Conference on World Affairs
International flags line a sidewalk in Norlin Quad during the annual Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado Boulder. Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado

15 Benefits of Living in a College Town


It might seem strange to live in a college town after you get out of school. But long after it becomes super awkward to be That Old Guy at house parties, there are many reasons to stick around. Not in the parties. But definitely in the town.

Boulder centers around the University of Colorado and Naropa University, and the colleges shape much of the community’s lifestyle — often for the better.

Here are 15 benefits of living in (and visiting) a college town like Boulder.

Happy Hour drinks
Happy Hour drinks at Wild Standard. Courtesy photo

1. Cheap Food

College students are notoriously broke, which means there’s a demand for inexpensive restaurants. Take advantage of incredible happy hour deals, cheap buffets and quick food fast, especially on University Hill. For some food inspiration, check out the Best of The Hill.

Bands on the Bricks. Courtesy photo

2. Cheap Fun

Other things in Boulder are cheap, too. Many activities are totally free. For example, tons of activities at the Boulder International Film Festival are free, and Boulder is ripe with free community festivals and live music, like the annual Bands on the Bricks in the summertime.

For more budget fun, check out the Guide to Boulder for Students on a Budget. Plus, here’s a look at how to do Boulder on just $25 a day.

Illegal Pete’s. Photo by Grandoozy

3. Late-Night Restaurants

In small towns with older populations, restaurants and stores shut down early, but not when there’s a college kid demand for their business. You can eat late in Boulder. For example, Illegal Pete’s on the Hill and downtown are open until 2:30 a.m. The Hilltop Food Court is open until 3 a.m. Big Daddy’s Texas BBQ, Dark Horse and the Attic Bar and Bistro are open until 2 a.m.

Read more about Boulder’s late-night food scene here.

Fox Theatre Show
A show at the Fox Theatre. Courtesy photo

4. Great Nightlife (and Beer)

For better or for worse, Boulder has been lauded for its nightlife and as one of the best party schools. For non-students, that also means ample entertainment, a ton of breweries and multiple big-name venues that bring famous musicians to town. Learn more about Boulder’s nightlife here.  

Football Game
Buffalo being formed at a home football game. Photo by Kara Brugman

5. Unique Entertainment on Campus

You don’t have to be a student to enjoy the fun on campus. The Fiske Planetarium, with its laser shows, is open to everyone. Of course, there are the wildly fun CU football and other sports games. A highlight is the Fourth of July celebration in Folsom Field, complete with the best fireworks show in the area.

On campus, you can go bowling, eat, catch free lectures, have a picnic on the lawn, take photos of the scenic grounds, visit the excellent museums and archives, relax in the library, hit up the rec center and more. Here are five ways to enjoy the CU campus. Don’t miss the old trees on campus.

A shot from a previous Colorado Shakespeare Festival performance. Photo by Jennifer Koskinen

6. Arts and Culture

A university brings a high caliber of arts and culture to town, too. CU’s prestigious music school means many musical offerings that the community can enjoy. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival is one of the best of its kind.

Here is more info on how to incorporate CU into your time in Boulder.

7. Inspirational Energy

This one’s a little less tangible, but you can sure feel it. Boulder’s college students bring an invigorating energy to town. They’re learning, growing and celebrating. Every year when the new students arrive, the town comes to life. (Yes, traffic gets busier, too.) Being around fresh, young energy can inspire you.

8. Fashion Insight

Boulder’s not exactly known for being the Paris of the Rockies, but when you get students from all over the world, you get exposed to new styles and trends. Wonder what’s hot this year? People-watch on campus and get some fashion inspo.

9. Real Estate Investment

It’s no secret that Boulder’s real estate prices are high and continue to grow. The stability of centering around a thriving campus helps secure your real-estate investments. If you have the ability to buy a home in Boulder, you may also be able to rent it (or even a room in the house) to help supplement your income. Students and faculty are always in need of housing.

On the flipside, if you’re on a restricted income, it’s easier to find roommates in a college town than in secluded suburbia.  

10. Lots of Secondhand Shops, Consignment and Thrift Stores

Boulder has no shortage of inexpensive and secondhand stores. Buffalo Exchange is popular among students, but there’s also the Ares Thrift Store, Crossroads (for great used clothes), the Greenwood Wildlife Thrift Shop and Consignment Gallery, of course the Goodwill, Plato’s Closet (for more trendy, used clothes), the TRU Hospice Thrift Shop, Rags Consignments, the Humane Society of Boulder Valley Thrift Shop, Common Threads Boulder, Clutter Consignment (mostly home goods and art), Estate Alchemy (used furniture), Childish Things (for kiddos), Crossroads Trading on the Pearl Street Mall, the Salvation Army and more. The list goes on.

An especially great shop is The Amazing Garage Sale in North Boulder, an ultra-funky consignment store with interesting and vintage home goodies and tchotchkes.

Oh, not to forget used book stores, too, like the Bookworm, the Beat Book Shop and Red Letter Second Hand Books.  

You can even get used sporting goods in Boulder at stores like Community Cycles, Boulder Sports Recycler and the Pro’s Closet.

Conference on World Affairs
The Conference on World Affairs in Boulder. Courtesy photo

11. Continued Education

Non-students can benefit from the brainy offerings around campus. Every year, the Conference on World Affairs brings interesting minds to Boulder from around the world to hold panels on a wide range of topics. The event is free and open to the public.

College towns also are known to draw speakers and authors.

12. Opportunities to Get Involved

If you’re looking for something to do, colleges are always seeking volunteers, speakers and mentors. There are countless ways to get involved with campus.

Coffee and a notebook. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

13. Lots of Coffee Shops

If you like coffee, you’ll like this feature of living in a college town. Often sleep-deprived students who need to study means there’s a high demand for coffee joints. Boulder seems to have a coffee shop on every corner. Thanks, students! Hope you sleep better next year.

14. College Radio

A cool and unique benefit of living near CU means access to the campus radio station, Radio 1190. It’s easy to discover new music here, curated by music nerds whose passion is to find the next, greatest band. Radio 1190 has some special programs, too, like Goth Nite, Laugh Hour and Queers and Coffee. Basementalism on Saturday nights has a longstanding good reputation.  

15. Extra Cash

If you need some extra money, see what research is being done at CU and whether they need participants. You may be able to earn some dough while helping important research.

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