Give me a reason to not go to Boulder
August 19, 2008 6:08 PM   Subscribe

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?
posted by dejah420 to Home & Garden (29 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
You'd best like snow, and lots of it.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:25 PM on August 19, 2008

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!
posted by mynameisluka at 6:26 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's pretty much the quintessential StuffWhitePeopleLike town.
posted by hobbes at 6:27 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 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!
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 6:31 PM on August 19, 2008

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

This soooo sums it up. I guess I forgot to mention that you have to either be one yourself or have a high tolerance for nutty, new-agey types.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 6:34 PM on August 19, 2008

I have an acquaintance who describes Boulder as an energy vortex. How you feel about that descripition would, I imagine, probably be close to how living Boulder itself would be for you. Disclaimer: I've never lived in Boulder, and wouldn't want to.
posted by pullayup at 6:44 PM on August 19, 2008

Ok, last post, I swear.

dancestoblue: "You'd best like snow, and lots of it."

Contrary to what a lot of people may think about Colorado weather, we actually get about the same number of days of sunshine per year as southern California. Yes, it does snow here, but it usually melts within a day or two and the sun comes right back out. Rarely, if ever, do we have snow on the ground for days or weeks like what I imagine it's like in, say, Wisconsin in the winter. It can be downright balmy here mid January.
posted by crunchtopmuffin at 6:45 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

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!
posted by Ky at 7:01 PM on August 19, 2008

Best answer: 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.
posted by pluckysparrow at 7:28 PM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]

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.
posted by np312 at 7:36 PM on August 19, 2008

I have an acquaintance who describes Boulder as an energy vortex.

I have a friend who describes Boulder as "40 square miles surrounded by reality".
posted by johnvaljohn at 7:38 PM on August 19, 2008

My only problem with moving From Texas to Boulder (I moved to Texas from Portland, OR and by rural Texas standards I'm a raving dreadlocked pot-smoking liberal hippie, even though I have neither dreadlocks nor do I smoke pot, and I generally vote Republican) was the dryness in Boulder. I'm sure I'd get used to it in time, but the first day I visited (in May) had me reaching for my Burt's Bees and by the end of the week I had horribly cracked and dried out skin.
posted by SpecialK at 7:39 PM on August 19, 2008

Response by poster: Well, property *in* Boulder seems out of reach, but there seems to be a lot of houses on actual acres near forests *outside* of Boulder. Of course, I'm looking at a site like, and so I don't know which direction is a good direction if I want to stay in the good school districts or relatively easy access to the Montessori school. As much as I want 5 or 6 acres, I'll settle for a good neighborhood full of kids and a yard big enough for my big ol dogs.

We're not the l33t white folks though. (We can be the token beige slackers.) This wouldn't be a retirement move, more a lateral relocation. We have a ton of equity tied up in a house here that may take a while to sell, and the amount of house you can buy here is amazing when compared to almost anywhere else, so I'm sure I'm in for sticker shock.

That said, any areas you want to suggest or warn me away from are welcome.

I'm a soapmaker and aromatherapist, I own more long broomstick skirts than can possibly be legal, I traveled with the Rainbow Family for a while, and I spent a summer doing juggling in the mall of I'm pretty okay with the hippie set.

I currently live in Dallas suburb with an insane HOA, trophy wives, purse dogs and multiple Starbucks, and I haven't gone on a murderous rampage, so I'm thinking that no Boulder yuppie can possibly be worse than the Dallas Plastic People. Heh.

I've never really spent much time in Denver, for some reason I just thought "Boulder. I should go to Boulder." and started looking up real estate and job markets and weather statistics and that sort of thing. I don't know why Boulder sounds so perfect right now. I got the same feeling about Austin about 20 years ago, and Austin was exactly what I needed at that point in my reality. So, I don't understand the compulsion to pack up and go to Boulder, and not Denver or any of the other groovy places in Co, but Boulder sure seems like a good idea right now.
posted by dejah420 at 7:40 PM on August 19, 2008

Best answer: Also, we can get some pretty intense windstorms. The air is thin so it usually doesn't do much damage, but it can make it hard to sleep! We're at a high elevation and very sunny so you have to be careful about exposure. The comment above about it being dry is important. The good thing about the dry air is swamp coolers work really well... If you are used to lush green vegetation, it will seem a little barren here. Also, I agree the arts scene is only ok, Austin has much better music. The ocean is a bit of a hike...

But, given all that I've been here 21 years and like it a lot.
posted by cosmac at 7:53 PM on August 19, 2008

Maybe take a long-ish vacation and test the waters there? Keeping your ears and eyes peeled and see how the public atmosphere really feels... It's so personally subjective outside the whole money/race issues.
posted by Ky at 8:02 PM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]

I lived there for a year. It's pretty great. But it's really expensive, and in its own way its as close-minded, insular and uniform as my previous home of the Ozarks. I actually started telling people I was a Republican just to see the look in their eyes.
posted by Bookhouse at 8:11 PM on August 19, 2008

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.
posted by lukemeister at 8:18 PM on August 19, 2008

Best answer: 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!)
posted by FauxScot at 8:35 PM on August 19, 2008

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.
posted by Nelsormensch at 9:00 PM on August 19, 2008

Sounds like Boulder would be a whole lot better fit for you than Dallas. Why don't you move there and rent for a year to see if it fits? If it does, you can look around and buy a house.

As for the rural property, please note that anything west of the city of Boulder (and even some western parts of Boulder itself) are in the mountains, and those mountain roads are steep and snowy and icy in the winter — we're talkin' four-wheel drive. And before you buy a house, find out how much insulation it has, what kind of heat it has, and how much it costs to heat in the winter.

Seconding the very dry air in all seasons, the thin air, and the really high wind storms in winter (would you believe 60 to 100 mph?).
posted by exphysicist345 at 9:44 PM on August 19, 2008

Best answer: 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.
posted by dw at 10:20 PM on August 19, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah, I love, love, love Portland. It's long been on my list of places to live. Unfortunately, I can't convince anyone else. I think it's one of those towns where you have to be there to see how great it is.

The dryness of Boulder is something I hadn't considered. I like humidity. I like lots and lots of green. I remember Boulder being green, but that could be the "urban effect" of sprinkler systems and whatnot.

I hadn't realized the wind factor either.

posted by dejah420 at 10:32 PM on August 19, 2008

Best answer: If you prefer humidity and tons of green, Boulder is NOT the place for you. In the winter (and summer too!), relative humidity often gets down to the single digits. In addition, the place takes on a desolate prairie-dog color for six plus months of the year. The trees even look a bit paltry due to the intense sun and altitude.

All this weather is actually extremely bearable when there is rare moisture; it's not as cold, gray, or bone-chilling. However, it can seem pretty desolate and plainsy if you're not prepared for it. My succulents don't even take up water here like they did in every other state I've ever lived in. I have to fight for their survival.
posted by mynameisluka at 7:57 AM on August 20, 2008

I can't believe I forgot to mention the brownness/dryness. I guess I've gotten used to it, but I'm much happier when I see green. You can go to the mountains and see lots of trees, but the trees aren't looking so green there either.

On second thought, perhaps I should move my family to Portland :-)
posted by lukemeister at 9:37 AM on August 20, 2008

Response by poster: Yeah...I've been thinking about this since the brown and dry comments started coming in...and I'm not sure I can live with more dry than the drought in the last 5 years on the TX plains. I used to live in Florida, and that level of green is something that makes me happy. Of course, Florida is insane, and getting crazier by the day, and there's not really a liberal rationally priced bastion left there anymore.

So, the brown...that may be a really good reason to not go to Boulder, as crazy as that may sound. I really love being surrounded by green. I hadn't realized how important it was to me until I started thinking about the comments in this thread. Good to know.

So, then the question becomes; that Old Berkeley / Old Austin / Old Boulder / San Francisco/liberal, secular, artsy, hippie intelligencia...what green and realistically priced places have they settled? Where my people at?

On the list for investigation are Portland and Louisville. Any other suggestions are welcome.
posted by dejah420 at 11:54 AM on August 20, 2008

So, then the question becomes; that Old Berkeley / Old Austin / Old Boulder / San Francisco/liberal, secular, artsy, hippie intelligencia...what green and realistically priced places have they settled? Where my people at?

They're still there. They just got rich off the IT boom and the skyrocketing housing prices.

Another place you might consider is Olympia, Washington. Very leftist, though a bit more blue collar than hemp collar. Very crunchy. About half the size of Boulder, two hours from Portland, one hour (in good traffic, which it never is) from Seattle. Large artistic community. It's also the state capitol, so lots of low-paying but highly benefitted jobs. Housing prices are still pretty high, but you can buy a starter home within the city limits for under $200K, something you can't do in Boulder.
posted by dw at 3:57 PM on August 20, 2008

If you haven't given up on Colorado, you might look into Fort Collins. Eugene might be an option in Oregon. From my one visit to Louisville, I don't think it's as promising for you.
posted by lukemeister at 6:50 PM on August 20, 2008

On the list for investigation are Portland and Louisville.

Louisville, Kentucky? Dejah, we'd love to have you here!
posted by tizzie at 5:09 AM on August 21, 2008

Best answer: If you're really looking for reasons not to go...

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.
posted by *burp* at 2:20 PM on August 21, 2008

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