How to Settle the Fort Collins vs. Boulder Debate Once and For All
I'm going to try and frame this Fort Collins vs. Boulder debate as an honest broker — someone who has lived at one point or another in my life in both Fort Collins and Boulder. Granted, I've spent far more time living in Fort Collins over the last 20-plus years than just the couple of years I lived in Boulder in the '90s, but I still believe I can frame this Colorado debate without much bias.
For the purposes of this argument, I've formulated an eight-round fight of tangible things in each city, based purely on my opinion. We'll then tally it up at the end to crown a 2022 champion of which Colorado city is the better of the two. Fort Collins. Or Boulder.
I'm not saying my word is final — maybe your views are different — but I think my methodology here is pretty solid and should hopefully settle, once and for all, which of the two Colorado college towns is, in fact, the one to reign supreme over the other.
1. So, Fort Collins vs. Boulder: Which city has historically had the better college football program?
The University of Colorado Buffaloes has owned the Colorado State University Rams over the entirety of the two schools' histories, dating back to the late 1800s. In fact, the all-time series record stands at 67-22-2 in favor of the Buffs.
CU has won more Bowl Games than CSU — 12 wins vs. CSU's six wins — and has been the only team of the two to win a national championship back in 1990.
You could go a step further and add that CU has a winning record against CSU in all major athletics, with the exception of volleyball. We love our Rams, but ...
2. Which city has better bars and restaurants?
This is a tough category to judge because I think you could make the argument for either city at any point over their history, with the torch passing back and forth between the two depending on current trends.
Did you know that one of the most famous Colorado restaurants opened its first location in Fort Collins? It's true. The Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, well known for the margarita limit and tasty Tex-Mex, first opened in Fort Collins in 1986 and soon expanded to Boulder and a few other locations. I've eaten at both the Rio in Fort Collins and in Boulder several times, and it's a wash between the two as far as whose food is better — they're both great! I've also eaten at one in Austin, Texas, when the restaurant expanded down there for a minute, but I digress.
The users of Reddit and other social media tend to say Fort Collins' dining is not very diverse at the moment. Some agree, some disagree. But most agree that Boulder has a pretty solid selection of restaurants right now.
The history of restaurants in Fort Collins has been very well documented — and I'm including a gallery of restaurants we miss below. We love our Fort Collins restaurants dearly, but we'll let the people settle this one ...
3. Which city, Fort Collins or Boulder, has a nicer area to walk around, grab some ice cream and do some window shopping after dinner?
Old Town Fort Collins is pretty special. I don't want to take anything away from the Hill or Pearl Street in Boulder, but Old Town just has a different vibe. No matter the time of year, standing on Lucky Joe's patio or swinging by Ben & Jerry's for a little treat, before wandering over to the stage to catch a little live entertainment before a quick pint at Coopersmith's can't be beat. Ice skating in the wintertime. The festivals that close down Old Town. All of it. It's a superb vibe that simply cannot be beat.
Advantage: FORT COLLINS
4. Which city is more affordable based on average home prices and rent?
Realtor.com reports the median sold home price in the city of Boulder at the moment is $999,000. That's a cool mil, pal. The median sold home price in Fort Collins right now is $530,000.
Average rent? Rentcafe.com shows average rent in Boulder is $2,210 a month, while in Fort Collins, it's $1,735.
This is a no-brainer.
Advantage: FORT COLLINS
5. Which city has the nicest weather of the two?
Boulder receives 89 inches of snow per year, whereas Fort Collins generally receives 48.1 inches per year.
Fort Collins also, somehow, squeezes more light out of summer days, if by only a few minutes, than Boulder does.
That said, Boulder somehow runs 2-3 degrees warmer than Fort Collins on any monthly average temperature.
But we don't like shoveling, especially if you have a north-facing driveway. That snowfall total is no bueno.
Advantage: FORT COLLINS
6. Which city has the friendlier political climate?
I'll leave this one for someone else to debate. Ask 100 people, and you'll get 100 different answers anyway!
Advantage: So, yeah, this is a tie, a point for each.
7. Which city has the closer proximity to cool things to do outside of the city itself?
While we love ya, Loveland, Greeley and Windsor, and even Cheyenne ... with your Stampede and Frontier Days and Loveland Loves BBQ, in addition to all of your own cool restaurants, bars and breweries ... Boulder is a stone's throw to Denver, compared to Fort Collins. From huge concerts to Broncos games or an afternoon Rockies game — we love you too, Nuggets and Avs — to Elitch Gardens and Water World or the 16th Street Mall and beyond. Whichever city makes a quicker trip to Denver would take this one, especially given both are relatively the same travel time to Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park.
Boulder is also closer to Blackhawk and Central City. Yes, Fort Collins does have Horsetooth, of course, technically outside of the city limits. But Boulder is much closer to I-70 to get you into the mountains for the ski resorts and a plethora of mountain reservoirs up there. And last but definitely not least, while Highway 36 isn't perfect, it definitely isn't half the drama of I-25 from Fort Collins to Denver at the wrong time of day.
8. Does Boulder or Fort Collins have better annual events, festivals and things to do?
The city of Boulder has a few nice events. It has various farmers' markets throughout the year — just like Fort Collins. It has the Bolder Boulder, which is a world-famous marathon, of course.
It does have the Boulder Craft Beer Festival, rumored to return in 2022, but I couldn't find any details anywhere and tick-tock, summer is-a-comin'. Fort Collins has the Colorado Brewers Festival, affectionally referred to as "Brewfest." It has changed a lot over the years, but the memories there give it a strong, strong vibe.
The Taste of Pearl in Boulder is much like the Taste of Fort Collins, but allegedly there will be no Taste of Pearl in 2022. And there will be a Taste of Fort Collins in June this year, again complete with concerts, other entertainment and a boatload of food. In fact, you might want to keep listening for a concert announcement coming very, very soon. There's some inside info for you.
For this reason, the Taste of Fort Collins easily edges out the likely non-existent in 2022 Taste of Pearl, and that pushes this one over the edge for the FTC.
Advantage: FORT COLLINS
So, in the end, Fort Collins beats Boulder by a total score of 5 points to 4 points and is proclaimed as the better of the two cities. It was a close-fought battle, but the Choice City takes it in 2022.