Category Archives: Boulder

Hotel Boulderado’s Upcoming Lobby Renovation

Boulder’s historic landmark hotel to upgrade main floor space.

boulderado-logoThe Hotel Boulderado, which opened its doors on New Year’s Day 1909, continues to reinvent itself, piecemeal. The restaurant was the Teddy Roosevelt Restaurant or Rough Rider Room (or similar) when I moved to Boulder in ’88. It was later Q’s at the Boulderado, and is now Spruce Farm Food Fish. The down-market Catacombs has been turned into a speakeasy-inspired cocktail lounge called License #1. The Corner Bar has been refreshed.

Now, the hotel at the corner of 13th and Spruce is about to embark on its most dramatic change, a makeover of the lobby. Beginning right after the enormous Christmas tree comes down on January 2, the four-month renovation will begin. The hotel initially said that the restaurants and rooms will still be operating, but it appears that Spruce Farm and Fish is, in fact, closed while the work is going on.

If I understand the plans correctly, the beautiful front desk will become a lobby bar and the gift shop will become a coffee bar operated by Boxcar Coffee Roasters. I’m not sure where the registration desk will go — or perhaps it will be replaced by several sets of tables and chairs. The beautiful staircase to the mezzanine, the stunning glass ceiling and the water fountain boasting of the Arapahoe Glacier as its source will presumably all remain.

Playing Tourist in My Own Town

A witty narrated tour on the Banjo Billy Bus is both fun and informative

BanjoBilly-logoI’ve seen Banjo Billy’s bus — an old school bus tricked out to resemble a hillbilly house — tooling around the streets of Boulder, but until yesterday, I’d never taken the tour. The seats are an odd-ball collection of sofas, armchairs, a saddle and even some bus seats. A printed cotton cloth is suspended from the ceiling to resemble a tent. In summer, the Banjo Billy bus is an open-air vehicle. In winter, it is heated and clear window panels of Lucite or similar keep out the cold and the wind.

Glenn Locke at the Banjo Billy mike.
Glenn Locke at the Banjo Billy mike.


I know a lot of stuff about Boulder, but I learned more facts and anecdotes, heard more ghost stories and learned more Boulder “firsts” than I had known.  Glenn Locke — improv actor, Banjo Billy driver and college economics instructor — is a smart, funny and totally engaging tour guide. I’d write that even if he weren’t a friend. He tells some stories while the bus is moving, but he pulls over for others, stands up and tells some of the more complicated ones.

Glenn and I after the tour was over.
Glenn and I after the tour was over.

At this time of year, only one tour a week is scheduled, departing from in front of the Hotel Boulderado (13th and Spruce) at 2 p.m. every Saturday, but in warm months, frequency increases to six days a week. There’s another Banjo Billy bus in Denver, leaving from the Colorado Convention Center by the Big Blue Bear. The adult price is $22 per person. FoMoInfo: 730-938-8885.


Boulder: The “Happiest” Place in the Country

My city scores high on the happiness index

Walt Disney World may market itself as “The Happiest Place on Earth,” but I live in a real place that scored at the top of the American heap when it comes to residents’ personal happiness. Yesterday, “CBS Sunday Morning” broadcast a segment called “The Pursuit of Happiness,” the leadoff with beautiful Boulder and its healthy, brainy, environmentally conscious, politically correct and connected population. If you missed it, you can watch it online. Something like 25 million people a year visit Disney theme parks, but no one lives there. I don’t know how many people visit Boulder every year, but I am one of the more than 100,000 people live here — including the 25,000 University of Colorado students who keep the city young and lively.

The view from the scenic overlook atop Davidson Mesa takes in a panoramo of Boulder set against the the foothills and the mountains beyond.

No matter where I travel, I am always happy to come home to so special a place. As I approach the city on US 36, my heart always leaps and my spirit soars when I glimpse Boulder from the crest of Davidson Mesa. Whenever I’ve come back from a trip in the 22 1/2 years that I’ve lived in Boulder, I’m always happy to be coming home.


An Afternoon Ski Getaway Just Up the Road

Good snow, gorgeous sky, bright sun and no lines cure cabin fever  

Colorado’s Front Range was in a deep freeze during the first part of the week. Record sub-zero temperatures, treacherous roads and low-hanging gray clouds kept a lot of people inside, despite six or seven inches of cloud-soft snow on Sunday and Monday. By Wednesday, the sun was out, the sky was that wonderful Rocky Mountain blue and temps had warmed up to the teens.

My friend Jeannie Patton called on Wednesday morning, proclaiming stir-craziness and an intention to go to Eldora, a scant 21 miles from Boulder, for a few hours. I was game — after I returned from having my teeth cleaned. We headed up Boulder Canyon, looking west toward the mountains and discussing whether it would be windy, what the temperature might be (a bank thermometer in Nederland read 15°F) and what our predicted tolerance would. By the time we reached the ski area parking lot at 9,200 feet, some earlybirds were already pulling out, so we scored a close-in space.

Eldora’s full name is Eldora Mountain Resort, which is a misnomer because it is a ski area pure and simple, with no lodging or any other “resort”amenities. Still, its 1,400 vertical feet, dozen lifts and 680 skiable acres of open slopes, sinewy trails and glades exceed anything in the Midwest and equal a lot of mid-size destination areas back East, where I first started skiing a lifetime ago. Add 300 inches of average annual snowfall, an on-site Nordic center for cross-country skiers and snowshoers, and RTD public bus that stops 50 feet from the lifts, and you see why I feel fortunate to have Eldora practically in my backyard. Getting there, skiing for a few hours, having a bowl or chili or a burger and getting home takes up just an afternoon.

We boarded the lift just before 12 (“the crack of noon,” as Jeannie described it. I hadn’t brought my camera, so I was glad that she brought hers and shared a few images with me (it was too cold to remove gloves in order to take more than a few). These show the beautiful sky and the soft snow — and that’s why we were there.

First chair of our ski day, with soft snow under the lift and a sky that really was that color blue above. View to the north/northwest from the top of Challenge Mountain. View from the top of a trail called Muleshoe. Panoramic view from the Lookout, a warming hut at the top of the Corona quad chairlift.
View to the north/northwest from the top of Challenge Mountain. View from the top of a trail called Muleshoe.
Panoramic view from the Lookout, a warming hut at the top of the Corona quad chairlift. Good timing, because the wind did pick up for a bit while we were inside.

 No question that it was cold, and the wind did gust every now and then swirling the soft snow around, but I never really got cold. I wore my down parka over two underlayers, put chemical heat packs into my gloves and pulled a fleece neck gaiter over my chin, mouth, nose and cheeks. Although I resisted wearing a helmet for a long time, I have to admit that it is warmer than any ski hat I own. I think we took seven or eight runs, stopped in the day lodge for a bite to eat and headed down Boulder Canyon happy and revitalized.  What a fine few hours we had.

Staycationing on Independence Day

We don’t tend to go anywhere on Independence Day Weekend, but a lot of people come to Boulder, as well as Denver and the Colorado Mountains. Boulder celebrates its Sesquicentennial this year, with a ceremonies and patriotic music at Chautauqua Park. It is capped off with a great ground show and spectacular fireworks at the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field. For a list of free or low-cost daytime events in the Denver/Boulder metro area, click here, and for local fireworks, click here.

One Colorado Vacation Planner Excludes Boulder

En route back from Hawaii (more posts from that trip to come), I picked up a copy of the “Colorado Summer Vacation Planner 2009” (top right) at Denver International Airport this morning. A bit spacy after a full day on the Big Island and a red-eye nonstop flight from Kailua Kona International Airport, I thumbed through it on the ride home. There were the usual towns, resorts and counties in almost-alphabetical order: Aspen, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, Cañon City, Chaffee County — all the way to Winter Park.

Then I looked again. No Boulder! No Boulder? I know (and have repeated) the one-liner about “the People’s Republic of Boulder,” but as far as I knew, Boulder hadn’t actually seceded from the State of Colorado, nor had Boulder been kicked out. Colorado towns as small as Ouray (population under 900) and even non-towns like Gateway, which is actually a resort development called Gateway Canyons Resort, near the Utah state line, get their own chapters. But no Boulder — except in the lodging listings, where 11 properties are given.

I looked again through bleary red-eye flight eyes and finally noticed that this vacation planner is not the one issued by the Colorado Tourism Office, but rather by the Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association. The CTO’s “2009 Official Sate Vacation Guide” (lower right) does not feature specific destination chapters, so low-keying Boulder is not quite so obvious. (I’m sorry that there’s no larger image downloadable from the CTO’s site, but you can see it here.) The covers of the two planners are similar: blue sky dome above a wildflower-filled meadow, with a couple of hikers on the CHLA’s planner and a romantic couple lounging (off-trail) amid the flowers on the CTO’s planner.

But back to omitting Boulder, oversight? Maybe. Deliberate? Maybe, perhaps because of an insufficient level of advertising support by city interests for state-wide tourism promotion efforts. Too bad? For sure.

Staycation for the Birds

Non-migrating avians have been bellying up to our heated birthbath and flocking around our feeder

A flock of robins (below) has all but taken over the birdbath.

The bird feeder atop a pole stuck into the ground attracts smaller birds (below) until a (relatively) large flicker chases them off.

Squirrels patrol the snow (below), picking up any scattered birdseed, and occasionally, the neighbored fox comes around seeking a squirrel to snack on (I’ve never caught Foxy with my camera, but trust me that s/he lives nearby).

Meanwhile, Johnny Cash, the Cat in Black (below) is an avid birdwatcher. He really doesn’t care to go outside into the cold — especially when he might get his paws wet in the snow.

Summer Waning in Beautiful Boulder

Colorful plantings in Boulder’s pedestrian zone attract photographers

Tens of thousands — probably more like hundreds of thousands — of visitors come to Boulder, CO, every year: vacationers en route from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park, parents of University of Colorado students, fans of CU (not UC, but CU) football and other teams, scientists visiting the city’s prestigious laboratories, business travelers and folks from elsewhere in the Rockies in town for a getaway at the foot of the Flatirons. Sooner or later, everyone visits the Pearl Street Mall, a beautifully landscaped and immaculately maintained pedestrian mall along a four-block stretch of Boulder’s historic downtown.

Visitors and locals alike love to hang out on “the Mall,” watching buskers perform their acts, listening to street musicians, attending one of several warm-weather weekend festivals, attending free Wednesday evening Band on the Bricks and Friday Noon Tunes performances in summer, or just strolling to or from dozens of intriguing places to drink, dine and shop. The floral display, from the tulips of spring to blossoms that linger until the first hard frost, are the warm-weather backdrop for all of these other attractions (in winter, little lights are strung on bare trees, but that’s still a few months off).

We are lucky enough to live just a few blocks from the Mall, and as I was walking downtown the other day, admiring the plants, I was taken by the stunning array of healthy coleus plants. I took a number of closeup pictures, which I present here now on a misty romantic day that is a souvenir of the sunny summer days that are about to give way to autumn. I leave it to the gardning enthusiasts among you to ideintify exactly which coleus varieties I photographed. The coleus are still there, and will be until they freeze or are are snowed on.

Boulder Celebrates the Fourth in Style

Close-to-home entertainment, music and great fireworks on Independence Day

We rarely go far for any holiday, because Boulder knows how to celebrate. My husband and I, often with friends, have have cobbled together our own Fourth of July traditions from the city’s many options. For years, a goup of us would meet at Chautauqua Park for a picnic and the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra’s free afternoon concert of Sousa marches and other lively songs. That event no longer takes place. Instead, the orchestra plays a concert on the evening of the 3rd in the historic Chautauqua Auditorium, a National Historic Landmark with great acoustics. My husband and I and good friends are taking a picnic and going to the concert.

We usually take a morning hike on the 4th. The most appropriately named destination areound here is the Fourth of July Mine in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, west of town, but tomorrow, we will more likely to stay closer to home. In lieu of the afternoon picnic in Chautauqua Park, we might veg out a bit at home. Then, friends are coming over for hors d’oeuvres and drinks before we all walk up to the University of Colorado’s Folsom Field for free entertainment and fireworks University of Colorado photo).

We are carpooling with neighbors this evening, so it seems as if we will leave about smallest possible carbon footprint for our Fourth of July activities.

Time Travel in Colorado

It was Friday afternoon, two days after the big storm, before I finally got around to digging out my car sufficiently to go to the supermarket, and I probably wouldn’t have done it yet if we weren’t having guests on Christmas Eve — and there was cooking and baking to be done. The nearby King Soopers market resembled my image of Moscow markets in the Soviet era. Customers plodded across snowpiles, slush puddles and ice sheets to the front door, where a dispirited Salvation Army bell ringer was hoping someone would drop something into the kettle now and then.

Immediately inside was a sign apologizing for the small inventory, because delivery trucks hadn’t been able to resupply the store. The produce bins were almost empty, with onions, potatoes, avocados and winter squash the only items displayed in any sort of quantity. Everything else was gone or almost so. Ditto with the meat and seafood sections, the bread shelves, the dairy section (the store was almost out of eggs) and the toilet paper shelves. I bought what I needed for baking and have to go back today hoping that the trucks made it with the winter vegetables I plan to roast for tomorrow’s dinner.

In this prosperous city in our well-off land, we are unaccustomed to doing without anything we want. We don’t go hungry, unless we are dieting and are hungry by choice. But seeing “my” King Soopers picked over reminded me that so many people in our community, our country and around the world simply don’t have enough to eat. On the way out of the market, I dropped some money in the Salvation Army kettle, and today, I’m sending off another check to Heifer International, Oxfam or some other global hunger relief organization, and to Community Food Share, the Denver Rescue Mission or Friends of Man closer to home.