Best Towns 2010: Boise, Idaho

The winner for best overall town in the western U.S. is Boise, Idaho.

Boise's 8th Street market     Photo: Woods Wheatcroft/Aurora

POPULATION (METRO) 606,376
MEDIAN HOME PRICE $169,900
HOMETOWN HERO Kristin Armstrong,
2008 Olympic time-trial gold medalist,
bicycling advocate, supermom

THE LIVING: Boise, to put it mildly, has been on a roll. Government, education, and health care remain core industries, but dozens of high-tech startups have moved to town, joining behemoths like Hewlett-Packard and Micron Technology. And while its population has more than doubled in the past 30 years and jaded locals bemoan the sprawl, Boise has managed its growth impressively well: The city is home to nearly 2,000 acres of parks and a 25-mile greenbelt. The outlying areas feel a bit bland, but the older neighborhoods have that Boulder vibe—cruiser bikes, farmers' markets, and prayer flags—only with reasonably priced homes.

THE PLAYGROUND: With a few play waves already in city limits, a $6.7 million white­water park in the works, and life-list runs on the Payette and Salmon within a two-hour drive, the paddling is exceptional and only getting better. There's also a healthy triathlon community and a robust road-biking scene. In winter, before or after work, you can get a quick ski in—nordic or alpine—at Bogus Basin Ski Area, just 16 miles up the road. (Tip: The climb up is also a classic road ride.) And those brown hills above town are laced with more than 135 miles of hiking and mountain-biking trails. Yup, you're going to need a bigger Rocket Box.

THE NEIGHBORHOOD: The Northend neighborhood is as good as Idaho gets: You can walk to the local coffee shop, bike downtown via paths, plant some veggies at the community garden, or hop on singletrack at the end of your block.

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