Students walking on Norlin Quadrangle
Students walking on Norlin Quadrangle on CU Campus. Photo by Ann Duncan.

Surviving Back-to-School Week in Boulder


If there’s one week you don’t want to run into Target to pick up a few quick items on your shopping list, it’s move-in week: the week before the fall semester starts up for the University of Colorado in Boulder. For 2017, move-in starts Aug. 21. Classes begin on Aug. 28.

In fact, you won’t be doing anything quickly that week — especially not if you’re trying to drive across town — when thousands of new college students, many arriving with friends and family, descend upon Boulder.

It’s a thrilling time of year, buzzing with a fresh, hopeful energy. But it’s also a time of transition for everyone, whether you’re a student, parent, Boulder resident or tourist who happens to be visiting town late August.

Here are some tips to help you not just survive but thrive in Boulder’s back-to-school frenzy.

Shop smart. No matter who you are, plan your visit to superstores and chains that carry back-to-school supplies and dorm furnishings for another week. Target is a madhouse. If you are a student or parent who desperately needs to get a good filing cabinet for your new space, head a bit out of town to the Flatiron Mall in Broomfield, in particular, The Container Store. It’ll still be nuts, but it’s usually tolerable. You can order dorm items online at The Container Store for pick-up upon arrival. This speeds up the shopping process and prevents expensive shipping costs if you buy before you fly.

Don’t drive. Avoid driving your car whenever possible. Boulder’s streets are already pretty congested and this becomes unbearable late August. There’s no need to drive a car with Boulder’s awesome and cheap bus system and easy bike rentals. It’ll probably be quicker to walk.

Arrive early. If you can plan your arrival a week or so before the official move-in week, you will be glad for the extra space and time to get to know University Hill and pick up your books at the bookstore without as long of a line.

Go off the beaten path. Popular tourist destinations, such as the Hill, Chautauqua Park and the Pearl Street Mall, tend to get crowded, too. Instead, use this as an opportunity to get off the beaten path. Head to Table Mesa in south Boulder for a coffee at Caffe Sole. Grab a delicious breakfast in north Boulder at Spruce Confections.

Visit downtown Longmont and experience Colorado’s biggest paint-your-own pottery studio, Crackpots, before a lovely French-style lunch in the colorful garden at Cheese Importers. Head east to Union Reservoir and rent a canoe or paddleboat; this peaceful lake has full, sprawling views of the Front Range and Longs Peak.

For dinner, Via Toscana in Louisville serves delicious Tuscan fare. Or for something more casual, Hefe’s in downtown Longmont has amazing street tacos for just $1 on Tuesdays. Try a plate of tacos with a flight of margaritas in this hip, colorful restaurant that always plays old-school hip-hop.

Bottom line: Get away from the crowds and the lines and the traffic jams. There are other options.

Tips for Parents

There are many ways you can get involved with your child’s transition to the University of Colorado, and other ways you can make the change easier for them. In fact, CU offers more than 200 different programs during its Fall Welcome to help new students adjust.

There is also a special Family Weekend Oct. 5-8. This includes four days of educational sessions, social gatherings, tours, football, lunches, bowling and tailgating — even a fun run and yoga.

Here are some back-to-school tips for parents:

  • If you haven’t already reserved a hotel room, it may be too late. It’s best to reserve a hotel the day your child accepts the offer to college. You can try looking for Airbnb rentals or hotels in outlying cities, such as Longmont and Broomfield. If you’re still out of luck, Loveland is about 45 minutes away or try the Westin in Westminster.
  • Pack plenty of snacks for move-in day, because it can be easy to forget to eat in the excitement and many of the nearby restaurants will be packed.
  • Don’t forget thrift stores. Boulder has some great ones. A hidden gem is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Broomfield and ReSource in Boulder. At ReSource, you can find cheap construction and building materials, and that includes light fixtures, shelving units, paint, mirrors and so much more.
  • You can take the RTD SkyRide directly from the Denver International Airport to Boulder. Check the RTD website for more bus offerings.
  • Get involved in CU’s family programs to learn more about special events for parents.

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