region upon its establishment in 1889 but was inhabited by the roaming Shoshone, Tukudika and Nez Perce Native American tribes during the warm summer months before McCall was officially settled.
The city is home to various exciting year-round seasonal activities, with McCall being a popular destination all year.
During the warm summer months, the city’s many scenic nature trails attract hikers from all across Idaho.
Wintertime sees the city transformed into a winter wonderland that hosts the annual McCall Winter Carnival.
There are also plenty of other great attractions to discover throughout McCall, including the region’s many hot springs, Ponderosa State Park and the Central Idaho Historical Museum.
Located halfway between Pocatello and Idaho Falls in east-central Idaho, Blackfoot is steeped in potato farming, history and culture.
The city hosts the annual Eastern Idaho State Fair and is such a productive potato cultivator that the city was dubbed the ‘Potato Capital of the World’.
Indeed, potatoes are everywhere you look in Blackfoot, as evident by the fascinating Idaho Potato Museum in the city’s downtown area, but it’s far from the only thing Blackfoot’s famous for.
The city is also home to some of eastern Idaho’s most popular attractions, such as The Butterfly Haven, the Blackfoot Greenbelt and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Museum, making it a fun destination to discover when travelling around eastern Idaho.
Burley is a charming mid-sized city in southern Idaho’s picturesque Magic Valley region situated right on the doorstep of some of the most impressive canyons, waterfalls and forests.
First inhabited by the Paleo people some 15,000 years ago, Burley is among the largest cities in the Magic Valley region and is within a short drive from downtown Twin Falls.
Renowned for its splendid natural beauty and plethora of exciting attractions, including the City of Rocks National Reserve and the Cassia County Historical Museum, it’s among the finest destinations to add to your southern Idaho travel itinerary.
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