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Monday, April 16, 2012

9 Things to Know Before Visiting Boulder

Boulder rocks. It's the home of the University of Colorado, Celestial Seasonings Tea, and many a six-pack (some micro-brewed; others imprinted on the abs of the burg's abundant uber-athletes). But if you dig beneath the surface, there's plenty more on tap in this idyllic small city....at least 9 things, not to be exact.    

1. Boulder is ranked as the happiest and healthiest city in the United States by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. And why not? It's among Bicycling's top three places for pedaling. National Geographic Traveler says it's one of the country's top ten best places to spend the winter. Portfolio calls it "America's Brainiest City" and several pubs rank Boulder a top town for beer, for wine, for foodies, and for art snobs. 

2. On the other hand, GQ calls out Boulder for being among the country's worst-dressed cities. However, in the diss is a compliment. For in its fashion police citation, GQ does add that, due to its fine fitness fettle, this is a place where the worst-dressed look best.....naked.


3. No, I'm not going to go all naked spa on you now. Instead, I will follow up on the worst-dressed riff by noting that the Crocs company started here. And Boulder is currently the gator-way to the world's largest Crocs collection. You can buy Crocs sandals, Crocs sneakers, Crocs God-awful gardening clogs, or Crocs accessories (like this hat, marked for ages 2 to 4) at the Crocs store on the Pearl Street Mall. 

4. Aside from the blot which is Crocs, the Pearl Street Mall is a gem. Please note: This is not a shopping mall per se, although you certainly can shop here for anything from apparel to Zuni fetishes. Dubbed Boulder's Living Room, Pearl Street is a four-block pedestrian way that is home to more than 100 shops, restaurants and art galleries. Most are locally-owned. It's the perfect place to people-watch or take in a street performance. 

5. Pearl Street is an ace place to scout out local characters, but it's not the only place you'll find the wild cards. Head over to the Chatauqua National Historic Landmark and hunt down Mountain Man Jake over at the Visitors Center. Dude is actually an ordained rabbi who sports a (Jewish) star on his shawl and who wears, under his ten-gallon hat, a pint-sized yarmulke. MMJ will regale you with tales of the Old West, and, if you are interested, of the Wild West's wandering Jews. Talk about a Rocky Mountain Chai (as in the Hebrew character, not the tea).
Obviously, though, there's more to Boulder's unorthodox cast of characters than wayward Jews. Track down Zip Code Man, who wanders around downtown dispensing pearls of wisdom regarding your favorite five-digit number. Banjo Billy's bus tour provides the inside skinny on the town's scandalous denizens. And fans of Salvador Dali's facial hair will appreciate the upper lip follicles of one Phillippe Antoine, the moustachioed manager of Jill's at the St. Julien

6. Bars "R" Us.  One of the first gluten-free energy bars, the LARA Bar (now owned by General Mills) was invented in Boulder. Currently, there are at least three GF bars being formulated in Boulder by three busy bees. The three B's of Boulder are Beryl, Breeze and Barr, developers of Bobo Bars, Breeze Bars and TwoDegrees bars, respectively. That's right-- a woman named Barr makes bars. Coincidentally, I met Barr Hogen at the bar at The Kitchen, where she regaled me with stories of her time at Bard (no kidding).

7. Whether you are gluten-free, or vegan, or lactose-intolerant, Boulder's hundreds of restaurants will thrill. Almost every Italian cafe offers gluten-free pasta; vegetarians (and non-vegetarians) will love the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, along with scores of other Asian eateries; and breakfast eaters with just about any type of dietary restriction will be happy as a pancake at Snooze.


8. Sure, you can climb rocks or go mountain-biking here. But for the more sedate....or rather, for the more cerebral....get a science lesson at one of Boulder's three national labs. The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) studies air and auroras and other natural wonders of the atmosphere. Its headquarters is an architectural wonder, designed by one I.M. Pei. Tours are free and start at noon on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 




The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) focuses on the ocean (naturally), the atmosphere, and the weather. In fact, the National Weather Service is under its domain. During a visit to NOAA's headquarters  in Boulder (open to the public on Tuesdays at 1:00 PM), you'll see the Space Weather Prediction Center, a National Weather Service Forecast Office, and the Science on a Sphere room.The last employs the latest technology to project planetary data (including storms, tsunamis, and climate change maps) onto a six-foot-in-diameter globe. Very cool.

Finally, meet the physicists at NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology. What's that, you ask? Well, it's complicated and you'll just have to take a tour (Tuesdays at 10 AM or Thursdays at 1 PM) to get a grasp of it. While at NIST, you'll learn about...and see...atomic clocks, along with all sorts of other precision measurement tools. And you'll get to test out the physics phrases you learned from The Big Bang Theory on NIST brainiacs. By the by, whenever you take a tour of a government facility, it's guaranteed you'll need your photo ID. 


9. The Boulder County Farmers Market is one of the best around. From April through October, you can find farmers, chefs and earthy artisans hanging out near Boulder's Central Park on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Eat, drink and be merry. 

1 comment:

LAConley said...

There has to be "something" about Crocs; they certainly are popular! I kind of like the little plastic decorations you can pop in the holes to personalize them. I don't own any but if I did, it would be so that I could decorate them with tiny plastic things. :) As for gardening clogs, they are pretty awesome because you can just hose 'em down.

Nice post. It makes me want to visit Boulder!