With its love of fresh air, fresh food and fresh thinking, it’s not hard to see why Boulder earned the title the Happiest City in the U.S. by National Geographic. Fondly referred to as “the city nestled between the mountains and reality,” Boulder is just 30 minutes from Denver but feels like an escape from the everyday.
Boulder’s first settlement was established in 1858 by gold seekers in what is today called Settler’s Park. But it wasn’t long before the town turned its attention from mining its natural surroundings to protecting them. In 1898, the Colorado Chautauqua was built at the foot of the Flatirons mountains. It was a family retreat created in the tradition of national Chautauquas of the time, focusing on nature, culture and music. In the same year, the town moved to officially protect the land surrounding the Flatirons. Then in 1967, Boulder became the first city in the U.S. to tax itself for funds to be used specifically for the acquisition and preservation of open space.
Today, there are 45,000 acres of unspoiled outdoor beauty for visitors to explore via 300 miles of hiking and biking trails. A visit to the Chautauqua area today will put you up close and personal with the city’s iconic Flatirons. Here, you can hike up into the piney foothills and earn views of the lush Boulder Valley, patchworks of sprawling farmland and the red-tiled rooftops of the University of Colorado. Even in winter, visitors can do as the locals do and head outside, with plenty of opportunities for winter hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skiing at nearby Eldora ski mountain.
Boulder’s cultural landscape was transformed with the opening of the University of Colorado in 1867, laying the groundwork for the Boulder of today: a forward-thinking college town with a thriving tech startup and creative communities. Along with this progressive mindset comes a wealth of dining, shopping and artistic outlets. Much of the fun centers around historic downtown Pearl Street, a brick-paved pedestrian corridor that’s always alive with street performers, acclaimed restaurants, and dozens of independent shops. Two blocks away is the Boulder Farmers Market, named the best in the country by readers of USA Today.
Need a refreshment after all that? Boulder has more breweries per capita than any city in the country. Come sample over two dozen craft breweries on the Boulder Beer Trail. Or, if you’re not into beer, try tea. You can tour one of North America’s largest tea factories, Celestial Seasonings, or go inside an elaborately carved Persian teahouse, the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse.
When you’re not hiking, eating, drinking or shopping, you can catch a dance or theater performance at the Dairy Arts Center, browse dozens of galleries and see big-name music acts at the Boulder Theater or Fox Theatre. Rich cultural events abound, too, such as the annual Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Colorado Music Festival. Fascinating science tours are available at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, just two of several federal research labs that call Boulder home.