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On the Shores of Sparkling Lake Pend Oreille, Rugged, Trendy Sandpoint Boasts a Nice Downtown, Fun Festivals and a Bounty of Outdoor Recreation
In Idaho's scenic panhandle, 60 miles south of British Columbia, Sandpoint (population 9,000) is an outdoor recreation hub. It has won national accolades for its natural beauty and is noted as one of the country's top outdoor towns. Rand McNally has called it the most beautiful small town in America.
It is easy to understand why since Sandpoint sits along the northern shore of sparkling Lake Pend Oreille, a 43-mile long body of water surrounded by blue-hued mountains. Boaters, hikers, fishermen, students (North Idaho College has a small campus here) and snow skiers (Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort is nearby) all love it here. The town is also popular with retirees in search of laid back Western living, gorgeous scenery and a cool climate.
In fact, 37% of the population is age 45 or better, and 25% of all residents hold at least a four year college degree. Most locals tilt to the right politically. Sandpoint has grown 18% within the last decade but still has little racial diversity.
The cost of living is 30% above the national average, and the median home price is $595,000, reflecting a 2% increase from a year ago. Housing stock includes Alpine chalets, bungalows, Craftsmans, cabins and others.
Sandpoint has a bit of a resort atmosphere. The trendy downtown boasts restaurants, shops, coffee houses, offices, art galleries and pubs (Big Sky Moose Drool Brown Ale is a favorite beverage). The brick buildings date from the 19th-century and are in good shape.
And while the great outdoors beckon at every corner, Sandpoint also has a touch of culture. Each August local studios open to the public during the Artist Studio Tour. For music lovers, the annual Festival at Sandpoint brings a variety of acts to town for 10 days of great tunes and good food. Theatrical performances take place at the Panida Theater, a beautifully renovated 1927 Spanish Mission-style building.
Other events include the annual Winter Carnival and Lost in the 50s, a classic car show. The farmers' market is a popular spot, with fruits, baked goods, locally grown huckleberries and cheeses for sale (and with plenty of toe-tapping music).
Bonner General Hospital is a non-profit facility with 48 beds and provides 24-hour emergency care, home health care, cancer treatment, urgent care, comprehensive rehabilitation services and a helicopter response service. It is accredited by the Joint Commission, and Medicare patients are accepted. Another 10 hospitals are within 100 miles.
Sandpoint Senior Center offers daily congregate meals to people age 60 or better. It also has a full calendar of activities and events.
SPOT (Selkirks-Pend Oreille Transportation) provides free bus/van transportation within town and travels to neighboring towns. Amtrak has service to Seattle, Portland and Chicago. The closest international airport is in Spokane, Washington, 75 miles to the south west.
The East Bonner County Library has a branch in Sandpoint, and it has an interlibrary loan program, a materials-by-mail program, computer classes, books and magazines.
The elevation is 2,085 feet above sea level. Summers are spectacular with temperatures rarely reaching 90 degrees. Rainfall approaches 30 inches in the spring and summer. Winters receive up to 80 inches of snow with temperatures in the teens, 20s and 30s.
Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes | Is Idaho Tax-Friendly for Retirement? Yes
Striking natural beauty, outstanding lake and mountain recreation, a fun downtown and safe neighborhoods make Sandpoint a place to consider for retirement.
Named by the eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing, Idaho was one of the last regions in the lower 48 to be explored by Europeans. The Lewis and Clark expedition entered the area through Lemhi Pass in 1805. Trappers and fur traders soon followed.
The Gem State encompasses mountain ranges, river gorges, and lakes. Boise, its capital, is set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and is halved by a river. Weather can be as variable as the landscape. Maritime influences moderate winter temperatures in the west. The east can experience lower temperatures, wetter summers, and drier winters.
Manufacturing has become the state's main economic driver. Idaho is still a major producer of cattle, potatoes, and trout. Even though mining has faded in importance, Idaho continues to extract gold, silver, molybdenum, as well as 72 types of precious and semi-precious stones. Sun Valley has nurtured the state's newest industry - tourism.
Famous Idaho natives include writers Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound along with Olympians Pikabo Street and Dick Fosbury.
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