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The 7 Friendliest Cities in Idaho to Visit in 2024
The 7 Friendliest Cities in Idaho to Visit in 2024

Idaho is one of the most beautiful mountain states in the USA, known for its natural beauty, laid-back nature and interesting history. In the early 19th century, Europeans came to the area for expeditions and trade and soon began settling there. Within a few decades, some of the first organized towns were established and in 1853 it became a territory, eventually joining the Union as the 43rd state on July 3, 1890.

Today, Idaho (also known as the Gem State) is home to numerous cities that are home to friendly people of English, German, Irish, African, Basque, Chinese, and other ethnic groups from all over the world. These cities are also peaceful, have low crime rates, and offer numerous natural and historical treasures to delight anyone. Whether for vacation, retirement, or business, a trip to these cities in 2024 promises to be a welcoming and fun experience.

Priest River

Main Street of historic Pride River, Idaho.
Main Street of historic Priest River, Idaho. Image credit: Kirk Fisher via Shutterstock

Priest River is a quiet and friendly town located at the confluence of the Priest River and the Pend Oreille River. This river town charms visitors with its scenic namesake river, where you can lose track of time while fishing, paddling, boating, camping and sightseeing. The river is accessible from several locations, including Bonner Park and the Priest River Recreation Area.

History buffs can learn about the town’s first sawmill at the Priest River Museum and Timber Education Centre. And for a fine dining experience, visitors are invited to the Settlement Kitchen, where there is something for every taste. For even more adventure, take a short trip to the Priest River Research Experimental Forest and hike the trail up Gisborne Mountain for spectacular views of Priest Lake and the surrounding green landscape.

Paris

Paris Tabernacle in Paris, Idaho.
Paris Tabernacle in Paris, Idaho. Photo credit: Matthew Thomas Allen via Shutterstock

Paris is a small town at the western end of the Bear Lake Valley, where visitors are greeted with a warm welcome and impressive scenery. A typical first stop for visitors to this town is the historic Bear Lake Tabernacle, built between 1884 and 1889 and featuring impressive Romanesque architecture and a red sandstone landscape.

For outdoor recreation and sightseeing, visitors are welcome at Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge, capped by the iconic blue Bear Lake and framed by the mountains. Located just three miles outside of town, the refuge is home to thousands of birds, especially migratory birds. Back in town, visitors can enjoy delicious meals at Cody’s Gastro Garage and then head to the historic Old Bear Lake Market to purchase local goods and crafts.

Bonners Ferry

Overlooking Bonners Ferry, Idaho.
Overlooking Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Bonners Ferry is a picturesque town located between Sandpoint and the Canadian border. The Kootenai River flows through town and three mountains shape its skyline. While the river sets the stage for fishing, boating, kayaking and paddling adventures, its banks are home to the Boundary County Museum. History buffs can visit this museum to immerse themselves in the fascinating world of a bygone era and explore original artifacts, exhibits, historical rooms and photographs.

For animal and nature lovers, the 2,774-acre Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge is just five miles from town and is home to over 300 species of wildlife, including fish, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. If you’re looking to wine and dine in Bonner’s Ferry, there’s no better place for tasty treats and drinks than Mugsy’s Tavern and Grill.

Salmon

Crossroads, Salmon, Idaho.
Downtown Salmon, Idaho. Image credit: User:akampfer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Salmon is a warm and welcoming town in Lemhi County for outdoor enthusiasts seeking the path less traveled. First off, the Salmon River flows through town, offering opportunities for fishing and eccentric whitewater rafting adventures. The town also offers scenic byways like the Salmon River and Sacajawea Historic Byways that provide plenty of delight for road trip fans.

Salmon is surrounded by the Salmon-Challis National Forest, a natural paradise with scenic rivers, striking mountain ranges, granite peaks, alpine lakes and hiking trails to explore them. History buffs will not be disappointed in Salmon, as the Lemhi County Historical Museum is always open and tells the story of the county’s past through its exhibits and extensive antique collection. For world-class dining experiences, visit Junkyard Bistro or Odd Fellows Bakery and mingle with the friendly locals.

cascade

The five businesses on the main street of Cascade, Idaho, include two bars, a coffee shop, a drug store and a hair salon. 1943 photo by Russell Lee.
Shops on Main Street in Cascade, Idaho.

Cascade is a charming town in Valley County that promises sensational experiences in a peaceful atmosphere free of crime and crowds. First, this town is close to Kelly’s Whitewater Park on the Payette River, where visitors can kayak, tubing, raft, and hike a 5-mile trail along the water. Alternatively, visitors can hike the two-mile Cascade River Walk to spot wildlife and birds.

More adventures await at the massive Lake Cascade State Park, including camping, fishing, swimming, hiking and boating. For entertainment, the Roxy Theater offers great movies and live shows. To cap off the adventures, the city invites visitors to the Cascade Aquatic & Recreational Center to relax in one of its heated pools.

Stanley

Salmon River in Stanley, Idaho.
Salmon River in Stanley, Idaho.

One of the most nature-blessed small towns in Idaho, Stanley is nestled in the Sawtooth Valley and offers charming scenery and a welcoming ambiance. For one, it is surrounded by the 756,000-acre Sawtooth National Recreation Area, which includes alpine lakes and proud mountain peaks. Popular activities in the area include whitewater rafting, hiking, fishing, kayaking and camping. Stanley Lake is also located within the recreation area, 11 miles from town and at the base of McGown Peak, where hiking and boating adventures are available.

Away from outdoor adventures, history-hungry tourists can learn more about the city’s past through photographs, interpretive exhibits and artifacts at the Stanley Museum. When it’s time to fill empty stomachs, Papa Brunee’s Pizza & Subs and Sawtooth Luce’s Restaurant are the best destinations in town to enjoy sensational meals and meet friendly locals.

Wise

The historic James M. Fisher House in Weiser, Idaho.
The historic James M. Fisher House in Weiser, Idaho. Image credit: Ian Poellet – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Weiser is a charming town at the confluence of the Weiser and Snake Rivers that prides itself on its community spirit and abundance of recreational activities. Start an unforgettable experience here with a visit to the Weiser Community Fishing Pond, where you can fish and hike while admiring the lovely green surroundings. For families, Memorial Park is recommended, as it offers picnic areas, baseball and football fields, and the town’s outdoor pool.

Next, explore the 84-mile Weiser River National Recreation Trail to see bridges, dense pine forests, gorges and wildlife like deer, elk and bear. History lovers can relax at the Snake River Heritage Center and learn about the area’s history and the famous people who shaped its existence. Don’t forget to stop by Weiser Classic Candy for ice cream, chocolate truffles and sandwiches.

The small towns in Idaho exude a friendly aura to visitors, inviting them to explore their pristine trails where nature is still untouched. Once they enter these towns, most visitors will wonder why they are often overlooked in favor of larger cities. Uncrowded natural attractions are everywhere, and locals are always ready to offer help when needed. Additionally, these Idaho communities are characterized by sun-drenched streets, clean air, and a relaxed aura that makes you feel like you’re on a faraway island like Samoa. Leave the hustle and bustle behind today and visit these friendly Idaho destinations for unforgettable experiences worth documenting.

By Everly