A recent survey found that Boulder is one of the ten most livable U.S. cities -- and this reputation explains why so many people want to relocate there. But even longtime residents see pros and cons, as is clear from a vintage bulletin board item entitled "Give me a reason not to go to Boulder." Continue to read the original posters reasons for wanting to relocate and the ten most memorable responses he received, featuring photos from our First Boulder Craft Beer Festival slide show.
The original intro:
I think the mothership may be in Boulder, Co and I have a burning desire to go there. I'm so in love with the place that I'm probably missing the bad stuff. Is there anything bad about Boulder?
Boulder seems to me to be about as progressive as I can get without going to San Francisco. It feels like Austin used to feel. (And parts of Austin still do.) But I cannot take another summer in Texas.
I want to live somewhere where there are tons of trees and nature, access to astounding education channels from kindergarten through doctorate programs. An active arts community, progressive politics, and an amazing public library are all things that are on my "really want" list, and Boulder seems to fill all of them. As well, there seems to be a solid job market for code slingers, which makes my husband happy.
So, what am I missing? What are the deep dark secrets that are horrible about Boulder? Anything?
Boulder is extremely costly compared to other parts of Colorado, which makes homeownership a pain for many. Boulder's crazy City Council adds to this stress with their weirdo ordinances and nanny-state sensibilities. You'll be hard-pressed to find a non-chain restaurant that's open later than 10 p.m..
Boulder is extremely white and not very diverse. It is surrounded by extremely not-progressive politics, which means that your vote really does matter in Colorado at large. Boulder can trend towards ridiculous yuppies who are so caught up in the dream of Subaru ownership and Shambhala meditation that they forget to do things like address homelessness in their town or develop a sustainable relationship with the students who make their town run.
If you live in central Boulder, expect loud parties and the sounds of celebration to continue Thursday through Sunday at least. The job market in Boulder is not as robust as it might seem when you consider that many people who work in Boulder can't actually afford to live there.
Boulder also has amazing bike paths, gorgeous vistas of wide-open space, incredible trails, fairly friendly residents, proximity to a real live metropolitan area, and some of the best weather ever. I love it here, but I hate the yuppified gentrification that seems to have overcome much of Boulder. Would I take it over Texas? Any day!
I've lived in the Boulder area for 10+ years and also love it and really wouldn't want to live anywhere else. However, there are some drawbacks that may or may not matter to you about this area.
Mainly, there is little to no diversity here. True, there is a somewhat significant population of Latinos but they are largely poor and invisible (unless you're working in a restaurant kitchen). The population tends to be rich, white folk, i.e. those who can afford to purchase homes in Boulder OR college student, who tend to be rich and white as well. If you plan on buying, I suggest looking at real estate to get an idea of what it's like. 1,000 square foot homes that are 40+ years old start at $300,000. And that's for the small, shitty ones that have been rentals for years or back up to a highway. (Which is expensive in my book, but I've never lived in SF or NYC.)
So if you are white and wealthy, you'd be surrounded by those who are exactly like you, which may or may not be what you want. The surrounding communities (Louisville, Lafayette, Superior, Longmont) tend to feel much more like 'reality.' People tend to buy in those areas when they do since home are much more affordable.
The wealth is something relatively new about Boulder. It wasn't always like this. With the wealth has come lots of redevelopment. So a lot of people think that Boulder is losing its charm with all the tearing down & rebuilding. A lot of people say that Boulder isn't really like it was when it became famous for being Boulder. The progressive politics are still here, but that's sort of tinged by all the wealth, in my book. (i.e. it's easy for a bunch of privileged people to care about the environment, etc.) So, there's a level of subversiveness that really isn't present anymore.
However, with all that said, everything you cite about why it's great is totally true. Plus, it's great to be in a community where you don't really need a car to get around (if you live within the city of Boulder). There's super easy access to nature; the schools are great. There are lots of interesting things to do all the time, but a lot of that is associated with the university. I'm not really so sure that the public library is amazing, but I've never been dissatisfied with it.
For me, the great stuff outweighs the drawbacks. I so love being a community where most people share my views about politics, etc.
Good luck and welcome if you decide to come!
Continue to keep counting down online reasons not to move to Boulder. Number 8:
My experiences were basically the same as above.
Very expensive to live there; the juxtaposition of poor (out of state, I suppose?) college student vs. rich retiree is somewhat amusing. It had a solid segment of homelessness when I lived there, which I found a bit odd.
Very white. Which may not be a bad thing to you, of course.
It's still relatively "progressive" since it has that college town flair. Yuppies = yes.
But with the prettiness of the area, great public transportation, and proximity to Denver, which is arguably more diverse... uh, I'd still like to live there. Stop making me nostalgic!
I used to live in Boulder. It is a crazy expensive town to live in and hard to find affordable housing (renting or buying) in the city. Jobs in most fields are scarce and don't pay enough balance the costs of housing. You know in most cities, when you go to the grocery stores, the cashiers and baggers are high school and college kids? In Boulder, it is mostly middle aged people working these jobs.
There are a lot of trustafarians in Boulder (rich hippie kids with trust-funds) with unwashed hair and $300 shoes. Lots of kids from the suburbs come to Boulder and pan-handle to help fund trips to see shows, which is kind of annoying. Loads of snooty rich white Buddhists, including ladies in tie-dyed sun dresses and armloads of Tibetan silver jewelry, pausing from their spiritually enlightening conversations to berate wait-staff, while doing the "I'm going to speak louder so you can understand me better!" thing.
It's a very superficial, image-conscious kind of town. In other big cities, you see lots of differently sized people or all races. In Boulder, the majority of people are white and look like do triathalons.
Continue to keep counting down online reasons not to move to Boulder. Number 6:
I love Boulder. But unless your job fits in to the few industries it has available, finding work is difficult.
It's really not that snowy, no more so than other towns, and the weather is unpredictable enough that you can get 70 degree days in February. So I actually think the weather is quite nice.
One factor I think is bad about Boulder is that other than Denver, it's not at all close to any big cities. And Denver doesn't really have the big city vibe, so if you want first class theater or first rate film festivals or lots of art to choose from, you (arguably) will have to drive many hours to find any real selection. Though there are occasionally good shows in Denver, you just can't count on finding something great the way you could in Chicago, NY, DC, LA, etc. And Boulder's still a 30-40 minute drive from Denver, so...
But again, I love Boulder, and if you can afford it I recommend it highly as a place to live.
Dallas suburbs ... now there's an energy vortex!
I've worked in Boulder and lived in Longmont for 9 years. I think you'd really like it. Lack of diversity and being too pleased with itself are negatives, but Denver is close by. I'd live in Boulder if I could afford it.
I think Boulder is too hot in the summer and not cold enough in the winter, but I'm funny that way.
Continue to keep counting down online reasons not to move to Boulder. Number 4:
I lived in Boulder County for a while, and am fond of Boulder. It had (1980's) a lot going for it and probably still does.
Here's some stuff not mentioned... they had a water problem years ago.. not enough of it. It impacted development. Not sure if they ever resolved it.
Your nose will bleed in the winter from dryness. It's a semi-arid area with minimal annual rainfall.
Great birding, if you are into that. Lots of waterfowl, acciptors, raptors. If you like eagles, it is a good place to see them. Because it is so dry, where water appears the duckies like to stop. It is one one of the North-South flyways, as I recall.
Great rock climbing and bouldering and hiking; skiing is close by.
Snow not that bad, as mentioned. Being at 5,000 feet altitude, there is a LOT of solar energy making it through that thin air and snow seldom lasts long. It does make exertion hard until you acclimate. You'll need UV filters for your film camera for the same reason, though I am not sure how the extra light affects digital cameras.
If you want to take up sailplaning or hang gliding, it rocks. If you like powered flight, there used to be lots of ultralight activity out there and the weather is always good for flying.
There is a big ass park IN TOWN with huge rocks called the Flatirons. Way cool. Low 5's on the climbing scale, but there IS El Dorado canyon close by with 5.10s and such.)
Boulder is what people who don't know about Colorado think Colorado is like when they thing about Denver. Denver is way out in the plains, and Boulder is actually in the lumpy part where the mountains start. Much nicer.
Denver has/had some cool stuff, too, but I was in the rocket business at Martin Marietta (before Lockheed Martin) and my exposure to big cities was non-existent at the time. I was biased and really liked it. It is close by.
Go. There ain't no such animal as a perfect place, and you can always leave if it doesn't work out. Where you are NOW living sounds like a suburb of Hell, so it has to be an improvement. Go dilute the remaining (and dwindling) Colorado conservative vote. The state is blueing up nicely.
(BTW, in the fantasy life I live in my aging mind, it's on my short list of acceptable towns. I am suddenly possessed of an urge to visit it!)
I did my undergrad at CU and being an engineering student, I didn't get into Boulder as a city that much. However, if you're looking for nightlife, Boulder is not the place. If the place isn't closed by 9 PM, it's filled with drunken frat-boy louts. The Hill is a mess practically every night of the week.
Despite all the talking people in Boulder do about being liberal and accepting, don't expect to find a very warm reception if you differ much from the trustafarian mindset. My impression of Boulder is that it's a very NIMBY kind of place.
I enjoyed my time in Boulder, don't get me wrong. Given your information, it may be your kind of place. I just got sick of all the unrealized potential in the city and how its resident tend to be very content to talk a lot and do very little.
Continue to keep counting down online reasons not to move to Boulder. Number 2:
I did my undergrad in Boulder and graduated in '94. I agree with most of the comments I've seen here.
My freshman year, I went to a finals study session when there were 90 mph gusts. When I took the final, it was -15 with a windchill of -40. Campus closed twice in my four-plus years -- once because the Turnpike iced over, the other time because of 27 inches of snow. That snowstorm the cafeteria workers were trapped in the dorms because many of them lived in the hills and the mountain roads couldn't be cleared.
For as much as there's that "hippie vibe" there's a deep underlying current of conservatism. Soldier of Fortune was run out of Boulder.
I had a black friend, Boulder High grad, whose parents had white collar jobs in town and lived out by Baseline Reservoir. He was pulled over by the cops on his own street because they thought he was in the wrong neighborhood.
Even back in the early 1990s the money was flowing in. People complaining about "the Californians" driving prices up. The people I knew who lived on the Hill were either living in nearly-slum student squalor or older profs who were closing in on retirement. I knew just as many people living in what were then the brand-new developments in Superior. Erie was a wide spot in the road; now it has over 6000 people.
So much of the town's hippie-ness was centered around what we now call trustafarians. I think most of the old school hippies of the 1970s are gone now.
The problem with the crunchy granola hippie lifestyle Boulder espoused is that it quickly became a hip thing for the rich. Again, the "trustafarian" thing. Alfalfa's is now a Whole Paycheck, but even back in the '90s Safeway and King Soopers were much cheaper to shop at.
Is it better than a soulless Dallas suburb? Yup, but it's going to cost much, much more to live there, and you probably won't live anywhere that's all that convenient. Living in the hills is not cheap anymore. Pay doesn't necessarily reflect cost of living.
Don't get me wrong -- I loved Boulder. But I wouldn't move back, partially because it's changed so much in 15 years, partially because I fell hard for Seattle. You'll probably like it, but you'll likely be living in a place that's just as soulless if you own a house -- Superior, Louisville, Broomfield, Longmont. Or else, you'll be renting in an apartment complex that'll be 99% undergrads.
You might consider Portland -- it reminds me a lot of Boulder (and Denver), but it's gritty, green, and cheap. Not as cheap as the Metroplex, but you'll find a lot of people who share your values there (and pay less for a place than in Boulder). Also, Powell's, the greatest bookstore on this planet.
If you're really looking for reasons not to go...
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The traffic between Boulder and Denver sucks. And the people who drive the cars that create said traffic? Certifiably insane.
And then there's Rocky Flats -- if you happen to care about such things, and if you don't happen to trust the EPA.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.