The Smartest City in America

by Osman Parvez

Congratulations Boulder! Forbes Magazine calls us America's Smartest City.

From Forbes:

Boulder, Colo. may seem like a surprising winner, but it’s no ordinary university town. The University of Colorado’s students and staff account for about 38,000 of the city population of 282,200. Boulder, though, is also sticky enough to keep many of its own graduates around--and attract others.

“Boulder is recognized as a very exciting town to go live in,” says Bert Sperling, founder of Sperling’s BestPlaces. “It’s attracting young degree holders who want to go somewhere with an outdoor lifestyle.” If they don’t come for the mountain scenery, it’s for the employment opportunities. The National Center for Atmospheric Research, located in Boulder, has more than 120 Ph.D. researchers on staff and hosts hundreds of visiting scientists.

Percentage with a bachelor’s degree or higher: 52.9%

Percentage of population 25 and older whose highest
educational attainment is a bachelor’s degree: 31.55%

Percentage whose highest degree is a master’s degree: 14.20%

Percentage whose highest degree is a professional degree, such as a degree from law or medical school: 3.13%

Percentage whose highest degree is a Ph.D.: 4.01%

Add that to our regions's long list of superlatives.

Ft. Collins was ranked #7 on the smartest cities list and recently ranked best place to live to CNN/Money Magazine. Not too long ago Louisville was ranked the best affordable city to raise a family.

Still not convinced? Here's a list awards our City has won in the last few years...


"10 Great Biking Cities" - Washington Post, October ‘06

"Heart-Healthiest City" - (#4), Men's Journal, August ‘06

"Top 12 Best Veg-Friendly Places to Live" - VegNews, August ‘06

"Best City for Green Meetings" - (#9), Meetings and Conventions, August ‘06

"Dream Towns" - (#1 All Around), Outside Magazine, Aug. ‘06

"Top 20 Greenest Spots in the Country" - Vegetarian Times, July/Aug. ‘06

"Top Places to Retire" - Where to Retire Magazine, July/Aug. ‘06

"Best Cities For Singles" - (#1), Forbes Magazine, July ‘06

"Top 10 Brainiest Small Cities" - (#3),, June ‘06

"Best Places to Retire in Style" - (#1), Fortune Magazine, June ‘06

"Top 25 Arts Destinations" (#10 for small cities) - AmericanStyle Magazine, June ‘06

"Best Cities for Relocating Families" (#4 for mid-sized metro areas) - Worldwide ERC and Primary Relocation, May ‘06

"Top 10 Greenest Cities" -, April ‘06

"50 Best places to Live" (#3) - Men's Journal, April ‘06

"Most Vegetarian-Friendly Cities in the U.S." (#7)-, April ‘06

"Best City for Cycling" - Bicycling Magazine, March ‘06

"Best City for Teleworking" (#1 small metro area list) - Sperling's BestPlaces research firm, March ‘06

"America's Top 100 Places to Live in ‘06" (#3) -, March ‘06

"America's Best Vegetarian-Friendly Small Cities" (#7)-, March ‘06

"Top Biking City" - Bicycling Magazine, March ‘06

"Place you dream of living" - Backpacker Magazine, February ‘06

"Top 10 Places to Retire" - Bottom Line Retirement, January ‘06


"#1 Best Place to Live" - Successful Meetings, ‘05

"#6 in "The 100 Best Art Towns in America" by John Villani

"50 Best places to live - best overall city" - Men's Journal, March ‘05

“Colorado’s Best Workplaces for Commuters” -United States EPA, April, ‘05

"Going to Boulder" - The New York Times, May ‘05

"#18 in the Top 25 Art Cities" - American Style Magazine, June ‘05

"Top 20 greenest spots in the country" - Vegetarian Times, July/August ‘05

"7th Best Running City" - Runner's World Magazine, August ‘05

"Top 10 cities for masters athletes" (#7) - GeezerJock Magazine, September ‘05

"50 fabulous gay-friendly places to live" - book by Gregory A. Kompes, November ‘05


“36 Hours in Boulder, CO” - New York Times, Jan. 30, ‘04

“Top 20 Boom Towns” (Boulder ranked #1) - Business 2.0, March ‘04

“Top 10 cities for Animal Wellness in North American” - Animal Wellness Magazine, March, ‘04

“Colorado’s Best Workplaces for Commuters” –US EPA, April, ‘04

“Five Impressive Cities; Making a Difference in the Environment” -Delicious Living magazine, April ‘04

"Bicycle friendly community" - League of American Bicyclists, April ‘04

“Nation’s reigning bike friendly community” - The League of American Bicyclists, June ‘04

“Best place in the country for singles (Denver-Boulder)” -, June ‘04

“The Best Small Cities” - Men’s Journal, June ‘04

“Best place to move” (Boulder/Longmont) - Worldwide ERC and Primacy Relocation, Sept. ‘04


“Best Overall Place to Live” - Men’s Journal, May ‘03

“Best cities for singles” (with Denver) - Forbes, June ‘03

“Best College Sports Towns” - Sports Illustrated on Campus, Sept. ‘03

“Outside University: The top 40” - Outside Magazine, Sept. ‘03

hat tip: HP

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  1. Magazine-bestowed awards are meaningless, statistic-based drivel. Boulder has its share of problems as well, let's not forget. And at least one (I'm sure there are a few more) was a dubious award granted to Denver - "#1 Singles City" - not Boulder. And, on another note, Boulder's great successes in all of these categories has noticeable side effects: "Lily-Whitest City in America" and "NIMBY-est" City in America come to mind...."Best City In America for Well-To Do Artists" ...maybe next year. ;> Many (most?) of the folks who work in and visit Boulder live outside of it. There is a policy of anti-residential growth in this City (how green!), and young families not in the top tier of income are not a part of this community (save the bone or two of "affordable (read: resale restricted)" housing. Exit Utopia...

  2. Yes, we do need more diversity, though it's much better now than it was when I first moved here. I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only brown person in Boulder. Our South Asian population seems to be growing quite nicely from what I can tell.

    On real estate prices, you're right. They are definitely higher than surrounding areas, but frankly it's a very desirable place to live. More demand + limited supply = higher prices.

    In any case, the city has taken massive steps to increase the stock of affordable housing. I'm planning to blog on the process of qualifying for affordable housing in the Spring so stay tuned.

    As for "Not In My Back Yard" (NIMBY), I don't see the problem. People who live here are very active politically and care deeply about our community. Maybe that leads to NIMBY but it's not as if we're advocating for toxic waste dumps and coal fired power plants in places outside of Boulder.

    No, it's not utopia. We have our share of problems, just like anywhere else. But it's a community I'm very, very glad to call home.

  3. Harvard, MIT, Standford, and CU Boulder.

    Yep, I always put those in the same sentence.

  4. Thanks for commenting Anon.

    The article from Forbes is on the city, not on the educational institution(s). Although I'm proud of our CU, it has a ways to go before it's in the on par with MIT or Harvard. However, having lived and worked in Cambridge, I strongly prefer Boulder.

    I haven't lived in Palo Alto. I hear it's quite nice, although much pricer than Boulder. I'm assuming you mean Stanford (not Standford).

  5. Wow!!! I'm impressed, but not suprised.

    However, I tend to agree with Anonymous on some levels. I work in Boulder, and being in the vicinity is great, but if I were having kids, I think I'd want to raise them elsewhere for the aforementioned reasons. I often feel that Boulder proper breeds a lot of snotty, wealthy, well-educated folk whose generousity is cloaked in greed. I often feel that Boulderites are too liberal for their own good, and they do their city a lot of disservice (i.e. prarie dogs.)I also think, as a non-expert on this, that the real estate market in the city is OUTRAGEOUS and the price per square foot is RI-DIC-U-LOUS. This kind of adds to the superiority complex of the city, IMHO.

    Keep in mind that I do think there are a LOT of very, very nice people and things in and about Boulder, and we've enjoyed much of our time spent there, but the aura of self rightousness is not so prominent if you go a few miles outside the city limit.

    :) Enjoy New Zealand!

  6. Your market analysis graphs show the median sales price of a "home" in Boulder is $550,000. NAR data says median price of an "existing single-family home" is $366,000.

    What's the deal?



  7. The NAR data on Boulder is for the "Metropolitan Area." I don't know what constitutes the local metropolitan area specifically, but it's obviously including much lower priced neighboring markets. See my market analyses for Longmont, Broomfield, etc. You'll find much lower median prices only a short distance from Boulder.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Osman - back to your counterpoints - I would say that the "limited supply" is artificially produced via large land purchases and no-growth policies, as well as City ordinances which limit building height, not to mention VERY expensive building permit fees. This is my point in accusing Boulderites of NIMBY-ism. This is, unfortunately, a national trend, not just Boulder. Boulder simply has the political will, savvy (?), and money to see it through. ps - I am Anon post #1, not #2... Final thought - I like Boulder as you all seem to - however, it is important to be critical in order to make things better. A sense of complacency due to ridiculous accolades and high median home prices serves no one (except maybe r.e.agents ;>). Boulder should put its money where its mouth is and find a place for young families, blue-collar workers, and -gasp- children - you know Boulderites - your employees...

  10. Hi Anon,

    I removed your duplicate post. Hope you don't mind.

    Yes, I agree with being critical of Boulder but I also believe in working to improve it. The negatives expressed about Boulder in these comments have validity. That's why I spend time volunteering in the community and am becoming more active in civic affairs and local groups.

    I add that having lived in several cities (on the east coast), I left and eventually returned to Boulder because I realized what I was missing. I think there are few cities that offer what Boulder does. Yes, it comes at a price. But unlike many areas, the good news is that if you think Boulder is too expensive, you can find a great home/community only 15 minutes away (like Caroline did).

    Try that in NYC, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, etc.

    p.s. Existing sales volume and low barriers to entry leave plenty of business to take from our competition. When I write about the positive aspects of Boulder, awards we've won, etc... it's because I'm proud of our community.

  11. It is good to be proud of your (our) city - and Boulder has a lot to be proud of, indeed. Most of my reactions are based on the feeling that it is unfortunate that the wonderful amenities of such a community are available primarily to the wealthy. This is also the case in other realms - such as healthy food (see any report re: organic food pricing premiums / availablity in low-income regions / economics behind fast food ,etc.) Can you not see the injustice in such a system? (sounding very boulder-ish on that one) Also - 15 minutes in 2006...15 minutes in 2010? 2020? We will see. As Boulder's "barriers to entry" persist the congestion due to workers commuting in will increase, as growth outside the protective land ring increases exponentially. Alernatives to driving are a mixed bag today - with buses and bikes it is difficult (for most) to be prompt, and light rail is decades away (big mistake). I am a native of Eastern Pennsylvania, and I have seen this happen around Philadelphia (not to mention NYC, Boston, Baltimore, DC, etc etc). Western cities are next. I find it incredibly ironic that the baby Boomers (my parents, aunts, uncles) who fled the city centers in the 60's 70's 80's and 90's are now scooping up million dollar condos in city centers nationwide so they can retire and "be near the action" in their golden years? This has / will force the Gen X / Y folks - just now beginning to look for houses - to buy where they can afford it - the suburbs their parents are abandoning (Erie anyone?). This is a counterproductive cycle, and ensures our dependence on gasoline - and foreign oil - for years to come. Cities are growing, they are vital to our future sustainability, and they must grow and make a place for everyone in order to save mankind from itself. Density is a major key. We must begin to think about contracting our infrastructure to make it more efficient, less dependent on energy to move people to work each day, etc. Boulder must consider itself in such a way or it is part of the problem, not the solution. Thank you Osman for allowing me to vent a bit - and for providing the impetus and forum for it...


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