When I moved to Denver in 1998, I was told: “Just wait...someday there won’t be any empty space between here and Boulder, and it’ll all be one big metro area.”
Well, the first part of that has pretty much happened.
You can argue about open space and greenbelts and whatnot, but the fact is that today you can drive from Denver to Boulder and never really feel like you’re in between places anymore.
Folks in Boulder might meditate a lot more, and there are probably more yoga pants per capita there than down here in Denver — but under the surface of all that peace, love and immense prosperity, there's still anger bubbling. What breaks the calm exterior of even the most placid Boulderites? Let’s start with these eight things:
8. Mork & Mindy
The ’70s phenomenon was most Americans' introduction to Boulder, and not in the best of ways.
Some residents point to this series as the beginning of the end for what Boulder had been: a low-key hippie enclave of students and peaceniks and the like.
But once the city became the mythical home of one of TV’s most beloved (and sometimes weirdest) sitcoms, the influx began.
It’s never really stopped, even if the real-estate market has done its best to discourage anyone from taking up residence.
7. Any Vehicle That Isn’t a Bike
Boulder is just not car-friendly, and doesn't want to be.
That’s one of the many conundrums of Boulder: People either have an expensive automobile or an old beater that they’ve been driving since the Reagan administration (with the requisite era-appropriate bumperstickers), and neither vehicle makes it out of the driveway if their owners can help it.
That's because the streets are slim and crowded, which backs up traffic — and the ridiculous Boulder street grid defies the term “grid.”
The sheer number of cars chugging through the Denver-Boulder tech corridor every weekday chokes the highway before it strangles Boulder itself. The town is a bitch to get around in pretty much any day of the week — and woe to you if there’s a CU Buffs game.... Better pack a lunch for a picnic in the Volvo.
6. Pearl Street Mall
Pearl Street used to be Boulder’s bread and butter. It was a nice place for out-of-towners to visit and is still a popular stop, despite the fact that a lot of the stores that gave it character have closed or moved.
Today it’s sort of a shadow of its former self, and has mainly become a place for buskers to put on performances and for visitors to wander around and eventually ask, “Why did we stop here again?” before they dutifully duck into the Cheesecake Factory for a 4,800-calorie lunch.
Is there any free parking left in Boulder city limits? Not really, at least not on surface streets.
Anywhere that used to be “park where you find a spot” is now “make sure that slip of paper is visible and pointing in the right direction and on the correct side of your dash, Boulder visitor, or else you’ll be instantly ticketed and potentially towed.”
It’s a friendly sort of place, Boulder is — just for $1.25 an hour, thanks.
Call it a love/hate relationship.
Yeah, Boulder is a college town, and there’s some Buffs spirit to be found around the campus, but it’s not pervasive as it is in other university burgs Boulder's size.
There’s a tug of war between the various Boulder personalities — the long-term hippies, the moneyed yuppies and the college itself — and none of these factions holds sway in any way that can monopolize Boulder completely.
While Boulder supports and respects the university, do the residents also breathe a sigh of relief when May rolls around and all the students clear the hell out? Yes. Yes, they do.
3. The Corporate Takeover of The Hill
A quarter-century ago, The Hill was still an eclectic collection of small stores, cool bars and great hole-in-the-wall restaurants.
Now it’s Starbucks and Cost Cutters and Walgreens and Chase Bank, all squatting where your favorite local campus shops used to be.
The Hill is struggling to maintain its rough charm and independent status, but in an age in which both Spider-man and Darth Vader are owned by Disney, what chance does The Hill have to stay purposefully un-corporate?
Just ask the guys working at Cheba Hut, which sounds like it should be a local Boulder sub shop…but is totally not.
The laws surrounding panhandlers have changed a few times over the years in Boulder, moving from a live-and-let-live philosophy to a hard-line prohibition of the Pearl Street practice, to a repeal of that restriction back in 2015.
These days, panhandlers are grudgingly tolerated by local businesses and largely ignored by the Boulder public.
This is mainly out of necessity: If you gave a couple of bucks to every panhandler on Pearl Street on any given weekend, you’d have to get a second job to pay for their life of complete freedom, man.
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1. That Boulder Is Even on This List
Boulder isn’t a neighborhood in Denver, pal, and we’re definitely no suburb. We have a courthouse! We have our own city council! We have a freakin’ greenbelt to separate ourselves from you Denver people!
Never mind that we demand bus service from Denver, as well as commuter rail directly downtown and out to the airport, or that we’re a home-rule municipality just like Aurora and Thornton and…oh, shut up.