A hiking trail near NCAR in Boulder. Photo by Flickr user Geoff Alexander

Boulder Named Best Place to Live


We all knew it before, but now it’s official: Boulder is the best place in the United States to live.

This is according to the most recent 2020-21 U.S. News and World Report ranking.

The U.S. News examined 150 different metro areas across the country and analyzed their quality of life, job market, value of living there and people’s desire to live there. Boulder came out on top, with an overall score of 7.6 out of 10, followed by Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina, and Huntsville, Alabama, respectively.

Also in the top 10: Colorado Springs made it to sixth place. Denver was ranked 14th, and Fort Collins was No. 17.

Contributing to Boulder’s placement, the U.S. News and World Report highlighted the city’s outdoor recreation options (parks, trails, open space), its natural beauty, low crime rates, booming economy and quality schools. Thousands of people across the country weighing in on what they want in a place to live also helped determine the rankings. Information from the U.S. Census, federal data and the U.S. News’ additional rankings of the best hospitals and high schools were also a factor. Read more about how the cities were ranked here.

The U.S. News also ranked Boulder as the best place to live in Colorado, and the second-best place to live in the country for quality of life. Lower in rankings, Boulder was only named 53rd for the best places to retire.

Pearl Street Mall. Photo courtesy of Downtown Boulder

Boulder’s newest accolades join a long list of other rankings and honors over the years.

Boulder has also been named the best destination for solo travel, according to VacationRenter. Here’s why Boulder is a top destination for solo travelers and some fun things to do in Boulder on your own.

It was also named America’s most creative city (The Daily Beast), one of the top 25 art destinations multiple times (American Style Magazine), one of the top 10 cities for artists (Business Week) and one of the 100 best art towns in America (John Villani) and the third location in the country for working artists per capita (National Endowment of the Arts). Read more about why Boulder is Colorado’s art hub here.

The recent U.S. News ranking acknowledged Boulder’s artistic side, too. According to the review, “Boulder has a strong arts community, with galleries, museums and opportunities to see live theater, musical acts and other performing arts. During the summer, festivals can easily fill up your calendar; local favorites include the Colorado Shakespeare Festival at Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre on the CU campus and the Colorado Music Festival, which showcases acclaimed classical musicians at Boulder’s historic Chautauqua Auditorium.”

Curious about Boulder’s summer festivals and entertainment options? Check out the calendar here.

Brains and Beauty

In addition, the University of Colorado in Boulder has earned more than its own share of honors. Among the full list: CU is No. 2 in the nation for atomic/molecular/optical/physics graduate school (U.S. News & World Report 2020); was the first university to get a Stars Gold rating for sustainability and the first Division 1 school to have a zero-waste stadium and athletic program; is No. 1 for NASA awards; and more.

Photo courtesy of University of Colorado Athletic Department

Plus, three U.S. Supreme Court justices, five Nobel Prize winners, five National Medal of Science winners, nine MacArthur “genius grant” fellows, 18 astronauts and 51 Fulbright fellows have come out of or been affiliated with CU.

Education — from CU to high school and beyond — was also a part of why the U.S. News and World Report ranked the city No. 1 for 2020-21. As the rankings stated: “You’ll also see students around town, especially on ‘the Hill’ near the campus of the University of Colorado-Boulder, the state’s flagship university. Families also account for a big presence in Boulder, attracted by the city’s relaxed vibe and schools that consistently rank among the best in the state. The Boulder area has a highly educated population, with nearly three-fourths of residents holding a bachelor’s degree or higher and approximately 39 percent of the population holding an advanced degree.”

Read more about living in Boulder here.

Norlin Library
University of Colorado Norlin Library. Photo by Max and Dee Bernt.

Other Boulder Rankings

Livability alone awarded Boulder one of the best spots to live for five straight years, rating it especially high in categories like social causes, outdoor rec, health care, entrepreneurial start-ups and (of course) microbreweries.e).

Boulder has also placed No. 1 on lists for the following over the years:

  • The Happiest City (Moneywatch.bnet.com)
  • The Brainiest City (Portfolio.com)
  • Well-Being Index (USA Today/Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index)
  • America’s Top 25 Towns to Live Well (Forbes.com)
  • America’s Foodiest Town (Bon Appetit Magazine). Note: Read “The Ultimate Guide to Boulder’s Food Scene” here.
  • Lesser-Known LGBT Family-Friendly Cities (Wearegoodkin.com)

Boulder also appeared on the following rankings:

  • No. 4 Best Cities for the Next Decade (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine)
  • No. 6 Top 10 Healthiest Cities to Live and Retire (AARP Magazine)
  • No. 8 Top 10 Cities for Artists (Business Week)
  • No. 10 Queerest Cities in America (Advocate.com)

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