The Happiest City In The U.S. – Boulder, CO
Located about 25 miles from St. Vrain State Park and nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is the lovely city of Boulder, Colorado where there were several sightseeing opportunities that we wanted to explore.
Shortly after our visit here, it was dubbed the “Happiest City in the US” based on 15 criteria including healthy eating, civic engagement, financial security and vacation time by National Geographic along with author Dan Buettner and Gallup. No mention was made of the easy availability of legal cannabis contributing to the award, however, one can’t help but wonder how much impact that has had (or not) on the “happiness” factor.
As always, our day had to begin with a hearty breakfast which we found at a local, very eclectic restaurant, Snooze, An A.M. Eatery. After circling the block several times, we finally found a parking space where you have to pay by meter. We quickly learned though that Boulder has implemented the ParkMobile Pay By Phone system throughout the city making it really easy to pay and even extend the time on your meter from your phone. It even sends you a text when your time is nearing expiration.
Good thing because even though it was a Wednesday, it apparently is a very popular place so we had to wait a bit for a table. Guess it was a hash kind of day – I had Sweet Potato Hash ($10.00) which was sweet potato and fennel chicken sausage hash fired up with honey Cholula, carrots, poblanos, leeks, jack cheese and baby kale, topped with two cage free eggs while Rob had (surprise, surprise) their home made Corned Beef Hash ($10.50) which was Snooze’s signature shredded hash mixed with locally made corned beef, caramelized poblanos and onions, topped with two eggs any style and served with toast or tortillas.
After breakfast we headed over to the Pearl Street Mall. Not a regular mall but a red-brick, pedestrian-only four block thoroughfare in the western part of the city filled with more than 1,000 businesses. Very nicely done and pleasant to peruse. Also a historic district where many of the buildings, including the art deco style Boulder County Courthouse built in 1933, are among the oldest in Boulder.
Not only were there lots of window shopping opportunities but there were numerous fountains and sculptures, artwork, a sandbox for kids, a stylized map of Boulder County and gardens planted with seasonal flowers. One marker reminded us that in September of 2013 Boulder was deluged with 17 inches of rain flooding the city. Four people were killed, thousands of homes were damaged, 150 miles of roads and 30 bridges were damaged. At least along Pearl Street, you would never know that this city had been flooded only four years ago.
Eventually, it was time to bid the mall farewell and move on to other sightseeing opportunities. Along our path was the Dushanbe Teahouse which was a gift from Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. From 1987 -1990, more than 40 artisans in several cities of Tajikistan created the decorative elements of the Teahouse, showcasing the floral designs of the garden, repetition of pattern, and the Tree of Life. Hand-carved and hand-painted ceiling, tables, stools, columns, and exterior ceramic panels exemplify the lavish Persian culture, rich with color, texture, and depth. After being built in Tajikistan, the Teahouse was dismantled and sent to Boulder, where it was rebuilt in Central Park. What a beautiful place with an interesting menu. Too bad we had such a big breakfast!
Our next destination was Boulder’s iconic Flatirons. Five large, striking, slanted, reddish brown sandstone formations formed over 300 million years ago along the east slope of Green Mountain (elev. 8,148 ft ). It is believed that in the early 1900s they were called the “Chautauqua Slabs” or “The Crags.” When pioneer women said they thought the rocks looked like flat, metal irons used to iron their clothes, the name “Flatirons” stuck.
Located at the base of the Flatirons is Chautauqua Park. The original founding of this area in 1898 as a Colorado “Chautauqua” is what gives the park its name. The Chautauqua Movement was a powerful and popular cultural force that permeated rural America, establishing community centers for entertainment, family activities and adult education. Boulder was chosen as the first site in Colorado to have a Chautauqua which has served the same purpose for over 100 years and continues to this day. Although today there is a network of Chautauquas across the US, the one in Boulder is the only Chautauqua in the Western United States that still operates in its original form and function. Historic buildings within the park include the Missions House Lodge, Columbine Lodge, 58 cottages and the Dining Hall.
Because it is such a popular spot, parking near the Flatirons and the park took a bit of searching, but we finally found a parking space. A short walk brought us to the start of one of the trail heads. Boulder is at 5430′ in elevation and being humanoids who had spent the last several months at sea level, we once again found that as soon as we started walking we were huffing and puffing due to the altitude. We just walked far enough to enjoy the gorgeous views of both the Flatirons and the city.
After leaving Chautauqua Park, we took a drive up a very twisty, turny but beautiful drive on Flagstaff Road towards Flagstaff Mountain (6850 ft.). Before turning around, we stopped at Panorama Point where there were spectacular views of Boulder and the surrounding area.
Finally it was back to the campground where we would prep for our departure from St. Vrain State Park the next day.
Although it was a relatively short visit to Boulder, the city lived up to its new moniker and we certainly were happy while we were there! So happy that we definitely want to return for a longer visit someday.
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