By Mindy Sink
As with love, absence can make the heart grow fonder. I had to leave my hometown of Boulder, Colorado and mature quite a bit before I returned and could finally begin to appreciate all of its natural charms.
Today I only live a mere 30 miles to the east of Boulder in Colorado’s capital city of Denver , but I go to Boulder often to see family and friends and sometimes just for an errand or a hike. Not that I’m letting anyone in on a secret here—Boulder is often ranked as one of the country’s best cities in surveys by magazines such as Outside, Men’s Journal and others. The pollsters and I appreciate Boulder for the variety of pleasures found in this college town snuggled up to the base of the Rocky Mountains. In my opinion, Boulder has a near-perfect mix of sophistication and a laid-back attitude, urban and rural elements, natural beauty and easy access to the best of it.
If visiting was just limited to Boulder’s Chautauqua Park , one could enjoy hiking, rock climbing, cycling, historic lodgings, music and film festivals for adults and children, tennis, picnicking, fine restaurant dining and more. That same list could almost be repeated for a visit just limited to the University of Colorado at Boulder  campus that has museums, a planetarium, the Shakespeare Festival and annual Conference on World Affairs. It’s an easy walk from the campus to the foothills for a hike into the mountains.
Such “walkability” (or bike-ability) is one of Boulder’s biggest appeals. When I was in junior high school (up until I got a driver’s license), I would walk or ride my bike to school in good weather--as did many of my friends. I just took for granted that this was an option but now I know how rare that is in other cities. And people here take advantage of it—I’ve noticed well-known chefs walking around the renowned Boulder Farmers’ Markets  on Saturday mornings looking for a few fresh ingredients before heading back to excellent restaurants such as The Kitchen, Frasca and Black Cat Bistro near the pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall.
Lately I am my daughter’s tour guide wherever we go, and when we drive into Boulder for a visit at Grandma's house, I excitedly say, “Look at that view!” as we get a first glimpse of the famous flatiron rocks looming above the city. And that’s just the beginning of the story of Boulder.
Mindy Sink is the author of Moon Denver 
Photo courtesy of Richard Varnes