Tales of a Digital Nomad: How I Spent Three Months Living in Boulder, Colorado
For the past year, we’ve been living as digital nomads in some of the largest cities in America, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Seattle. However, as we approached the busiest part of the year, it felt like the right time to slow things down in a slightly smaller city.
We’ve been living with Landing, which offers short-term housing in over 375 cities, leaving us with plenty of choices. So, after narrowing down our list, we decided to settle in Boulder, Colorado, for the remainder of 2022. Read on to learn why we chose Boulder, where we lived, and the best ways we spent our time in our three months living here.
I’ll be honest—we didn’t know much about Boulder before arriving, nor did we know anyone who lives there. Having spent the past nine months floating from big city to big city, we were drawn to the opportunity to live in a drivable, walkable location with easy access to incredible hiking. And, if all else failed, it was a comfort to know we were just a 45-minute drive from the bright lights of Denver.
Would a smaller city have enough to offer our Chicago-sized expectations? Only time would tell.
Our home in Boulder
Landing offers housing in all parts of the greater Denver area, but we were determined to live within Boulder city limits. Our Landing apartment was a one-bedroom on the east side of town, tucked away from the hubbub of downtown or the gameday chaos of the University of Colorado campus.
Even in a more residential area, we were impressed with how easily we could walk to nearby bars, restaurants, grocery stores, and gyms. As always, we were greeted by the familiar furniture of the Landing furnishing line. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful it is to step into a new apartment and know exactly what furniture, appliances, and furnishings to expect.
Bonus points: Our apartment was on the ground floor, making move-in a lot faster than it has been in the past! One of us unloaded from the car while the other organized our new home, and in less than two hours, we were moved in and ready to see how Boulder suited us.
My favorite hiking spots near Boulder
If you’re opting for Boulder over Denver, you’re likely inclined to face some inclines. While Denver is much more urban, you’re a stone’s throw away from the mountains in Boulder. There’s no shortage of options for hiking within an hour’s drive or only a few blocks away.
Since we arrived in September, I wanted to make the most of the early fall weather and the mid-fall colors before the snow hit in late November. When I laced up my hiking books, Boulder did not disappoint. Here are some of my favorite hiking spots I discovered while living in Boulder:
1. The Flatirons
During our stay in Colorado, I hiked the Flatirons in Boulder Open Space three times, as they were only a 12-minute drive from our apartment. Serving as the backdrop of Boulder, these trails can get pretty busy during their peak fall colors, but the views are entirely worth it (even if the incline was brutal on my lungs—it got easier on the third hike when I’d adjusted to the altitude).
Pro tip: If you’re hiking while the aspens are changing colors, make sure you check the University of Colorado calendar for its Parents’ Weekend and Homecoming dates! We didn’t look ahead of time and paid the price in crowds of eager parents and nostalgic alumni.
2. Eldorado Canyon State Park
Canyon hiking is always a fun challenge, and Eldorado Canyon State Park does not disappoint. This park is a great option for a fall hike if you can’t snag a timed admission for Rocky Mountain National Park—plus, entry is only $10, making it much more affordable than a national park day pass. As a heads up, the park does reach capacity on some weekends, so get there early to guarantee you’ll be admitted.
Rattlesnake Gulch is a perfect trail for those looking for a mid-tier challenge and an excellent view. Eldorado Canyon is also a very popular place for rock climbing, and I loved watching people who were far braver than I am scaling the rocky peaks.
3. Rocky Mountain National Park
Of course, I can’t leave out one of the most beautiful national parks I’ve ever been to! One of the many advantages of living in Boulder over Denver is that the drive to Rocky Mountain National Park is 30 minutes shorter (and can equate to almost an hour when the snow comes).
I could rattle on and on about recommended hikes, but my favorite by far was a 10-mile out-and-back to Ouzel Lake that passed by Ouzel Falls on the way. If you’re not equipped for a long hike, going out and back to the falls is a more doable five miles.
My favorite restaurants in Boulder
You can imagine my horror during my first weekend in Boulder when a local told me the Boulder food scene was lousy. I took it as a warning, but also as a challenge to find great food in this city. While Boulder may not hold a candle to Chicago, Los Angeles, or even Denver as far as dining goes, these restaurants definitely prove that local wrong:
This was the first restaurant we hit in Boulder and the perfect date night spot. I’m a huge tapas fan, and with a dairy allergy, I loved how allergen-friendly the Gemini menu was. Don’t skip the sangria (they have multiple kinds!), and get two orders of the potatoes—trust me, you’ll want both.
This restaurant serves Mediterranean food with a twist and was so good that I went back three times during our three months in Boulder. Try the dip trio for an ultra-sharable taste of everything, atop the fluffiest pita you’ve ever had.
If you order nothing else off the Ash’Kara menu, please don’t skip the chicken and waffles, which features a latke waffle and chicken schnitzel. It made the list of “Best Things We’ve Ever Eaten” (and yes, there is an actual list in the Notes app on my phone).
3. The Dushanbe Tea House
Our first week in Boulder, we asked the bartender at a mead tasting an important question: If there’s one place we absolutely have to hit while we’re in town, what should it be? Without missing a beat, she recommended the Dushanbe Tea House.
This ornate tea house was built in Boulder’s sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and the architecture alone is worth a visit. With colorful ceramics, hand-carved wood detailing, and intricately carved plaster panels, this spot will instantly transport you out of Colorado and into Central Asia.
If that’s not enough, its enormous tea selection and global-inspired menu will blow you away. I agree with that bartender—if there’s only one place to hit in Boulder, this should be it.
As a heads up, the Tea House does not take brunch or dinner reservations, but they do take reservations for afternoon tea. Plan accordingly, and anticipate a wait if the weather is nice!
4. Boxcar Coffee Roasters
Alright, it’s not technically a restaurant, but I can’t write about my experiences in a city without noting the best spots to grab a cup of coffee. I’m a picky coffee drinker (especially after my six weeks in Seattle earlier this year), so it takes a lot to impress me.
Boxcar Coffee Roasters took the challenge and came out on top with some of the best specialty drinks I’ve had all year. A few seasonal favorites included the amaro soda and, of course, the pumpkin spice latter. Skip the Starbucks and get your fall drink fix here!
Exploring the Boulder music scene
I was expecting to be taking a lot of trips to Denver to see live music, and while I definitely made a few drives down to the Mile High City, I was shocked by how many of my favorite artists came through Boulder. Two venues in particular stood out: The Boulder Theater and The Fox Theatre.
1. The Boulder Theater
Situated in the heart of downtown Boulder, The Boulder Theater has a capacity of about 1,000, perfect for sold-out mid-sized acts. We caught MUNA and Here Come the Mummies at this venue during our three months here, but unfortunately missed Noah Kahan—he sold the venue out super quickly, and resale tickets were brutal, as you might expect!
After attending hundreds of concerts in bigger cities, the biggest shock to me about The Boulder Theater was parking. We found a free spot just two blocks from the venue. Free parking?! At a concert!? Are you hearing this?!
2. The Fox Theatre
This smaller venue is located on University Hill, so you can expect more than a handful of college kids at any show you attend. While you’ll find mostly smaller acts performing at The Fox Theatre, we caught two of the three nights of moe.’s short residency here, and it was spectacular to see such a big jam band in an intimate setting!
Feeling bookish in Boulder
As a writer, I was impressed by both the sheer volume of bookstores on Pearl Street and the literary events hosted citywide. Here are a few of my favorite bookish locations and events in town:
1. Trident Bookstore & Cafe
If a year of travel has taught me anything, it’s the importance of “third places” (or, in the case of work-from-home folks like me, “second places”). It can be easy to spend a little too much time in your apartment when working remotely, and as much as I love my Landing, I want to get out and enjoy the city I’m living in!
Trident Booksellers quickly became my “third place” in Boulder. One breath of the warm, chai-scented air, and I was hooked. What looks like a small cafe unfolds into a curated bookshop and a heated back patio complete with a stage for the almost daily performances from musicians and writers.
Trident’s event calendar is packed with small concerts, book launches, comedy shows, language exchange nights, and film screenings, so if you’re looking to build a community in Boulder, Trident will welcome you in its cozy, enchanting arms.
2. The Boulder Book Store
The No. 1 question I got from fellow readers and writers when I told them I was in Boulder was, “Have you been to the Boulder Book Store?” And I had—but I didn’t really get the hype. Sure, it was a lovely bookstore, but it was it really anything I didn’t get in any other town?
That’s when I realized there was an upstairs. And another room upstairs. And downstairs. And that the historic building featured a stunning ballroom that hosts over 200 events a year. Wandering through the main floor of the Boulder Book Store is not enough, so make sure you carve out an hour or two to fully explore this gem. And, with over 100,000 titles, I guarantee you’ll find a good read to take home.
3. “So, You’re a Poet”
I was surprised by the richness of Boulder’s poetry scene. Plenty of Allen Ginsburg’s career is rooted in these mountains, and his spirit is alive and well in the writers about town. “So You’re a Poet” is a weekly poetry reading that has been running continuously for 35 years and is the longest continuously running reading in the country.
I was lucky enough to attend the 35th anniversary reading in the beautiful upper floor of the Wesley Foundations Chapel. Poets and writers of all levels are welcome to share with a stained glass backdrop and a captive audience every Monday night.
Alright, you caught me—I love Colorado. So much, in fact, that we’re coming back! While we’re not ready to plant our roots anywhere just yet, we’re coming back to see what Denver and Fort Collins have to offer. I can’t wait to see how these different mountainside cities compare.