Colorado Chautauqua Celebrates 125 Years

Celebrating 125 years this month, the Colorado Chautauqua in Boulder is a serene, enriching cultural retreat.

Colorado Chautauqua
Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua.

Nestled at the foot of Boulder’s striking Flatirons, the Colorado Chautauqua is a quaint retreat laced with modern comforts and a whole lot of culture. This National Historic Landmark has preserved its original purpose since 1898—to inspire through cultural enrichment, lifelong learning, and the natural beauty that envelops its vicinity. With year-round cultural programming, outdoor recreational activities, and unmatched serenity, the Colorado Chautauqua offers an immersive retreat.

With accommodations that resonate with the ethos of “voluntary simplicity,” Chautauqua offers 82 distinct units, with around 60 historic cottages and two iconic lodges. Once mere tents dotting the wooded area adjacent to Boulder Mountain Park in the inaugural summer season, the cluster of charming cottages here today are circa 1899–1954. Ripe with history and filled with atmosphere, no two units are alike—some furnished in Arts and Craft style, others in Mission; some with clawfoot tubs, others with fireplaces. All of the studio- to three-bedroom units offer full kitchens, cozy rooms, large screened-in porches, and luxe seclusion.

Of the many offerings, one stands out as a landmark in its own right: the Mary H. Galey Cottage. After an intensive three-year restoration, the space is now an exquisite retreat for large gatherings. Amid its 2,245 square feet are four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, two wet bars, a catering-grade kitchen, original stone fireplaces, vintage and modern furnishings, and a Colorado contemporary art collection—plus both upper and lower decks with Flatiron views.

- Advertisement -

Traveling with a group? Consider Mission House Lodge. Originally built as an erstwhile school for young ladies in 1911 and named for its period style, it offers a great room, eight bedrooms, a stunning fireplace, a large front porch, and sleeping for 16.

Wherever you stay, don’t expect high thread-count sheets or late-night partying. Part of Chautauqua’s rustic charm is that it feels a bit like summer camp for adults—sans televisions and phones but rife with enriching activities. The park opens the gateway to over 40 miles of hiking trails, tennis and basketball courts, formal gardens, and so much natural beauty.

Seeking a dash of culture, you will be spoiled for choice. The Chautauqua Auditorium, a structure of lofty ambitions and open architecture recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, has been home to legendary music artists like Wynton Marsalis, Lyle Lovett, and Ziggy Marley—plus the best of classical music by the Colorado Music Festival. Adding to the park’s ambiance of artistic stimulation, the Community House provides a more intimate venue for smaller concerts, forums, film screenings, and distinguished speakers.

A Taste of Chautauqua

Even the culinary experiences at Chautauqua are steeped in Colorado tradition. The Chautauqua Dining Hall, a monument to Victorian-era architecture and a local tradition for over a century, serves Colorado bistro cuisine from breakfast through dinner. Its wraparound porch provides a dining experience that combines fine food with panoramic views. The freshly—and painstakingly— reconstructed Chautauqua Café, another historic landmark, serves salads, sandwiches, and refreshing drinks under its tented seating area with prime foothills views. The adorable white clapboard General Store is where you’ll find homemade ice cream, caffeine boosts, snacks, sundries, and great people watching.

Celebration at Colorado Chautauqua
Photo courtesy of Colorado Chautauqua.

The Diamond-plus Anniversary

July 8 marks the Chautauqua 125 Birthday Bash, celebrating its significant milestone as one of the few chautauquas in continuous use since its founding. This community festival promises to be a grand spectacle, complete with live music, tours, food trucks, games, historic exhibits, and public art, culminating in a special concert with Los Lobos and Ozomatli in Chautauqua’s iconic 125-year-old Auditorium. Throughout the year, Chautauqua continues to honor its age-old values of lifelong learning, love of nature, voluntary simplicity, music, oration, and the arts through enriching cultural programming. In honor of the anniversary, the Colorado Music Festival hosts the world premiere symphony JFK: The Last Speech, a landmark program that begins with two additional world premiere performances.