Here in Boulder, we’re almost always looking westward. The hiking trail winding up into the foothills we’re about to step onto. A mountain sunset over the Flatirons. But if you turn around and head east for just a few miles, you’ll find Lafayette, a neighboring Boulder County town with a colorful, unique story that blends the old time history of the pioneer era with its currently booming cultural, craft beer, and food scene, and of course incorporates that “just right” amount of Boulder County quirk.
Lafayette, like many Colorado towns, started out as an area frequently settled by pioneers in the 19th century. Gaining land via the Homestead Act in the early 1970s, newlyweds Lafayette and Mary Miller made the trek to settle in Colorado and lived and worked in what is now Longmont, Boulder, and Lafayette for a number of years. Lafayette Miller, who ran a butcher shop, volunteered with the fire department, and was a town trustee in Boulder during his life, passed away just a few years into their Colorado stay. Mary, widowed with six children, moved back to their Lafayette area farm and began to manage it by herself. After coal was discovered on the Miller farm in the mid-1880s, Mary took a 158-acre portion of the land and designated it for the town, naming it after her late husband. Mary Miller would go on to be a huge supporter and leader in the up-and-coming settlement.
The Miller farm area would become one of the richest coal sites in the whole Boulder Valley area. Abundant coal mining dominated the area’s industry for the coming decades and, although the time was often marred by labor strikes, the town did prosper. When the last of the mines closed in the 1950s, with coal having been replaced by natural gas, Lafayette reverted back to being an agriculture-centric community. As Boulder and Denver continued to grow, Lafayette likewise grew into the residential, community-driven town it is today.
Lafayette today is a town of about 25,000 that balances its agricultural history with creative new businesses and progressive arts and culture. Old Town Lafayette, the city’s historic heart, includes ample art both in galleries about town and in the alleys of the city thanks to the local grassroots organization Alley Arts Amazin. With a wealth of small hometown businesses, bars, and restaurants, there is no shortage of local flavor and flair.
Lafayette and its downtown are also home to a variety of festivals and community events throughout the year, from the ever-popular Peach Festival in the summertime to the Lafayette Quaker Oatmeal Festival and 5k (coming up on January 14th!), Art Night Out, Lafayette Brewfest, and farm stands galore. There are also ample opportunities to celebrate the town’s history at its many museums, including the Lafayette Miners Museum and the WOW! Children’s Museum.
There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors in Lafayette, from the Indian Peaks Golf Course to Waneka Reservoir and Waneka Lake Park. Bikeways and parks wind their way and are scattered throughout town, and open lands are abundant.
Lafayette naturally wouldn’t be a quintessential Colorado town without boasting innovative and exciting new craft breweries as well. Stop by Liquid Mechanics Brewing Company for a pint of their Peanut Butter Porter and to tune into some live music. Duck into Odd13 Brewing Company, who often host limited release tappings and can releases of their creative brews. If you’re craving savory food, head to The Post Brewing Company and enjoy both delicious brews and fried chicken, or stop into Front Range Brewing Company to raise a glass.
Whether you’re looking to learn about Colorado’s frontier history, imbibe in some Boulder County craft brews, or experience a local small town culture, Lafayette is a unique and exciting city to visit.