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20 Towns Similar to Boulder, CO

Boulder Colorado, aerial view.

Boulder, Colorado, is ranked one of the best places to live with its picturesque, unique, and charming atmosphere. It has flat irons overlooking the city to the west, rugged rock formations, art galleries, cafes, restaurants, and boutiques along the pedestrian Pearl Street Mall downtown. That said, are there any other towns similar to Boulder?

While “The People’s Republic of Boulder” has fundamentally changed since its hippie era in the ’60s, this scenic college town in the Rocky Mountain foothills remains one of America’s most unusual and charming small towns. Raleigh & Durham, Huntsville, and Austin are similar towns, to name a few.

Like many other towns in the US that have a unique charm that also carry the same outgoing, family spirit as Boulder, Colorado, I’ve got 21 towns that share the same outlook for living the Boulder Life. In light of that, what do all of these towns have to offer?

20 Towns similar to Boulder, Colorado

Boulder Colorado, aerial view.

It might be helpful to know what you’re looking for in Boulder, CO. Would it be a stroll around downtown’s Pearl Street Mall?

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Was it the beautiful campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder, or possibly the magnificent art galleries, that drew you in, or did you simply fall in love with the great outdoors? Whatever you’re looking for, one of these 21 cozy options will have it.

1. Raleigh & Durham, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina skyline.

Cultural institutions such as the Durham Performing Arts Center, the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Contemporary Art Museum Raleigh, and the North Carolina Symphony are all accessible to residents in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill.

Students and citizens alike frequent the cafes and bars near the area’s university campuses. More than 20 craft breweries have set up shop in the area, adding to the region’s burgeoning food culture. In addition, the area features the highest concentration of live music venues in North Carolina.

There’s also a children’s museum, 200+ parks, and a 152-mile greenway system for safe riding and hiking in this family-friendly area. With college athletics, Raleigh and Durham is a terrific spot for sports aficionados.

2. Huntsville, Alabama

Cityscape of downtown park Huntsville, Alabama.

Huntsville, formerly a small farming community, rose to national prominence during the 1960s Space Race and is consistently among Alabama’s fastest-growing metro regions.

Huntsville’s identity is centered on space. Residents can spend a day viewing the US Space & Rocket Center, which records the history of space travel, further to understand the region’s ties to the Final Frontier. The US Space & Rocket Center is also home to Space Camp, which is on every kid’s bucket list.

Huntsville also boasts a variety of cultural attractions that are unrelated to aerospace. The Alabama Constitution Hall Park, for example, depicts life in Alabama during the 1800s, while the North Alabama Railroad Museum and the Historic Huntsville Depot showcase the region’s railroad history.

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Lowe Mill Arts & Entertainment, a refurbished textile mill with the most prominent privately-owned arts facility in the southern United States, is a must-see for art lovers. The Mill is the city’s unofficial avant-garde arts headquarters, housing artists working in various media and hosting live music and theater.

Huntsville has a large international population thanks to its high-tech sector, and the region’s culinary scene reflects this diversity. Restaurants in the area serve everything from Vietnamese to German to Indian cuisine. Barbecue establishments and farm-to-table eateries, as well as more traditional Southern fare, are popular.

Because the weather is excellent for most of the year, there are many outdoor concerts and festivals. Almost every weekend, the downtown area holds outdoor concerts, movies, and food truck rallies (except in winter).

Hikers and mountain bikers flock to Monte Sano State Park. For a day on the water, boaters and water sports enthusiasts flock to the adjacent Tennessee River.

3. Fayetteville, Arkansas

Donald Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Fayetteville and Bentonville, Rogers, and Springdale have transitioned from a little town to a center of higher education, culture, business, and entrepreneurialism in a rapidly growing region.

The University of Arkansas, the flagship campus of the University of Arkansas System, is located in Northwest Arkansas, which is also the birthplace of Walmart, the headquarters of Tyson Foods, and the birthplace of Walmart.

Fayetteville is home to people from all over the world. Newcomers frequently mention the warmth of Fayetteville residents. On the street, people greet and smile at each other, and community events are well-attended.

There are dozens of volunteer organizations and nonprofits to choose from, so there are plenty of opportunities to become active in the community.

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In the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville is known for its wealth of state parks, acres of municipal green space, playgrounds, parks, and walking paths. A world-class performing arts center, a thriving local food movement, live music venues, and a vibrant festival scene are all found in the metro area.

4. Austin, Texas

Austin Texas skyline.

With the slogan “Keep Austin Weird,” this Texas city is so laid-back that dressing up must be a once-in-a-lifetime affair. People here enjoy being outside, especially with their dogs. Austin has a beautiful sense of vigor and excitement.

The downtown core is laid out on a grid, as it was intended in 1839. Downtown has seen an expansion in high-rise residential and commercial space over the previous decade, and this trend is expected to continue.

Some people relocate to Austin to work for one of the city’s many corporations. The city might be a who’s who of technology at times, but government, education, and health care are also essential job sectors. Some folks come here for college and stay for life.

Austin’s live music events draw a large number of tourists. Although there is more music to enjoy than at the South by Southwest and Austin City Limits festivals, it is one of the best things to do in Austin.

Austin, known as the world’s live music capital, entertains its citizens with live music in the airport terminal, on downtown streets, and at more than 200 venues throughout the city.

5. Colorado, Springs

Aerial view of Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs is set against Pikes Peak, which inspired the hymn “America the Beautiful.” Here you’ll find a city that combines vibrant nature with rugged history and modern conveniences.

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Downtown, with its crowded but easy-to-navigate streets, the elegant, rustic south side of town delimited by Cheyenne Canyon, and the century-old Broadmoor hotel is a sight for sore eyes.

On the west side, filled by cafés and shops in what was the old Victorian core of the 1890s gold rush, people often stop by to greet someone they know at their local brewery or grocery store, despite the sprawl. The city wants to keep the small-town atmosphere.

6. Spartanburg, South Carolina

Aerial view of downtown Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Spartanburg is noted for its scenic beauty and historical significance.

Spartanburg, which has a long history dating back to the Revolutionary War, became known as Hub City in the 1800s when it served as a major railroad hub. Today, the town of Upstate South Carolina is home to the first full-time BMW plant in North America, as well as Denny’s restaurant chain’s headquarters.

With its various colleges and universities and booming food culture, Spartanburg never runs out of things to do on weekends. Bicyclists can ride throughout town, shop at farmers’ markets, attend festivals, and dine at local restaurants and breweries. Spartanburg is a pet-friendly community where residents frequently walk their dogs.

7. Boise, Idaho

Aerial view of city trees, Boise, Idaho.

Boise is a recreationist’s dream come true. It’s worth a serious look if you enjoy the outdoors and time spent among rivers, mountains, canyons, deserts, and lakes – and all the activities that come with them.

Boise’s downtown is booming. There is a lot of new building going on in the region. The Zions Bank building, which was finished in 2014, is the state’s tallest structure and is located in the city’s heart.

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The summer patio scene is dominated by locally sourced food and beverages.

Residents in Boise may spend their days outside, but they spend their nights eating locally sourced cuisine, watching an opera, and sipping great cocktails.

8. Ann Arbor, Michigan

State street downtown, Ann Harbor, Michigan.

Ann Arbor is a city that is full of contradictions. It’s rural and urban, sporty and smart, outdoorsy and high-tech, counterculture and high society all rolled into one.

It is best known as the home of the University of Michigan, and residents enjoy all of the trappings of a stereotypical Midwestern college town: a charming, historic main street lined with bookstores, gift shops, and taverns; a healthy mix of long-term residents and short-term visitors; and a plethora of cultural destinations and events.

At the same time, “Tree Town” has the feel of a much larger city due to its closeness to reenergized Detroit, a fast-growing startup environment. The international community, the spirit of inclusivity, and great walkability.

Apart from the university, good public schools, a broad job market, a well-developed public park system, and low crime rates make Ann Arbor a desirable place to live for residents of all ages.

Ann Arbor, set among rolling hills and bisected by the Huron River, offers year-round outdoor activities, from kayaking and mountain biking in the summer to snowshoeing and ice skating in the winter. There are still many homes circling the central business district from the period when the city was founded in the mid-nineteenth century.

Higher-density housing is prevalent on the city’s outskirts and, more recently, in the central core, where easy access to cultural, eating, and entertainment areas are drawing an increasing number of full-time residents.

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9. Naples, Florida

Downtown Skyline, Naples, Florida.

Collier County, located between the Everglades and the Gulf of Mexico, is home to Naples, Immokalee, Marco Island, and a variety of distinctly Florida cuisines.

The entire Naples and Marco Island area offer magnificent beaches, colossal golf courses, superb restaurants, and shopping. Cattle graze while seasonal employees harvest tomatoes in the fields around Immokalee, a farming village an hour’s drive outside of Naples, closer to the area’s rural heartland.

Although the Naples and Marco Island areas cater to an older audience, the two coastal communities are just over a two-hour drive from vibrant cities such as Tampa and Miami.

Residents from cold-weather areas – known as “snowbirds” – rush to the Naples and Marco Island area throughout the winter months to enjoy Florida’s seemingly limitless supply of sunshine and pleasant weather. As the summer months approach, those seasonal residents abandon their second homes in Naples and Marco Island.

9. Madison, Wisconsin

Madison Skyline, Wisconsin.

Madison, Wisconsin, radiates the casual, down-to-earth attitude you’d expect in the capital of America’s Dairyland, set against a backdrop of high-tech corporations and respected academic institutions. Madisonians may eat meals produced by award-winning chefs and watch performances by national and international artists and actors on any given night.

Madisonians can buy produce, meats, and baked products the following day at the Dane County Farmers Market. They frequently have breakfast and coffee or at hot locations such as Marigold Kitchen and Michelangelo’s Coffee House.

Madison has received more people over the last decade and is growing to accommodate and entertain these transplants. It is a hub of the health care, information technology, and industrial industries.

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Developers are fast developing mixed-use luxury apartments with trendy eateries and coffee shops on the bottom floors. Madison’s gourmet dining, microbrews, and specialty drink options are growing all the time.

It’s not uncommon to run into a native Madisonian, just as it is in New York City. Some of those who have relocated went to UW-Madison and have never returned. Others moved to Madison in search of work.

Nonetheless, Madison’s small-town charm shows through.

11. Santa Rosa, California

Santa Rosa California with the Bank of America on the background.

Santa Rosa, the economic heart of northern California’s wine country, invites artists of all ages and students, retirees, professionals, and individuals with a passion for wine and the high-tech industry.

Local vegetables, cattle, beer, and wine drive hungry tourists worldwide towards the metro region, which was a pioneering focus of the farm-to-table movement. The farms, orchards, hopyards, and vineyards surrounding Santa Rosa are an essential source of employment and nutrition for the city’s population.

Santa Rosa, situated 55 miles north of San Francisco, boasts a pleasant temperature, rolling golden hills, and attractive real estate. With fine dining and high-end boutiques, it provides a contemporary wine country ambiance.

About 500,000 people live in a region, many of whom work in unincorporated rural areas or small towns to the city’s north, east, and west. College students flock to the area because of the area’s higher education institutions. Many retirees flock to Santa Rosa because of its laid-back atmosphere and easy access to senior medical care.

12. Lexington-Fayette, Kentucky

Main city center square of Lexington, Kentucky.

Lexington combines elements from the South and the Midwest to create a distinct cultural identity. Lexington is a college town and home to the University of Kentucky, the city’s major institution and employer.

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The institution contributes significantly to the city’s culture and economy by bringing in a steady stream of young, educated people. Lexington is known as the “Horse Capital of the World” because the equestrian industry is a major economic driver and an important component of the city’s culture.

College basketball, locally sourced cuisine, outdoor recreation, and, of course, bourbon are all popular pastimes in Lexington. The region boasts a diverse economy, a pleasant temperature, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.

Although the population of the area is growing, the cost of living remains cheap. Lexington is a good place for young professionals, families, and seniors because of its broad employment market and stable economy.

13. Phoenix, Arizona

Downtown Phoenix, Arizona, night time view.

The Greater Phoenix area, dubbed the “Valley of the Sun,” receives more sunshine than any other metro area in the country. That alone is enough to encourage people to settle down.

Still, Arizona’s capital also offers a desirable combination of a robust job market, a low cost of living, and plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the pleasant weather.

Phoenix is the most fantastic city to visit if you want to get a taste of everything the state has to offer. Although sleek, ultramodern office buildings dominate the city’s central region, the city center is not solely about labor.

There are numerous possibilities to play in Phoenix. Downtown is surrounded by sports stadiums, arts, commercial districts, and some of the area’s best restaurants.

The Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park in the Valley of the Sun may take you on a journey through Arizona’s history, from the earliest Hohokam settlers to the most cutting-edge technical advancements on display at the Arizona Science Center.

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Furthermore, Greater Phoenix’s 2,000-plus square-mile footprint stretches to the foothills of dramatic desert mountains crisscrossed by hiking and bike paths.

14. Eugene, Oregon

Downtown cityscape of Eugene, Oregon, night time view.

Eugene, Oregon, is located 60 miles west of the Pacific Ocean and 100 miles east of the Cascade Mountains. Like few other cities in the United States, the city offers the best of both worlds. Eugene labeled “A Great City for the Arts and Outdoors” boasts strong art and culture scene, as well as a diverse range of recreational opportunities.

Eugene’s performing arts options include the Eugene Ballet, the Eugene Opera, and the Eugene Symphony, among others. There are murals and street art on municipal buildings, in parks, and in neighborhoods everywhere.

From Skinner Butte and Alton Baker Park on the north side of town, split by the Willamette River, to the wild woods and Ridgeline Trail leading up to Spencer Butte on the South. Biking and hiking trails abound from the Fern Ridge Reservoir west of town to the Mount Pisgah Arboretum on Eugene’s southeast is not to be missed!

15. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Bricktown cityscape, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

With its strong Western legacy, Oklahoma City is home to cowboy history, festivals, horse events, museums, and more. Oklahoma City is still home to the world’s largest stocker-feeder cattle market, which is steadily becoming more cosmopolitan thanks to an expanding food and entertainment scene.

Many leather-scented businesses in the Stockyards City sector can outfit you with everything from boots, belts, and buckles to horse saddles, ropes, and 10-gallon hats.

The current inflow of younger residents has given the region a more vibrant, innovative, and progressive feel than previous years. Oklahoma City, formerly known for its early-to-bed, early-to-rise, meat-and-potatoes lifestyle, now bustles with activity into the wee morning hours.

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The residents of the city are its most valuable asset. The community is close-knit, and residents are always prepared to extend a friendly greeting, ever mindful that their location is, at heart, a small town.

16. Grand Rapids, Michigan

River view of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The Grand Rapids public art scene and craft brewery scene are among the best in the country.

Grand Rapids has evolved from its 19th-century roots as a hub of furniture production to the modern-day metro area that is attracting college students and young families with its healthy job market, affordable housing, and outdoor recreational activities.

It is a scenic spot perched on the Grand River, Michigan’s longest waterway. Grand Rapids’ neighborhood organizations are extremely active, bringing the metro area’s population together for community activities like the Eastown Street Fair, which draws people to the artsy neighborhood for food, music, and more.

17. Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Aerial view of downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, the residents adore the combination of natural and business environments. Expansive farms coexist with well-kept suburbs that lead straight into the heart of the city.

Each of these environments can be reached in a short drive. Farmers, families, college students, and young professionals make up the diverse population of each location. Lancaster has something for everyone, from close-knit church groups to the artsy coffee shop scene.

18. New Orleans, Louisiana

Night time view of French quarter, New Orleans, Louisiana.

New Orleans captivates visitors and residents alike with its music, eclectic cuisine, and steadfast refusal to abandon its cultural traditions. Beyond the casual tourists swaying Mardi Gras beads and late-night strolls down Bourbon Street, what makes the Big Easy truly special is its heart.

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The citizens of New Orleans have a strong and friendly character that encourages individuality, attracts the timid, and determinedly resists outside forces that try to standardize them. Living in New Orleans isn’t quite as glamorous as it appears in movies and television shows.

Carnival parades are not debauched flesh-baring spectacles but rather family-friendly neighborhood festivities, and New Orleans residents generally do not speak with Southern or Cajun accents. On the other hand, New Orleanians are fantastic hosts who are proud to show off their city.

Due to infrastructural and crime difficulties, the metro area can be unpleasant and even intimidating to some individuals. However, those who have spent any time living under its spell find the prospect of resettling in a locale where Mardi Gras is just another Tuesday insufferable.

19. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

A view of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from Susquehanna river.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital, the great outdoors is conveniently accessible. On the trails of Riverfront Park, bicyclists and runners take in the grandeur of the Susquehanna River, which also hosts many of the metro area’s yearly festivals and events.

Residents also love hiking the famous Appalachian Trail and camping and mountain biking in the numerous state parks and forests in the area.

Amish region, Gettysburg National Military Park, and Hersheypark – with its amusement park, music series, and The Spa at the Hotel Hershey, famous for its chocolate treatments — are all within easy driving distance of this metropolis.

20. Allentown, Pennsylvania

Downtown street of Allentown, Pennsylvania.

The huge collection of historic homes and buildings, commercial structures, and century-old industrial buildings that make up Pennsylvania’s third-largest metro area add to the city’s appeal. Architects have refurbished and transformed many of the closed mills and factory buildings into apartments and lofts.

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Allentown proper is divided into several districts, each having its own distinct personality and flavor. Neighborhood life and local eateries and retail establishments may be found in the Seventh Street commercial district.

The Civic Theatre of Allentown, many popular restaurants, local stores, and a pedestrian-only ArtWalk that leads to the Allentown Art Museum and Baum School of Art are all part of the West End Theatre District.

The PPL Center, home of the Philadelphia Flyers’ hockey farm team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, is a thriving business neighborhood on Hamilton Street.

Allentown is located in the Lehigh Valley, with the Blue Mountain range to the north and South Mountain to the southwest, providing fantastic trails and snow for hikers and skiers. In around two hours, residents can drive to New York City or Philadelphia.

Allentown is a terrific area to live for active people because of its convenient location, commitment to healthy living, and love of the arts.

References

Quora.com – What city is similar to Boulder, CO, but with a lower cost of living?

Reddit.com – Places like Boulder

Travelandleisure.com – America’s Quirkiest Towns

City-data.com – Affordable cities similar to Boulder or hidden gems? (Colorado Springs, Broomfield: shops, activities)