Whether you want to immerse yourself in yoga, film, Shakespeare, craft beer, or all of the above (although that fusion could get a little weird), Boulder’s got a festival for that.
Even fairies and elves.
Composer Gustav Mahler.
Oh, how Boulder loves an excuse to celebrate.
This funky Front Range town is the home to one of the “coolest film festivals in the world,” and Boulder’s big annual events regularly draw celebrities from the silver screen as well as the arts, music and fitness worlds.
While there seems to be a community gathering every day, here are a few of our favorite big-hitters — the top Boulder festivals — brought to you by season.
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Boulder International Film Festival
This four-day celebration of cinema every March is arguably Boulder’s biggest festival, for both its reputation and its crowd. BIFF, as it’s called for short, draws more than 25,000 people from around the world, including prestigious filmmakers and movie stars.
In the past, BIFF has brought to Boulder Alec Baldwin, James Franco, Chevy Chase, Oliver Stone and Martin Sheen, among other big names.
BIFF is a great place to discover the newest up-and-coming flicks. You never know which will go on to achieve Oscar nominations, and you can say you saw it first here.
MovieMaker Magazine named BIFF one of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the world, and we couldn’t agree more.
Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival
The Pearl Street Mall is known for its stunning display of tulips every spring, and this family-friendly festival brings the flowers to life.
Every April, the city plants more than 15,000 tulips straight from Holland along the walking mall, and costumed fairies and elves take to the streets to “awaken” the flowers.
Kids love the whimsical parade and entertainment. The festival includes booths and activities and welcomes costumes. Bring out the wings and colorful attire.
“To see hundreds of girls and boys of all ages with fairy wings or re-purposing their Halloween costumes is nothing short of adorable. This is a one-of-a-kind, only-in-Boulder event,” says Terri Takata-Smith, spokesperson for the Downtown Boulder Partnership.
Boulder Bach Festival
The Boulder Bach Festival is just what it sounds like: a music festival celebrating the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Every spring this respected Boulder festival features high-quality musicians in concerts, educational events, and more. Throughout the year the festival organizes other concerts and events in the community, too.
The festival claims to be one of the most renowned festivals of its kind.
Every May, Boulder is also home to the Colorado MahlerFest, a week-long musical festival honoring the works of composer Gustav Mahler.
Boulder Creek Festival
The beautiful Boulder Creek slices through the city and its rolling waters and the surrounding banks are a hub for outdoor entertainment in warmer months, so it’s only fitting to organize a festival around the creek.
For three days every May, over Memorial Day Weekend, the annual Boulder Creek Fest brings free family fun, entertainment, more than 500 vendors, food and live music to the banks of the creek.
On the itinerary: dance performances, arts and crafts, tech, healthy business and more.
The Creek Fest is one of Boulder’s most beloved events. It’s a Boulder festival not to miss.
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Colorado Shakespeare Festival
Starting in June and running throughout the summer, Boulder’s stunning, historic Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre will transport you back in time. The annual Colorado Shakespeare Festival is one of the most memorable theater experiences you’ll ever have, as you watch the professional actors present Shakespeare’s famous plays underneath the starry night skies.
The plays are also performed indoors at the University Theatre.
Local tips: Come early to dive deeper into the production with a free informational talk about the play. And stay afterward for a talk back with the actors, offered after most performances. Another way to more deeply immerse yourself in the fest is to stop by the Colorado Shakespeare Gardens, which are bursting with plants referenced in Shakespeare’s writings.
Boulder’s annual Hanuman Festival is one of the top yoga and music fests in the nation, and it attracts thousands of yogis and health-minded participants every year.
The festival features some of the most famous yoga instructors (including some of the local yoga celebs), plus live music, healthy food, family-friendly activities and a legit vendor village with groundbreaking leaders in the fitness and wellness industries.
It’s totally possible to enjoy the Hanuman Festival for free or on the cheap, or dive in deep and take three full days to center yourself and personalize your own wellness vacation by piecing together the classes that interest you.
Local tip: If you have to pick one class, look for one taught by Richard Freeman, a yoga celebrity who lives in Boulder.
Boulder International Fringe Festival
Not to be mistaken for the Boulder International Film Festival, the Boulder International Fringe Festival is all about independent art and pushing creative boundaries, presented in unexpected places around town over the course of 12 days. The Fringe Festival features theater, dance, music, and more.
In addition to its annual festival in August, The Fringe Fest organizes different shows, parties, events, and workshops year-round.
Colorado Music Festival
This six-week summer concert session highlights some of the world’s best music at Boulder’s famous Chautauqua Auditorium.
For more than three decades, the music festival has showcased music director Jean-Marie Zeitouni and the Colorado Music Festival Orchestra. It attracts internationally renowned musicians and the National Endowment for the Arts recognized it for its high caliber of performance.
The combination of world-class music and the nearby Flatiron Mountains is hard to beat.
Pearl Street Arts Fest
Boulder is a nationally known arts hub, so of course the city has an impressive arts festival. This July event honors almost 100 of some of the top artists, both locally and nationally, on all kinds of mediums. You’ll see carefully juried and chosen photos, painting, sculpture, jewelry and furniture.
It’s a pretty big deal for artists to get invited to this event.
For two days the Pearl Street Mall turns into a huge, outdoor art gallery and studio, complete with performances, activities, and art that you can buy. Talk about a nice souvenir of your trip.
Chat with the artists, ask them questions and watch them bring their work to life.
Boulder Craft Beer Fest
Colorado and craft beer are inseparable, and Boulder pays tribute to that marriage at its annual, summer Craft Beer Fest. About 2,000 attendees will get a chance to taste brews from Boulder County’s many different breweries, serenaded by live music.
From big names like Avery and Boulder Beer, to smaller breweries like Wild Woods and Finkel & Garf, the selection is impressive and the vibe is totally fun.
Food trucks circle the park, so you can keep ahead of the altitude; beware of how your body processes alcohol if you’re from lower elevations.
Local tips: This festival sells out every year, so get your tickets well in advance. Beer-fest pros wear pretzels on strings around their neck so they can nosh in between samples.
Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Festival
In addition to being a hot spot for extreme athletes, Boulder is also home to one of the world’s most respected aerial dance companies. You know, trapeze, aerial silks, dancing in the air, circus style.
Every summer, Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Company opens its doors to the public and flies in some of the world’s best aerialists. Who knows? You might get to take a class from a Cirque du Soleil performer. The festival is open to all levels, even if you’ve never flown before.
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Reel Rock Festival
The Reel Rock Film Tour claims to be the world’s largest climbing film festival. Aptly, it was founded by a rock climber in Boulder.
Reel Rock takes the top adventure and climbing films on the road around the country all year long, climaxing with its annual fall festival in Boulder. The fest screens films, ushers climbing bigwigs to town, raises money and fuses the climbing community.
Adventure Film Festival
Whereas climbing is the star at the Reel Rock festival, the Adventure Film Fest is about all kinds of inspirational outdoor adventures, from extreme sports to activism through adventure.
The fest spans a street fair, kids’ events and an educational workshop for filmmakers. The films here are truly world-class — more than 30 new, hand-picked films every year. They then head off on a world tour.
This Boulder festival takes place every fall at the Boulder Theater and other locations in town.
A motto: “Make your own legends.” And the Adventure Film Fest is doing just that, in the film industry.
Boulder Fall Fest
The Fall Fest every (you guessed it) fall is one of Boulder’s biggest shindigs. It’s Boulder’s answer to Oktoberfest, where the whole 1300 block of the Pearl Street Mall morphs into a mega biergarten (plus wine) (plus margs).
Kids are welcome, too. There’s a climbing wall and play area for them. Browse more than 100 artists’ work for sale while jamming to live tunes.
Fall in Boulder is thrilling. The university is back in session, the leaves are changing, the snow is coming. The whole season feels like sitting on the edge of your seat.
Moondance International Film Festival
The Moondance International Film Festival is a different kind of film fest. In true Boulder style, this festival features indie films that are non-violent and touch on topics of activism, environmentalism, social justice, conflict resolution and women’s stories.
It claims to be known as the “American Cannes” of film festivals.
Moondance was based in downtown Boulder for more than 15 years, before it moved online. Even though it’s not a physical event anymore, it can’t be denied its influence in Boulder and in film.