Boulder is an idyllic setting, with the picturesque flatirons splayed out to the west and a creek winding through the city. Factor in the cast of characters who make up this college town —the eccentric hippies, elite athletes, talented artists — and it’s no wonder the Boulder area has served as a muse for so many television shows and movies.
If you’re visiting, here are some Boulder-area landmarks and spots you may have spotted on television or the silver screen.
“Catch and Release”
The production: The 2006 rom-com stars Jennifer Garner, who is grappling with the untimely death of her fiance.
The landmarks: Several local landmarks turn up in this movie that was set in Boulder. They include the Pearl Street Mall (Pearl Street, between 11th and 15th streets); the former Daily Camera building (10th block of Pearl), which has since been torn down and turned into Pearl West, with restaurants, shops and office space; Silver Saddle Motel (90 W. Arapahoe Ave.); and The Sink (1165 13th St.), a famous pizza restaurant that former President Barack Obama once visited. Also, one of the movie’s characters, Sam, worked at Celestial Seasonings (4600 Sleepytime Drive), selecting poems for the tea boxes. The famous tea-maker is open for tours to the public.
Local reference: “What is it about this town? Everyone is so happy,” says Garner’s character Gray while walking along the Pearl Street Mall.
Interesting fact: The sister of Susannah Grant, the writer and director of the movie, lives in Boulder, which is why the city was selected as the setting for “Catch and Release,” according to the Boulder Film Commission.
“Mork and Mindy”
The production: Robin Williams played Mork, an extraterrestrial who came to Earth from a planet called Ork. His co-star, Mindy, was his human roommate, wife and the mother of his child. The television show ran from 1978 to 1982.
The landmarks: The Queen Anne-style home where the movie takes place is located at 1619 Pine St. in Boulder, just a few blocks from the Pearl Street Mall. Fans of the show often stop by and post selfies on Facebook, with the caption “Nanu-Nanu,” which is alien speak for “hello” and a nod to the show.
Local reference: Several references to Boulder are made throughout the 90 episodes of the show, as Mork is sent to Earth to study human behavior and he picks up on the quirks of Boulderites. There are also references to Mindy going to the University of Colorado.
Interesting fact: After Williams’ death in 2014, fans of the actor flocked to the Mork and Mindy house to grieve Williams. Among the fans was U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who tweeted “Paying my respect to #mork, most famous fictional #boulder resident. Thank you for making us laugh, Robin Williams.”
The production: In this 1973 Woody Allen sci-fi comedy, the future takes place in Boulder, where the owner of a health food store is cryogenically frozen and defrosted 200 years later.
The landmarks: The National Center for Atmospheric Research campus, which is on Table Mesa, was used in a couple of the movie’s scenes. Both were exterior shots, and you’ll see NCAR’s circular drive, main entrance and north tower. Also, a dozen NCAR employees were cast as extras.
Local reference: What does a home in 2173 look like? The producers thought the “mushroom house” in Wonderland Hills was a good example. The movie shows the house at 3752 Wonderland Hill Ave. in Boulder. The futuristic home was built by architect Charles Haertling. Oh, and in the spirit of futurism, life seems to have imitated art. One of Boulder County’s mountain towns, Nederland, has a “Frozen Dead Guy Days” festival every spring that celebrates Bredo Morstol, who is cryogenically frozen on dry ice high above Nederland.
Interesting fact: The production was casting for extras on the NCAR campus. One scientist was turned down after being told that “hairy faces were not part of Woody Allen’s vision of the future,” according to NCAR.
Bonus: Allen wasn’t the only film director courting NCAR’s Mesa Lab. The producers of “Colossus: The Forbin Project,” which was about two evil supercomputers battling one another, also considered the lab when they were scouting locations.
“The Shining” (mini-series)
The production: This three-part television mini-series was based on Stephen King’s novel, “The Shining.” It first aired in 1997. Here’s where local lore tends to get a little confusing. A stay at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which is about 40 miles outside of Boulder, inspired King to write “The Shining,” which was adapted into a film in 1980 and directed by Stanley Kubrick. For the movie, the hotel shots were done at hotels in Mt. Hood, Oregon and at a hotel in Yosemite National Park— not The Stanley Hotel. However, The Stanley Hotel was the prime shooting location for the television mini-series.
The landmarks: The Stanley Hotel (333 E Wonderview Ave., Estes Park), a historic hotel. You can book a room in the hotel, or, if you’re doing a day trip, just drop in for a ghost tour.
Local reference: The plot of “The Shining” involves a struggling writer who takes a job as the winter caretaker of the haunted “Overlook Hotel,” which is nestled in the mountains northwest of Boulder. The fictional hotel is based on The Stanley Hotel. King and his wife lived in Boulder for a short time and stayed at The Stanley Hotel as it was closing down for the season. They were the only guests in the hotel and King woke up to a nightmare, which became the muse of “The Shining.”
Fun fact: In 2015, the hotel created a hedge maze near the entrance of the hotel as a way to recognize its connection to “The Shining.”
Bonus: Want to stay in the same room as Stephen King? Request room 217. But know this: It books up quickly, especially around Halloween.
“The Glenn Miller Story”
The production: The 1954 biographical movie tells the life story of Glenn Miller, a big band leader in the swing era. Miller’s aircraft disappeared in bad weather, most likely over the English Channel, when he was traveling to entertain U.S. troops stationed in France during World War II.
The landmarks: The University of Colorado campus is prominently shown in the movie. Miller attended CU-Boulder in 1923 to pursue his musical career, according to the university. After he left the university, he worked as a freelance trombonist and arranger, touring with various bands.
Local reference: Because of Miller’s ties to Colorado, several scenes were shot around the state and in Boulder. Jimmy Stewart (who played Glenn Miller) and June Allyson (who played Miller’s wife, Helen Burger Miller) shot a famous scene at Varsity Lake on the CU-Boulder campus. Even though the scene was filmed at CU, a technical problem forced the filmmakers to recreate the bridge in California, according to an article from the Daily Camera.
Interesting fact: CU maintains a Glenn Miller archive with Big Band-era memorabilia and 1,400 reel-to-reel tapes that contain hundreds of hours of live radio programs, featuring famous musicians from the Big Band era.