05 Jun Wanderings: Boulder, Colorado
When a community of only 100,000 citizens can support six natural food stores while larger cities can barely sustain one; when farm – to – table food preparation is the norm among restaurants rather than movement; when employees prefer to bond on hiking trails instead of bar stools, then you’ve got a destination that’s in a class of its own. That destination is Boulder, Colorado.
Less than an hour's drive from Denver, the 25-square-mile college town is a health nut’s dream. Home to the University of Colorado Boulder, the town is perched at 5,430 feet above sea level and boasts approximately 300 days of sunshine annually. The iconic Flatirons, comprised of five sandstone peaks, define Boulder on everything from business logos to souvenir T-shirts.
In this alpine paradise, Olympic athletes pummel their bodies every day by hiking, biking, running or skiing. Meanwhile, a litany of PhDs and intellectual elite flex mental muscle at Boulder’s 13 major federal labs. Among the residents, 30,000 (or 33 percent) are college kids. With such a cadre of Olympians, high-achieving scientists, educators and students, it’s no surprise that the Gallup poll ranked Boulder as the fittest city in the United States with the country’s lowest obesity rate at 12.4 percent.
The crux of Boulder’s culture is not about fitness for looks, but fitness as essential to the joy of living. For visitors, bicycling is a simple first step. From easy to advanced paths, the city is popular for its well-marked bike lanes in addition to supportive, bicycle-aware drivers. Trails crisscross the city so a rider can pedal from one end of Boulder to the other without having to navigate car traffic. The city is home to a spate of cycle shops in addi tion to the B-Cycle public bikes that are available on the streets for hourly rental. The most popular ride is the paved, 7-mile, tree-lined Boulder Creek Path that bisects downtown Boulder.
After working up a big appetite, travelers will have no problem finding wholesome and delicious places to eat. “We Boulderites care about what fuels our bodies,” says Kim Farin of the Boulder Convention and Visitors Bureau. The community’s insistence on organic and local produce makes for friendly competition among the local, upscale restaurants. Open for dinner only, Black Cat is owned by Jill and Chef Eric Skokan, who also operate an organic 130-acre farm. Black Cat’s claim to fame is its ability to produce and grow 90 percent of the food on the diner’s plate. Meanwhile, The Kitchen follows suit with sustainable and organic produce and meats provided by local farmers and ranchers. Dinner menus consist of comfort American dishes including pan-seared rainbow trout and house-made tomato soup.
At the Spruce Farm and Fish, this new entrant to the Boulder culinary scene delivers contemporary Ameriican fare, emphasizing seasonal ingredients. dients. Specialties include caramelized brussels sprouts made with soy and sweet chili glaze.
Feeding the artistic soul and appetite is the Dushanbe Teahouse, a gift from sister city Dushanbe in Tajikistan, near Afghanistan. Delivered to the town in sections, it was rebuilt piece by piece by craftsmen who came from Dushanbe. The teahouse stuns with vibrant hues from the hand-painted ceramic panels. Mosaics in greens, reds, yellows and blues fill the eye from floor to celestial ceiling. Featuring international loose leaf teas, Dushanbe serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and, of course, afternoon tea.
Foodies can combine exercise with meals by going on the Bike to Farm Tours from Awe-struck Outdoors. The Thursday night ride brings cyclists together for a killer tour followed by a three-course farm dinner.
Lodging worth the trip can be found at The Boulderado, which opened doors to weary travelers in 1909. The property is a prime example of Italian Renaissance and Spanish Revival architecture with Victorian furnishings and modern amenities. Wowing visitors with its stained-glass canopy ceiling, the hotel was recently restored and still operates its original Otis elevator with a uniformed bellman at the helm.
Other historic surroundings include those at Chautauqua Park, where people can rent unique lodge rooms and historic cottages. For luxurious dwellings, the St. Julien Hotel & Spa offers modern rooms coupled with mountain views.
In Boulder, support for the arts is rampant. At Tinker Art Studio guests can drop in on weekend classes. The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art offers innovative exhibitions. For original artwork, go to Pearl street Mall, a brick-paved shopping and dining district. A few of the downtown galleries include Smith Klein for nationally recognized artists, Art and Soul for fine Modern art, Mary Williams Fine Arts for 19th- and 20th-century works, and 15th Street Studio for contemporary paintings.
Less than a mile from town is the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art, which showcases the collection of Ed Trumble, founder of Leanin’ Tree greeting cards. Free to the public and built as an homage to the lives of cowboys and Native Americans, the museum and sculpture garden boasts 250 paintings and more than 100 bronze sculptures.
Memorable events elevate the energy in this active city. While it hosts numerous fitness events, Boulder loves to throw art and community festivals. Every spring, the Tulip Fairy & Elf Festival celebrates with costumed children parading through patches of 15,000 tulips. In July, craftspeople sell wares at the Pearl street Arts Fest. And every September, storytellers, poets, actors and dancers perform at the Boulder international Fringe Festival.
Tiny Boulder packs a big punch when it comes to outdoor recreation and farm-to-table fare. Together with cultural adventures, this granola-loving town appeals to all ages. In one location, you can tackle a new trail, see a new exhibit and, best of all, gain a new perspective.
ATTRACTIONS & TOURS
Awe-Struck Outdoors Bike to Farm Tours: Various locations; 303.807.6634; awestruckoutdoors.com
Chautauqua Park: 900 Baseline Road; 303.442.3282; chautauqua.com
Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art: 6055 Longbow Dr.; 303.729.3412; leanintreemuseum.com
Pearl Street Mall: Pearl Street, between 11th and 15th St; 303.449.3774; boulderdowntown.com
Tinker Art Studio: 1300 Yellow Pine Ave., #B; 303.503.1902; tinkerartstudio.com
Boulder International Fringe Festival: Sept. 16 – 27, various locations; 303.803.5643; boulderfringe.com
Pearl Street Arts Fest: July 18–19, Pearl Street Mall; 303.449.3774; boulderdowntown.com
Tulip Fairy & Elf Festival: Held annually in April, Pearl Street Mall; 303.449.3774 boulderdowntown.com
Art and Soul Gallery: 1615 Pearl St.; 303.544.5803; artandsoulboulder.com
15th Street Studio: 1708 15th St.; 303.447.2841; 15thstreetstudio.com
Mary Williams Fine Arts: 2116 Pearl St.; 303.938.1588; marywilliamsfinearts.com
Smith Klein Gallery: 1116 Pearl St.; 303.444.7200; smithklein.com
Black Cat: 1964 13th St.; 303.444.5500; blackcatboulder.com
Dushanbe Teahouse: 1770 13th St.; 303.442.4993; boulderteahouse.com
Spruce Farm and Fish: 2115 13th St.; 303.442.4880; spruceboulderado.com
The Kitchen: 1039 Pearl St.; 303.544.5973; thekitchen.com
Chautauqua Cottages & Lodges: 900 Baseline Rd.; 303.442.3282; chautauqua.com
Hotel Boulderado: 2115 13th St.; 303.442.4344; boulderado.com
St. Julien Hotel and Spa: 900 Walnut St.; 720.406.9696; stjulien.com