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21 Towns Like Boulder, Co

Let us take a journey through these multiple towns that are quite similar to the old and small town of Boulder, Colorado that showcases their own charms and history.

This is an aerial view of Boulder, Colorado.

Boulder, Colorado, has so much going for it. There are the Rocky Mountains, the University of Colorado Boulder, the Flatirons, over 20 craft breweries, museums, and galleries. Some people love it for its access to the great outdoors. Others appreciate the laid-back vibe and the intellectual spark. But what other places have a similar essence to Boulder?

Towns like Boulder have residents who love the outdoors and a relaxed way of life. Examples include:

  1. Asheville, North Carolina
  2. Bellingham, Washington
  3. Bend, Oregon
  4. Boise, Idaho
  5. Bozeman, Montana
  6. Burlington, Vermont
  7. Juneau, Alaska
  8. Olympia, Washington
  9. Roanoke, Virginia

Boulder is home to over 106,000 people. Some feel this is perfect; others think it is getting crowded. There are people who love its climate and then those that want a milder experience.

Boulder isn’t near the sea, which some miss, and others are happy to do without. Thus, we found 21 towns similar to Boulder but with their own little twist.

21 Towns Similar to Boulder, Colorado

Knowing what you enjoy most is important when looking for a town similar to Boulder. Is it the intellectual vibrance living in a university town brings? Do you love hiking, mountain biking, and getting away from it all?

Or do you need the artists, the craft breweries, the liberal politics? Whatever it is, you’ll find it in one of our 21 suggestions.

Anchorage, Alaska

This is the skyline of Anchorage, Alaska with a view of the mountains.

Anchorage, Alaska, is home to over 293,500 people and is the state’s largest city. It is located on the Cook Inlet and is surrounded by water, forest, and mountains. It hosts the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the University of Alaska Anchorage.

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Thus, like Boulder, it is a blend of culture and natural brilliance.

Anchorage boasts 223 municipal parks and has a network of 250 miles of trails within the city. Popular spots just beyond include Wolverine Peak and Flattop Mountain, part of the Chugach Mountain Range. Then there is Spencer Glacier, one of the sixty glaciers within 50-miles of the city.

Also, there are so many lakes, fjords, and the coast to explore.

Anchorage offers much to enjoy. For classical delights, there is the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra and the Anchorage Opera. Bookworms will lose their hearts to The Writer’s Block Bookstore & Cafe.

Meanwhile, craft brew enthusiasts will be spoiled for choice, including visiting the Midnight Sun Brewing Co. and Turnagain Brewing.

Asheville, North Carolina

This is an aerial view of Asheville, North Carolina.

Asheville, North Carolina, is a historic town up in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with a population of 91,500 folks. It’s right by the Shenandoah National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The area is full of waterfalls, including the Whitewater Falls, Looking Glass Falls, and Skinny Dip Falls (take that how you will). 

Asheville is also known for its plethora of talented artists in diverse mediums. Zan Smith, a metal artist, and sculptor has some fantastic frogs. Jennifer Webb produces both functional and decorative pottery.

If you love marbling, have a look at Pam Granger Gale at Majik Studios. There are innovative jewelry makers, glass artists, photographs, and illustrators too.

Aspen, Colorado

This is an aerial view of Aspen, Colorado.

Aspen, Colorado, with a population under 8,000, is a town where people come to ski. Up in the Rocky Mountains near the White River National Forest, the cute village is surrounded by gorgeous scenery. This makes it an ideal destination in warmer months, too, for hiking, mountain biking, and fishing.

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Plus, the town is just such a pleasure to walk around. The architecture looks as if it came out of a children’s storybook. You can kick back and relax and one of their many cozy coffee shops, such as the aptly named Local Coffee House & Eatery.

There are galleries, boutiques, or catch a show at the Wheeler Opera House.  

Bellingham, Washington

This is a seaside view of Bellingham, Washington.

Bellingham, Washington, has over 88,500 residents and is near the Canadian border. It is on the coast, a ferry port to Alaska, and has a stunning mountain backdrop. The area is perfect for those that love the rustic outdoors.

There are beaches, water trails, hiking, mountain biking, and all the snow sports folks love.

The area is a hotbed of festivals and activities. Popular events around Bellingham include the Bellingham Festival of Music, Bellingham Beer WeekSki to Sea, Padden Triathlon, Whatcom Pride, and Whatcom Artist Studio Tour. The area also has many museums, galleries and is home to Village Books and Paper Dreams.

Bellingham takes its craft beers seriously. You can explore them by taking part in the Tap Trail. Some establishments are family-friendly; others are only for 21 and over, so do a little research first if you are a mixed-age group.

A nice bonus is most establishments do have outdoor seating.

Bend, Oregon

This is an aerial view of the old mill district of Bend, Oregon.

Bend, Oregon, has become the next-best city and has gone from a town of 17,000 people in the early 80s to a thriving city of over 111,000. It’s not hard to understand why people love this mountain town since the arid-desert climate means it doesn’t get a lot of rain, but you still have the Deschutes River, tons of lakes, and the gorgeous snowcapped peaks.

The outdoors life has been paired with excellent food and, of course, many local brews. Top places to eat include Primal Cuts Market, The Sparrow Bakery, and Ariana. If you are in the mood to taste a locally made drink, check out Atlas Brew Works, Boneyard Beer, and the Bend Brewing Co.  

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Boise, Idaho

This is an aerial view of downtown Boise, Idaho.

Boise, Idaho, is a routinely overlooked city of 226,000 folks, perfect for those who love the outdoors. But being ignored has its advantages, as it is one of the most affordable cities in the United States despite its magnificent mountain backdrop. That’s one thing Boulder can’t say.

The city is home to Boise State University, which brings that intellectual vibe to its sporty side. And it has a very outdoorsy side, including whitewater river rafting and kayaking, golf, fishing, skiing, ice hockey, fishing, and a 25-mile greenbelt perfect popular with cyclists and joggers.

The city has unique features and excellent events. For example, there is the Garden City, with breweries, baseball, and the Artisans Pathway.  Also, there is the renowned Treefort Music Festival and so much more.

Bozeman, Montana

This is an aerial view of the downtown area of Boazeman, Montana.

Bozeman, Montana, is a Rocky Mountain town with a population of around 48,000. It is known for its dinosaur bone collections and is home to Montana State University. Like Boulder, the area is popular, so living costs are higher than the nation’s average.

But the place is sure gorgeous and provides plenty for outdoor enthusiasts.

Bozeman has a thriving art community. You can find much to admire in the Bozeman Art District in the downtown area. You can also keep up with the abundance of performing arts on the Bozeman Arts Live site.

They also host art festivals such as SLAM and the Sweet Pea Festival.   

Breckenridge, Colorado

This is an aerial view of Breckenridge, Colorado.

Breckenridge, Colorado, is a small Rocky Mountain town of around 5,000 folks. It is perfect for people who have decided Boulder is too big. It is also excellent for skiing and other winter sports and is home to the Breckenridge Ski Resort.

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In summer, it is fantastic for hiking and mountain biking.

Nor does the area allow winter snowfall to stop them from enjoying outdoor dining. Many of their restaurants, taverns, and cafes have heated greenhouses, yurts, and domes to provide a special cozy experience in the winter wonderland.

Each year the community hosts many festivals and events. In January, Breckenridge has their legendary International Snow Sculpture Championships. When the weather warms, cyclists zip over to participate in the Breck Epic Race.

Then there is the Brackenridge Hogfest, where bourbon and bacon are brought together for an unforgettable pairing.

Burlington, Vermont

This is an ocean view of the town of Burlington, Vermont.

Burlington, Vermont, is a liberal college town hosting many places of higher education, including The University of Vermont. The city of over 215,000 folks is on the eastern side of Lake Champlain, with New York’s Adirondacks and the Green Mountains making a gorgeous backdrop.

The city is an eclectic mix of artists, students, agriculture, and outdoor lovers. Thus, you can find yourself visiting the Fleming Museum of Art and checking out the Shelburne Farms in a single day. In addition, there are farmers’ markets, antique shops, craft brew, excellent cafes, and, uniquely, the world’s tallest filing cabinet.

Charlottesville, Virginia

This is an aerial view of Charlottesville, Virginia.

Charlottesville, Virginia, is a small city of under 50,000 residents. It is home to The University of Virginia and is considered the gateway to Shenandoah National Park. However, while Charlottesville’s cost of living is higher than the national average, it is still more affordable than Boulder.

Like Boulder, Charlottesville has that intellectual, artsy, outdoorsy vibe. Thus, you can easily find yourself enjoying the water on your kayak in the morning and in the evening catching a live show at the Paramount Theater. The surrounding area also provides more gentle ways to relax, such as visiting the Grace Estate Winery.

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Chattanooga, Tennessee

This is an aerial view of downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is home to around 180,000 folks and sits between the Tennessee River and the mountains. Popular outdoor spots include the underground wonder of Ruby Falls, Raccoon Mountain Caverns, Lookout Mountain,  and Prentice Cooper State Forest. The area is excellent for hiking, rock climbing, paddleboarding, mountain biking, and kayaking. 

Chattanooga has a thriving art community. They also have a must-see Bluff View Art District that features a delicious culinary fair in addition to a gallery and sculpture garden. Other must-sees include the Creative Discovery Museum, The Coker Museum, and the Hunter Museum.

Chattanooga is full of unique experiences. For example, you can join a Ghost Tour. Or, if the outdoors doesn’t strike your fancy, you can climb indoors. Also, this is Tennessee, so be sure to go whiskey tasting at places like Chattanooga Whiskey.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

This is a waterside view of downtown Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is a former timber town that is now popular for its water sports. The place is home to over 50,000 people and is surrounded by the Canfield Mountain Natural Area and Coeur d’Alene National Forest. The area transforms into a winter-sports wonderland in the colder months, including skiing at the Silver Mountain Resort

The town is also a delight to explore. Mix It Up has unique gifts and decor. Bookworms can happily immerse themselves at The Well-Read Moose. Studio 107 combines jewelry, art, and wine into a fantastic combination.

Lastly, the Midtown Home & Vintage Market is a wonderful way to lose time.

Corvallis, Oregon

This is an aerial view of Corvallis, Oregon.

Corvallis, Oregon, is home to over 58,000 people and Oregano State University. Tucked in the Willamette Valley, it has sweeping views of the Coast and Cascade Mountain Ranges. It has also recently opened the 62-mile-trail Corvallis-to-the-Sea.

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If you are looking for something less taxing, go up to Marys Peak and take in the 10-mountain view.

Corvallis and the surrounding area are bursting with vineyards, breweries, and distilleries. A small sample includes Benton-Lane Vineyards, Sky High Brewing, Dragon’s Vineyards, Dirt Road Brewing, and Marcotte Distillery, which has its own Moonshine Club.

The town also has an abundance of art and culture, including the independent movie theater, Darkside Cinema. While there are galleries and studios, you can see a lot of art just by walking around the town. This is due to the Corvallis Mural Project and the Corvallis Alley Art Walk.

Fort Collins, Colorado

This is an aerial view of Fort Collins, Colorado during the summer.

Fort Collins, Colorado, is a city of around 170,000 folks in the northern part of the state. The historic community sits at the base of the Rocky Mountain foothills, and Horsetooth Mountain is one of its most distinctive landmarks. It is also host to Colorado State University.

The city of bicycles hosts plenty of events and festivals. Highlights in the area include the Taste of Fort Collins, Colorado Brewers’ Festival, Fort Collins Peach Festival, and Tour de Fat. They also hold some fun runs, including the annual Thanksgiving Day Run and the Human Race, consisting of 5k, 10k, and a half marathon. 

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

This is an aerial view cityscape of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is a bit smaller than Boulder, with only about 4,000 people, but for some, that’s a bonus. The town is considered the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With over 800 miles of hiking trails in the area, there are routes for every skill level, whether hiking or mountain biking.

Gatlinburg is also known for its whitewater. People kayak, canoe, and tube through the Pigeon River.  But the Smoky Mountains also have plenty of rock pools and lakes for people who want to swim or have a gentle paddle and fish.

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There are also some boat ramps in the area that have disabled access. 

Despite its size, Gatlinburg has a thriving arts scene. They have live music and theater for all to enjoy. Another way to experience what the local area has to offer is by taking a meander down the Great Smokey Arts & Crafts Community Trail.

The area also has a dab hand in the fermented arts. So be sure to check out places such as the Ole Smokey Distillery.

Greenville, North Carolina

This is a street view of Greenville, North Carolina near the university campus.

Greenville, North Carolina, isn’t much smaller than Boulder, with around 92,000 residents. It has many higher education institutions, including East Carolina University and Franklin University. Thus, it has that intellectual spark that Boulder residents enjoy.

People of Greenville love the outdoors, be it playing golf or bicycling along the Swamp Rabbit Trail.  However, its mountain climate is much more temperate, although there are four distinct seasons. You can even get some skiing in at nearby resorts, such as Wolf Ridge Ski Resort.

The area is also host to many museums, sporting events, and art galleries. Festivals in the area include the Farmville Dogwood Festival, the PirateFest, the Greenville Grooves Music Festival. There is even a Greenville Craft Beer Festival, for all you local brew fans. 

Ithaca, New York

This is an aerial view of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Ithaca, New York, is home to over 30,500 people and is in the Finger Lakes region. It hosts Cornell University and other higher education institutions. Thus, Ithaca has that blend of intellectual and outdoorsy vibe that Boulder fans love.

The area is excellent for hiking and mountain biking. Many trails take people to one of the numerous waterfalls in the area. In fact, you can join in on their waterfall challenge, if you’ve got the legs for it.

The town itself has a lot to enjoy, too, including the Cornell Botanic Gardens and the Johnson Museum of Art. There are also some great bookstores, including Buffalo Street Books and Odyssey Bookstore. And, of course, there is beer, including the Ithaca Beer Co and the Liquid State Brewing Co.

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Juneau, Alaska

This is an aerial view of Juneau, Alaska.

Juneau, Alaska, is home to over 32,000 folks and is the state’s capital. The town is framed by the Gastineau Channel, Mount Roberts, and Mount Juneau. It is decked out in early 19th-century architecture and has narrow streets that are a delight to explore.

It is the only US capital city inaccessible by road. The city can only be reached by boat or airplane.

The area is spectacular, perfect for outdoor activities and witnessing wildlife in their natural habitat. Just outside Juneau are the Southeast Alaska islands, which are teeming with brown bears. In summer, the orca whales and humpbacks arrive, and the fishing is fantastic.

There are also many ways to explore the Juneau Icefield, which is bigger than Rhode Island.

Juneau is also full of cultural delights, such as the Juneau Douglas City Museum, Last Chance Mining Museum, and Sealaska Heritage Institute. There are also some wonderful galleries, including Juneau Artists Gallery. There are also two unmissable bookshops: Hearthside Books and the dog-loving Rainy Retreat Books.   

Missoula, Montana

This is an aerial view of Missoula, Montana.

Missoula, Montana, with over 73,500 folks, has a lot in common with Boulder: university town with quirky shops,  excellent food, a plethora of craft beer, an abundance of art and music, all tucked into the Northern Rockies where three major rivers collide.

People here enjoy the outdoors regardless of the season. Even the mountain bikers keep going in the snow, thanks to fat biking. People paddleboard, kayak, ski, raft, boulder, and mountain climb.

The Missoula area is also well known for its excellent blue-ribbon trout fishing.

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Missoula loves music and hosts it in a variety of venues. One truly special spot is the KettleHouse Amphitheatre on the banks of the Blackfoot River. Other popular places to check out are The Wilma and Top Hat’s.

They also host many music fests, including River City Roots Festival and Travelers’ Rest Festival

Olympia, Washington

This is an aerial view of Olympia, Washington.

Olympia, Washington is the state’s capital and home to over 51,000 residents. Thanks to being on the Puget Sounds, it has a much milder climate than Boulder. During the year, temperatures rarely drop below 23 F or exceed 91 F, and those are the extremes.

However, there is still great skiing only two hours away, due to Olympia’s proximity to the mountains.

The great outdoors is just a part of the everyday lifestyle of Olympia. There is hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and plenty of places to camp. The most famous nearby park is Olympic National Park.

But it isn’t the only natural wilderness to explore, including the Mima Mounds, Mount Rainier National Park, Brewery Park at Tumwater Falls,  and Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

The area is also excellent for coffee, craft beer, and wine. Check out Olympia Coffee and Revival Motors & Coffee for your caffeine fix. For homebrew, take a look at Well 80 and  Whitewood Cider Co. Or sample local wine and beers at Scatter Creek Winery.

Roanoke, Virginia

This is an aerial view of Roanoke, Virginia.

Roanoke, Virginia, is a community of over 99,000 people in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The area is known as “America’s East Coast Mountain Biking Capital.” Thus, like Boulder, Roanoke residents know how to enjoy the outdoors.

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Other outdoor treats include hiking, camping, paddling The Upper James River Water Trail,  or relaxing at Smith Mountain Lake.

There is plenty to enjoy in the town, too. Check out the Roanoke City Market, a farmer’s market operating since 1882. Make sure to stop by Black Dog Salvage, which is a wonderous treasure trove that’s a pleasure to get lost inside. Lastly, don’t miss the museums, such as the Virginia Museum of Transport and the Taubman Museum of Art.

Roanoke also has great coffee, wine, and craft beer. Two of the many coffee shops to visit are Roasters Next Door and Mill Mountain Coffee and Tea. Then, if you love to brew and dogs, you need to visit Big Lick Brewing Company.

Lastly, be sure to hike to the vineyards to sample some fantastic wine.