Nampa and Caldwell, once very geographically distinct entities from one another, still have very different personalities but have grown together. Nampa, especially, has boomed in population in recent years.
With a population of less than 1,000 at the turn of the 20th century, more than 80,000 people now call Nampa home. Although a number of those people commute daily to Boise, neither Nampa nor Caldwell could correctly be labeled a bedroom community to the capital city. In fact, once upon a time, many of the area's railroads converged in Nampa, bypassing Boise, and Nampa was home to an indoor shopping mall long before Ada County.
Today both cities walk a line between rural and urban, with a mix of industry, retail and agriculture. Nampa, as the more urban of the two, has been undergoing major changes in recent years, as numerous national retailers have opened second locations in the area to give Canyon County shoppers easier access to the amenities that Boise residents have enjoyed for years.
The city hasn't forgotten its downtown core, though. The historic area is home to some of the most creative and fun independent stores in the area, including popular used bookstore Yesteryear Shoppe (1211 First St. S.), boutiques like The White Pine (1306 Second St. S.), as well as Flying M Coffeegarage (1314 Second St. S.), a Nampa version of one of Boise's most popular stops for a cup of joe that also hosts regular concerts. Nampa also has a robust restaurant scene, with fondue restaurant Mona Lisa (102 11th Ave. N.), locally focused Brick 29 (320 11th Ave. S., Ste. 100), and French bistro La Belle Vie (220 14th Ave.)—all great date-night destinations for foodies.
One of the newer additions to the city has Boiseans making daily treks westward: College of Western Idaho (cwidaho.cc). The community college has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few short years, offering area residents another avenue to higher education.
Recreation opportunities in Nampa include the popular outdoor trail around the Nampa Rec Center (131 Constitution Way) for runners, rollerbladers and dog walkers, and the Indian Creek Trail (nampaparksandrecreation.org). Water lovers should check out Lake Lowell south of Nampa and Caldwell, star gazers should head toward the College of Idaho's planetarium in Caldwell, and wannabe cowboys have both the Caldwell Night Rodeo (caldwellnightrodeo.com) and the Snake River Stampede (snakeriverstampede.com) to look forward to.
While Caldwell has seen far less development than its Canyon County neighbor in the last few decades, it has long been home to College of Idaho (collegeofidaho.edu), one of the most respected private universities in the state. Once home to a large number of Chinese immigrants, Caldwell now has a significant Hispanic population, making it among the best places to get lengua tacos or menudo in the valley. Its more rural location also makes Caldwell a gateway to Idaho's wine country (idahowines.org).