04 Sep Boulder Colorado: Small Town, Big Heart
If you’ve heard anything about Boulder, Colorado, it probably involved hippies, rock climbers, or “the best places to live.” And maybe the Rocky Mountains being in the backyard. Guess what? Those all describe Boulder. There’s no other place quite like it. People smile and say “hello” when you pass on the street. Meditation and hiking groups meet every day. There are 1,001 ways to stay fit. It really is one of the best places to live. And there’s much more to it than that.
It’s wholesome, edgy, exciting, and mellow all at the same time. It’s a delightful place for single people. Joining a social activity group is as easy as scanning local bulletin boards, or looking at Meetups online, or visiting a public community center. Whatever your interests, there are probably Boulderites ready to welcome you!
It’s a wonderful place to raise a family too, with countless outdoor activities year round for kids, adults, and the whole family. From films and classes at the library (with amazing views of Boulder Creek!) to open-air theater and snowshoeing it’s easy to line up fun weekends. And it’s worth mentioning that Boulder’s Fairview High School ranks among the top ten high schools in the state according to US News rankings. With the University of Colorado-Boulder in town, you might even convince them to stick around through college.
Boulder is a Home Rule Municipality of about 100,000 people, located 30 miles north of Denver at the foot of the Rockies. You might recall from the recent post here about the Prospect New Town community that Boulder’s also 15 miles southwest of Longmont. Like Denver, it’s also a mile-high town (one reason it’s popular with Olympic trainees and professional athletes). Also like Denver, Boulderites bask in close to 300 days of sunshine each year.
The Southern Arapaho tribe were the original inhabitants of what’s now Boulder. It wasn’t until the 1850s that gold miners established a camp in the area. In 1859 the Boulder City Town Company was born.
Since the 1850s, the town’s grown tremendously. Thanks to various historic preservation efforts, and planning and development decisions, Boulder’s maintained its charm over the decades. For example, re-use of land, and capped heights, are the name of the game when it comes to new buildings. This year the City Council capped building heights at 55 feet (with only rare exemptions).
New spots for Boulderites to enjoy have multiplied too. CU-Boulder’s campus stretches across 600 acres of research facilities, classrooms, and sports complexes. And of course there are all the tasty campus sandwich shops. Then there’s Chautauqua Park near the Flatirons (sandstone formations in the foothills) for cultural events and hiking. Just outside town, as the land flattens from mountains to prairie, are Boulder Reservoir’s 700 acres of mixed-use open space.
Fun for Families
Families looking for fun activities have numerous options.
- Visit the Boulder Bandshell downtown. Sit next to a neighbor at this outdoor venue while you enjoy a musical performance or dance event.
- The Boulder Creek Festival. If you visit the Bandshell in late May, you’ll be at one of Boulder’s biggest family-friendly parties. You can enjoy concerts, hundreds of vendors, and even a rubber duck race in Boulder Creek!
- Pearl Street Mall is one of Boulder’s must-see attractions. It stretches from 11th street to 15th street. Many people consider those four blocks the heart of Boulder. You’ll see kids playing in the fountains in front of City Hall, numerous buskers, a popular contortionist, and — on sunny days —crowded patios at the local restaurants.
- Chautauqua is a lodge (with overnight availability as well as cabins available for extended rental), a performance venue, a popular dinner destination, and a park that extends into the Rockies. Kids will enjoy children’s plays and concerts. Parents can enjoy historical and scientific talks, theater, and delicious meals in the Dining Hall. The trails lead to lookout points with views of Boulder and the eastern horizon that are hard to beat.
- Boulder Public Library offers weekly storytimes, performances, literacy activities, concerts, and even opportunities to read with licensed therapy dogs.
Boulder’s a popular training ground for athletes because the elevation makes their lungs work harder. One hike up the Chautauqua trails will remind you that you’re not at sea level anymore! (But the views are always worth the climb.)
Once you’re in town, the foothills are rarely more than a 15 minute bike ride away. And with trailheads every few hundred yards it’s easy to get started on a hike. You’ll see lots of runners, too, on trails and pavement. Three trails that you might like are easy to find:
- Chautauqua at 9th Street & Baseline Road
- Mount Sanitas Trailhead near 3rd Street & Mapleton Avenue (this trail winds around then heads straight up — incredible views at the top)
- Red Rocks Trailhead close to where Pearl Street crosses Canyon Boulevard
A word of caution: mountain lions and black bears are active in the area, so let the City of Boulder help you hike smart! See links at the end of this article for details.
If you want to run on pavement, or you like to road cycle, you’ll like the Boulder Creek trail. You can jump on in town and follow it into Boulder Canyon along the CO-119. Excellent scenery.
Speaking of Boulder Creek, you’ll want to spend some time cooling off on those sunny days. Grab an inner tube and join your friends for a day of floating! And if that isn’t enough water time for you, head to Boulder Reservoir for a swim.
Want to Stay Indoors?
If you’re looking for a little activity indoors, visit the South, East, or North Boulder Community Centers for swimming, dance, weights, and more. Or if you prefer quieter activities, Boulder’s got you covered. How about trying meditation? You can explore the offerings at the Boulder Shambhala Center on Spruce Street. Interested in yoga? Walk a few blocks in any direction and you’ll find a studio. This is an amazing town.
Boulder’s charm is its variety. There’s enough to satisfy all kinds of tastes and interests, from college football tailgate parties to mountain-top fine dining. And there’s so much more we could talk about: rock climbing, mountain biking, the Dushanbe Teahouse, the Boulder Book Store. No wonder it’s on most “best cities” lists!
You can find more information about Boulder, including its zoning regulations, at https://bouldercolorado.gov.
For information about hiking safely, see https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/bears-and-mountain-lions.
To read about Fairmount High School’s rating, visit http://www.usnews.com/education/best-high-schools/colorado/districts/boulder-valley-school-district-no-re2/fairview-high-school-3990?int=c0b4c1.