Did you know that Boulder has an arch, much like the ones in Arches National Park in Utah? Me either—which surprised me, because I’ve lived in Boulder for 13 years, and as the managing editor of the city’s premier outdoor magazine, tend to be in the know about such things. Plus, the 25-foot Royal Arch is located in Chautauqua Park amid the city’s most popular and well-trodden hiking trails. Geesh, where have I been?
Stuck in my same old Boulder outine, apparently. I hike Green Mountain and Sanitas and run the Mesa Trail. I meet friends at Amante in Nobo and we bike to Jamestown via Olde Stage. I grocery shop at Whole Foods, drink tea at The Laughing Goat, and order the house red at The Kitchen Next Door for half price during happy hour. I do the same things over and over and over again, saving my curiosity for travel writing assignments in exotic places like Nepal and Patagonia and Kenya.
Meanwhile, my hometown remains mostly unexplored and underutilized. Or at least it did. As of last week, I started to shift my perspective. I was inspired after interviewing Alastair Humphreys for an upcoming article. Humphreys has ridden his bike 46,000 miles around the world, rowed across the Atlantic Ocean in 45 days, and crossed Iceland’s rugged glacial highlands on foot. But he’s made the biggest impact advocating microadventure—short trips in his own hometown that prove adventure isn’t dependent on size or distance.
I can’t think of a better place for a microadventure than Boulder. Just walking down the Pearl Street Mall on a Saturday night is an experience—the street performers, the eclectic mix of people, the Glacier ice cream stand. But I couldn’t even remember the last time I people-watched on Pearl with a bowl of gelato. So I planned a weekend in Boulder, a staycation if you will. I coordinated it with my boyfriend’s and my anniversary and threw in a night at the St. Julien Hotel & Spa to really make it feel like we were vacationing in our own hometown.
Apparently, we’re not the only ones. St. Julien’s Spa Director Candis Ayers says that their weekend package, The Bon Vivant, gets more local couples than out-of-towners. In fact, of all the couples that have signed up for The Bon Vivant since the package launched this past summer, only one was from out of state. “It was a bit of a surprise for us,” says Ayers.
This is because the two-day Bon Vivant package features activities that any local could do any time without having to go through the St. Julien—activities that showcase Boulder’s outdoor lifestyle and wellness culture, like a hike at Chautauqua (to say, Royal Arch) or ice-skating at the outdoor rink in the winter. The package includes a morning yoga class, a juicing demonstration, and a massage. “We thought this package would be a fun way for out-of-towners to get to know Boulder,” says Ayers. “But its biggest appeal has been for locals wanting a fresh perspective on their own town.”
Jean-Francois and I began our staycation at Boulder Farmer’s Market on Saturday. Instead of fighting the crowd as we frantically shopped for produce before kids had to get picked up from soccer, we held hands and meandered. We chatted with locals selling free-range grassfed meat, Colorado wines, and roasted poblano peppers. We sampled goat cheese and apples. We even had someone take a photo of us standing in front of a particularly colorful display of beets—kind of like tourists.
Then we donned our trail runners and hiked to the Royal Arch at Chautauqua. Instead of immediately turning around and hiking back once we reached it, we climbed up the arch as far as we could, perched like a pair of birds overlooking Boulder, and just sat and talked. Back at the St. Julien that evening, we hung out in the sexy Round Room at the T-Zero Bar and sipped artisan cocktails made from vodka and, interestingly, beets. There’s a small chance we drank too much, err, beet juice because 8:00 a.m. came way too early the next morning. We slept through yoga, but made the juicing demonstration. Who would have known that drinking juiced carrots and celery, with a dash of lime, almost immediately cures a hangover?
As we sat on the back patio with our magic potions and watched the sun light up the Flatirons, Jean-Francois looked at me with a wry grin. “You know,” he said. “I really think we should move here.” I laughed. We both did. What an incredible place to live. I suppose I already knew, on some level, that you don’t have to travel to Africa to find meaningful new experiences, but our staycation weekend was a refreshing reminder.