Two Idaho Towns Named Best Towns In America With Fewer Than 10,000 Residents
While Idaho might be in the top 25% of the largest states by land area, it’s still one of the least populated states in the country. That means that many of its towns and cities were perfect candidates for Far and Wide’s list of the “Best U.S. Towns With Fewer Than 10,000 Residents.”
In fact, Idaho only has 22 cities with a population over 10,000 if you look at the latest population estimates from the United States Census Bureau’s “American Community Survey.” That’s why we naturally assumed that Idaho would appear on a list focused ONLY on lesser-known towns with 10,000 residents or less. There are far more than 100 of these little towns across the nation, but Far and Wide chose their favorites and then ranked them from most to least populated.
That means that recreational activities, dining destinations, historical significance and other things that make these small towns great were not a factor when it came to where they ranked on the list of 100. So, which two lucky Idaho cities made it?
Opportunities for skiing, hiking, soaking in hot springs, fishing, rafting, and star gazing are what drew Far and Wide to Ketchum. Its population of just under 3,500 is what landed it at #58. This isn’t the first time that the small town has turned heads over the last few years. Yelp named the Limelight Hotel in Ketchum one of the Top 100 Places to Stay in 2023. Architectural Digest included it on their list of “55 Most Beautiful Small Towns in America.” Conde Nast Traveler included Ketchum on a list of “7 Small Towns in the U.S.That Are Secret Food Destinations.”
Our last visit to Ketchum was during the 2019 Sawtooth Relay and we certainly can’t disagree with that final list. We had a van of famished runners who completed the almost 62-mile relay filled with more than 2,300 feet of vertical coming and 3,200 feet of downhill running. After the race, we ate EVERYTHING we possibly could. Every meal we had in Ketchum was phenomenal.
Far and Wide’s fun fact about Ketchum was one that almost every single Idaho resident is familiar with. They chose the fact that Ernest Hemingway spent the twilight of his life here.
Wallace is a quirky little town of just under 800 full-time residents and they managed to catch Far and Wide’s attention because of the old mining town’s historic buildings and proximity to the Route of the Hiawatha scenic bike trail. In 2004, Wallace declared itself the “Center of the Universe” and we can’t disagree with the logic behind the proclamation. The mayor explained that you can’t prove that it’s not.
Not only is Wallace rich in history as a former mining town, but it also managed to preserve the history of one of its more risque industries - brothels. While illegal, the brothels managed to stay open well into the late 1980s and the madames that operated them were very well respected throughout the town. We’ve written a bit about the history of Wallace’s “Red Light District” when a former brothel named “The Luxette” hit the market and again when we realized you could stay the night at its sister property, which was renovated into an Airbnb. If you want to experience that history yourself, you can visit the town’s “Oasis Bordello Museum” which tells the story of why the brothels were deserted in a hurry in 1988.
Wallace also found itself on 24/7 Tempo’s list of “Best Hidden Gem Restaurants in Every State.” The top honor went to Idaho The Blackboard Cafe.
Far and Wide's fun fact about Wallace surprisingly had nothing to do with it being the center of the universe. They chose to mention that the entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places.
It’s great to see two very different small towns get the recognition they deserve. But…as we mentioned earlier, Idaho is FULL of great small towns. If you’re planning to visit a few of them, these are the best small towns according to people who actually live in Idaho.