Boise & Garden City

10 things to know if you’re a Boise transplant

Dozens of people move to the Boise area every day.

Almost three dozen a day moved to Ada County between July 2016 and July 2017.

If you’re one of them, you already know Boise is full of welcoming, kind people. There’s hiking, fishing, skiing and camping within minutes of home. We have Treefort, a music and everything-else festival. We have theater, music, fine dining, comedy clubs and unique gathering places like JUMP.

Here’s a guide to some of Boise’s lesser-known features and quirks. Did we miss anything? Let us know at or (208) 377-6400.

1. Please don’t make potato jokes.

We’ve heard them all. We’ll probably smile and chuckle at your tater joke, but we’ll be groaning on the inside.

2. Speaking of potatoes, though ...

You’re going to have to pick a side. Do you prefer ketchup with your fries? Ranch? Fry sauce?

If you’re in Boise for long, you’ll become acquainted with the latter — one of our favorite condiments.

A typical container of fry sauce from a chain of hamburger restaurants in Salt Lake City, Utah. You’ll find fry sauce at Boise burger joints. Wikimedia Commons | Authalic

The tangy, peach-colored sauce isn’t native to Idaho. The Utah-based Arctic Circle claims credit for inventing the popular regional recipe. (You can find several Arctic Circle locations in the Boise area.)

Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fast-food burger joint in the Treasure Valley that doesn’t have some version of fry sauce ready to accompany your order of fries.

3. The airport is a breeze.

On a good day, getting through the airport takes 10 or 15 minutes from door to gate. It’s really not much worse during busy travel holidays.

You’ll still want to leave for the airport early, though — especially if you’re driving and need to snag a parking spot. (Like everything else in Boise, the airport is looking at ways to accommodate the population boom, including more parking.)

If you’re accustomed to airports with sullen and surly employees, prepare to be delighted: The TSA workers at the Boise Airport are often cheerful and quick with a smile, wishing you a good day.

On the other hand, know this: Flying from Boise to pretty much anywhere east of the Mississippi is a pain. Hundreds of dollars. Layovers. Hours of travel time. The city is well aware of the need for more direct flights and has been trying to get an East Coast connection for years. Meanwhile, airlines have been adding more Boise flights to hubs such as Los Angeles and Chicago.

4. The weather is great. Mostly.

Boise is mostly immune to hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. And it’s sunny more than half the time, ranking in the top 50 sunniest cities, according to

That doesn’t mean it’s perfect weather.

It makes sense that the National Interagency Fire Center is located in Boise, because Idaho is basically the wildfire capital of the continental U.S.

Between 1992 and 2012, an average of 568,000 acres of Idaho burned annually, according to a Statesman analysis of federal wildfire data. Only Alaska had more acres burn.

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The Boise Foothills disappear in smoke behind the Downtown Boise skyline in this August 2018 photo. Wildfire smoke is now a regular presence in the Treasure Valley during late summer. Darin Oswald

When Western fires rage, the Treasure Valley is inundated with wildfire smoke for weeks. Walk outside and it smells like a campfire. Go for a trail run, your lungs won’t be happy. It’s rare to have a mild summer like 2019, where fires are light and the air is clear.

Then comes the dreaded inversion.

“From late fall to mid-winter, the Treasure Valley is often socked in by a foggy-smoggy mix of air that prevents us from seeing the big ball of fire in the sky,” the Statesman reported in 2017. “That nasty air is a byproduct of inversion conditions, which is when cold air gets trapped on the Valley floor below warmer air.”

Inversions can happen any time of year, but Boise sees them most in the fall and winter.

5. We welcome refugees.

Boise is a major refugee resettlement center. So is Twin Falls, a couple of hours east of Boise.

Boise received a “Welcoming City” designation from Welcoming America — a nonprofit that supports “inclusive communities” — earlier this year.

“This designation reflects our longstanding work to help immigrants and refugees to become true members of our community and welcomed neighbors,” Boise Mayor David Bieter said, according to KIVI-TV, Channel 6. “Boise has been a place of refuge and opportunity for refugees and immigrants since its founding, and there is no question we are richer as a community as a result. We will continue to strive to remain a leader on this issue and keep Boise a welcoming city for all.”

Thousands of people have come to Boise from Africa, the Middle East and other regions where conflicts have forced men, women and children to flee their homes.

Refugees are a big part of our region’s workforce. They are local farmers, child-care providers and physicians.

6. We might have more thrift stores per capita than anywhere in the universe.

We have national and regional thrift-store mainstays, like Goodwill and Savers. We have indie thrift stores tucked into strip malls around the valley. We have consignment stores galore.

The biggest, though, is Idaho’s homegrown secondhand chain, the Idaho Youth Ranch. The Youth Ranch is a Boise-based nonprofit with more than 20 thrift stores across the state. Just one of the Boise stores received 6,500 donations in January — considered one of the slowest times of year for thrift stores — the Statesman reported this year.

A line of cars forms with people dropping off donations at Idaho Youth Ranch’s Broadway Avenue store in Boise, on a Saturday afternoon in February. Darin Oswald

Longtime Idahoans know the Youth Ranch for its legacy of helping at-risk kids and their families. The Idaho Legislature considers the Youth Ranch’s mission important enough for a special tax credit, which gives donors an extra tax break on top of regular deductions for charitable giving.

7. That cyclist just rode through a red light! What the $&#@!

Yep, he did. It was totally legal.

That’s because of a cyclist-friendly law here, dubbed “the Idaho stop.”

Cyclists must stop at a red light and yield to traffic, but they can ride on through once it’s safe to proceed.

And at stop signs, they don’t even have to stop.

“Idaho is the only state in the nation where a bicycle can pull up to a stop sign but proceed through without stopping,” Boise Police officer Andy Johnson told the Idaho Statesman in 2017. (At least one other state has passed a similar law since then.) “But they have to yield. And yield means they have to slow down, and they can proceed through with safety. They have to yield the right of way to anybody at the intersection already there lawfully that’s stopped or close enough to the intersection as to constitute a hazard.”

8. There’s free parking.

The meters in Downtown Boise give you a free 20 minutes of parking. Just hit the button or plus sign on the meter — before you pay.

Your first hour of parking is free in many of the garages downtown, too. Check for a map.

Extra tip for newcomers: When locals complain about parking, or traffic in general, just nod. Boise may seem like a driver’s paradise if you moved here from a bigger city. But locals were spoiled for years with ample parking and almost no traffic.

9. Eat some croquettes (croquetas).

That’s cro-KET-uhs. A croqueta is like a deep-fried ball of cheesy cream-of-potato soup. You can find them, most famously, on the Basque block at The Basque Market and Bar Gernika.

Bar G
Bar Gernika croquetas Hand out photo

10. Idaho’s time zones are weird.

The northern panhandle is in the Pacific time zone. We’re in the Mountain time zone. And we do observe daylight saving time. Get ready to fall back soon!

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