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    Boulder, Colorado

    National Laboratories in Boulder

    It's not unusual on any given day to hear Boulder mentioned in national news coverage of groundbreaking scientific research. Punctuated by acronyms such as NCAR, NIST and NOAA, such stories reveal that Boulder's three national laboratories — the National Center for Atmospheric ResearchNational Institute of Standards and Technology, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration — have been busy making some of the world's most important discoveries about Earth and beyond.

    The presence of these prodigious institutions not only raises Boulder's collective IQ, but it also provides visitors with a few unique and fun learning opportunities. NCAR, whose geometric, rust-colored buildings are nestled against the Flatirons, offers an exceptional visitor program that includes tours, hiking trails, a theater showing educational films, art galleries and hands-on climate and weather exhibits. See some of the world's largest and most advanced computers, touch a simulated tornado and take in the gorgeous views of Boulder.

    NOAA's tours take place at 1pm each Tuesday and include stops at several working portions of the laboratory where you'll be the first to learn the national weather forecast. A high point of the tour is the Science on a Sphere stop, which involves a very cool and very large animated globe.