The curse Chief Niwot laid on Boulder in 1858 is innovative, if not a tad obvious: "People seeing the beauty of this valley will want to stay, and their staying will be the undoing of the beauty."
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It hasn't reached that point but the picturesque college town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains is hard to leave, and that means more Vibram soles, mountain bike treads and dry flies competing for recreational resources.
In the early 1970s Boulder officials approved the first of several local sales tax hikes to buy land for parks. The result is the Greenbelt, a 90,000-acre oasis hemmed by Denver's sprawl. The local parks are heavily used but there is ample room to move — and find your slice of solitude. Even walking the leafy neighborhoods of Victorian homes and bungalows can provide a quick-fix nature lift.
Boulder County (population 294,567) includes Boulder (100,160), Longmont (88,424) and Lafayette (26,146), plus several small hamlets tucked into the mountains. The economy is diverse and strong: Unemployment is only 5.9 percent (September 2011), and the workforce includes a lot of self-employed professionals. The cost of living is very high but Boulder has enough government and high-tech employment to keep incomes almost commensurate.
The University of Colorado at Boulder (enrollment 32,400) and Front Range Community College (15,300) welcome students of all ages. Boulder is the top-ranked metro in the country for the proportion of adults with a four-year college degree but is also a nexus for alternatives in spirituality, education and medicine. You can get a degree in Buddhist Studies from Naropa University here, or study at the Boulder College of Massage Therapy or the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies.
The heart of town is Pearl Street, a four-block pedestrian mall lined with cafes, bars, boutiques and more. For a break from outdoors living, take in a show at the Boulder Theater or tap the university's performing arts slate; in town are several art galleries and a large, well-funded public library system.
Boulder is extremely bicycle friendly, with abundant bike lanes and paths, and mass transit is exceptionally good. The county has several municipal public recreation centers with pools, basketball courts, extensive weight rooms and more. An annual membership is about $300 for senior residents. Locals, unsurprisingly, are extremely fit and healthy overall.
Boulder basks in 300 sunny days per year and the snow that falls tends to evaporate quickly in the semi-arid climate. Summer high temps average in the 80s. If there's a drawback for retirees it might be that relatively few residents are 65 or older, although more move in every year. Thank you, Chief Niwot!