Boulder, Colorado has received dozens of accolades and awards for being the happiest, healthiest, greenest, most liberal, most queer, most outdoor adventurous, most bike-friendly, most walkable, and best educated city, just to name a few!
Boulder is located in the Boulder Valley between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, bordered by the Flatiron Mountains which have become the iconic Boulder image. In fact, there has been a city-wide ordinance since 1971 that buildings can not have more than four stories, in order to prevent any obstructed mountain views.
Various anecdotes about Boulder indicate the character of its people; that Boulder was the first city to vote for taxing itself to dedicate funds to open space and environmental conservation; and it was the first city in the country to mandate a Green Building code for residential structures, one that was eventually adopted by the entire state of Colorado.
It has been said that Boulder is so left-wing it calls itself the “People’s Republic of Boulder” and that it was the second city in the entire country to grant same-sex marriage licenses and legal protections back in 1975.
Outdoor fanatics will love quick and easy access to the Flatirons, Boulder Falls, Royal Arch, Eldorado Canyon State Park, Flagstaff Mountain, Chatauqua, and hundreds of thousands of miles of bike lanes and trails. Denver residents proudly boast having nearly as many bikes as humans in the city, and most of the town is suitable for traveling by bike or walking.
Boulder’s Regional Transportation District has an extensive network of bus routes around Boulder with lines named Skip, Jump, Bound, Dash, and Stampede, so a very high percentage of the population utilizes healthier and greener transportation options.
Environmental Protections and Conservation is a hot topic in Boulder. Designated entities like the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department and the Forest Ecosystem Management Plan collectively maintain around eight thousand acres of protected land and its native species.
The Urban Wildlife Management Plan handles the city’s pesticide control, using goats to maintain overgrowth of foliage, and protecting critters that prefer to brave the downtown scene, like prairie dogs.
Boulder has a law against killing prairie dogs without proper permits. Celestial Seasonings Tea Company has its headquarters in Boulder and has converted its property into a Prairie Dog Preserve. I was surprised to learn that this was a result of the company’s agents being caught poisoning the prairie dogs on their property, so they had to make restitution to the land.
Mallory Trail passes by a gated bat cave sanctuary for rare bat species to protect them from predators as much as the white nose fungus that has been wiping out entire bat populations.
Something I could not get enough of is the wild lavender planted all over downtown and the heavenly scent it produced.
There are 17 federally funded science labs in Boulder, and it was voted the most educated city in America by Forbes.
You want to know something else? The NIST-F1 Cesium Fountain Atomic Clock, the god-machine that sets and keeps synchronized time across the United States, is located at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, and you can visit it.
Museums, cultural and other educational institutions include the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Colorado Museum of Natural History, Fiske Planetarium, Underwater Fish Observatory, Henderson Museum, the Sommers-Bausch Observatory and the Museum of Boulder.
Pearl Street Mall
During our short trip to Boulder, we focused our time and efforts on downtown, and my three must-see spots are the Boulder County Farmers Market, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, and Pearl Street Mall.
The four brick-paved open squares of Pearl Street Mall are the focal point of downtown Boulder, full of fountains, gardens, sculptures, buskers, and other street performers.
Shops and cafés line all sides of the squares and continue down Pearl Street in both directions, into the East End and West End Districts far beyond the Mall. East End runs from about 15th to 21st Streets, and West End is between 11th and 8th Streets.
Pearl Street has been a main thoroughfare of Boulder since it was a gold mining settlement in the 1850s. The miners who moved in began chasing away and even murdering the native Arapahoe tribe members.
Legend has it that Chief Niwot cursed the land so that visitors will find (what is now) Boulder so beautiful they will want to stay, and that will be its undoing. Isn’t that always the case?
In the 1970s, Boulder’s governor at the time signed the Public Mall Act in effect which allotted for pedestrian-only squares, and the Core Area Revitalization Committee began urban planning and renovations to bring life and money to the town.
The Boulder County Farmers Market was my second favourite feature. It has been held seasonally since 1987 and is still just as lively and crowded as ever.
Boulder proudly hosts the first regularly occurring Zero Waste event in the country with trash, recycling, and compost bins at every turn. Since then, the EPA has named Boulder the first Green Power Community in Colorado.
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was the cherry on top of our tour of Boulder. This cultural landmark was a gift to Boulder from one of its sister cities, Dushanbe, Tajikstan.
The backstory and process of the Persian teahouse actually getting to Boulder is pretty fascinating, if you care to read more here.
Lush green foliage and gorgeous vibrant patterns cover the interior from top to bottom, with a lovely fountain in the center.
A combination of the vast herbal tea collection, the fragrant plants, and spices from the kitchen waft throughout the main room, which I found both relaxing and tantalizing.
Intricately carved wood columns support the elaborately painted ceilings. It was dazzling.
We shared several pots of the Russian Caravan, Lady Grey’s Garden, and a few other delicious tea blends.
We sampled the Indian samosas and some sort of creamy walnut and fruit crepe, which we loved so much we had to get more of.
The Lapsang Souchong-infused sausage on eggs Benny with green tea hollandaise was enough to make you weep.
Veggie-fried rice and an American-style breakfast were also delicious.
Bon Appetit called Boulder the “Foodiest Town in America” and this place can totally back that up. Check out these guides to Boulder’s Downtown Dining and the Boulder Downtown Coffee Trail for more info about where to eat and get caffeined.
For beer-lovers, Boulder has the fourth highest concentration of breweries per capita, following its northern neighbouring town of Fort Collins.
Read more about breweries/distilleries like Avery Brewing Company, Sanitas Brewing Company, Twisted Pine Brewing Company, Wild Woods Brewery, Upslope Brewing Company, Redstone Meadery, and the Vapor Distillery in this Boulder Beer Trail guide.
Events like the Naked Pumpkin Run (which asinine nudity laws have ended), 420 Gathering (which asinine citizens have tried to ruin), Polar Bear Plunge, Tube to Work Day, and climbing the Flatirons naked or in bizarre costumes is just part of life in Boulder.
In conjunction with the nearby town of Nederland (because, as I learned in Denver, Colorado has a huge Dutch population and naturally had to name a town Nederland after their home country), Boulder celebrates Frozen Dead Guy Days.
The Frozen Dead Guy Days festival is in tribute to a Norwegian man named Bredo Morstoel whose grandson cryogenically frozen him in 1989, and attendees participate in coffin races, a hearse parade, bowling with frozen turkeys and other death-themed activities. Cool.
There is also a café on the University of Colorado campus called the Alferd Packer Restaurant & Grill. You know… Alferd Packer… the famous “Colorado Cannibal?” Students seem to just roll with it and I am always down for some dark humour.
Downtown Boulder is a blast but don’t forget to check out some of Boulder’s other neighbourhoods like Gunbarrell, Twenty Ninth Street, Old North, North / South / East / Central Boulder districts, Chatauqua, and The Hill.
In the area for a while? Follow me to Denver’s RiNo, Berkeley, and LoDo neighbourhoods or to Alma and Breckenridge.
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