Moving to Boulder

Archived Q&A and Reviews

To Boulder from Bay Area?

May 2014

We love the East Bay because of the people (great friends), the weather, the beauty, all of the wonderful resources. But we are feeling worn out because of the high cost of living and all of the highway driving to get to those wonderful places, classes, soccer practices, etc., etc. with 3 kids. It seems that there is a culture of over-extension/perfection-very difficult to have a slower life there. We may not ever own a home here either.

We are considering moving to Boulder, Colorado. Although the day to day cost of living is probably about the same, houses seem less expensive, and we envision less driving, kids getting places on bikes (maybe even walking to school). We are a Waldorf family, but we would consider both Waldorf and public school in Boulder.

If you have lived in Boulder, can you clue us in about whether we are crazy to think that it would be less of a rat race there? With both of us working (one full-time, one part-time) we could potentially make about $100K a year, maybe a bit more. Also, if you have any experience at the Waldorf school there, can you give us an idea of how it went for your family? Also public schools? Elementary through high school.

I have lived in Denver before, but not for a long time. Thank you for your honest thoughts. Another Californian Maybe Heading A Bit East

This may not be pertinent to your situation but I lived in Boulder about 35 years ago and one of the main things that made an impact on me was that it felt like a rat race. The traffic at commute time was horrendous. Boulder proper has no room for expansion so I can't imagine that the traffic situation is any better. The population is highly educated so finding work was always very competitive. Hopefully you'll hear from others who have more current experience. lark

We moved to Berkeley last August after living in Boulder for 7 years (we were there while my husband was in grad school at CU, and had our son there.) Overall, I like Berkeley a LOT more than Boulder, so my bias will come through! But we have many friends who LOVE Boulder, and if it is the right fit for you, it is a fantastic place (the positives vs. negatives just didn't work for us there.)

The cost of housing is definitely less in Boulder, but it is still high compared to many/most places, particularly if you want to be somewhere really walkable. $100k/year is definitely still a middle-class salary, particularly if you have 3 kids, as the tech and science industries are huge and there has been a giant influx of people (and their money) from both CA and the east coast. The neighborhoods that I really liked in Boulder (I'm a fan of old houses, and the thought of paying $500k for a '70's ranch makes me ill), were totally unaffordable for us. If you have a specific neighborhood that you've researched and know you can afford, great- but if you are just operating under an assumption that you can get a lot more of what you want for a reasonable price, definitely make sure there is actually a neighborhood where that is possible. For us, it wasn't. We'll always be renters here, but I'd still rather rent the apartment we have here than buy the house we could have afforded in Boulder (thanks to Berkeley rent control, that is!)

For me, one of the biggest differences between Boulder and the Bay Area is the diversity; Boulder has very little, and it is really a bummer. I think it is a huge value for my kid to grow up around all sorts of people here in Berkeley- that is not something you get in Boulder. There is also a very pervasive culture of extreme athleticism; it is a fantastic place to live if you train for triathlons, want to climb every weekend, ski every winter weekend, or do cross fit 5x per week- but if you are not interested in anything like that, it can wear on you because it feels like EVERYONE else is. I found the cultural life lacking (theater, music, art) and I really think it's because everyone is so busy climbing the mountains that they forget that life can include art, too. (But some people disagree with me on this one, and find the cultural offerings in Boulder to be totally fine! I came from an 'artsy' midwestern city and was seriously bummed by the lack of arts.)

There is a great independent school scene, and the public schools are also good. Our kid is little, but I worked for a while in an independent school and many of our friends in Boulder were in the education field, so I have a bit of a sense of the educational environment, if you have specific questions you can email me. Boulder is also a really great food city; that is one sort of random area where it really stands out.

I think if you LOVE the mountains, and absolutely want the athletic culture (skiing, climbing, running, biking, whatever) to be a big part of your life, then Boulder is a fantastic little city. If neither of those things make you want to get up in the morning, I would seriously consider whether Boulder is the best possible fit, because it seems like the people who really love it there are people who are passionate about at least one of those things, and usually both.

I don't know what to say about the 'rat race' question- the city is smaller, so there is less hustle and bustle, but that would be true of any smaller city. I think Boulder does have a very competitive culture- because academia, science and high-level athletics are so big there, and competitiveness is so pervasive in those fields/areas, and because there really is a whole lot of money floating around a pretty small city. It is easier to find a parking space at Whole Foods, but not necessarily easier to feel like you're 'keeping up with the Joneses,' in my experience.

There is a great Yahoo group that is similar to BPN, and if you join that you can get more perspectives from people who've already made the move from CA to CO (and there are many!!) It's called Boulder RocknMoms.

I'd be happy to answer any specific questions if you want to email me. Not Missing the Snow

Moving from Oakland to Boulder

Aug 2010

My husband and I are considering a move from Oakland to Boulder, CO. We recently had a baby and are in search of more open space and better cost of living. We work in the tech industry and are very intrigued by the burgeoning tech start-up community in Boulder. I understand it to be very progressive with good schools and focus on healthy lifestyle. One downside I've heard is lack of diversity. Would love to hear any insights about life in Boulder and how we may find it compared to the Bay Area. Thanks! OnToCO

My husband and I are also contemplating a move to Boulder at some point and he is in the tech industry also. I grew up in Boulder and currently my Dad and brother-in-law are in tech in Boulder. There is a small close knit tech community, obviously it's not as big as you'd find here or other major cities, but it is definitely growing.

Diversity is one of our concerns about moving there. Most people are white upper middle-class and there is a growing population of Hispanic middle to upper class. There are still not too many Asians or African-Americans. That being said Boulder and Denver do a pretty good job at bringing cultural experiences to town; it's just a matter of seeking them out.

Overall I love Boulder it is very health conscious, fit, and friendly, and the pace of life seems slower to me! Alex

My husband grew up in CO and still has family/friends there so we go fairly often. Some people really love Boulder, my impression is that Colorado natives love it a little less. It has A LOT of transplants, which depending on you could be good or bad. It has a ton of open spaces, cute retail areas, and is indeed very focused on health. Although, some people love that or hate it. People who hate it feel like Boulder is a little sanctimonious about its mountain activities, like you're not cool if you don't rock climb and ski all the time. We don't know anyone with kids of school age yet, so can't tell you a ton about that but I am under the impression that the school system is good. It is definitely not diverse. I would even say it is a narrow subsection of the caucasian community. The mountains are beautiful though, and the cost of living is indeed a lot better. We are always so surprised when we visit and things are so inexpensive. Good luck! jisun

Moving from Berkeley to Boulder

June 2006

My husband and I are thinking about relocating to Boulder with the goal of improving our overall lifestyle. We'd like to have more balance between work and leisure and access to the outdoors and public schools. However, this is a big change for us and are nervous about leaving Berkeley (which we love)!! Is there anyone out there that has made a similar move in recent years? Are you happy with your decision? Is there an area of Boulder you would recommend that would feel most comfortable for someone coming from Berkeley? Any thoughts on elementary schools etc? Anonymous

We moved from Berk - Boulder last summer, also seeking a simpler life (and moving closer to family). Although we had a rough start (hubby was laid off soon after our arrival), we are liking a lot about Boulder (although I totally miss friends and the Berkeley area). Everyone is very outdoors-oriented, public schools are the best in the state, and people are really friendly. Bikers and runners are everywhere, and the programs for kids are awesome. Diversity cannot compare to the Bay area, but at least everyone is liberal (unlike the rest of the state) and many have an appreciation for diversity. Although you can afford more out here, such is NOT the case if you want to live close to town. Small houses are still 1-1.5 million. But, I would recommend renting first (we're glad we did) and then you could try to be close to town, in the Whittier Elementary area -

it's an international baccalaureate school and has better diversity. University Hill has a biligual program. My kids will go to Crest View (N. Boulder) which we like b/c of its diversity. I hope that you are in high tech, for there are lots of jobs in that area. The weather can't be beat - snow, but not too much, 70 degree days (once in a while) in the winter, and real summers. But just know that you WILL miss the Bay Area. Feel free to contact me for more info! Suzanne

Feb 2005

We are considering a move to Boulder, CO due to career/family reasons. I understand that Boulder is not a wonderfully diverse community like Berkeley (At least it is pretty liberal). Can anyone recommend areas to live? Boulder high school vs. Fairview HS? Elementary schools that are particularly good? Thanks for your help. anon

We moved to Boulder in August and are liking it pretty well here. I miss the Bay Area's resources and urbanity, but everyday when I go outside and look at those mountains, I give a happy sigh. The outdoor resources are remarkable here. Without even leaving Boulder, we've seen foxes, racoons, coyotes (from a distance), deer, and lots of gorgeous birds. Houses are expensive in Boulder, so though it will be less than in the Bay Area, keep that in mind. There are also abundant and very ugly ''developments'' with uniform rows of homes all squinched in together. I recommend North Boulder, where we found a home. South Boulder seemed to us to be more tract homes that were close together. Older homes on ''the hill'' near the university or near Chautauqua can be beautiful but are prohibitively expensive (at least for us). There is so much public open space in Boulder that it might be worthwhile to keep that in mind as you look for a home: we live half a block away from a big hiking/open space area and it's really added to the pleasure of the neighborhood. I have also looked, recently at nearby towns like Longmont and Lyons, both of which are less expensive than Boulder and have nice older homes with character. Schools seem to be a public priority here, though I did not find the school district helpful as we moved in. There are some good charter and magnet schools, but when I called about enrollment, I was continually reassured that my kids couldn't get in because the open enrollment was over (calls were made February-June). That said, as I queried parents about their various elementary schools, each insisted that the school their child attended was THE most excellent in the area. Again, this is anecdotal, but I hear very good things about Boulder High from parents. I don't know much about Fairview, but I've heard that the kids there tend to be more affluent and more subject to the evil influences of our consumer culture. If you have other questions, feel free to e-mail me directly.

i lived in boulder for about 3 years. i liked it for the most part. the lack of diversity was a disappointment though. it's there you just have to search for it in the surrounding areas. boulder high school is great. atleast it was 4 years ago. my brother went there and they really worked hard to help him. the school has a lot of resources that i don't think fairfield high has. all in all i think if i had to pick a place in colorado to live it would be boulder. angela

Feb 2004

Hi My husband, 1 y.o. and I are considering a move to Boulder and would like recommendations onn neighborhoods and schools. We live in Rockridge now and love the feel of the neighborhood and would like to find something similar. Also, what are the good elementary schools and private schools. Is it any cheaper to live there? I know there have been previous postings but they don't really address these questions. Many thanks! Anon

Good friends moved to boulder about two years ago and prices were pretty comprabale to the bay area - they ended up outside of Boulder in Lewisville but are now regretting that and may try to move into Boulder. I guess I'd reccomend alot of research into the cost of houses. good luck

April 2003

Help! We are moving in mid July to the university area in Boulder, Colorado. Being native to California, I am particularly worried about actually living in and driving through snow (my daughter is thrilled) for an entire season. I would like some advice on surviving, perhaps even thriving, in winter conditions. I also welcome any recommendations about living in Boulder, but I am especially interested in preschools, cheap family thrills, restaurants, and Japanese grocery stores. Thanks in advance! Miki

Hi- Boulder is a great place to live, I went to CU about 12 years ago. I visit periodically still. Aside from the snow it is a lot like the East Bay. If you are uneasy about driving in the snow I would suggest having a four wheel drive vehicle. Even though it snows a lot it can warm up to the 60's the very next day and you would see people walking around in shorts when there is snow on hte ground and the sky is amazingly blue. Don't fret- Get yourself some good hiking/waterproof boots and enjoy the winter wonderland. It is not a wet/damp cold like the Northeast so you are in for a treat. Marion

Boulder is absolutely BEAUTIFUL! It backs right up to the flatirons which are so amamzing!. Don't fret. I am from Hawaii and live here presently but went to UC Boulder for undergrad (1990-1994) and loved it. Can you think of two more different climates?! But both are equally gorgeous in different ways. I burnt out on the cold weather but that was after four years of college, a year after(because I couldn't bear to leave after school finished) and then another year after living overseas (1997)because I missed it so much. Like the other recommendation, you could get a 4 wheel drive car. I had a little Toyota Tercel (front wheel drive)and worked in the mountains. I just got special tires (with little cleats in them) for the winter season and did just fine. As for housing, are you moving there to teach at the university? They have housing info and there are faculty condos. If you are looking for regular housing just make sure you are out of the student populated areas (The HILL, and right below the campus) because these are party central and can be dumps with sleazy landlords and run down student houses. Up closer to Chataqua Park there are nicer homes as well as out on Table Mesa Rd. or more north of the university. In fact anywhere except the immediate vicinity of the univ. should have adequate living accomodations. Restaurants: I haven't lived there for a while but there is a great ethiopian place called Ras Kasas. It moved since I last was there because it was so popular but it's still in the area. There are a number of others too- pretty good selection of international cuisine for a small town. Thats what's nice about Boulder, it has a lot packed into it bacause it is a college towm. Speaking of, Boulder is pretty heavy on bars and breweries to keep all the students drunk and happy. Pearl St. is a closed off street with little shops and places to eat all along it and can be fun just to stroll and people watch. Drives into the mountains are always nice. If you are interested in getting into winter sports you can probably find some deals on lift tickets for the season. Hiking is right in your backyard around the flatirons. There are also lots of bike trails. Everyone bikes in Boulder. I'm not sure about the Japanese market but there is a good chance that you'll find one there. It's pretty diverse. There are lots of health food markets in the area if you like that. My biggest recomendation to you would be to separate yourself from the student areas as that could be really annoying. The summers there are great because the town empties out and it's pretty calm. Things get bustling again in the fall when the students return. I was there as a crazy student and not a parent so I'm not as aware of fun things to do with kids in Colorado but I'm sure you could find out more from better sources. Too bad there isn't a Boulder parents network- maybe there is. Boulder is really a very unique place and I hope you enjoy it and the beautiful winter weather. Stay warm and feel free to email with any questions. Courtney