Idaho: The State that Offers Everything at a Fraction of the Cost

Alex Watson is a freelance writer who enjoys researching and writing about personal finance and does his best to take his own advice. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading the classics and keeping his box turtle, Sparky, company. He currently writes for cash for gold buyer GoldMax

Idaho is an American state in the Pacific Northwest that is home to some of the most stunning scenery in the world. With stimulating activities year round and proximity to major travel hubs, Idaho represents a travel destination for anyone frequenting the western United States. North America is overflowing with possible activities, and the boot-shaped state bordering Canada is hardly an exception. Even better, the offerings in Idaho come at a fraction of the cost compared to many other destinations, making the location even more desirable for those on a tight budget. Below I list prime spots in The Gem State that will keep money in your pocket and add memories to your photo album.


Boise is the capitol of Idaho and a place that is a must-do. It's convenient that most travel to Idaho starts and ends in Boise, as it provides the state's major airport. There are many places to see in this city of over 200,000 people. Red Feather Lounge is the best place to eat, specifically for dinner at night or brunch on the weekends. The place offers farm-to-table cuisine and craft cocktails, with a strict focus on local ingredients and sustainable practice. With the most expensive item on the menu at $19 for a local grass fed rib-eye steak, luxury on a budget is evident.

Mountain biking and skiing are huge attractions in and around Boise. Bogus Basin Ski Resort is a quick 30 minute drive from downtown, and mountain biking is available in the foothills literally just outside the business district. As more evidence of Idaho being a budget hub for world-class activities, ski tickets for a full day are listed at $48 dollars, not even half the amount people are charged for a day at Vail, Colorado. The snow is lighter, and there are less people. Mountain biking trails are free and endless, and positively recognized nation-wide. Many other options for outdoor enthusiasts include fly fishing, rock climbing, boating and rafting. Whether you plan on wake-boarding at Lucky Peak reservoir during the intense July heat or partaking in a mentioned winter activity, possibilities are limitless.

Boise is a place that is morphing into a cultural magnet in 2013. The music scene is also progressive and growing, showing signs of a young Portland-Seattle hybrid. The scope of Boise is hard to narrow down, but the point is that the city offers many activities that other places around the world offer, at a smaller cost. It's worth checking out, even if it's just a couple days when flying in or flying out.


McCall is a small resort town of around 3,000 people that is one of the most magical representations of Idaho. Traditional hotels sit on the waterfront, while cabins are available deep in the woods on the way to the ski mountain. Either way, both accommodation options come at a reduced cost when compared with more popular ski towns across the country. Brundage Ski Resort is the main attraction, with a local hot springs coming in at a close second. McCall offers great mountain biking, fly fishing, hiking and snowshoeing similar to Boise. An additional highlight to consider if visiting McCall is snowmobile rental. Normally an extremely expensive day trip, a locally-owned company offers the service for $95 with all gear included. The nine hour trek on the powerful machines is a rush never imagined.

McCall is just two hours from Boise, and has the feel of being unique and very locally-oriented. In 2013, it's hard to find places like McCall, especially when it won't blow a budget open. It represents a perfect spot for a budget honeymoon or family vacation.

Sun Valley

A world class ski resort, Sun Valley is Idaho's version of Colorado's Aspen. While this location doesn't quite offer the budget alternative that Boise and McCall do, it presents itself as a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle. With ice shows during the winter and local rodeos in the summer, Sun Valley is a bubble for relaxation and fun. Pioneer Saloon is a must-visit restaurant in neighboring town Ketchum, and Sun Valley Lodge is the place to stay. 

This location is known throughout Idaho to be the one of the best places for both Nordic and downhill skiing, along with snowshoeing.

If you are open to a quick getaway, Redfish Lake can be a half-day trip to one of the most beautiful lakes in the region. An even more adventurous option would be a full night trip to Challis, Idaho. Challis Hot Springs is the main attraction, with accommodation and a very unique and cheap hot springs, just a three-hour drive from Sun Valley.

Idaho is an unbelievable place to visit. It has so many offerings that go unnoticed on a national and global level. The most affordable places to reach Idaho from are Portland, Seattle, Phoenix and Denver. It is also surprisingly cheap flying from Newark, New Jersey. Portland and Seattle are so close that a trip to Idaho should almost be mandatory, and people from everywhere else should give it a chance.

Growing up in the state, I have a fond appreciation for the area and an understanding of how it stacks up with other places people visit on vacation. I think Idaho is special because many people don't know about it, but it's almost too great to keep secret.

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(Photo: Alex Watson)

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