In a Rugged Landscape, Picturesque Coeur d'Alene, Idaho Boasts Bountiful Outdoor Recreation, a Rich Quality of Life and Breathtaking Scenery
Cost of Living: Above the National Average
In the beautiful, rugged landscape of northern Idaho's panhandle, picturesque Coeur d'Alene ("Core-da-lane") sits along the shores of shimmering Lake Coeur d'Alene, one of the largest freshwater lakes in North America, and is surrounded by steep, pristine mountains, seemingly endless forests and dozens of high altitude lakes. French Canadian fur trappers named the area after the Native Americans who lived here, and in its early days, Coeur d'Alene was a frontier trading post. During the mid-1800s, it became a military fort, and during much of the last century it was a remote logging community.
Today Coeur d'Alene is cozy, trendy and very relaxed. With a tourism marketing push in recent years, this mountain hamlet now boasts an upscale mountain vibe, not to mention an outdoor-oriented lifestyle, conservative Western values, abundant outdoor recreation opportunities and plenty of fresh air.
Nearly 54,000 people live here, and the town has grown by 12% during the last decade. Thirty six percent of residents are age 45 or better, and 28% hold at least a four year college degree. The cost of living is 16% above the national average. Racial diversity is minimal.
The median home price is $467,000, a 27% increase since a year ago, primarily thanks to Californians moving here in the wake of Covid 19. Prices are expected to increase another 25% over the next year. Neighborhoods are wooded, and residences range from ranch ramblers to stunning mountain chalets with lake views. A few mobile home parks are here, too, as are apartments.
Idaho is mostly friendly when it comes to retirement and taxes. Social Security is not taxed, but most other retirement income, excluding Railroad Retirement and public pensions, is taxed at ordinary income rates between 1.1% and 6.9%, depending on annual income. Homeowners age 65 or better with annual income of $31,900 or less are eligible for a property tax reduction of up to $1,320. The state sales tax is 6%, but prescription drugs are exempt. The average effective property tax rate (the annual tax payment as a percentage of median home value) in Coeur d'Alene is .62%. The annual taxes on a $467,000 home are approximately $2,895.
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Coeur d'Alene has 135 miles of shoreline and during the summer is speckled with boaters, parasailors, water skiers and fishermen. A boardwalk and picnic areas near downtown welcome those who prefer to stay on dry land. During the winter, residents ice fish on the lake.
Just outside of town limits, hundreds of miles mountain trails and two downhill ski resorts provide opportunities for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, cross country skiing and downhill skiing. And as if to prove its rugged outdoor bona fides, the city hosts the annual Ironman Coeur d'Alene competition. Its 2,000 athletes swim, bike and run through extraordinary scenery.
For golfers, the massive Coeur d'Alene Resort, with its championship golf course and famous floating 14th green, is a delight. It is spread along the lake's eastern shore and has been named by Golf Digest as America's most beautiful resort golf course, noting that it is "not just an escape; it is an experience."
Although residents revel in the outdoor recreation, Coeur d'Alene offers more than Mother Nature's bounty. The Coeur d'Alene Symphony performs in its beautiful venue, the Salavation Army Kroc Center, and it presents a solid menu of classical and semi-classical concerts. The Summer Theatre produces Broadway quality shows each summer, and The Lake City Playhouse mounts several community productions each year. Public art, including fun moose statues, add to the city's charm.
Shopping and dining options are plentiful, with five-star restaurants, wine shops, bookstores, antique stores, brew pubs and coffee houses dotting the trendy downtown. The Resort Plaza Shops is an upscale, enclosed mall and the site of book signings, fashion shows, concerts and art displays. Spokane, Washington is just 35 miles to the west and has more amenities.
North Idaho College has a good selection of non-credit classes that includes everything from "Financial Basics for Women" to "Beginning Watercolor Painting." The gorgeous Coeur d'Alene public library is a true treat. It is spacious, airy and boasts breathtaking views of Lake Coeur d'Alene. Workshops, lectures, discussion groups and classes are standard fare, and dozens of public access computers make reaching the Internet fast and easy.
Free, fixed route local transportation is provided by CityLink, a partnership of several groups, including the Coeur d'Alene Indian Tribe. It travels to the medical center, shopping areas, recreation sites and more. The Spokane International Airport has daily non-stop flights to all major hubs, and the Coeur d'Alene Airport accommodates small private aircraft.
Kootenai Health, home to the respected Kootenai Heart Center, is accredited by the Joint Commission and has been named a Top 100 Hospital by Cleverley and Associates. The percentage of patients who would recommend it to a friend exceeds the national average, and Medicare patients are accepted. Spokane has four hospitals, all of which are award-winning. For military retirees, Coeur d' Alene has a VA outpatient clinic, and Spokane has a VA hospital.
Coeur d'Alene summers are nothing short of breathtaking, with low humidity and temperatures in the 80s and 90s. With an elevation of nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, winters are cold with temperatures in the teens, 20s and 30s. Up to 80 inches of snow falls each season, and winter skies are often gray. On the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity, Coeur d'Alene ranks well above the national average.
Retirement here has a few drawbacks. Tourists descend in the summer, and traffic becomes thick and heavy. Not all long-time locals are happy with the recent gentrification of their old logging town. The crime rate is slightly above the national average. Coeur d'Alene, located on I-90 and US Highway 95, is accessible, but it is still "way up there" and can feel a little remote. Wildfires have occured nearby and may again.
Yet, despite these issues, Coeur d'Alene retirees boast about their gem of a town. Far off the beaten path, it beckons to anyone wanting to retire in a cute metropolis in the midst of majestic mountains, sparkling lakes and cathedral Western skies.
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