On the whole, we really like Boulder, especially the longer we are here. Rather than listing pros and cons, I’ve broken down our assessment of Boulder into the criteria that we are considering while looking for a new home.
Boulder’s location is wonderful in many ways. First, the number of accessible hiking trails nearby seems almost endless. I’m hardly even exaggerating, just check out the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks website (https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp) to see what I’m talking about. Additionally, there are a number of national parks within easy driving distance. Rocky Mountain National Park is just over an hour from here!
Another positive aspect of Boulder’s location is proximity to our families. It’s only a single day’s drive to my hometown in Iowa. Although a full days drive may sound like a long distance, this is actually much closer than some of the other locations we’re considering (e.g. California, Oregon). From Iowa it’s an additional 1.5 days to Stephen’s brother’s home in Toronto so we try to visit both sides.
Additionally, it is a fairly quick drive to the Denver airport from Boulder. Denver is a major hub, and it is easy to get direct flights. Of course, Boulder is also close to Denver, the largest city in Colorado.
Really the only drawback to living in the foothills is the altitude. It’s taken me a long time to acclimate to it, and even now, uphill hikes can really leave me out of breath. That being said, I’ve improved a lot and I think it’s been good for my overall health. I was actually passing people on an uphill hike in Rocky Mountain National Park last week.
COST OF LIVING
Although housing is definitely cheaper than in the bay area (which is true of almost every place in the country), it is not cheap. The median home price in Boulder is $570,200. We’re planning to buy a condo so we’d pay less than that, but we’d get more home for our money elsewhere.
Since we mostly shop at Trader Joe’s and Costco, groceries are about the same as when we lived in California.
Our number one choice for housing is a lock-it-and-leave-it condo in a high-rise building, to make it easier to travel. There’s not really anything in that category in Boulder. Most of the condos are in 2-3 story buildings and have an exterior entrance. This isn’t a deal breaker for us, but it is a factor to consider.
Admittedly we are a bit spoiled in terms of diversity, having lived in Los Angles and the San Francisco bay area for around 18 years. However, under no stretch of the imagination could you call Boulder diverse. It is overwhelmingly white (around 83%). On the plus side, nobody seems to care much what color anyone is, and we’ve never noticed anyone looking at us askance because we are an interracial couple.
One big downside to the lack of diversity is the effect this has on the availability of ethnic cuisine and groceries. Ethnic food here is definitely aimed at the Caucasian palate. We tried a local Ethiopian restaurant, eager to partake in one of our favorite cuisines, and it was a huge disappointment. The nearest Korean grocery is nearly 20 miles away, so when we stopped in my Iowa hometown to see my Mom in May, we made sure to visit one of the three local Korean markets!
We don’t think this would be such an issue in Denver, but one of the reasons we didn’t choose Denver for our Colorado trial run is that our pit bull mix is banned there. We can’t live anywhere that has breed-specific legislation. One note – if you are considering Boulder and have a pit bull type dog, be aware that even though the city does not have BSL, most of the big apartment complexes won’t allow them.
When we were considering Boulder, we were surprised to learn that it has more sunny days per year than San Diego. The winter was much milder than we expected. Although there were some blizzards, within a couple days the snow would melt and it would be 50 or 60 degrees again. It stayed snowier in the mountains of course, but we had plenty of days where we hiked in the snow while wearing shorts because it was so warm out.
CULTURE AND ACTIVITIES
As I’ve already said, the hiking here is phenomenal, and there are tons of places to camp. When we arrived here, we joined the YMCA. It’s a great gym, in walking distance from our apartment, and we’ve been getting our money’s worth by going there five days a week. It’s especially great when the weather is bad (not often) and we can’t hike.
I found lots of activities that interested me, and I joined the Boulder Writer’s Workshop and took a cheesemaking class. We also joined the Boulder Mustachians, where we fit right in, and Stephen found several photography groups to participate in.
Boulder is a university town, and there are a growing number of tech companies. The population is highly educated and intellectually diverse. Although outdoor activities are prized here, so are music and theater.
For most people, I’d guess that the cost of housing and the traffic would be the major negatives of moving to Boulder. Having moved from the bay area, though, both cost of living and traffic seem much improved to us.
We were surprised to see so many homeless begging on street corners. Even though the weather here is milder than expected, there are blizzards, which are extremely dangerous for a homeless population.
Because of the popularity of outdoor activities, I was surprised at the number of smokers here. Maybe it’s not as bad as in the bay area, but it would be nice to take a walk without walking through clouds of cigarette smoke (or sometimes pot smoke).
Overall, we really like Boulder. It was hard at first when we didn’t know anyone, but now it’s going to be hard to leave, even though we are looking forward to our future adventures.