If you’re looking for good reasons to move to Meridian, a quick Google search will lead you to limitless praise on the city’s behalf. Meridian is ranked the ninth best place to live in the United States, and it is renowned for high-quality living conditions and a family-centered community. With so many positive reviews, you may be wondering if there’s anything wrong with this city at all!
According to the locals, it’s not all roses and sunshine. There are a few things you need to know about Meridian before moving here, and some of them may be major drawbacks for you and your family. Here are the top 17 reasons not to move to Meridian, Idaho—and they’ll be well worth your consideration:
17.) Cost of Living
At 7% more expensive than the national average, living in Meridian can cost a pretty penny. Groceries, utilities, and transportation are all rising in cost to meet the exponential demands of a growing population. Compared to surrounding cities, Meridian is moderately pricier (with the stark exception of Eagle, which with its manicured lawns and McMansions will probably always have us beat in terms of ritzy-ness).
And compared to Idaho’s overall average, Meridian’s cost of living is significantly higher, which may be a major problem for anyone operating on a single income or even multiple lower- to mid-wage incomes.
16.) Minimum Wage
Speaking of low income, the minimum wage in Meridian is depressingly low. As of 2022, minimum-wage workers still only get paid a whopping $7.25 an hour. True, jobs in Meridian are abundant, and most of them pay much higher than minimum wage.
In fact, people living in Meridian will probably tell you that minimum wages are intended for young teenagers’ first jobs. These jobs aren’t seen as permanent, living-wage arrangements; they’re seen as starter positions from which you continually move up. But if you have minimal education or relatively little industrial experience, finding a decent-paying job may be frustratingly difficult.
15.) Education Ratings
The public schools in Meridian are nothing special. On the national educational scale, they rank only slightly above average. Teachers are paid moderately well, and school buildings are generally of good quality, but the average grade levels and passing rates for standardized tests aren’t exactly impressive.
As for higher education, Meridian has limited options. Dubuque is the only university within the city, and there are only a handful of colleges and trade schools. For access to higher-quality programs, larger campuses, or better-rated institutions, you’ll have to commute to Boise.
14.) Frigid Winters
Winters in Meridian are long, grey, and depressing. From as early as September to as late as mid-June, the weather can be miserably cold. The worst part of the winters is that you don’t even get to enjoy the beauty of snow; because of its location in the Treasure Valley, Meridian only gets about 10 inches of snow per year. To top it off, Meridian’s winters can be incredibly windy and rainy, layering the streets and sidewalks with thin, treacherous ice.
So instead of at least reaping the benefits of a picturesque holiday season, the air is simply frigid, coating the grass with frost, filling the skies with fog, and numbing your soul with seasonal depression.
13.) Idaho Drivers
Established locals will complain to you about the aggressive, rude driving of Californian newcomers, but Idaho drivers are a speed all their own. I’ll never forget the days I was late to school because I was stuck behind a tractor or a combine that went the speed of a geriatric snail.
Or the countless days I sat at a four-way stop, clutching my steering wheel with and forcing a grin, and waiting as all three of the other drivers flustered one another with polite “Oh no after you!” gestures from behind their windshields.
Compared to life in the big city, traffic in Meridian really isn’t bad. But if you’re planning on getting anywhere in a hurry, let’s just say the excessive, easygoing roadway politeness might be a bit much at times.
12.) Limited Activities
Because Meridian is such a young city, it is comparably limited in things to do. Sure, there are plenty of outdoor activities, for those who like hunting, fishing, camping, etc. but if you’re more inclined to seek out urban entertainment, you might be disappointed. Beyond movie theaters, bowling alleys, and The Village (a big, overpriced shopping center), Meridian will quickly leave you out of entertaining options. Case in point: When my husband and I visit my parents in Meridian, we go to Albertsons for a good time. That’s the fun thing to do.
11.) Rapid Growth
This should go without saying, but a place that’s ranked as highly as Meridian comes with the obvious drawback of the fact that everyone is moving there. Things are getting crowded, prices are skyrocketing, and the city is quickly outgrowing its infrastructure. Moving to somewhere more established will save you the headache of perpetual newcomers and endless construction.
10.) Boring History
In the late 1800s, a few pioneers established a settlement along Five Mile Creek. They called it “Hunter.” The first school was opened shortly thereafter, then a post office, and pretty soon businesses began thriving by selling and distributing local dairy goods.
By 1893, the stupid name was discarded and the place was established as a town: Meridian. (Don’t worry, Hunter Elementary School pays homage to our rich cultural heritage of middle-of-nowhere settlers.) By 1941, Meridian had grown enough to be a city. The rest is history.
In other words, if you want to live in a place with impressive monuments, cool museums, or big cultural festivals, I’m afraid Meridian can only offer you fun facts about dairy farming and pioneers.
9.) Private Schools
Since Meridian’s public schools are a bit of an embarrassment, it didn’t take long for parents to get involved and launch their own schools. The city is resplendent with private schools and charter schools, creating an interesting dynamic between school kids and their peers.
Don’t get me wrong—these are fantastic schools—but if you plan on enrolling your children in normal public schools, be prepared for the drama of academic elitism from neighbors and peers. And if passionately discussing PTA politics isn’t exactly your cup of tea, Meridian’s helicopter parents will be a major deterrent.
8.) Religious Community
You’ve probably heard that Meridian has a very high LDS population. All things considered, yes, it does. About a quarter of the population belongs to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But Meridian is also just a highly religious place in general. Especially at the charter schools and private schools, you’ll meet people of all faiths: Catholics, Muslims, Baptists, Evangelicals, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and more.
I personally liked going to a school where so many of my peers were religiously tolerant; it makes you open to new ideas and respectful of others’ beliefs because there is such a wide variety. But some of my friends who were atheists or agnostics felt awkwardly outnumbered and ostracized.
7.) Conservative Atmosphere
Meridian is moderately Conservative, and a little less than half of the city is Liberal or Independent. Though the political climate is fairly moderate, financial support and voting results consistently favor Conservative campaigns and ideologies. So in terms of the liberal movements that draw attention on a national scale, Meridian remains fairly quiet and uninvolved.
In terms of quality of life in the private sector (which is the Conservative dream), local politics are extensively focused. If that’s what’s important to you, Meridian will be a very satisfying place to live; its future is exciting and bright.
If you’re more eager to get involved with movements like LGBTQ+ or Black Lives Matter, bigger cities like Boise will have more to offer because of their scale and dynamics.
6.) Totally Landlocked
Meridian isn’t near any natural bodies of water. At least, not any that are fun for swimming in or sitting on the beach. Besides muddy canals and frigid rivers, the closest thing Meridian has to a decent lake is a handful of nasty man-made reservoirs. You’ve got Eagle Island, which has repeatedly been flagged for E. Coli; Black Canyon, which is freezing throughout the entire year except for August; or Lucky Peak, which is infested with seagulls in all their fecal glory (my family called it “Pucky Leak.”)
If you’re willing to drive several hours, there are nice hot springs, and McCall is near the stunningly gorgeous Lake Payette, but other than that Meridian is totally, tragically landlocked.
5.) No Mountains
This one is a big deal for my husband. Whenever I bug him about the prospect of moving to Meridian, his main beef with the place is that it has “no decent mountains.” As avid hikers, he and I would definitely suffer from the flat scenery and limited hiking options. You have to drive about an hour to the nearest mountains, which feature a ski resort that is literally called Bogus Basin.
Compared to some places, “bogus” definitely feels like the right word. There are plenty of other outdoor activities, but if you’re used to mountain scenery, Meridian’s flatness can feel pretty bleak.
4.) Constant Development
Nothing is more frustrating than trying to get to work or school and having to navigate around an unexpected road closure, and this happens all the time in Meridian. Entrepreneurs and homeowners alike are pouring into the city, and they need a place to stay. For the next few decades, Meridian will be dealing with expanding its roads and building new neighborhoods, business spaces, schools, etc. If you can’t stand construction, steer clear.
3.) Remote Location
This factor holds major appeal for most of the people in Meridian. The city’s remote location allows it to feel private and secluded, which a lot of the residents love. (Hence the local annoyance with recent public attention/newcomers.) But Meridian is so “off the beaten path” that you’re not likely to get any visitors.
Our extended family hates coming up to Meridian—apparently, six hours of sagebrush scenery isn’t worth the drive—so we only see them if we’re willing to drive south. (Again, this could be a pro, depending on your preferences.)
Access to the freeway and interstate is also a bit of a hassle. The other day, it took us almost half an hour just to get to the mall, and by the time we got home, we were all exhausted. Meridian isn’t on-the-way to anything else, so the location can be pretty inconvenient at times.
2.) Housing Prices
As you’ve probably guessed by now, housing prices in Meridian are through the roof. Current inflation and manufacturing shortages, on top of all of Meridian’s new growth, have driven housing prices to an average of well over half a million dollars ($574,900) for a single-family home.
Even the apartments are insanely expensive. Plus, anything listed on the market will be gone in less than a month, as vacancies are snatched almost immediately. If you happen to be a millionaire or have multiple six-figure incomes, then you’ll be just fine. If you’re young and looking for a starter home, Meridian is no longer the affordable option it used to be.
1.) Lacking Diversity
The biggest downside to living in Meridian is the demographic lack of diversity. With almost 84% of the citizens being Caucasian, we don’t get nearly enough cultural variety. Hispanics make up the second-highest percentage of the population, at about 8%, and we absolutely love the culture that they bring.
(Being a quarter Latina myself, it sure is nice having access to good food at family-owned Mexican restaurants in Meridian!) Idaho’s remote location makes it less appealing to a lot of immigrants, but hopefully, Meridian’s rapid growth attracts a wider cultural variety in the next few years.
Another demographical drawback is that only 12% of the population consists of senior citizens. Meridian is a wonderful area for young people, but having greater generational diversity would give citizens better access to the wisdom and experience that our elders have to offer. With such a heavy focus on the young population, senior centers and care facilities don’t get as much attention as they should.
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