Boulder vs. Burlington, VT - can anyone compare/contrast? (living, best, cost)
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thought it might be a long shot, but here goes... Family of 5 (3 young children aged 2, 5, and 7) looking to relocate to an area with mountain access for skiing, hiking, etc. Husband needs to be close to an airport but works from home when he's not traveling. I am a SAHM. Have about $750K to spend on a home. Obviously good schools are important but so is living in an open-minded community. Coming from the Twin Cities and just want a change and slightly better climate with more winter recreational opportunities.
With that background - does anyone have experience with both areas and can comment? We plan to travel to both and check for ourselves but would love to get some prelim thoughts.
There are some clear contrasts with some similarities. My thoughts:
Weather: Boulder is really quite mild when compared to Burlington. Burlington's winter is fierce and cloudy. Snow hangs around for a while. Boulder is rather sunny in the winter and snow rarely lasts on the ground for more than a week with some notable exceptions. Average high/low in winter is 46F/22F in Boulder with close to 70 percent of daylight being sunny in the winter while Burlington's high/low is about 28F/12F and about 40 percent of possible winter daylight being sunny. When you consider that Burlington's winter days are shorter given its northern latitude, I would say you get less than half of Boulder's winter sun in Burlington. In Burlington you get a "wet" cold, which many people feel is colder than the temperature would indicate.
Lakes/water: Burlington absolutely blows Boulder out of the park with its Lake Champlain, one of the largest lakes in the US. The boating, swimming, water skiing, fishing, and views that the lake offers are truly incredible. Even though it's a northern lake, it gets up to a comfortable 70 degrees in the late summer. The lake is large enough that you can always find quiet coves and sleepy islands. Boulder does not have a lot natural water nearby, except for small mountain lakes, which can be pristine but do not offer the expansive recreation of Lake Champlain.
Transportation: You all have moved around a lot, so this may be important. Boulder is one hour away from one of the busiest airports in the world (DEN) that is the 2nd largest hub for United, the headquarters/hub for a major discount airline (Frontier), and a growing "focus city" for Southwest. The level of competition is high with these three airlines, so the fares are lower here than in smaller markets. Burlington has a small airport, higher fares (although having JetBlue there helps), and you need to connect through Newark, Chicago, etc. to get to most places. In some ways, ground transportation is easier in Burlington as Boston and Montreal are within a 4 hour drive. Trains run to NYC and Montreal. In Boulder you drive 4 hrs and it doesn't get to you another major metropolitan area (beside the obvious Denver 30 mins away and Colorado Springs 2 hrs away), although you can get to some beautiful mountains within that time.
Urban amenities: Boulder is 30 mins away from Denver, which is the largest metro area for hundreds of miles. We have all four professional sports teams here, a zoo, children's museum, aquarium, theatre, good restaurants (in Boulder too), one of the best childrens hospitals in the country and perhaps the nation's best allergy and asthma hospital. Burlington is about 2 hrs (and an international border) away from Montreal.
Size: Burlington just feels smaller (friendlier?). Boulder has 100,000 pop in the city and about 250,000 in the metro area, while Burlington is under 50,000 with under 100,000 in the greater area.
Both areas are college towns that pretty white, liberal, and have successful outdoor pedestrian malls. Both towns have a lot of pedestrians and bikers, and people don't look at you as if you're a kook if you ride your bike to work.
Cost of living: Burlington may have an above average cost of living (about $300K+ for an average house), but the city of Boulder is closer to $600K for an average house (although this goes down to Burlington-like levels or below) in parts of its surrounding towns -- Superior, Lousville, Longmont, and Broomfield.
Taxes: Vermont has relatively high taxes -- income taxes and property taxes are higher than Colorado. In Colorado, you pay 4.6 percent state income tax and property tax is about .5 percent of a home's true value (although this depends on the county). Vermont has a progressive income tax structure that begins at 3 percent and tops out at 9.5 percent (for very high income earners). Property tax is higher too -- perhaps someone from Vermont can cite specifics. Sales tax may be a bit higher in Boulder County.
I'm sure others have more to contribute on this topic. If you could deal with the long, cold, and gray winters (or better yet embrace them) and the relative isolation, Burlington could be a great place for a family. If you like the winter sun, urban amenities, and are willing to fork out the cash for a house, Boulder may be better for you.
Final word of advice: Visit both towns in the depths of winter. Many people have moved to Burlington after seeing fall colors there only to be shocked by the prolonged winter cold.
Ned is right -- I was referring to National Jewish Hospital. Allergies and asthma can be very hard to diagnose and treat, and so it's comforting to have a center of excellence nearby.
Spin, I don't know Burlington that well but my sense is that the coffee shops are pretty packed during the day even when UVM is out, if you know what I mean. There are a lot of small-scale organic farms in the area. Ben and Jerry's is based there -- expensive, organic, and tasty stuff with a little bit of grunge mixed in. The new UVM student center is LEED certified. Progressive is the word of day, although there's still an old-school conservative "keep Vermont for real people" crowd. Either you love it, are amused by it/tolerate it, or loathe it.
I forgot to mention the Vermont blueberries and maple syrup. Whenever we're there, we buy up cartons of blueberries and ingest them by the pound like hungry bears. My favorite snack.
Here's a good 2 yr old article on working in Vermont: Vermont workers can't afford to live here | North America > United States from AllBusiness.com (http://www.allbusiness.com/personal-finance/real-estate/4083332-1.html - broken link)
My sense is that there a decent level of telecommuting workers in Burlington, but not as many as Boulder, which has swarms of them. Also, good-paying jobs seem to be hard to find in Burlington and you don't have the greater Denver metro area to draw from when pursuing your career.
The demographic question is tough (30-40 yo gender mix)-- I suppose you think that Bldr has a lot more males than females in that age group. It may be so. Perhaps you could extrapolate from the undergrads at UVM as many of the people in town stick around after they graduate (2/3rds of students are from out of state). Usually US News is helpful with college stats, but they're quoting the student body being 41 percent male and 49 percent female, which if true would mean Burlington is much weirder that we could imagine! University of Vermont - Best Colleges - Education - US News and World Report. It looks like male/female is 45/55. CU is 53/47 according to the Insiders Guide to Colleges. That sounds more promising for the single guy.
The skiing/boarding situation is arguably better in Burlington, although many would disagree with me. In Burlington, you're less than 45 mins away from Stowe, Sugarbush, and other resorts. You see I love getting up to mountain to ski without hanging out in my car for half the day or having to spring for a pricy condo. The only place you can reach that quickly is Eldora from Boulder, which can get good snow but is not a major Colorado resort. Boulder starts looking better if you're ready to do battle on I-70 and go to Breck, Winter Park, Keystone, etc, which are at least 90 minutes away but can be double that on weekends. Burlington has better x-country skiing too. All that cold, cloudy weather makes for good touring, although the mtns west of Boulder are good too.
For education, I don't have much to say about Burlington schools, but Boulder Valley SD is one of the top districts in the state. There are a number of public schools in Boulder at the elementary, middle, and high school levels that John Irwin award winners (top 8% of the state). Learning approaches vary from classic education (in 2nd grade you must learn this body of knowledge) to more of the Montessori approach. In my experience, college towns usually do at least an above average job of educating its youth.
Now we just need to hear from someone who lives there for the real scoop on Burlington. One final thought is that my hunch is that Burlington is not as fitness crazed as Boulder, but I challenge to find a place that is!
Interesting stuff. I didn't realize skiing/boarding was such a distance from Boulder. How far would I have to go to get to some decent hiking?
We are leaning Boulder because of the more moderate weather and the fact that from Burlington, it will take DH a whole day to get to many destinations. (I quickly looked at how long it would take to get to MSP or DIA and both were about 8 hours. I'm sure points east would be shorter, but he travels all over the US.) As much as Burlington sounds like a great city, the travel time is very undesirable.
I know you didn't ask about this area, but we had similar constraints when making our decision and we also looked into SLC. The downtown areas of The Avenues and Sugar House are very progressive, and about 30% LDS. Park City is even lower LDS with a very progressive feel. These two places are in stark contrast to the rest of the state so it's certainly not the same as living in a state like CO, or like living in Boulder (as only *parts* of SLC are counter-culture to the rest of the place, not all of it). BTW, when I say "downtown" they are beautiful homes with a smallish lot (.25 usually), and a great community feel, less crowded than Boulder, etc. And literally half the price of Boulder, but again, it's not Boulder so if you're looking for a dominant liberal attitude throughout the city, then SLC as a whole probably isn't it.
World class skiing is 15-20 min. away, hiking, mtn. biking, etc all right there. Big lakes nearby. Lots of hardcore and not so hardcore athletes (no on the scale of Boulder of course)
SLC airport is a Delta hub, much more manageable to fly in and out of frequently than DIA. Also only a 15 min. drive from Avenues/Sugar House.
All that said, I'm not trying to sell you on SLC. There are certainly downsides which CO doesn't have! We know a number of people who have moved there though from San Fran. who love it there, so just throwing it out there! Boulder is also fantastic of course and of Boulder and Burlington, I would choose Boulder in a heartbeat b/c of winters and b/c of all the mosquitos, black fly, etc. in Burlington. I guess you're used to that in MN, but CO is SO pleasant that way with very few biting bugs, cool evenings, low humidity, etc.
F&T - thanks for your post. For fear of this getting off topic, I am going to IM you.
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