Because Boulder often feels like the small-town version of a city, a lot of people start to assume they’ve seen and done everything there is. In fact, even a lot of locals tend to fall into the same patterns after a while, and end up not leaving their particular corner of town as often as they probably should. But for those who like to try new things, and especially for those who are coming into town but want to avoid the tourist spots, there are still a number of hidden gems around town that are – in many peoples’ opinions – even better than the most famous spots around.
First thing in the morning, stop by the Unseen Bean Café for fresh coffee. Despite being on Broadway right off Pearl St., the Unseen Bean often gets lost among the bigger (or chain) coffee shops downtown. Despite this, they serve one of the best cups of joe in town.
For food, it’s easy to bounce around Pearl St. for a week without ever stopping at the same place twice. But one of the best restaurants in Boulder is Blackbelly, tucked away East of downtown by 55th and Arapahoe. They pride themselves on serving delicious farmhouse-style food, paired with fantastic wine, beer, and cocktail options. While you’re in the same complex, stop by Wild Woods Brewery for a local beer you might not have heard of before getting in to town. Their straightforward approach means you don’t have to sift through a thousand exotic beers to find something you like – you can’t go wrong with any of their staples. For that matter, head across Arapahoe to Bru, the aptly-named local brewery that has surprisingly good food in addition to their fantastic beers.
For lighter fare, Zoe Ma Ma is hidden off the West end of Pearl on 10th St., and the number of locals who don’t realize it’s there is shocking. Authentic Chinese food (no General Tso’s here) in street-food presentation means you can assemble your own meal from smaller items or grab one of the entrees for one-stop shopping.
For a uniquely Boulder-style afternoon of entertainment, pop over to the Valmont Park Disc Golf Course or Bike Park across the street. Free, open to the public, and beautifully maintained, both of them are ideal ways to spend some time outside surrounded by locals – you won’t find many trails as open and uncrowded as this. Indoors, the CU-Boulder Museum of Natural History is beautiful and fascinating for both kids and adults. If you’re into a whole science day, the star/laser shows at Fiske Planetarium are great fun. The star shows do a great job of explaining the visible sky from Boulder, while the laser shows are just good 70s-style fun for an evening of Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin.
For a nice escape and a uniquely foreign feel, stop by Dushanbe Teahouse for a cup of tea or a meal. The stunningly beautiful building is covered in authentic mosaic, and was literally shipped to Boulder from its sister city of Dushanbe, Tajikstan. The food and tea are delicious, but the building itself is the star. There’s no quicker way to feel like you stepped into a foreign country, while still being biking distance from home.
For a drink or a night out, check out No Name Bar or Rayback Collective. No Name is up on the University Hill, behind a door with no sign, and is home to one of the best selections of whiskey in town. Even better, they’re partnered with Cosmo’s Pizza next door, so you can sit in a shadowy speakeasy with a tasty drink – and a slice of classic pizza. Rayback, tucked right off the bike path between Valmont and Glenwood, used to be a plumbing supply warehouse, and was transformed into a food truck-and-beer focused gathering spot. In the summer, the outdoor area is one of the largest and best in town, while in colder months, the indoor section is plenty inviting. Not to mention, a bar you can bike to is the best kind for sure.
So don’t throw away your guidebooks or local business maps, but when you’re in Boulder, get out and explore a little more, because the best parts of town aren’t always the most crowded. Whether it’s a beer or a snack somewhere less obvious, or an outdoor day that isn’t on a trail, you can always find something fun outside the usual suspects.