What It’s Like to Live in Boulder, CO for a Year

It was awarded “happiest city in the US” by Insider and National Geographic.

It boasts 300+ miles of bike trails.

It’s a short distance away from some of the best climbing in the country and sits at the foothills of the famous Flatirons.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s Boulder, Colorado!

First Impressions

I knew I wanted to live in Boulder for a long time before I actually moved there.

Exactly 6 months ago today, I got to finally set foot in the city for the very first time to begin an internship with First Presbyterian Church of Boulder. I noticed the beauty of the town immediately.

Sunny meadows rolled in all directions.

Pearl Street was alive with strange performances and heavenly aromas wafting out of restaurants (and, okay, one very specific other smell is pretty common).

And, of course, the iconic Flatirons peeked out gloriously to the West.

Chautauqua Trail was the first hike I did here, and it was not disappointing in the least. The elevation got to me pretty quickly, but the views were worth all the huffing and puffing!

I felt right at home.

“I could definitely live here for a year,” I thought to myself.

It was fantastic to get out of College Station, TX for lots of reasons. For one, it meant escape from the 100 degree heat and 2000% humidity. For another, it meant that I had access to dozens of hiking trails without even having to leave town. Third, the coffee was pretty awesome wherever you went.

Here are some things I’ve learned after getting to my halfway point in Boulder.

1. It’s a fantastic place to turn 21.

And I was lucky enough to turn 21 a month into being here.

There is no shortage of breweries, distilleries, bars, and pubs, and all of them feature locally made alcohol as well as selections from across the country. Many of these places have a novelty feel about them.

One of the bars I recently discovered is Press Play, an arcade/bar combo located on Pearl Street. If you show up on Monday night you might be lucky enough to arrive during Panic Hour, when you can get drinks for $0.25 each. You read that right!

Another local favorite is Rayback Collective, or “Boulder’s Backyard.” It has an industrial feel, with an awesome patio to take your friends to in warm weather. Complete with cornhole, fairy lights, an espresso bar, and food trucks, it definitely isn’t just alcohol.

With all the choices, it’s incredibly easy to find a place to hang out and grab a drink with friends, something I very much appreciated coming from a town with maybe two hangouts that are fun but where you can still hear the other person talk.

2. It’s also a fantastic place for coffee lovers.

I love going to coffee shops to write, and in Boulder there are literally dozens of cool spots with insanely good coffee.

The Cup is my ride-or-die. It’s another great place located on Pearl Street. It happens to be maybe a 2 minute walk from my place of work, so that’s definitely a factor, but the quality of the coffee is also incredible. At this point I’m pretty sure the staff just know to expect me every morning during the week.

Brewing Market is not, as I first thought, one of Boulder’s 25 craft breweries. It’s a coffee shop with a few locations around town. This is another really good one if what you’re looking for is good coffee and a place to work.

Innisfree is my top choice for “best place to get coffee with a friend/fellow writer.” The website describes it as a “Poetry Bookstore and Cafe.” It features weekly poetry readings and writing dates, and overall it’s an awesome one-stop-shop for literary people.

3. You’ll leave healthier than when you got here.

I don’t think I know anyone here who isn’t a runner, skier, hiker, lifter, or mountain biker. I know a few people who are all five. Health is the heartbeat of the city, and you won’t have to look very far to find organic, vegan, local, or whole foods restaurants.

After being here for 6 months I definitely have felt the push to get healthy, and I don’t hate it!

During the summer you’ll probably also get roped into the “biking to work” culture. Honestly, there’s so much traffic, it’s probably faster anyway.


4. You’d better have money.

Here’s a quote from bestplaces.net:

Our cost of living indices are based on a US average of 100. An amount below 100 means Boulder, Colorado is cheaper than the US average. A cost of living index above 100 means Boulder, Colorado is more expensive.

Boulder, Colorado cost of living is 178.00.

Luckily, I get to live with a host home. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be able to live here on an intern salary. Even if your only expense is eating out a few times a week, it adds up like nobody’s business. I don’t remember the last time I spent less than $15 on a meal.

5. Sometimes it’s not the happiest.

And I notice it the most while driving.

Get ready, because this is the “cons” list.

The statistics say that Boulderites are more stressed than the average American human, and there have been lots of times this has been illustrated to me.

I’ve never seen road rage like the kind that exists in Boulder, and the traffic is crazy for a mid-sized city. I don’t know when the residents have time to work, because it never slows down. It’s just always rush hour.

It’s also not the most diverse, to say the least. My boyfriend visited me a few weeks ago and noticed the whiteness immediately. A few days in he started counting all the non-white people he saw and was still in the single digits when he left. I think maybe the city is taking steps to change this, but it’s not showing yet.

The crowding is pretty awful as well. I guess I can’t get too upset about it, though, because every time I start to get annoyed by how many freaking people there are here, I have to stop and consider the fact that I am one. 😉

6. The nature will ruin you for everywhere else.

All that and more can be found 30 minutes or less from downtown.

It’s awesome.

7. Composting is the religion.

If you throw away something that was meant to be composted, you will probably be confronted. I’m not kidding.

In Texas we threw everything away, and I had to learn very quickly that that is not the case here.

Also, get ready to pay 25 cents for every grocery bag you use. It’s not a whole lot, but if you’re forgetful like me and forget to bring your reusable bags with you, it adds up.

8. Snow! …and cold

I moved from Southern Arizona to Texas, so snow was never really something I thought about unless we were taking a trip to it.

In Boulder it snows a lottt. I would highly recommend getting snow tires, or at least having 4-wheel drive. My car is built for those kinds of weather conditions, but I still find myself sliding around on the road a lot on snowy or icy days.

The snow is gorgeous. I still get a rush of excitement if I wake up and see it falling outside my window.

So far it’s much colder than I’ve ever experienced, but thankfully it’s a dry cold. Of course, “dry cold” means nothing when it’s 5 degrees outside, but usually it’s in the double digits and pretty tolerable.

9. It feels like a vacation from real life.

All in all, I would probably recommend coming here for awhile…and then going somewhere else.

The vacation feel is nice for awhile, but a few months in I started to miss diversity and cheap food. Oh, and being able to drive at an average speed higher than 10mph.

Final thoughts on what it’s like to live in Boulder

It’s strange to think that 6 months have already passed by. Even with so much of my internship left, I keep thinking ahead to the day I’ll have to leave this gorgeous city and already I feel a weird sadness. I wouldn’t trade this year in Colorado for anything, and I know it will be even better when it’s not 20 degrees outside!

That said, I can’t wait to be back in College Station with the friends I’ve known for years. I also can’t wait to find out where life is taking me after I graduate in December. I think life is really too short to stay anywhere for too long, regardless of safety or novelty or scenery.

Maybe someday I’ll find a place I love enough to commit to, but I’m having some trouble believing it! There are too many awesome cities out there, and Boulder is just one.

Thanks for this year of adventure, Boulder.

Until next time,

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