A dog sleeping on the counter at Old Tibet. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Cultural Things To Do in Boulder


Boulder is an unusual town. While the residents are 88 percent white, many of the residents are college students and world travelers. The University of Colorado brings more than 34,000 students to Boulder, and of those, about 35 percent are not white.

Boulder is also highly creative. Expedia named it one of America’s “Most Artistic Towns,” and the National Endowment of the Arts ranked Boulder third in the country for working artists per capita. This forward-thinking attitude dates back to the turn-of-the-century, when Boulder was dubbed the “Athens of the West.”

Boulder has more than 30 art galleries (don’t miss multiple galleries at the Dairy Arts Center), many museums (including the Boulder Museum for Contemporary Art and the University of Colorado Museum) and plenty of reputable, cultural festivals, such as the Boulder International Film Festival, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Colorado Music Festival.

So while Boulder can’t claim to be the most ethnic city, it is still rich in culture. And there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in diversity, various perspectives and creativity.

Here are some of the best cultural things to do in Boulder County.

The exterior of the Dushanbe Teahouse. Courtesy photo

Drink Tea at the Dushanbe Tea House

This ornate, artistic building is a shining star for culture in Boulder. The unique Dushanbe Tea House, 1770 13th St., Boulder, was designed in Tajikistan. It was shipped in pieces from overseas and assembled here in the colorful building that you can enjoy today. Reserve a spot for a full tea service, complete with pastries and food. Request a spot on a Tajikistan-style table, on cushions instead of chairs.

Relax in Ku Cha. Courtesy photo

Also check out the Ku Cha House of Tea, 1211 Pearl St. in Boulder. This Chinese tea shop and tea house is a peaceful respite on the busy Pearl Street Mall.

A dog sleeping on the counter at Old Tibet. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Shop at Old Tibet

Due in part to a shared love of mountains, yoga and Buddhism, Boulder draws a surprising number of people from Tibet, and Boulder residents have a special place in their hearts for Tibet. Downtown is home to two different Tibet shops, including Old Tibet at 948 Pearl St., where you can find cultural goodies and gifts from Nepal, India and Tibet. Look for meditation products, jewelry, books, music, clothes, home decor and more.

Narayan and Sreejana Shrestha founded Old Tibet in 1986, as a way to share the Nepalese culture and support the growing number of Tibetan and Nepalese people moving to the area.

Also check out Emilia Ceramics, 311 Mapleton Ave., adjacent to the Sanitas Trailhead in Boulder. Here, you can find hand-painted ceramics made by artists around the world, including Spain, Mexico, France and Italy.

Want more ethnic shopping? Here are a few businesses to visit:

  • India’s Grocery, 2877 28th St., Boulder: Find imported Indian food and cooking supplies.
  • Asian Market, 2829 28th St., Boulder: This Asian grocer sells imported food, meat and produce.
  • Head east to Longmont for some authentic Mexican shops and grocery stores, including Las Americas Tortilleria, 830 Lashley St.; Las Cazuelas, 917 Main St.; Carniceria El Cerrito, 936 Main St.; and El Corral Vaquero Western Wear, 23 S. Main St.
  • Boulder has some authentic Mexican stores, too, including Fruteria El Valle, 4483 Broadway; Frontera, 2900 Valmont Road; El Valle Market, 2887 30th St; and Panaderia Sabor a Mexico, 2839 28th St.
The patio at Sherpa’s. Courtesy photo

Eat at Sherpa’s Restaurant

This Nepali restaurant, at 825 Walnut St., is staffed by former Mount Everest sherpas. Not only is the food authentic and tasty, but the lobby is filled with mementos of the incredible, true tales of the people who are making your food and serving it to you. World-class mountaineers and adventurers gather on the large patio, clutching cups of chai, to swap stories and tips.

Also check out lunch at the Caspian Deli and Grocery, 2607 Pearl St. It’s simple but authentic, and different than the standard Colorado fare. This counter-serve deli specializes in Middle Eastern food. Fill up on excellent falafel, kebabs and gyros.

Craving more ethnic food? Don’t miss:

  • Las Americas Tortilleria, 830 Lashley St. in Longmont, for tasty tortillas and authentic Mexican food.
  • Check out other ethnic and authentic food in South Boulder, from Indian to Nepali cuisine.
Naropa University. Photo by Flickr user David Shankbone

Spend Time at Naropa

Naropa University is truly unique. This private college, 2130 Arapahoe Ave., was founded in the ‘70s by a Tibetan Buddhist monk, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Today, it’s the country’s only Buddhist-influenced university.

Boulder has other strong Buddhist ties, too. It’s home to the largest Shambhala city center (the Boulder Shambhala Center, 1345 Spruce St.) and the largest publisher of English-language Buddhist books in the world (Shambhala Publications, 4720 Walnut St.). It’s no surprise that the Dalai Lama has paid a visit to town, more than once.

Want to experience more Buddhism in Boulder? Here are a few of the local temples:

  • Boulder Zen Center, 2151 Arapahoe Ave.
  • Hakubai Temple, 1275 Cherryvale Road
  • Nalandabodhi Boulder, 100 Arapahoe Ave., Unit 6
The Museum of Boulder. Courtesy photo

Visit the Museum of Boulder

Learn about Boulder’s history at the Museum of Boulder at Tebo Center, 2205 Broadway. As part of the permanent exhibit on Boulder, you can learn about the Native Americans roots in this area, including the tragedy of the Sand Creek Massacre and Boulderites’ involvement in that.
Exhibit organizers reached out to Arapaho tribe members for this part of the exhibit. Arapaho community members contributed to the development of the historical documentation, narrated the film and animated it.

Note: Look for special events at the Museum of Boulder, like the Immigration Film and Discussion Series, running through Feb. 26. For six weeks, this series explores the history of immigration in the country through film and discussion. Learn more at the Becoming American website.

The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art. Courtesy photo

Can’t get enough museums? Here are some others to visit:

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