It’s funny how much the concept of Idaho baffles outsiders. 

Not long ago, a colleague in Central New York told us he had to do a double-take when he looked up how far away we are from each other. (Approximately 2,400 miles.) He truly didn’t know how far west Idaho was.

Most of our high school and college friends grew up in northeast Ohio or western Pennsylvania, so whenever we catch up with them we get asked about potatoes. The ones who are into college sports ask us how many ducks die every year when they fly into the “smurf turf.” We know that’s a myth, but the dumb greenbelt geese still seem to think it’s a lake…

Those of us who call the Gem State home, know that there’s a lot more to the state than potatoes, blue turf and being confused with the midwest. The state’s beauty is unparalleled and it doesn’t matter what you’re enthusiastic about: skiing, hiking, water sports, beer, wine, food…there’s something here for you. 

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You’ll often find the “best of the best” of those things in one of Idaho’s many small towns. While we know our state’s nickname comes from the number of precious and semi-precious stones you can uncover here, we truly think of our small towns as “gems.” 

And now three of them are being honored as great vacation destinations! (Yes, we said VACATION destinations. You have to leave and go home, wherever home is.) 

The travel bloggers at “Family Destinations Guide” recently put together a list of the 150 Best Small Towns in America in 2023. We’d love to know EXACTLY what questions were on their survey since the list was put together by polling 3,000 families about the small towns they want to visit this year. “What small town would you like to visit in 2023” just seems like a vague question to ask someone! 

When they tallied their results, the top five answers were:

Holualoa, HI (Population: 2,827)

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Ely, NV (Population: 4,002)

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Anna Maria Island, FL (Population: 8,500)

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Old Koloa Town, HI (Population 2,231)

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West Yellowstone, MT (Population: 1,269)

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Idaho didn’t put any small towns in the top 25, but THREE Idaho cities appeared in the Top 150! Which ones were they? 

Sun Valley, Idaho’s most well-known ski destination, clocked in at #60. The resort town has a population of 1,277. 

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Sandpoint checked in at #62. It’s where you’ll find Schweitzer and have the opportunity to take a cruise around Lake Pend Oreille. It’s also less than 40 minus away from Silverwood Theme Park.  With a population of 8,448, it may fit “Family Destinations Guide’s” definition of a small town, Sandpoint’s actually the 27th largest city in the state. 

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And finally, Stanley just made the list at #149. You’ve got a lot to pick from near Stanley: hiking through the Sawtooths, hot springs, fishing or just relaxing at Redfish Lake. We’re actually surprised Stanley, population 227, didn’t rank higher on the list. 

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We say that because we surveyed our listeners who already live in Idaho and asked them which small town they enjoyed visiting the most. Stanley had the second-highest number of votes. Who took #1? Take a look!

The 10 Best Small Towns in Idaho According to Locals

Idaho has dozens of small towns, so we asked people who actually live in Idaho to tell us which ones locals consider the best places to visit! This is what our listeners told us.

KEEP READING: 15 Small Town Idaho Restaurants That Are Worth the Drive

There's no shortage of good food in the Treasure Valley, but when you're traveling and driving through some small Idaho towns where are you going to grab something good to eat? Perhaps one of these hidden gems! You may just fall in love with them so much that they actually become a destination for you!

15 More Small Town Idaho Restaurants That Are Worth the Drive

Last fall, we put together a list of 15 small town restaurants and hidden gems that are worth making the trip to as you explore the great state of Idaho! We're not surprised that you told us that some of your favorites didn't make that list, so we put together a part two!

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