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There are many reasons to fall in love with Boulder. If you’re planning on visiting this popular Colorado town that sits at the base of the foothills of the Rockies, consider these fabulous things to do to make the most of your experience.
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Get a close-up look at the Flatirons
The Flatirons are the iconic rock formations that come into view when approaching Boulder, and they’re a popular destination for hikers and rock climbers. While there are numerous treks throughout the area, the Flatirons Vista Loop Trail is a good one to take for picture-postcard photos. It winds through ponderosa pines and wide open spaces which skirt the famous Flatirons just south of the city. It’s an easy 3.3-mile trek that can be accessed just south of Highway 128 along Highway 93, and you’ll also have the chance to spot wildlife like mule deer, black bear, bobcat and coyote. In the winter both golden and bald eagles are frequently seen.
Visit one of the country's top open-air malls
Pearl Street Mall is often ranked among America’s top leading open-air pedestrian malls, and it’s truly a must-visit while you’re in Boulder as its central hub, even if you aren’t the “mall type.” It’s a fantastic place for people watching and free, live entertainment with at least a few, and often many, buskers that include everything from outstanding musicians and singers, to fire-eaters, contortionists, and those who have especially unique talents, like the famous zip code man. Plus, when it comes to shopping, there’s truly something for everyone, from high-end fashion retailers and bookstores to sporting goods, art, housewares, unique boutiques and more. Fuel up for the day by sitting down at any one of the many coffee shops, watching the diverse array of people go by, and then start exploring!
Check out the Boulder Farmers' Market
Named the No. 1 farmers’ market in the country by readers of USA Today, the Boulder Farmers’ Market is a weekly ritual for many Boulderites. A growers-only outlet, shopping here guarantees the best selection of locally grown, seasonal produce, as well as cheeses, meats, eggs, herbs, flowers, wine and gourmet food products in the entire county. Serious foods, local chefs and others know to arrive when it opens at 8 a.m. every Saturday, for the very best selection, particularly during the summer when Colorado-grown fruits, corn and leafy veggies arrive. It’s a great time to enjoy breakfast with the freshly-brewed coffee, baked goods and an array of prepared foods created by local chefs in the outdoor food court. Or enjoy lunch in the afternoon in shaded seating area while relaxing to live music.
Play in Boulder Creek
Boulder Creek runs right through town and it was named one of the top 10 tubing rivers in the U.S. by Men’s Journal. If you visit during the warm summer months, be sure to take advantage of it by renting a tube in town (available from several locations like White Water Tube Co.) and then enjoy gliding downstream. If you’re a kayaking enthusiast, head to Eben G. Fine Park where you’ll find a stretch of the creek that offers a 20-slalom-gate course to hone your paddling skills. Another option is to soak up the sunshine along the shore and just occasionally wade in to cool off. No matter which you choose, the creek is a wonderful place to be when it’s hot out.
Chautauqua is another great place to enjoy the Flatirons, located at the base, but it also offers quite a bit more. This National Historic Landmark hosts charming rental cottages that range from efficiency to three-bedrooms complete with kitchens, all surrounded on three sides by open space, making a great place for basing yourself to explore both the mountains and the town. Enjoy watching the flowers dance in the breeze at the Centennial Garden, learning about the area wildlife and even watching music performances, as well as hiking the 48 miles of scenic trails. The park also houses a historic dining hall that has a wonderful outdoor patio where you can absorb the picturesque views along with the delicious taste of fine cuisine.
Catch a show at Boulder Theater
This gorgeous Art Deco theater was built as an opera house in 1906, and was later transformed into a movie theater. Today, it’s considered one of the city’s finest venues for live music, independent films, and community events. If you get a chance, you should really see a show here. No matter what your tastes, there is bound to be someone good playing while you’re here, with everything from local alternative and jazz bands to international musicians. The reason this theater is such a standout is that it has an incredibly intimate atmosphere, and the stage and its performers can be seen from any vantage point – it’s also rather easy to make your way to the front, or other parts of the theater during the course of a show as the audience tends to move about rather fluidly.
Explore Eldorado Canyon State Park
Boulder is all about the outdoors, so unless you plan to stay for an indefinite time, you’ll have to choose from the myriad of options. Hiking and horseback riding enthusiasts may want to put Eldorado Canyon State Park on the top of their to-do lists, as it offers especially picturesque trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Rock climbers can climb the 850-foot sandstone canyon wall, and, if you like to fish, the park’s stream offers great fishing for rainbow trout. Picnics along the creek at the bottom of the canyon are popular too, and at the Visitor’s Center, there are exhibits on the canyon’s geological formations as well as the history of the park.
Get out on the Boulder Creek Path
If you want to get some exercise in town, you’ll find miles of paved path that meanders right through the heart of Boulder, aptly known as the Boulder Creek Path. It’s easily accessible for all types, whether you want to walk, jog, bike or skate, and you can mingle with lots of locals along the way, many of which use it as a way to commute to work as a more environmentally-friendly option. It runs right alongside the bubbling creek, beneath shady old-growth trees for about 5.5 miles to Boulder Canyon on the west end and Stazio Ballfields on the east end, just past 55th Street.
Considered one of Boulder’s top attractions, astronomy buffs and stargazers won’t want to miss visiting this CU-Boulder landmark. There’s no place you’ll feel closer to the stars than at Fiske Planetarium. You can gaze at the heavens from Zeiss, one of the most notable stargazing machines in the world, and the planetarium also hosts star shows, laser shows set to everything from Lady Gaga’s music to Pink Floyd classics; exhibits, lectures and astronomical/NASA-related space events. Some of its presentations have include “Black Holes,” “Dynamic Earth,” “Super Volcanoes,” and “Zula Patrol.” Fiske’s dome shows the universe with remarkable detail and incredible clarity – like an IMAX theater, Fiske can take you near a black hole, through the Grand Canyon, into deep ocean waters and up to a super volcano. If that’s not enough the Sommers-Bausch Observatory hosts free open houses for public viewing through 16-and 18-inch telescopes every Friday evening when school is in session, hosted primarily by university astronomy grad students and faculty.
Sample the local brews and take a brewery tour
After a nice long hike, you might want to visit one of the local breweries for a taste and a tour. There are over 20 in Boulder alone, and even more in the county. Just a few of the top picks include Avery Brewing, Boulder Beer, Twisted Pine, and Left Hand Brewing. You can pick up a Boulder Beer Trails brochure at area visitor centers, take a walking tour from Boulder Brew Tours or catch a ride on the Boulder Brew Bus. Avery was chosen as the 2015 Brewery of the Year with beer experts noting that it “embodies everything right within the Colorado brewing industry,” and “always produces outstanding beers, and its adherence to strict quality control standards are second to none.” Its new Gunbarrel location serves an excellent array of house beers including some offbeat styles, along with a brewpub menu. It also offers tours and a dog-friendly patio.
Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Unless you’ve been to Tajikistan, you’ve probably never seen an authentic Dushanbe Teahouse. Handcrafted by artisans in Boulder’s sister city of Dunshanbe, it was shipped piece-by-piece from the Tajikistan city and assembled in Boulder. It’s not only a one-of-a-kind in the Western Hemisphere, but an inviting and peaceful place for sipping pretty much whatever tea your heart desires, and enjoying a bite to eat while taking in the intricate carvings and paintings that cover every inch of its interior. International cuisine is on the menu for breakfast, lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, or come for traditional afternoon tea, where you can choose from 80 premium teas. It also hosts a full bar and a creek-side patio.
Take the Celestial Seasonings Tour
Celestial Seasonings is the largest tea manufacturer in North America, but that’s not why you should visit. The company was founded in 1969, long before the fairly recent tea craze hit the U.S, with flower children, led by Mo Siegel, starting out by picking wild flowers and herbs in parks around the area to brew them into an assortment of teas. While it’s grown a lot since then, Celestial has managed to retain its passionate attitude for tea-making, as well as its sense of community and delightful bohemian spirit. Take a tour (named one of the best food factory tours in the country by USA Today readers), and you can sample some of the nation’s most beloved teas like Sleepytime, breathe in the wonderful aroma of the practically legendary Mint Room, watch how the tea is made, and view its famous tea box art in the gallery. It’s a wonderful way to spend an afternoon and it doesn’t cost a thing, other than the purchases you make in the gift shop, which sells tea and other hard-to-resist Celestial Seasonings-related items.
Feed Your Inner Foodie
Bon Appétit named Boulder the “Foodiest Town in North America,” which means dining at as many of its eateries while you’re here is really a must. You’ll have a practically ridiculous choice of award-winning options, like The Kitchen, an eco-friendly bistro with a kitchen that sources as much of its food as possible locally, taking great care to use the best organic ingredients available in simple, elegant, delicious, healthy and community-building dishes. Mountain Sun is the ultimate outdoorsy yuppie hangout, located on the East End of Pearl Street, with inexpensive yet incredibly tasty fair and great micro-brews. Zeal – Food For Enthusiasts, was founded by a triathlete whose taste for clean, lean, mean cuisine drives a kitchen that also derives inspiration from global traditions. It offers a colorful atmosphere with items like the miso bowl with eggplant and wild mushrooms, and carrot-falafel burgers that can be washed down with the particularly savory cold-pressed green juice, or, a creative cocktail.
Take a Banjo Billy Bus Tour
Banjo Billy’s Bus Tour is the perfect excursion for anti-tour travelers. Don’t be like others who just watch the school-bus-turned-hillbilly-shack rambling around town and wonder, “What is that?!” It’s always a ton of fun as Billy is a great entertainer and really knows his Boulder history – so you’ll not only learn more about the city, but you’ll have a great time listening to the ghost stories, legend and lore while you sit on a saddle, recliner or couch. The Boulder History Tour is a 90-minute excursion through the city that includes the strange tale of a haunted hotel, the “mystery” at Macky Auditorium, the story of a former president and Boulder madam, and more.
Visit one of the country's top natural science museums
The University of Colorado Natural History museum is one of the top natural science museums in the country and showcases natural and cultural wonders from around the world, with a special focus on the Southwest and the Rocky Mountains. Its noted for having one of the most extensive natural history collections in the region, boasting more than four million artifacts and specimens. It spans everything from anthropology, botany and entomology to paleontology and zoology, showcased in a wide range of exhibits and displays that are open to the University and the public. Located on campus in the Henderson Building, admission is free.
Explore the Boulder History Museum
Exploring the Boulder History Museum is a great way to learn more about the history of Boulder and the surrounding region. Located in the historic landmark Harbeck-Bergheim House on University Hill, it boasts a collection of more than 45,000 objects of historical significance, along with permanent and temporary exhibits. If you’ve got little ones with you, they’ll love playing in the Discovery Room, while you check out the rest.
View the largest private collection of Western art in the nation
Just down the road from Celestial Seasonings Tea in the Gunbarrel area of Boulder, the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art is a unique museum that’s part of the famous greeting card company that has been creating Western-themed greeting cards for nearly 70 years. It hosts the country’s largest private collection of Western art, and as such, you’ll be greeted by the monumental 15-foot bronze sculpture entitled “Invocation.” Enter the museum and you’ll be thrust into the drama of the Old West through the art, sculpture and collectible exhibits that are the results of the company’s founder Ed Tumble, which grew from his quest to find original art by Western artists for reproductions on the now very popular cards.
Enjoy free live music and a perfectly-poured Guinness
There is an outstanding variety of artists that come through intimate venues in Boulder like Conor O’Neil’s, a lively traditional Irish pub that offers one of the best ways to spend an evening in downtown Boulder. Guinness is on tap, of course, along with a variety of other stouts, lagers, ales, ciders and a number of tasty micro-brews. Weekly live music is a staple, where you’ll often here collaborate bluegrass pickin’ that will get you tapping your toes or even up on your feet to dance, and there’s plenty of space to move around.
Visit the Revamped Dairy Arts Center
The Dairy Arts Center is housed in an old dairy plant, although with its recent renovation it now has a decidedly modern look, with a new facade, a new and vast atrium-style lobby and a reconfiguration of the visual arts galleries. But one thing definitely hasn’t changed – it still represents all the arts under one roof: dance, theater, music, cinema, visual art and more, as the largest multi-disciplinary arts center in Boulder. Visitors can enjoy an array of of captivating artistic performances, along with high quality visual art. There are three galleries representing the works of more than 80 regional, national and international artists, along with a mix of special presentations by groups like the Boulder Art Association.