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Things to do in Boulder, Colorado

13 Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado 

Home to the University of Colorado, and one of the best rock climbing destinations in the state, Boulder attracts loads of outdoor enthusiasts. Its many hiking trails, scenic vistas, and proximity to the Rocky Mountain National Park are big reasons why.

Located about 30 minutes from Denver, Boulder has always been known for its healthy lifestyle, big student population, and wonderful landscapes. 

Recently, Boulder was also named the best place to live in the United States, according to U.S. News and World Report’s annual list. The report highlighted Boulder’s intimate connection with nature, its stunning scenery, strong economy, and low crime rate.

While Boulder might seem like a small town, it offers all big city amenities with its world-class restaurants, museums, art, and culture. Add superb opportunities for recreation to the mix, and you might never want to leave. 

Thinking of visiting Boulder, Colorado? In this article, we take a look at some of the best things to do in Boulder.

1. Take a hike in Boulder, Colorado 

If you are an avid hiker, you will fall in love with Boulder, as it offers a myriad of trails for all levels. For example, Chautauqua Park, one of the most popular hiking places in Boulder has a great combination of easy to moderate and difficult hikes. Not only will you get to see the iconic Flatirons, Boulder’s famous mountain range, you will also get a nice overview of Boulder as you hike the loop. 

Feeling more adventurous? Try your hand at Mount Sanitas, one of the most challenging hikes near Boulder thanks to its rapid altitude gain. Try Green Mountain, a difficult, yet spectacular trail located on the northern side of Chautauqua Park that takes you higher in the mountains above the town and provides a 360-degree view. 

If you are a photography enthusiast, take a hike through the Bluebell Canyon to the Royal Arch, a granite formation neatly tucked into the Flatiron Range. This is a challenging trail with over 1,000 feet of altitude gain, so make sure to bring plenty of water and put on good hiking shoes. 

Another option is to take a drive up Flagstaff Mountain, for a spectacular view of the city of Boulder, as well as Colorado’s eastern plains stretching far out in the distance.

2. Visit Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountains National Park is among the best places to visit In Colorado
Rocky Mountains, Colorado: Photo by Hunter James

The most popular national park in Colorado, Rocky Mountain is located just one hour away from Boulder. Renowned for its stunning alpine landscapes, Rocky Mountain National Park boasts great hiking trails for all levels, and opportunities for wildlife watching. You could see elk and deer, and if you get lucky, even a bear. The scenery is jaw-dropping.

With several million visitors a year, Rocky Mountain National Park has been impacted by mass tourism. To remedy this, Park managers have implemented a reservation system that requires all visitors to register online ahead of their visit. Initiatives such as these help preserve Boulder, Colorado’s natural resources, while still allowing us to enjoy them.

Rocky Mountain National Park has an entrance fee of $35. If you plan on visiting multiple national parks in the United States, consider purchasing an America The Beautiful National Parks Pass for $80 that will give you access to all national parks in the system for one year. 

By planning your visit for weekdays, and early in the morning, not only are you able to enjoy uncrowded trails, but you’re helping to do less harm to the landscape. Weekends and holidays get quite a lot busier.

When you visit Rocky Mountain National Park, make sure to stop at Estes Park. This is the closest town to the Park, and we recommend visiting some locally-run restaurants.  If you bring your kayak, Estes Park is also a great spot for putting in.

3. Enjoy Vegan Food in Boulder, Colorado

Sustainable Eating should be among the must-do things in Boulder, Colorado
Jill’s Restaurant, Colorado: Photo Credit

Boulder’s vegan food scene is on point. For a relatively small town, Boulder offers a lot of plant-based options, and it has even been named one of the best cities for vegetarians by the HuffPost.

The Boulder, Colorado vegan restaurant scene has evolved over years and it’s no longer just standard fast food and bland salads. The city offers a sophisticated array of vegan eateries where you can try “veganized” versions of famous dishes from all over the world and more casual comfort food style meals.

Some of the most popular vegan restaurants in Boulder are Jill’s Restaurant with high-end vegan options and a vegan Ooh La La Lunch Buffet that takes place during specific times from Monday through Friday. Another place that should be on your list is called Leaf, a full vegan restaurant with a gourmet menu that sources most of its food directly from the local Leaf Farm. 

Finally, Shine Restaurant and Gathering Place is a popular gluten-free eatery where you can easily swap dairy ingredients. 

What’s more is that Boulder even has monthly meet-ups of vegan groups, cooking classes and grocery stores that cater specifically to vegans. 

Boulder’s pedestrian-only thoroughfare, the Pearl Street Mall is the heart of the town where you can find some of the most popular restaurants, grab a drink, enjoy shopping, and pop into some art galleries. A popular gathering spot for tourists and locals, Pearl Street Mall is home to beautiful historic storefronts and a vibrant downtown scene. 

It’s a perfect place to relax, people watch and see local artists and performers. Grab a fat burrito at Illegal Pete’s and enjoy the festive street atmosphere, as this pedestrian thoroughfare is always busy. If you are visiting in summer, sit down at one of the patios and take in the special atmosphere of this place.

4. Drive to Neighboring Nederland, Colorado 

If Boulder is not enough, take a quick trip to the neighboring Nederland, a hippy paradise that will give you a good idea of what Boulder was like many years ago. 

Back in the day, Nederland was nothing more than a mill site where workers processed silver ore from the nearby mines. Today, it is known as one of the top destinations in Colorado for cross-country skiing, hiking and camping. And as popular Colorado destinations increasingly feel crowded, Nederland maintains its authenticity. 

Nederland might not be famous among travelers but it offers a taste of real Colorado with its unpretentious downtown and staples like Carousel of Happiness, and the newly launched Frozen Dead Guy Days winter festival.

Visiting in winter? Check out Eldora Mountain, a local ski resort just outside of Boulder. 

5. Take a Drive on Peak to Peak Highway 

A road trip on the Peak to Peak Highway is among the top things to do in Boulder, Colorado
Peak to Peak Highway: Photo By Bethany Yanchick

Continue your way from Nederland to Estes Park along Peak to Peak Highway, a historic road that bears the title of Colorado’s first designated scenic byway. The winding road will take you through Arapaho National Forest and give you a glimpse of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. 

Take your time exploring this scenic route, as you will find a number of highlights, such as the quirky ghost towns of: Hesse, Caribou and Apex. Explore countless hiking trails before arriving at the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Spare at least half a day to explore Peak to Peak Highway. 

6. Get Your Music fix at the Fox and Boulder Theater

Boulder is known as an outdoor destination, but it also has plenty of culture to keep you entertained. The Fox Theater on the Hill (or University Hill) puts on plenty of exciting performances and is a perfect spot to get your dose of live comedy and music entertainment. 

The facade of the theater with its bright colors and a neon marquee make it one of the most iconic art venues of Boulder. Check the line-up ahead of your visit to enjoy performances of big names as well as budding local artists. 

7. Enjoy Art at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art 

A museum tour is among the most unique things to do in Boulder, Colorado
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art: Photo by Richard Peterson

Attention, art lovers, you don’t have to go back to Denver to visit cool art venues. Enjoying the art scene is one of the best things to do in Boulder. Head to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art where you can find art works easily rivaling those at big-city museums. The Museum offers numerous exhibits and you can easily check the program online ahead of your visit. 

8. Enjoy Local Brews 

Sampling craft beer is quintessentially one of the best things to do in Colorado and something many visitors look forward to.

The Boulder, Colorado brewing scene includes fantastic breweries like Avery, Boulder Beer and Upslope. And if you are a true beer lover, you might want to know that there’s also the Boulder Beer Trail along which you can find many popular spots such as Bohemian Biergarten and Oskar Blues

9. Sip Some Tea at the Dushanbe Tearoom 

One of the most unusual places in town, Dushanbe Tearoom is a gift to Boulder from its sister city, Dushanbe, in the central Asian country of Tajikistan. What’s interesting about this establishment is that it was handcrafted by local artists in Tajikistan and shipped to the United States piece by piece before it was carefully assembled in Boulder.

While it is without a doubt a touristy place, it’s absolutely worth a visit because of its incredible ornate interiors and special atmosphere. Enjoy a great selection of dozens of teas and grab a tasty bite of locally sampled food.

10. Boulder’s Farmer Market

For those who want to support the local economy, a visit to Boulder’s Farmer Market is a must. This market takes place on a weekly basis and offers a great assortment of locally grown produce as well as top-notch gourmet foods from all over the country. 

Dubbed as one of the best farmers’ markets in the country, this venue attracts many local chefs, vendors and foodies who come here to stock up on delicious fresh ingredients, especially in summer when you can buy Colorado-grown fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and spinach.

Head to the outdoor court where you can have local chefs prepare delicious food right on the spot. Unlike many stores, food and produce at Boulder’s Farmer Market is fresh and guarantees the highest quality. If you follow a healthy diet, this place is definitely worth a stop. 

11. Walk Along Boulder Creek Path 

If you are not in the mood for hiking, but still want to get some exercise, head to Boulder Creek Path that offers miles of paved trail and is popular with joggers, bicyclists and dog walkers. Located underneath sprawling old trees, this is a gentle scenic trail that offers a great opportunity to burn some calories out in nature.

12. Paddleboard at Boulder Reservoir 

One of the most overlooked places in Boulder is its namesake Boulder Reservoir, a perfect place to cool off on a hot summer day. Shortly called, Res, by locals, this scenic place offers perfect opportunities for boating, paddleboarding, and hiking, all without driving too far away.

13. Hike Eldorado Canyon State Park 

The Eldorado Canyon State Part is Among the Best Places to Visit in Boulder, Colorado
Eldorado Canyon State Park: Photo by Intricate Explorer

While Rocky Mountain National Park continues to attract tourists from all over the country, there are plenty of alternatives within a quick drive from Boulder that don’t require a lot of driving. One of them is Eldorado Canyon State Park that sits about 20 minutes outside of Boulder. This compact state park offers opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and trail running. Even if you don’t feel like a lot of physical activity, the incredible scenery is enough of a draw.

What is the Best Time to Visit Boulder, Colorado?

Boulder is a beautiful place to visit at any time of the year, with summer being a peak season thanks to warm temperatures that are perfect for spending time outside.

Winter is an incredible time to see a different side of Boulder. It will be much colder, and your opportunities for recreational activities are limited because of lower temperatures. If you are looking for a perfect time to visit Boulder, plan your visit for late spring before the beginning of the peak season or early-to-mid fall when the crowds are mostly gone. 

Daria Bachmann

Daria Bachmann

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