Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
Hotel Boulderado is quintessential Boulder. It’s Boulder’s oldest hotel, dating back to the days of horses and buggies, even before hippies and long before hipsters. The Boulderado, 2115 13th St., prides itself in being one of Boulder’s finest places to stay.
But one thing that many travelers don’t know is there isn’t just one side to the Boulderado. There are two sides: the historic and the modern. When booking your room, you can pick between the two — and with them, notably different lodging experiences. The Victorian rooms are in the main hotel. But wind past the sweeping stained glass ceiling and across an indoor bridge to the north wing and you’ll find modern rooms, still with a nod to the history of the hotel, but with a more contemporary ambiance.
The Boulderado doesn’t loudly advertise this on its website and, in fact, it can be hard to get a direct comparison between the two options anywhere online. There’s no online map of the layout. Most other reviews speak to only one experience or the other. You can eyeball photos and get an idea, but that only paints a sliver of the picture. We’ve got the full picture.
We compared the Boulderado King vs. Classic King rooms to give you an idea about the pros and cons of each.
Overview of the Boulderado
First, a quick look at this hotel, so you know what you’re in for.
The Boulderado was built in the early 1900s. It’s always been an upscale hotel. It’s hard to miss: a tall, red brick building just a block off the Pearl Street Mall right in downtown. The Boulderado is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a landmark of the City of Boulder.
The hotel is also an active member of the Historic Hotels of America, which is actually a pretty big deal. These hotels are required to maintain their authenticity, architectural integrity and “sense of place.” There are more than 295 hotels in this group.
In the Boulderado, make sure you get a cup of Boxcar Coffee in the lobby and ride the old Otis Elevator to your floor. The Boulderado has a great restaurant on site, Spruce Farm & Fish (we recommend the steak for dinner or a quinoa bowl for breakfast; it’s oh so Boulder), and one of our favorite, speakeasy-style nightlife spots in the basement, License No. 1.
Fun fact: The Boulderado has put up an impressive list of celebrities, including Robert Frost, Helen Keller, Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, to name a few.
While there are differences between the Victorian and modern rooms, all 160 have certain features in common, like free wifi, cable TV (which feels really out of place in the Victorian rooms), access to the fitness center, limo service (for an added fee), evening turn-down service, cozy bathrobes and lots of green initiatives.
Forty-two of the rooms in the Historic Wing at the Boulderado are traditionally decorated. These rooms feel like stepping back in time to the Victorian era, when the hotel was originally built. This is great for people who are history buffs or want to experience something deep, authentic and also unique. There are no other rooms in Boulder like these.
The Victorian rooms are elegant and detailed, featuring antique furniture, reproduction wallpaper and drapery fabrics from the Victorian period, built-in cabinets and details and old-fashioned-inspired beds. They contain restored original antiques and furnishings, as well as original doors and casings.
These rooms also may be a little smaller and have more furniture, which can create a more crowded or cozy experience, depending on how you feel about it. While they are comfortable and still have modern amenities, like the same bath products and wifi, the rooms feel more like sleeping in a history museum.
The historic rooms are all individually decorated; each room is unique. These suites have more natural light and more windows, and some suites have doors between the bedroom, bath and parlor living room.
More of the historic traditional queen rooms have a spectacular western view (that means you get a sunset-behind-the-mountains treat). The only rooms that don’t face west are 403, 506, 517 and 519.
The room numbers for rooms in the historic building start at 300, 400 and 500 and go through 319, 419 and 519.
No doubt these rooms are more romantic, quirky and one-of-a-kind. They feel deeply rooted in Boulder’s history, but are not as simple and practical than the modern rooms.
Set the tone for your Victorian room by stopping to look at the many historical displays that line the hallways of the hotel. Spend time walking around the upper floors of the main building. The third floor has some of our favorite displays that rival some of the best history museums in town.
The dramatic, wooden staircase and the old elevator also complement these rooms well, adding to a seamless atmosphere.
If this sounds appealing to you, reserve a classic king room on the top floor. This room includes a sitting area, a desk, double vanities with sinks and even a small fridge. Wrap up in the terrycloth bathrobe after bathing in the walk-in shower. You might even score a room with a bidet. These rooms range from 400 to 450 square feet, which isn’t huge, but is admirable for a historic building. Request a room with a view of the Flatiron Mountains, preferably a corner room, for the best experience.
There are more modern rooms than historic ones. In the north wing, 118 rooms have been newly renovated (in 2016) and decorated in a contemporary style, but with a nod to Boulder’s history and outdoors; expect to see mountain-inspired and Western-style artwork, for example. Artwork here is a combo of botanical prints and reproduction photos of the period, as well as color prints of the mountains.
Although these rooms are newer, they still have plenty of character and the flavor of the past. For example, the flatscreen TVs are hidden inside reproduction, solid cherry, Victorian armoires.
The Boulderado king room is extra spacious. Like the historic room, it has a sitting area, desk and two vanities/sinks, but the open layout provides a more spacious feeling. These rooms are slightly bigger (as big as 509 square feet) than the classic kings on the top floor, and they feel it. All other standard amenities, like bath products, are the same as the Victorian rooms.
One huge bonus with these rooms is the rooms on the first floor are pet-friendly, so if you’re traveling with your dog, he or she is welcome here. There’s also space for a roll-away bed, if you’re traveling with a kid.
These room numbers start at 121, 221, 321 and 421 and go through 129, 256, 356 and 456.