Boulder, Colorado is a mix of all sorts of things, but most of them have to do with being outside. This is a town where one can buy oxygen*, grass (wheatgrass or marijuana), and water at exorbitant prices, but can also be immersed in all three for free in any of the more than 40,000 acres of protected green space in and around the city.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Boulder is the image of the Flatirons, rock formations located just west of town. Named by pioneer women who thought they looked like irons (not especially creative, but an apt description), they are conveniently located a few minutes from downtown. The Third Flatiron stands 1,400 feet tall, and was first climbed by Floyd and Earl Millard in 1906, the earliest recorded rock climb in Colorado. Since then it has been climbed thousands of times in a number of fashions, including by two men wearing roller skates, by only the light of the full moon, and naked.
Boulderites like to play hard. The city hosts a “robust biking culture,” and many take advantage of the roughly 300 miles of bike lanes and paths, which are used year-round. On an average day, city employees counted 3,574 bikes in the downtown area. About 15% of the city’s annual transportation budget goes towards bike programs, and about 10% of all work commutes are made by bike, almost 20 times the national average.
The first people to live in the Boulder area were Native Americans of the Arapahoe tribe. Then in 1859 came the white men and the Boulder City Town Company, who divvied up the land into parcels and sold them for $1,000 per lot, later lowered to attract more buyers. The Territory of Colorado itself wouldn’t be established for two more years. Prior to 1861 Boulder was part of the Territory of Nebraska, which probably has nothing to do with the University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes / University of Nebraska Cornhuskers football rivalry. The University of Colorado has been up and running in Boulder since 1877, and today hosts about 30,000 students.
Without Pearl Harbor, Boulder might not have grown into the town it is today. During WWII, the US Navy located its Japanese school at UC Boulder, which brought people from all over the country to the area. After the war, many of them came back, increasing the population by about 10,000. The 300 days of sun a year probably had something to do with it. Today, the population is just under 100,000.
According to a mile-high list of publications, Boulder is an ideal place to live if you are: a woman executive, innovative, a biker, happy, a foodie, well-read, an in-shape baby-boomer, educated, brainy, raising an outdoor kid, an artist, someone who works for a technology start-up, part of a LGBT family, or someone who likes trees, among other things. Says one local, “I love Boulder, sure there are a lot of people who are weird as shit (last night I had a 50 something hippy tell me she could teach me yoga while having sex with my girlfriend) but that’s half the fun of living here.”
10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Third Flatiron. By Amanda Fox, Climbing Magazine. http://www.climbing.com/climber/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-third-flatiron
The Best Bike Cities in North America: Boulder, Colorado. By Sarah Ripplinger, Outside Magazine. http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/north-america/The-Best-Bike-Cities-in-North-America-Boulder-Colorado.html
The Best Cities to Raise an Outdoor Kid: The Winning 25. By Jason Stevenson, Backpacker Magazine. http://www.backpacker.com/august_09_the_best_cities_to_raise_an_outdoor_kid/articles/13125
Boulder, Colorado: The City Everyone Loves to Love/Hate. By Ryan Krogh, Outside Magazine: http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/best-towns/Boulder-Colorado.html
Boulder, Colorado USA (Boulder Conventions & Visitors Bureau): http://www.bouldercoloradousa.com/
City of Boulder, Colorado Homepage: http://www.bouldercolorado.gov/
The Gore-Tex Vortex. By Marc Peruzzi, Outside Magazine. http://www.outsideonline.com/adventure-travel/north-america/united-states/colorado/boulder/The-Gore-Tex-Vortex.html
Mountain Project Boulder page, submitted by John McNamee: http://www.mountainproject.com/v/boulder/105801420
Oxygen bar’s clients are encouraged to inhale. By Barbara Hey, Denver Post. http://extras.denverpost.com/life/oxygenbar0328.htm
Wikipedia: Boulder, Colorado. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boulder,_Colorado
Wikipedia: Colorado-Nebraska football rivalry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colorado%E2%80%93Nebraska_football_rivalry
Boulder postcard: http://www.yoganonymous.com/
CU Boulder campus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CU_boulder_campus.jpg
Flatirons images courtesy of the author