Best Mid-Size U.S. Cities to Visit: Boulder Is One of Nine From Colorado

It's no surprise that Boulder's at number one — but the performance of several other Colorado cities is more unexpected.
It's no surprise that Boulder's at number one — but the performance of several other Colorado cities is more unexpected.
File photo
Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

A new list of the best mid-size U.S. cities to visit names Boulder as the finest destination in the Mountain West, with an incredible eight other Colorado communities, many of which aren't considered typical tourist destinations, landing in the top 25 for the region.

Boulder's performance in the report by the RewardExpert travel website isn't a tremendous surprise. After all, the community has been named the happiest city in the United States on multiple occasions, as well as America's best college town, and it's excelled on surveys about livability, tech jobs and more.

As for the other Colorado cities lauded by RewardExpert, Fort Collins's presence is also less than shocking, given its appearances on lists about the best cities for young families and the top places to live in Colorado, among others. But the same can't be said for Lakewood, Thornton and Arvada, all of which made the RewardExpert grade for great mid-size cities to visit.

Why did they score so well? The RewardExpert methodology offers the answers. The number-crunchers at the site analyzed cities with populations of between 100,000 and 300,000 based on four key metrics: affordability, safety, recreational activities and city profile, a catchall category that includes transportation and weather. The weighted breakdown is as follows:

Restaurant Price Index: Full Weight (7.7 percent)
Average Cost of a 3 Star Restaurant (7.7 percent)

Recreational Activities
Number of Restaurants per 10,000 residents (7.7 percent)
Number of Cafes per 10,000 residents (7.7 percent)
Number of Bars per 10,000 residents (7.7 percent)
Number of Museums per 10,000 residents (7.7 percent)
Number of Recreational and Amusement Activities per 10,000 residents (7.7 percent)

Crime Rate Index: Full Weight (7.7 percent)

City Profile
Walkability Score: Full Weight (7.7 percent)
Public Transit Score: Full Weight (7.7 percent)
Number of Pleasant Days Per Year: Full Weight (7.7 percent)
Quality of Life Index: Full Weight (7.7 percent)
2017 Population (7.7 percent)

By these measures, Colorado's domination of the Mountain West region makes more sense — even if the prospect of people choosing Westminster (another place in the top 25) as a vacation spot may not compute for many folks beyond those who love living there.

Look below to see RewardExpert's top finishers in six U.S. regions, supplemented by text from the site. Then, on page two, view the complete Mountain West top 25, in order to see where all the Colorado cities landed.

Boulder, Colorado.EXPAND
Boulder, Colorado.
Courtesy of RewardExpert

Boulder, CO is #1 in the Mountain West. Boulder is surrounded by thousands of acres of recreational space. Ski enthusiasts will love being surrounded by numerous ski resorts while being able to enjoy Boulder’s vibrant cultural scene. (In order by rank, the other cities in the top 5 for the Mountain West region are Salt Lake City, UT; Reno, NV; Provo, UT: and Billings, MT.)

Ann Arbor, Michigan.EXPAND
Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Courtesy of RewardExpert

Ann Arbor, MI is #1 in the Midwest. Travelers to Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, would enjoy the many amenities this college-town has to offer. There are many museums and galleries, restaurants and bars, as well as opportunities to watch sports.

Syracuse, New York.EXPAND
Syracuse, New York.
Courtesy of RewardExpert

Syracuse, NY is #1 in the Northeast. Syracuse has over 30 restaurants per ten thousand residents and is home to a number of signature cultural events, such as the Syracuse Jazz Festival that takes place every summer.

Eugene, Oregon.EXPAND
Eugene, Oregon.
Courtesy of RewardExpert

Eugene, OR is #1 in the Pacific West. Eugene is known for its beauty, art, and restaurant scene. The city is home to the Willamette River Bike Trail: a scenic trail for biking and walking.

Knoxville, Tennessee.EXPAND
Knoxville, Tennessee.
Courtesy of RewardExpert

Knoxville, TN is #1 in the South Central region. Knoxville is known as one of America’s best cities for music. There are roughly 50 restaurants and bars per ten thousand residents, making Knoxville a great destination for those who want to grab a bite and listen to some tunes.

Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston, South Carolina.
Courtesy of RewardExpert

Charleston, SC is #1 in the South Atlantic. Charleston has a rich history, well-preserved architecture, and distinguished restaurants. Charleston has 54 restaurants, cafes, and bars per 10,000 residents, which is more than any other city in the region.

Continue to see RewardExpert's 25 best mid-size cities to visit in the Mountain West, including nine in Colorado.

1 Boulder, CO


9 2 13 1
2 Salt Lake City, UT


15 7 2 8
3 Reno, NV


17 1 1 3
4 Provo, UT


10 11 8 5
5 Billings, MT


24 4 23 4
6 Chandler, AZ


4 18 16 23
7 Gilbert, AZ


20 22 21 17
8 Glendale, AZ


19 17 3 16
9 Scottsdale, AZ


21 19 24 2
10 North Las Vegas, NV


22 23 18 20
11 Boise, ID


7 13 5 9
12 Tempe, AZ


18 3 6 22
13 Peoria, AZ


1 15 7 21
14 Fort Collins, CO


5 20 11 19
15 Lakewood, CO


25 25 12 24
16 West Valley City, UT


16 9 10 15
17 Thornton, CO


12 5 4 18
18 Surprise, AZ


13 14 9 7
19 Arvada, CO


8 24 14 25
20 Westminster, CO


14 16 17 10
21 West Jordan, UT


23 6 22 13
22 Centennial, CO


3 12 25 12
23 Pueblo, CO


11 10 19 6
24 Las Cruces, NM


2 21 20 11
25 Greeley, CO


6 8 15 14

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.