Nestled in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and home to the University of Colorado, Boulder is quintessential Colorado. Where directions like “east” or “west” are a thing of the past. Replaced instead with “towards” or “away” from the mountains.
The people here are more on the liberal side (*cough* legal marijuana *cough*) and very easy going. Friendly conversation with a stranger is the norm. And you’re more likely to see people dressed in mountain chic, or athleisure attire, than stuffy business suits. Not that there’s anything wrong with rocking a power suit, of course.
Boulder as a city has amassed an impressive amount of accolades. Ranging from “Top Destinations on the Rise” (TripAdvisor, Jan 2018), “Best Small Cities in the US” (National Geographic Traveler, Jan 2018), and “8 Most Underrated Cities in America” (Jetsetter.com, Apr 2018).
So if Boulder is not yet on your travel target list, add it today! And below are some things to do in Boulder to get you started while exploring this picturesque mountain town.
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WHERE TO STAY IN BOULDER CO
Let’s not put the cart before the horse, so to speak. Before you can fill your trip agenda with a ton of awesome activities, you need to figure out your home base!
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AIRBNB BOULDER, CO
Making a trip to Boulder, Colorado means picking somewhere amazing to be able to rest and recharge after full days of sight seeing. And like many travelers, I find myself turning to Airbnb more often than hotels these days. And luckily Boulder has some beautiful Airbnb options to choose from.
But as a first-time visitor, it’s hard to know where to stay! So I’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Here are some of my favorite Airbnb options in Boulder (that will ensure you’re close to the action):
– This one bedroom, one bathroom downtown loft is located right on Pearl Street and has a private 3rd floor patio with views of Mount Sanitas
– Designed by an architect in the 1920s, this two bedroom, 1 bathroom bungalow guesthouse is modern, inviting, and centrally located
– If you’re bringing a crowd, you can’t go wrong with this three bedroom, three bathroom Chautauqua home that sleeps up to seven and is close to Boulder’s best trail heads
– Within walking distance of CU Boulder, Pearl Street and Chautauqua Park, this four bedroom, four bathroom historic bungalow is all about location, location, location
– Those wanting something more luxurious will absolutely love staying in this four bedroom, four bathroom Chautauqua castle that sleeps up to 10 and has over 4,000 square feet of living space
– Enjoy incredible views from the rooftop deck of this unique one bedroom, one bathroom downtown penthouse in a renovated 1880s Victorian home
– Bring the whole family (up to 12!) to enjoy this incredible four bedroom, two bathroom remodeled historic home with original hardwood floors, exposed brick, and only a block from Pearl Street
– Small but mighty describes this studio, one bathroom industrial chic carriage house that is impeccably designed and centrally located two blocks from Pearl Street
If the amenities (and daily housekeeping) of a hotel is more to your liking, don’t you fret! There are plenty of incredible hotel options in Boulder as well. Some of my favorites are:
1. Dip your toes into a slice of Boulder history at the Hotel Boulderado – it’s also very close to the Pearl Street Mall!
2. For a reliable national chain, check out the centrally located Residence Inn by Marriott Boulder Canyon Boulevard
3. Looking for something a little more luxurious? Then the St. Julien Hotel & Spa is just what you need.
4. A stay at the Boulder Adventure Lodge is perfect for those wanting more nature than city during their trip
5. Booking the Colorado Chautauqua will feel like staying at a quaint B&B (but in the city) and is close to awesome hiking trails
9 AMAZING THINGS TO DO IN BOULDER CO
Now for the fun part. Many know Boulder as the college town nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains, a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts and students. In reality, there is something for everyone in this charming city, from open-air festivals to dazzling hiking trails.
Art museums, shopping streets, beer trails, the array of stuff to do in Boulder are endless – some of the many reasons to travel to this magical part of Colorado. So, smear on some sunblock, pop on some comfortable shoes and dive into some exciting things to see in Boulder, CO.
GET YOUR SWEAT ON (TAKE A HIKE)
Colorado is consistently ranked as of one the (if not the top) healthiest states in the US. If you’re an active person, it can be tough keeping that going while you’re traveling. Luckily in Boulder there is a wealth of opportunities to get outside and get a good hike in.
Boulder is located at the base of the Foothills, and you are greeted with Boulder’s most iconic mountains, the Flatirons. The Flatirons are made up of five rock formations that are said to resemble clothes irons, hence the name. They are so loved that there is a city ordinance on building height to ensure the views are never compromised.
So when in Rome (errr Boulder), definitely take a hike to drink up the sites of the beautiful Flatirons. The easiest way to do that is to head over to Chautauqua Park. Here you have multiple options of trails to choose from, depending on your fitness level and time available.
Or, many choose to enjoy hikes near Denver, like the Red Rocks and Morrison slide trail loop or the Garden of the Gods loop trail. It’s a great way to see more of the beautiful state of Colorado before heading back to Boulder.
CATCH A TEA TIME
And no, I don’t mean golf (meh) or drama (my fave kind of tea)! I’m talking about the stuff you steep in your cup and drink right up. Boulder is uniquely positioned to be a tea hub, given that it’s surrounded by the Rocky Mountains. Many wild herbs and flowers can be sourced from Boulder’s backyard to naturally flavor your favorite tea blends.
And that’s exactly what Celestial Seasonings has been doing in the Boulder area since 1969. That’s right…your favorite cup of tea comes right out of Boulder, where they are still headquartered.
For tea tourists, that means you can visit the Celestial Seasonings HQ and take a free tour of their facilities. And let me tell you what…it’s worthwhile! You can learn about their history while taking in the delicious aromatics of the ingredients that go into their creations.
I’m talking cinnamon from Indonesia, chamomile from Mexico, and ginseng from China. However the most memorable is probably the mint from right here in the US (the smells…holy cow).
DUSHANBE TEA HOUSE
After seeing how all that tea is made, continue your teadventure by heading over to the Dushanbe Tea House. The Tea House was built completely by hand (i.e., no power tools) in Dushanbe, Tajikstan as a gift to Boulder. It was then disassembled, sent halfway around the world, and reconstructed in Boulder for all to enjoy.
Now patrons can sip on their favorite tea infusions, while surrounded by beautiful oil paintings, and the gorgeous, colorful tiling work that makes up the tea house. Their afternoon tea service is affordable, and served every day. Reservations are required, so be sure and fit this into your Boulder plans in advance!
DISCOVER THE PEARL STREET MALL
No Boulder trip would be complete without spending time exploring the Pearl Street Pedestrian Mall. Along this four-block mall you will find some of the best the city has to offer. From shopping, bars, restaurants, people watching and more!
Among the options along the mall, definitely allot some time to check out the iconic Boulder Theater. The theater first opened in 1906 as a venue for opera and silent movies. Still in operation today, it’s now a hot spot in the city to catch live theater shows, concerts, or even stand-up comedy acts.
Take your time walking along the mall, popping into whatever shops pique your interest. You can easily bounce from a jewelry shop, an art gallery, candy store, and a local clothing boutique. And be sure to keep your eyes peeled while you explore! Pearl Street is known for having a variety of street performers to enjoy.
ENJOY AMAZING BEER AT BOULDER BREWERIES
Colorado is a beer-loving state, and Boulder is certainly no stranger to that. The city consistently ranks high (like top 3 in the nation) for having a large number of breweries per capita. So no visit to Boulder would be complete without indulging in some hoppy libations!
Feeling adventurous? Why not acquaint yourself with the city’s suds and hop on the bike-friendly Boulder Beer Trail. If you’re not a lover of the golden froth, the trail also includes distilleries and wineries.
And while there’s certainly no shortage of options to fit your fancy, below are some of my favorites to grab a beer, or a cocktail.
Immediately upon walking in you feel as though you were transported to a gastropub in Europe. They styled the location with exposed brick, wood accents, and long family-style tables a la Germany.
Their taps include European centric options, as well as rotating local favorites. You can even get your beer in a legendary das boot. But don’t overlook their food here, either! You can nosh on pierogies, German sausages, or pretzels and grainy mustard while you sip on your beer of choice.
LICENSE NO 1
This bar is located in the basement of the Hotel Boulderado. And it is so named because it holds the first post-prohibition liquor license for the city of Boulder.
Given that history, the location and décor give off some serious speakeasy vibes. It’s a great spot to grab a drink, listen to some live music (Thurs – Sat), and catch up with a friend!
A beloved Boulder-based brewing company focused on perfecting unique ales and lagers. Their white rascal is a well-known favorite, and one I would definitely recommend trying.
Another Boulder grown brewery focusing on craft microbrews, which are produced in smaller batches than larger breweries. I especially appreciate their company’s sustainability focus. They use recycled cans, minimize water usage, and reduce overall waste produced.
A great option if you’re looking to sample brews across multiple breweries. At their Pearl Street taproom, you can sample their own Oskar Blues creations, as well as beers from other local breweries, like:
– Cigar City Brewing
– Perrin Brewing Co
– Wasatch Brewery
– Squatters Craft Beers
And I can’t help but mention…their food is also fantastic!
EAT AT AMAZING RESTAURANTS
If you’re like me, where to eat while on a trip is towards the top of your priority list. I often plan the rest of my activities around it. Luckily Boulder has a plethora of amazing food options to choose from!
THE LAUGHING GOAT COFFEEHOUSE
The quintessential coffeehouse. An inventive menu, solid wifi, and plenty of seating for yourself or a crew. They have a few locations in Boulder, but the downtown spot (on Pearl Street) is their flagship location.
Here you can enjoy your favorite caffeinated beverage, of course. But they also have live music most days of the week. And they serve alcohol as well!
DOUG’S DAY DINER
I seriously love this place. It’s a local joint, with some of the nicest staff I’ve ever encountered. The food is beyond delicious…possibly because they make everything from scratch. And I mean everything, right down to the jams and jellies. A must stop for an amazing breakfast!
This is a local spot that was featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. They make pretty much everything in-house from the bakery items, slow roasted meats, salad dressings…you name it! They also have a big focus on sourcing locally…which is SO Boulder.
RUTHIE’S BOARDWALK SOCIAL
Ruthie’s is relatively new, having just joined the Boulder food scene in 2018. But gourmet grilled cheese in the heart of Boulder? Sign me up! It’s the perfect spot for that quick-casual lunch as you bounce from one activity to the next.
If you’ve heard of a little place called Chipotle, forget everything you know about it, because Illegal Pete’s is way better. Both were actually started in Colorado, but Illegal Pete’s is a far superior burrito (or nacho, or taco, or whatever your heart desires).
The baja fish is my personal favorite, but you seriously can’t go wrong here. Let your burrito creativity go wild!
This is a southern Italian pizzeria that stays true to those roots. The ingredients are authentic, they fire the pizzas in a 900 degree oven, and they don’t even slice it like you are traditionally used to. These pizzas are meant to be enjoyed with a knife and a fork.
Remember how I dissed Chipotle above (kinda), well Pizzeria Locale is actually a partnership including the founder of Chipotle. So hopefully that redeems myself a tad…it’s delicious pizza!
This spot is half award-winning brewery and half amazing foodery. Their beers are really well done, classic beers that you can drink all night long.
From a food perspective, they’re known to be some of the best fried chicken you can get this side of the Mississippi. Fried chicken and beer…does it get any more American that that??
Gelaterias are becoming more popular in the US these days, and there are a number of options to choose from in Boulder. But what I especially liked about Fior is that their gelato is made fresh daily using local dairy, with absolutely no artificial ingredients. Not to mention it tastes divine.
This is an old-timey candy, soda, and all treats under the sun type of candy store. You can instantly be transported back in time with treats from your childhood you’ve long since forgotten. Or you can be transported to another land with treats not typically available in the US.
Oh, and the hardest part is figuring out what to actually get!
COUNTY FARMER’S MARKET IN BOULDER, CO
The Boulder County Farmers Market provides you with the best locally-grown produce, herbs, and flowers in town.
One of the best things to do around Boulder, CO, is to join in on the market’s festivity on 13th Street every Wednesday (4 pm-8 pm) and Saturday (8 am-2 pm).
My suggestion is you should go there hungry. That way, you can walk around sampling different delights (*cough* for free *cough*). There are also some divine foods available to purchase, as well as various fruits, herbs, flowers, and a seasonal line of crops that Boulder has to offer.
IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR UNUSUAL BOULDER THINGS TO DO
If you’re looking for an unusual way to experience Boulder, then you should try a Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour – and it’s as goofy and quirky as it sounds. It’s a ramshackle, rusty red, wood-paneled, old school bus with funky decorations of fairy lights and tapestry.
But don’t let looks deceive you. The funky bus has ridiculously comfortable seating for your trip around Boulder. You’ll be taken to hidden gems, ‘haunted’ landmarks, and of course the main drags.
SEE BOULDER’S NIGHT SKY AT FISKE PLANETARIUM
A planetarium might sound a little old school, but I kid you not, it’s one of the cool things to do in Boulder, Colorado. This domed structure is part of the Colorado University campus. It houses a planetary projector reflecting a perfect image of the stars and other astronomical objects onto its roof – something awe-inspiring to see.
The planetarium exhibits in the lobby are free and open to the public (yay us), and the planetary shows have a fixed fee.
You’ll also find live astronomy shows, music-themed laser light shows, and lectures weekly, from Monday to Friday (9 am – 4 pm).
WHERE TO GO IN BOULDER FOR AN ADVENTURE?
If you’re keen on walking off those vacation snacks, the Boulder Creek Path is phenomenal. It’s a 5 ½ mile-long trail leading you along a meandering path from Boulder Canyon to the city’s heart.
Enjoy a walk, jog, skate, or cycle alongside the babbling creek, under trees, and boasting some sweeping views.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON BOULDER THINGS TO DO
There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with Boulder. The popular Colorado town that sits snug in the foothills of the Rockies provide an assortment of fun and memorable things to do.
If you’re not out sampling some fine brew and scrumptious foods, or soaking up nature’s beauty in the Flatirons, then what are you doing?
What’s your favorite thing to do in Boulder Colorado? I’d love to know…comment below!
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