Nampa and Caldwell 

At the western end of the Treasure Valley—past the never-ending highway construction—are two towns that have seen some major changes in recent years.

Nampa and Caldwell were both founded as dedicated farming communities, but each has seen a heavy dose of urbanization as traditional agricultural values were mixed with some big city ideas.

Beyond their farming roots, both towns also owe their existence to the railroad. While the Oregon Short Line Railway bypassed Boise when it laid its track between Granger, Wyo., and Huntington, Ore., it went straight through Canyon County. Tracks also spurred out through Murphy in Owyhee County and north to Emmett and McCall. The county was eventually connected to Boise via the electric railway.

The area has always been a conservative kind of place. Some of the original homesteaders and landowners refused to sell lots to anyone who planned to build a saloon—that plan didn't last long.

One conservative upstart that became an institution is the elementary school that grew into Northwest Nazarene University (623 Holly St.), now a major private college in the region. The College of Western Idaho (5500 E. Opportunity Dr.) recently doubled the higher-education offerings in Nampa when it opened in 2009.

Caldwell has long been home to the College of Idaho, formerly known as Albertsons College of Idaho, formerly known as the College of Idaho. C of I is home to one of the best planetariums in Idaho.

As the population has grown in recent years, some Nampa residents have dedicated themselves to preserving the historic downtown core. The result is a charming area filled with boutique and vintage shops as well as restaurants.

Of course, if you want retro, look no further than Karcher Mall (1509 Caldwell Blvd.), the Treasure Valley's first indoor shopping mall.

But it's not just about shopping in the 2C. The Idaho Center (16200 Idaho Center Blvd.) hosts some of the largest concerts in the area, and the Warhawk Air Museum (201 Municipal Way) is the place to check out an impressive collection of military aircraft and memorabilia.

Canyon County is also home to a budding wine country, with vineyards and wineries dotting the rural landscape and offering wine lovers an easily accessible, yet impressively loaded, wine tasting tour.

—Deanna Darr

Vital Statistics

Nampa

Quaint downtown Nampa is the up and coming popular kid when it comes to hip, local shopping. To cool off in the summer, Canyon County residents head to Lake Lowell, which is open to boaters mid-April through the end of September annually.

Caldwell

An infamous, privately owned billboard in Caldwell welcomes visitors with what are sometimes biting social and political messages. Whether you agree or disagree with their author, you're usually guaranteed a laugh. Where to walk in Caldwell: College of Idaho campus and along the banks of Indian Creek downtown.

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