Located only 35 mi/56 km northwest of Denver and pressed right up against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder has been attracting tourists for a century, ever since the first hotel opened in 1909 (the Hotel Boulderado is still operating). On the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall, the city hums with a constant flow of locals, students and tourists.

Boulder is frequently rated the healthiest, smartest and most athletic city in the country. There is plenty to do there—just follow the Boulderites as they enjoy the outdoors, partaking in activities such as hiking, bicycling, climbing, fishing and white-water rafting throughout the year.

Boulder has a reputation as a laid-back, nature-crazy place with a youthful image. (Having 29,000 or so University of Colorado students and faculty doesn't hurt.)

Considered the epicenter for the U.S.'s organic- and natural-food movements, Boulder is also home to esteemed yogis and spiritual teachers from around the world, as well as one of the biggest Buddhist communities (and one of the only Buddhist universities) in the country. The city is so unique, happy and vibrant, residents jokingly refer to it as 25 sq mi/65 sq km "surrounded by reality."

Boulder's beauty, however, is also its curse: Before he died, Arapaho Chief Niwot declared that all those who set eyes on the Flatiron Mountains, which tower over the city, would be so struck by the splendor that they would not want to leave. Some would argue that too many people have already stayed, that Boulder's low-budget hippie roots have been lost. They're the ones streaking through downtown in the annual naked pumpkin run and placing "Keep Boulder Weird" bumper stickers on their cars.

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