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Idaho is a US state in the northwest of the country. It borders Washington and Oregon to the west, Canada to the north, Wyoming to the east, Montana to the northeast, and Utah and Nevada to the south. It's famous in the US for its potatoes. The state covers around 83,000 square miles and has just over 1.5 million inhabitants, most of them living in the largest city and capital Boise. Idaho became a state only in 1890 as number 43.
Idaho borders six states and one Canadian province. The states of Washington and Oregon are to the west, Nevada and Utah are to the south, and Montana and Wyoming are to the east. Idaho also shares a short border with the Canadian province of British Columbia to the north. The landscape is rugged with some of the largest unspoiled natural areas in the United States. At 9,300 km², the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area is the largest contiguous area of protected wilderness in the continental United States. Idaho is a Rocky Mountain state with abundant natural resources and scenic areas. The state has snow-capped mountain ranges, rapids, vast lakes and steep canyons. The waters of the Snake River rush through Hells Canyon, the deepest gorge in the United States.
Shoshone Falls plunges down rugged cliffs from a height greater than that of Niagara Falls. The major rivers in Idaho are the Snake River, the Clark Fork/Pend Oreille River, the Clearwater River, the Salmon River. Other significant rivers include the Coeur d'Alene River, the Spokane River, the Boise River, and the Payette River. The Salmon River empties into the Snake in Hells Canyon and forms the southern boundary of Nez Perce County on its north shore, of which Lewiston is the county seat. The Port of Lewiston, at the confluence of the Clearwater and the Snake Rivers is the farthest inland seaport on the West Coast at 465 miles from the Pacific at Astoria, Oregon.
Idaho's highest point is Borah Peak, at 3,859 metres, in the Lost River Range north of Mackay. Idaho's lowest point, at 216 metres, is in Lewiston, where the Clearwater River joins the Snake River and continues into Washington. The Sawtooth Range is often considered Idaho's most famous mountain range. Other mountain ranges in Idaho include the Bitterroot Range, the White Cloud Mountains, the Lost River Range, the Clearwater Mountains, and the Salmon River Mountains.
Idaho has much variation in its climate. Although the state's western border is located about 560 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, the maritime influence is still felt in Idaho, especially in the winter when cloud cover, humidity, and precipitation are at their maximum extent. This influence has a moderating effect in the winter where temperatures are not as low as would otherwise be expected for a northern state with a predominantly elevated altitude. The maritime influence is least prominent in the eastern part of the state where the precipitation patterns are often reversed, with wetter summers and drier winters, and seasonal temperature differences more extreme, showing a more semi-arid continental climate. Weather in Idaho can be hot, although extended periods over 38 °C for the maximum temperature are rare, except for the lowest point in elevation, Lewiston, which correspondingly sees very little snow. Hot summer days are tempered by the low relative humidity and cooler evenings during summer months since, for most of the state, the highest diurnal difference in temperature is often in the summer. Winters can be cold, although extended periods of bitter cold weather below zero are unusual. This is what led the railroad tycoon Harriman family to develop the most famous ski resort, Sun Valley. Idaho's all time highest temperature of 48 °C was recorded at Orofino on July 28, 1934; the all time lowest temperature of -51 °C was recorded at Island Park Dam on January 18, 1943.
Boise Airport (BOI) has most flights, including to/from Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, Sacramento, San Jose, Seattle, Spokane, Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Reno, Oakland, Chicago, San Francisco and Phoenix.
Idaho Falls Regional Airport offers flights to Las Vegas, Salt Lake City and Denver.
Twin Falls, Haily, Lewiston and Pocatello have regiona airfields as well, with flights to Salt Lake City and some of them also offering flights to Seattle or even Los Angeles.
The Empire Builder, operated by Amtrak, travels between Chicago, Illinois and Seattle, Washington, stopping en route in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Check Greyhound for options.
Flying is an expensive but wonderful way to get around and see the majestic scenery. Although many of the state's smaller airports have no commercial flights at all, while others (such as Twin Falls) don't have regular flights to other parts of the state, backcountry flights are available from many locations, and you get to fly through canyons and into remote airstrips that are nearly unreachable any other way. Examples are McCall Aviation and Selway Aviation in Central Idaho. If you just want to go city-to-city, call Horizon Airlines.
Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.
For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.
Idaho has a number of National Scenic Byways which offer a great way to explore the state crossing beautiful landscapes. Mostly, there are lots of national parks, state parks or monuments along the way and it's generally a better alternative than the faster but boring Interstate Highways.
The food is pretty much middle American. There are a few ingredients that are Idaho specialties, like Idaho Rainbow Trout, and of course the Famous Potatoes. In a similar vein, Moscow proclaims itself the "Dried Pea and Lentil Capitol of the World,". In the college towns (Moscow, Boise, Pocatello, Idaho Falls), it's pretty easy to find organic and vegetarian food, but in the rural areas you might have a hard time finding a meal without beef.
In much of Idaho, particularly the southern portions, a popular condiment is "fry sauce", a combination of ketchup and mayonnaise. Fry sauce is primarily a Utah condiment but it is also popular in nearby areas, especially those with significant Mormon populations.
Idaho liquor laws aren't as stringent as in neighboring Utah, but they are more restrictive than places like Nevada. As in the rest of the United States, 21 is the drinking age; expect to get carded if you look like you're under 30.
Specific rules governing bars vary slightly from county to county, but generally speaking bars close at 2:00am in the larger cities and 1:00am just about everywhere else. Last call means last call in Idaho; bar owners risk hefty fines or worse if they're caught serving even one minute past closing time. In 2012 smoking was outlawed in Boise bars and restaurants, however it remains legal in nearby Garden City.
Full-strength beer and wine are readily available in supermarkets and convenience stores. Although selections have improved, if you're not a fan of mass-produced American-style lagers they can often leave something to be desired. Hard liquor must be purchased at a state store. Freestanding state liquor stores are common in the larger cities, although private markets double as the local state store in small towns. Liquor stores are usually closed by 9:00pm (or earlier). Other stores stop selling beer and wine at the same time the bars close in that particular county.
There is a modest liquor production industry in Idaho. The Boise-based Bardenay restaurants distill their own rum. Local potato vodkas – including Glacier, 44° North, Koenig, and Blue Ice – are worth trying.
The college towns have a good selection of bars, including the occasional microbrewery. Downtown Boise has a vibrant night life as well. Otherwise you'll have to look hard to find any sort of interesting music scene in any but the largest cities. In the more rural areas, you'll be stuck drinking at a country western bar. You might come across a place that plays classic rock, but even those are hard to find, unless you know where to look. Ask a local, because podunk and nice are usually synonyms out there. On the plus side, almost every bar but the very swankiest has drink specials at least 3 nights a week. $1.50 wells, $2 pints, doubles for single prices.
There are dozens of hotel and motel chains, ranging from budget to top end. Allthough they are not the most charming accommodations, they usually have a very decent midrange service with good rooms and are generally good value. At least you know what to expect and in some cases they are either the only or the best option in the area. Some of them include:
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