A Historic Cottage Retreat In The Rocky Mountains


Colorado Chautauqua is a cottage retreat at the foot of the Rocky Mountains
The dining hall amidst the snow at Colorado Chautauqua
Picnic at Colorado Chautauqua

 Colorado Chautauqua – A Fusion of Present and Past

By Kate Guilford

Chautauqua is my favorite of the many jewels that make up Boulder, Colorado. Nestled at the foot of the majestic Rocky Mountains lies a triangular neighborhood of 100 individualized cottages flanked by the Historic Chautauqua Auditorium, Dining Hall and Community House.

From your cottage doorstep you’ll find gardens, grassy areas, and open space with hiking trails that lead into the mountains. If lucky you’ll spot deer, fox, raccoon or skunk while you’re here. Just don’t scare the skunk! This is the only year round Chautauqua in the country and the only one with free public access to its grounds.

Chautauqua cottage in the snowSixty cozy cottages are owned and rented by the Chautauqua Association during the busy summer season, fewer the rest of the year. All have porches and fully equipped kitchens. The other forty cottages are privately owned, many by people who have been coming here for generations.

I feel like I’ve gone far away from Boulder to family summer camp when I arrive at Chautauqua. I’m always inspired and excited by its simple elegance, historic buildings and natural setting. From the east rim by the Auditorium, you get a bird’s eye view of the city and surrounding plains. Mountains, huge rock guardians of the premises, rise in the south and west.

Chautauqua’s Dining Hall has been named a National Historic Landmark. One side of the charming open air, wraparound porch provides an outstanding view of the mountains to add to your dining delight at breakfast, lunch or dinner. On the other side of the porch you get a festive feeling, sitting close to one of the grassy areas with hanging baskets of flowers and in sight of the Auditorium. Of course, you can be seated indoors any time of year. For several years, the Dining Hall was voted Boulder’s best outdoor dining spot, and the chef is known for using fresh, local produce.

The Community House, built in 1917, boasts a 1,404 square foot main room, accented by the use of warm natural wood, an expansive balcony and a bay window. The baby grand piano and gas fireplace make it an extraordinary venue for weddings, concerts, lectures and other special activities.

You will find an abundance of year round outdoor activities to choose from daily. I like Chautauqua Gardenssitting on one of the strategically placed benches or at a picnic table to read, write and people-watch. You can see kids playing on the green, lovers walking hand in hand, families spread out on blankets and teenagers testing their physical prowess with frisbees.. Laughter and delighted squeals of young children ride the air from the playground. Maybe you would prefer playing tennis, rock climbing or hiking.

In summer you will find a myriad of organized events at Chautauqua including silent movies accompanied by a ragtime pianist, lectures, the Chautauqua Concert Series, art classes, music classes and my favorite, the Colorado Music Festival.

All CMF and Chautauqua Series concerts take place in the Auditorium, on the National Register of Historic Places. When you look up at the extraordinarily high, open beam ceiling, you’ll wonder how they could have built this auditorium without the use of cranes. Yet, it was constructed in only 51 days for the opening of Chautauqua on July 4, 1898.

 It has been voted one of the top ten places artists love to play because of its superior acoustics and intimate feel. Raising the side panels on hot evenings for air circulation enhances the building’s indoor-outdoor atmosphere. A few of the notables who have performed here with the Chautauqua Series are Michelle Shocked, David Byrne, Los Lobos and Indigo Girls.

The CMF includes a full orchestra that involved musicians from 48 states and eight countries last summer. They performed all nine Beethoven symphonies. This year the festival will run from June 27 - August 7 and will include “five of the greatest piano concertos of all time.” Michael Christie, the proficient and innovative music director of the program also brings outstanding guest performers and world music to the festival.

Spring flowers at the pedestrian mall in BoulderChautauqua holds something for everyone. However, if you feel the need for a more urban environment, busy downtown Boulder, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary, is just a couple of miles away.

Summer brings a festive atmosphere to Boulder’s pedestrian mall with street entertainers (don’t miss the zip code man!), bright flowers and outdoor music. You can enjoy browsing the shops, eating at a sidewalk café or sitting on a bench with an ice cream cone.

Treat yourself to a trip to Chautauqua this year! Who knows? I may see you there. It’s my favorite place to be in summer!


For more information on Colorado Chautauqua:

 Accommodations and availability

Dining Hall website for menus and special events.

Colorado Music Fest

Kate Guilford works as a Life Coach, Hakomi Therapist and Life Story Writing facilitator. She considers herself fortunate to have lived in Boulder for the past 20 years.