Ultimate-Guide-to-Things-to-do-in-Boulder

Ultimate Guide of Things to Do in Boulder

In Arts & Culture, Attractions, Contest, Entertainment, Food & Drink, Health & Wellness, Shopping, Sports & Outdoors, Things to do, Where to Stay by Aimee Heckel0 Comments

There are so many things to do in Boulder that it can be hard to narrow it down.

In just a single hour, you could ride a tiny elevator from your Victorian hotel room to have brunch in a historic (and haunted) hotel, then see a contortionist stuff his body into a tiny box while people juggle fire on stilts nearby, while you sip locally roasted coffee or a craft beer blended with locally roasted coffee, on your way to ride a tube down the bubbling Boulder Creek.

And that’s just one hour. The day’s got 23 more.

If you’re looking for adventure, entertainment or even relaxation in Boulder, here are your best options.

What to do in Boulder Outside

Casual Activities

Rock Stacking in Boulder Creek

Rock Stacking in Boulder Creek. Photo by Tyler Percy

The best parts of Boulder are outside. In fact, Outside Magazine called Boulder the best place in the country for outdoor sports and Storage Talk crowned Boulder the nation’s No. 1 Best City for Outdoor Recreation Enthusiasts.

There are different components of Boulder’s outdoor scene: the more relaxing, casual side and the sporty side. While these often effortlessly intersect, here’s what to do if you want to get some fresh air — but maybe you forgot your deodorant or you just don’t want to break a sweat.

A classic first stop is at Chautauqua Park, which is packed with outdoor fun, including hikes with music and theater in the mountains. The open-air, pedestrian Pearl Street Mall is a must-do in Boulder, from the shopping to the people-watching. Carve out time to watch the entertaining buskers. You can even eat outside in Boulder, when you grab a meal at a food truck. Here’s the scoop on Boulder food trucks. Or grab a bite and a drink on one of Boulder’s great patios. If you’re lucky, you might be able to catch some live music outside, too.

West End Tavern Patio.

West End Tavern Patio. Courtesy Photo.

Then, bring your camera to one of the best places for a view in Boulder.

Get your wiggles out at one of Boulder’s scenic parks, before heading to one of the nearby campsites, where you can pop up a tent or RV and sleep under the stars.

If the timing is right, a fun way to get outside is at one of Boulder’s many festivals; you can find them throughout the year, although some of the biggest ones occur in summer, like the Annual Creek Fest. These are typically free, open to the public and family-friendly.

The Boulder Creek Fest from above.

The Boulder Creek Fest from above. Photo courtesy Meg Denbow

Sports

Athletes flock to Boulder. It’s the home of endless races, including the Bolder Boulder and multiple Ironman competitions. A long list of famous athletes have Boulder ties, too. Just looking at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Casey Andringa (freestyle skating) and Joanne Reid (biathlon) both live in Boulder. Reid was an NCAA champion cross-country skier at the University of Colorado-Boulder before she got into biathlon. And Jake Pates, snowboarder, was born in Boulder.

If you’re inspired by Boulder’s ties to the Winter Olympics and want to get active outside in the cold weather, the Eldora Mountain Resort is right in our backyard. Renting skis is easy to do right in town. You can even have them delivered to your hotel room.

Diamond Lake trail sign.

Diamond Lake trail sign. Photo by Bryan Neely

Then there’s hiking — yes, year-round. Despite Colorado’s reputation for snow, winters in Boulder can often be quite mild and a brisk, wintertime hike is a peaceful way to start your day. Bonus: Fewer crowds. Or for the ultimate Boulder way to do winter outdoors, there’s snowga. That’s just what it sounds like: yoga in the snow.

If snow savasanas aren’t your thing, get outside for yoga in the summer. You can find yoga classes in Chautauqua Park or incorporated with hikes, although the biggest annual event for yogis is the Hanuman Festival downtown.

hanuman festival

Participants at the Hanuman Festival. Photo courtesy Tony F. Photography

And if potentially icy hikes send shivers through your body, for a new take on the trails, try night hiking. Another favorite hike is Mount Sanitas, which is close to downtown. The reward: some of the best, panoramic views of Boulder.

Boulder’s other big outdoor sport is, of course, biking. You don’t have to travel with your bike, though. There are many places in town to rent a bike, or you can pick one up at one of the BCycle bike share stations all around town. With those mountains nearby, it’s hard not to want to try the wheels on some rougher trails. Mountain biking is huge around here. If you’re new, you can find mountain biking classes or guided tours. If you’re experienced, oh, we’ve got some challenges for you. Fasten your helmet.

Mountain Biking in Boulder. Courtesy Photo.

Indoor Things to Do in Boulder

The interior of the Iconic Boulder Book Store. Courtesy Photo.

It might sound ridiculous. Nearly impossible.

But sometimes, you want to hang out indoors when you’re in Boulder County.

In a community with such a breathtaking natural habitat and endless outdoor adventures year-round, it can be hard to imagine any reason to head inside. But on those rare occasions when the weather is too uncomfortable, your grip is too T. rexxed to go rock climbing again or you need a time out from Mother Nature, there’s no shortage of fun under a rooftop in this part of the world.

Here are the best indoor things to do in Boulder.

  1. Visit the Planetarium.
    The Fiske Planetarium is one of the coolest things to do indoors in Boulder. This magical, entertaining dome at the University of Colorado-Boulder has science and nature shows, as well as laser shows and shows about the stars, art, music and more.

  2. Play Games.
    Play pinball at Lyons Classic Pinball, one of the most renowned pinball destinations in the state. Also check out the arcade at the Gateway Park Fun Center, Press Play (a bar where you can play pinball, arcades, air hockey, pool and more) and the old-school arcade games in the basement of Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons.

  3. Explore the Museums.
    art classes

    Summer Art Classes at World Of Wonder. Courtesy Photo

    Boulder County is a heaven for museum-lovers. For kids, there’s Lafayette’s World of Wonder Museum, where kids can play dress-up, do science experiments, make arts and crafts, play musical instruments and more. Bonus: Check out the seven best indoor things to do with your family here.
    The new Museum of Boulder is another hot spot to check out, with exhibits on sports, inventions and more.

  4. Cozy up at the Library.
    Boulder’s public library regularly holds special events, like storytime, live music, art exhibits and more. Inside, you’ll find a theater and a healthy restaurant, too.
    The George Reynolds branch of the Boulder Public Library is not as well-known and a hidden gem in south Boulder.
    If you want to curl up with a book, consider visiting Boulder’s independent bookstores, too. Two of the most popular ones in downtown are Trident and the Boulder Book Store. There are also smaller ones, like Red Letter Second Hand Used Books and the Lighthouse Bookstore, both on Pearl Street, plus niche stores, like Innisfree (poetry) and Time Warp (comics).

  5. Hit up the Rec Centers.
    Boulder’s recreation centers are more impressive than many towns’ fanciest gyms. They’re all a little different but may offer lazy rivers, rock climbing walls, water slides and group fitness classes.
    Likewise, the YMCAs in the area are super fun. The YMCA of Boulder Valley has the standard sports clubs and swimming pools, but it also offers things like meditation classes, Nordic walking, a warm-water therapy pool, a kids’ triathlon, ice hockey, skateboarding camp and more.
    Boulder has some highly respected and awarded personal trainers and gyms, as well. You’ll find a good number of gyms (from aerial dance to CrossFit) in east Boulder.

  6. Go Ice Skating and Skiing. Yes, Indoors.
    You don’t have to freeze your mittens off in the snow to go ice skating or skiing in Boulder. Nearby, the Ice Centre in Westminster is open year-round, offering ice-skating class or drop in skating.
    Shredder is an indoor ski and snowboarding school for kids in Boulder. The facility uses synthetic snow, man-built hills and drills and obstacles to teach kids how to ski and board. No ski pass and long lines required.

  7. Go Roller Skating.
    Skating is big in Boulder. Whether you get amped up watching a roller derby game or try inline hockey for yourself, this retro sport continues to thrive indoors in active BoCo.

  8. Embrace the Mile “High.”

    Primal Therapeutics' mobile services will come wherever is most relaxing for you. Courtesy photo

    While you can’t smoke marijuana in hotel rooms or public places, you can tour a dispensary, go shopping for cannabis, check out glass shops on The Hill and even book a cannabis spa treatment.

  9. See a Show.
    While Boulder does have some incredible outdoor venues for both live music and theater, the indoor offerings are worth checking out, too. Check the schedule at the Boulder Theater, Fox Theatre, Chautauqua Amphitheater, BDT Stage (the dinner theater), University of Colorado and Dairy Arts Center, to name a few.
    If an art show is what you’re after, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is popular, and the NoBo Arts District has put Boulder on the artistic map.
    Boulder also is home to some reputable tattoo shops and body piercers.

  10. Go Rock Climbing.
    The Boulder area’s natural climbing “walls” draw rock climbers from around the world. Its indoor climbing offerings are exciting, too. When the weather is too harsh to scale a mountain outside, keep fresh on Boulder’s indoor climbing gyms.

  11. Visit NCAR.
    As a visitor, it might be easy to overlook somewhere called the National Center for Atmospheric Research. But all locals know: NCAR is amazing. This center has art galleries, interactive displays and permanent exhibits that let you create a tornado and see how clouds form in the atmosphere, just to name a few. NCAR also holds special events and discussions.

  12. Get Zen.
    Slow down and breathe at a yoga or meditation studio. Boulder is home to some world-famous yogis. For a relaxing class appropriate for all levels, look for a restorative yoga class.

  13. Treat Yo’ Self.
    Head indoors to a spa or salon. The St Julien hotel has an on-site, full-service spa. Or get your nails done at one of the best nail salons in Boulder.

  14. Shop, Shop, Shop.
    This one’s tricky because both of Boulder’s biggest malls, the Pearl Street Mall and Twenty Ninth Street Mall, are open-air, walking malls. But technically, most stores (other than some kiosks on the street) are indoors. Check out Travel Boulder’s Ultimate Guide to Shopping in Boulder for the full scoop on where to shop.

What to do in Boulder if You Love Beer

Boulder may be the fittest city in America, but it also knows how to let loose. It’s well-known for its craft beer scene. The city of Boulder alone is home to about 25 different breweries, including some big-name, reputable, award-winners, like Boulder Beer Co., West Flanders and Avery Brewing Co.

Brew hop 2

The Longmont Brewhop Trolley. Courtesy photo

Venture beyond Boulder into Boulder County and you’ll find even more respected breweries, like Oskar Blues, Lefthand and Wibby (try the gold medal-winning Lightshine Helles). Lefthand is one of Colorado’s most-awarded breweries, boasting more than 27 Great American Beer Festival medals, nine European Beer Star awards and 11 World Beer Cup Awards. The best way to experience Longmont’s must-see beer scene is on the Brewhop Trolly, which claims to be the state’s only hop-on, hop-off brewery tour. What this means? This funky trolly drives in a circle between Longmont’s many breweries (and even distilleries and a cidery) all weekend long. Buy a hop-on, hop-off pass for $15 and you can get on and off as you wish.

The Brewhop Trolly also hits up Niwot and Gunbarrel but doesn’t yet drive in Boulder. Instead, you can experience Boulder’s breweries on a bike and beer tour. Biking beer tours are big in this bike-friendly town. You’ll find patios at many of the breweries and some are even dog-friendly. East Boulder is a particularly beer-centric part of town; it’s home to some of the city’s most beloved breweries, plus some distilleries and a mead hall.

A flight at Wildwood Brewing. Photo by Jacob Helleckson.

Boulder’s breweries are hoppin’ (get it?) year round, with some exceptional seasonal releases. You can also often find limited pours at the many beer festivals in and around Boulder. If you had to pick just one, the Boulder Craft Beer Festival is one of our favorites. In the winter, don’t miss the Winter Craft Beer Festival (don’t worry; the alcohol helps warm your toes).

Beyond great beer, many of Boulder’s breweries also have kitchens with full menus, and they also hold fun events. Many breweries boast yard games, trivia nights, live music and even some more unexpected events, like yoga, pilates, book clubs, swing dancing, beer running clubs and (believe it or not) succulent-building groups that meet to build planters while sipping beer. There’s plenty to do at the brewery other than drink.

What to do in Boulder if You’re a Foodie

A farm dinner at Toohey and Sons farm.

A farm dinner at Toohey and Sons farm. Photo courtesy Meadow Lark Farm Dinners

If you want to plan a foodie vacation, Boulder’s the best place to go, not just in the country, but on the continent. No, really. Bon Appetit named Boulder the Foodiest Town in North America. There are so many reasons why Boulder’s a paradise for foodies: restaurants with their own farms (Boulder takes the farm-to-table concept to a whole new level), James Beard award-winning restaurants and chefs, “Top Chef” winners, Wine Spectator superstar restaurants. The list goes on.

Many of Boulder’s top food spots are located in downtown or right on the Pearl Street Mall. Downtown is also where you can find the Boulder County Farmers Market, which has an impressive resume of its own. It’s been named one of the country’s best farmers markets by multiple outlets.

Plan your foodie tour based on a theme, like a full excursion centered entirely around cheese (can you think of anything more delicious?). Or try to visit all of Boulder’s healthiest restaurants. Or a farm dinner, served outside under the open sky at a local farm, is one of the most Bouldery ways to dine.

For the best guide in navigating Boulder’s extensive world of food, make sure you bookmark the Ultimate Guide to Boulder’s Food Scene.

Whether you’re looking for great tacos, the perfect cup of joe or a tasty dessert, we know where you should go. Here’s where to find:

Boulder’s best brunches (including a comparison between two of the top runners and a look at brunch cocktails)
Creative desserts
Boulder’s best coffee shops
Gluten-free dining in Boulder (even where you don’t expect it)
Mexican food in Boulder (including a profile of one of our favorites, Tahona)
The best street tacos in Boulder County
Boulder’s best oysters (yes, even in a landlocked state)
Sushi restaurants in Boulder

What to do in Boulder with Your Family

Tulip Fairy Festival

A girl picks flowers at Boulder's Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival. Photo courtesy Downtown Boulder Partnership

If you’re in Boulder with your family, the first and foremost resource to read is Travel Boulder’s Ultimate Guide to Family Fun. This extensive guide will tell you exactly which parks your kids will enjoy the most, which restaurants are the most kid-friendly, how to entertain your kids indoors and outdoors, how locals like to experience Boulder with kids, about upcoming kid-friendly events and more.

Throughout the year, Boulder offers special community events that are ideal for families. One of the biggest events is the Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival, where oodles of costumed kids take to the Pearl Street Mall to usher in spring.

We know for many people, your furry babies are also considered part of the family. That’s why we have collected a list of Boulder’s pet-friendly hotels, how you can dine with your dog, how to hike off-leash with your dog and seven surprising things you can do in and around Boulder with your dog.

Romantic Things to Do in Boulder

License No. 1

Go underground bar hopping at License No. 1. Courtesy photo

So you’ve got a big date in Boulder. Whether it’s a first date that you need to impress or an anniversary that you want to properly honor, Boulder is totally for lovers.

We asked locals some of their favorite date night ideas and, in true Boulder fashion, we got some unique responses. In the fall, another unique way to do a date night is by getting all spooked together, at the best scary dates in and around Boulder. In warmer weather, the summer date ideas in Boulder are no less creative, from staying in a “hobbit house” to checking out dinosaur bones to riding on an old-fashioned carousel in the high mountains.

For a more traditional but active date night, go dancing. Boulder’s got plenty of options, from the sexy tango to equally as sexy co-ed pole dancing classes. Can’t decide on whether you want to go out on the town or stay in? We compared a romantic night out vs. a romantic night in.

If you’re craving some good ol’ romance, here are eight romantic things to do in Boulder. Or pack a picnic and bring it to one of Boulder’s top picnic spots. For something a little more involved, Boulder’s ideal location means it’s easy to plan a nearby staycation for a sexy weekend away.

What to do in Boulder if You Want to Party

Over the years, Boulder has earned a reputation as a party town; in particular, the University of Colorado has been named a party school. While some have tried to downplay this image, the truth is, Boulder plays as hard as it works. And that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. From morning until night, you can find high-quality cocktails (brunch beverages) and late-night bar food. But not just your regular greasy pub fare. Boulder has an impressive list of healthy and vegan or vegetarian bar snacks that won’t give you a food hangover the next day.

Boulder House

Drinks on the Boulder House rooftop bar. Courtesy photo

If you’re planning a night out, the best place to start is by checking out Travel Boulder’s happy hour guide and the live music guide. If you’re still unsure where to go, pick one of Boulder’s most unique bars. Another favorite of ours is the Bohemian Biergarten downtown, especially on Wednesday karaoke nights.

Beverages are a big part of the nightlife scene in Boulder, especially its innovative cocktails. But recreational cannabis is big here, too. (We know you know that.) Visit a dispensary (here’s how to do it and not look clueless), and know where to get the best 420 munchies when hunger attacks. But first and foremost, make sure you know the marijuana laws and don’t get caught, er, green-handed.

The Fox Theatre

Dopapod Dead and Company After party at The Fox Theatre. Photo by Sam Berenson

Beyond imbibing, Boulder’s music scene is among the best in the state. The city has multiple large music venues (like the Boulder Theater downtown) that attract big names, as well as up-and-coming artists. But don’t overlook the smaller music stages, too. The Rayback Collective, Boulder’s food truck court, regularly features free entertainment on its stage, which you can enjoy with a beer or a coffee and your choice of food from the ever-rotating food trucks parked outside. It’s everything for a good night all in one place: drank, food, jams and community.

Quick Day Trips From Boulder

While we’d like to believe you never need to leave the Boulder bubble, ever, the truth is, Colorado is such a remarkable state that it deserves proper exploring, too.

If you’re staying or living in Boulder and looking to plan a quick day trip or weekend staycation, here are a few of our favorite ideas:

Plan a Nederland getaway, complete with the Carousel of Happiness, skiing at the ski resort closest to Boulder and hiking around the lake.

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Head to Colorado Springs, which has a ton of fun in one single city, from the Cave of the Winds to the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to the Garden of the Gods.

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Escape to Eldorado Springs, known for its world-class rock climbing and hot springs pool.

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If you’re on a tight timeline, you don’t have to go too far. Longmont has emerged as a travel destination, in and of itself.
Beer is a huge reason why, but there’s even more to this growing east Boulder County city.

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Get away with your family and visit the Butterfly Pavilion, Estes Park, the Rocky Mountain National Park or the Denver Zoo.

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Check out these other staycations close to home in Denver, Breckenridge and southern Colorado.

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Things to do in Boulder at Night

Royal_Arch

Royal Arch in Chautauqua at night. Photo by Jacob Helleckson

Attention vampires, bats and nocturnal creatures of the night. Boulder doesn’t shut down just because the sun goes down. If you’re looking for something fun to do in Boulder after dark, prepare to be surprised by the options.

Here are some of our favorite things to do in Boulder at night.

Hiking is huge during the day, and it’s also big at night. In fact, an evening hike can be refreshing: In summer, the weather’s mild, the crowds are thin to none and the clear Colorado skies open up for stunning star-watching. Head out for a night hike on your own or book a guided trip. The city of Boulder’s trails are open all day and night and many trailhead parking lots remain unlocked even after dusk.

Another uniquely Boulder way to enjoy the darker hours is about once a month at a special full moon event. In celebration of the full moon, Boulderites host full moon poetry readings, moonlight hikes, yoga chants and more, with offerings changing every month.

Music, Arts and Culture After Dark

After dark is when Boulder’s music scene wakes up. You can go see a concert at one of Boulder’s big venues, like the Boulder Theater, Fox Theatre and Chautauqua Auditorium. The famous Red Rocks Amphitheater isn’t far away, and the University of Colorado holds some high-caliber musical events throughout the year.

Strong Cheese at Red Rocks. Courtesy Photo

As an artsy community, Boulder’s theater scene is strong, too. See a show at the dinner theater (the BDT Stage), at the Dairy Arts Center or the renowned Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Our favorite way to do Shakespeare in Boulder: at the outdoor theater, where you can stretch out under the stars and enjoy the show.

Boulder’s dance scene is also hoppin’. Get inspired at a dance performance, whether that’s a ballet concert or a jaw-dropping aerial dance show by one of the world’s most respected aerial dance companies, Frequent Flyers.

Party All Night

The nightlife in Boulder is always cracking.

After dark, you can go dancing, catch a poetry slam, see stand-up comedy, find open mics and karaoke or join a trivia night. Many of Boulder’s bars and breweries hold special events, such as game nights, and have live music, especially on the weekends. Boulder County has about 50 different breweries and taprooms to choose from. You might just find yourself brewery-hopping.

On that note, a safe way to get around is via the Brewhop Trolley in Longmont, which circles between Longmont’s breweries all night long. The fare is cheap and it’s a bonus party on the bus. Another fun way to get around is by planning a brewery biking tour. You can rent bikes in Boulder at most bike shops or right on the street from a BCycle bike share station.

If you’re looking for a good bar in Boulder, a few highlights include License No. 1 (beneath the historic Boulderado hotel, designed to feel like an old speakeasy), the Bohemian Biergarten, the Bitter Bar and the Dark Horse. For something offbeat and memorable, check out Boulder’s unique bars. The Rayback Collective food truck park parties into the night, too.

Planning a date? Boulder boasts tons of unique date night ideas, like snuggle parties (um, they’re just what they sound like: People get together and snuggle), couples’ pole dancing classes and tantra events.

For a simple outing, just stroll along the Pearl Street Mall any time of year. In summer, the pedestrian mall is lively with street musicians and buskers throwing fire, contorting, playing music and dancing. In the winter, the mall is covered by a canopy of twinkling holiday lights. In spring, the mall is lined with a zillion colorful tulips.

End your day by grabbing a bite to eat at one of the late-night food joints. In a healthy town like Boulder, that’s not all bar food (although you can find some naughty greasy goodness at bars like The Attic). There are plenty of healthy, organic options. Or a late-night cookie delivery, if you have a hankering for an ice cream cookie sandwich but can’t be bothered to leave your bed.

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