Boulder

Boulder's first settlers came to hunt for gold, but today, it's a casually sophisticated town looks and feels very little like a mining camp. Tucked into the foothills below a rock formation known as The Flatirons, it's close to Denver geographically, but worlds apart in attitude.

Its feel-good Earth Mother reputation is well deserved. The Naropa University, the nation's only Buddhist university, is located here, as is the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. Complementing these schools is the flagship campus of the University of Colorado with approximately 30,000 students.

Shopping, they say, is the number one pursuit of travelers these days, and you'll find plenty of it here. Shops with clever names and unusual wares will draw in passers-by on the Pearl Street Mall downtown.

But shopping isn't the only way to get outdoors. The city was named the best place in the nation to indulge in outdoor sports by Outside magazine. Here, you'll find 45,000 acres of designated space to hike or ride a bike, climb a mountain, kayak a river, walk along a stream or fish. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular in winter, as is skiing and snowboarding at nearby Eldora Mountain Resort.

Elegant, historic hotels complement modern digs to provide a variety of overnight accommodations. Restaurants also abound, and vegetarians are more than welcome. Don't miss the city's great craft breweries and exciting nightlife, thanks in part to the college-age crowd.

Because Boulder is a university town, it offers rich cultural experiences such as the annual Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Colorado Music Festival and has a reputation for hosting world-famous performers and guest speakers at events throughout the year.

The city has long been a forward-thinking community. That fact, combined with its high-altitude location, inspired the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to settle here — both of which offer tours to visitors.

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