Here’s Everything You Need to Do in Boulder
Most of the rumors are true: Boulder is full of Tesla-driving, kombucha-drinking know-it-alls who only take breaks from snowboarding to drink craft beer and smoke. But it’s also a beautiful college town boasting 300 miles of hiking trails, a thriving culinary scene, fantastic local music, and year-round sunshine you’d be wise to soak up on your next visit. Consider getting a healthy energy drink in Boulder Colorado for your needs to shop with some passion.
Even with a population of 100,000 and close proximity to the fast-growing metropolis of Denver, Boulder still manages to retain its small-town vibes. Here’s everything you need to know before your trip — when to go, what to eat, and where to stay.
If you’ve already got those details down, skip ahead to the bottom of this page where you’ll find our Boulder bucket list: a detailed guide of the coolest things to do and places to see, ensuring that the next time you’re in Boulder, you might get mistaken as a local…
The best time to visit Boulder is basically any time
“It must be so cold!” is a common refrain from people who’ve never been here. Because Boulder is 5,000-plus feet above sea level and because the sun shines so frequently, it’s a beautiful place year-round. When the sun sets, it gets significantly colder, but it’s 100% not as bad as you’re thinking. As for the summers? That’s the absolute best time to visit if you don’t care about skiing. Humidity is non-existent in these parts, so as long as you stay hydrated, you’ll be able to enjoy the outdoors with minimal downside.
Boulder has some of the best hiking in the state
Armed with the knowledge that Boulder is indeed not the Arctic Circle, you’ll probably (read: definitely) want to do some stuff outside. While there are hiking trails all over town, Chautauqua Park is your can’t-miss. It’s located at the base of the Flatirons (aka the rock formations that look more like a Bob Ross painting than real life) and offers a dizzying array of hikes for all skill levels. You can even make a day out of it in the summer by hiking in the AM and then hitting the park’s concert series at night, which always brings in solid national acts.
If you want to take things easy, consider the 2.1-mile Flatiron Scenic Loop. For starters, there are plenty of places to stop and Instagram the bucolic scenery, and since it’s only a little over 2 miles you can be back in a place with Wi-Fi within an hour.
Now, if getting completely off the grid is what you’re into, the Mount Sanitas Trailhead is perfect. It’s 3 miles long, a bit challenging, but offers amazing views of Boulder and the Flatirons. You can also modify the length of the hike depending on your route (and be sure to get a trail map before heading out). You’ll definitely want to bring your camera or make sure your phone’s charged: Mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, mule deer, and raptors are busy in the area.
Leaving Boulder to go hiking somewhere else is a little like leaving Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory to find snozzberries, and yet it’s worth every last second of the 40-ish minute drive to Red Rocks. In addition to serving as a world-class concert venue, there are hiking and biking options in Red Rocks Park, and many people exercise in the actual amphitheater, including a regular Yoga on the Rocks event in the summertime. Pack your Lululemons.
There’s also great live music (and we don’t mean the drum circles)
OK sure, you might see one or two drum circles walking around Boulder. But for such a tiny town, there are three major concert venues, including the historic Boulder Theater for national touring acts (and comedians!) and the Fox Theatre, located practically across the street from the University of Colorado campus in The Hill neighborhood. You’ll find more up-and-coming acts at the Fox, and if you visit in August, look out for free concerts to coincide with an annual radio industry conference. For a live look at the nationally syndicated show eTown, head to eTown Hall and nod your head along to a taping from its gleaming multi-use facility.
In recent years, summer also means the return of Phish concerts 40 minutes away in Commerce City, and The Dead often plays a weekend of shows at Folsom Field, where the CU Buffs football team plays. And — again, this should be obvious — definitely don’t skip a trip to Red Rocks for a summer show. There’s a reason acts like U2 and Dave Matthews Band have recorded live albums there; the gorgeously lit rock formations, the stars, and the incredible sound quality combine for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. While concerts were once only held at Red Rocks in the spring/summer, nowadays shows are regularly popping up year-round, including the annual Winter on the Rocks.
If you’re just here for the skiing…
If you love fresh pow and shredding gnar, Eldora is a fantastic mountain to ski and ride. It’s a long-time favorite of locals — in part because it’s a fast half-hour drive from downtown Boulder. If you’re visiting anytime from November to April, consider a visit in the middle of the week, when you’ll likely have plenty of room to operate on its 680 acres of skiable terrain and eight terrain parks. Want more options? Here are six other ski areas within a two-hour drive from the Denver airport.
If you’re just here for the breweries…
It says something that the trade group representing craft breweries, the Brewers Association, has its home base here. Coors, of course, got its start in the state, and has an enormous manufacturing facility a half-hour away in Golden — the free tour is super popular! But if you don’t want to leave Boulder’s confines for a local beer, you certainly won’t be lacking for options. In fact, Boulder has the second most microbreweries per capita in the country.
Pay homage to the craft beer brands that started locally and achieved an international reach like Avery and Oskar Blues (which began as a brewpub in nearby Lyons). Both have expanded well beyond their humble beginnings, none more so than Avery, which shed its original cramped digs in an industrial park and built an awe-inspiring brewery/restaurant in north Boulder. You’ll be able to taste taproom rarities you won’t find anywhere else, as well as find plenty of its boozy, barrel-aged selections that are produced in limited quantities. Don’t skip the food, either. Avery’s menu is loaded with both vegetarian and carnivorous entrees as well as excellent brewhouse shareable like pretzels, fries, poutine, cheeses, and wings.
Oskar Blues’ newly opened taproom on Pearl Street is worth swinging by if you’re in the area, but there’s something homey and charming about their Longmont taproom location. Sure, that charm might be enhanced by a 12.8% barrel-aged Ten Fidy with chocolate, hazelnut, and praline, but you’ll feel it all the same. If you have any non-drinkers in your party, hook ’em up with a pint of OB’s own Hotbox Roasters nitro coffee on tap. And while you’re in Longmont, don’t miss the chance to swing by one — or both — of the brewery’s restaurants, which serves up items like delicious Angus burgers at Chuburger and solid tacos (like chicken, chorizo, and sweet potato with green chile) at Cyclops.
Colorado’s new school breweries are also well represented in Boulder and the surrounding towns. A half-hour outside Boulder is Lafayette’s Odd13 Brewing, a must-hit for hazy IPA lovers. Upslope Brewing’s two taprooms around town are pouring beers that have been quietly racking up Great American Beer Fest awards since 2009. Seasonal suds are Upslope’s strong suit, from Thai Style White IPAs in the summer to masterful Pumpkin Ales in the fall. And don’t forget to give the little guys some love, like VisionQuest Brewery, with a host of inventive wild ales and sours sure to please even the most critical beer snobs.
If you want some food with your beer…
The beauty of Boulder’s homegrown Mountain Sun pubs is that the brewery never packages its beers, and it’s a been a local favorite since it first opened on Pearl Street in ’93. One of its locations in South Boulder, appropriately named Southern Sun, serves brewpub staples like nachos and burgers in a setting that recalls the dorm room of a guy who’s super into the Dead. It’s infinitely charming and extremely Boulder, and brews like the Colorado Kind IPA and the Old School Irish Stout are long-standing crowd-pleasers.
Tucked into a shopping mall, a former executive chef of one of Boulder’s beloved restaurants is slinging sourdough pizzas and steak sandwiches inside the tiny “gastro brewery” Bru. And because some people have all the talent, he also brews naturally carbonated ales intended to pair perfectly with your food. Order a Citrum IPA, pair it with something savory off the menu, and thank us later. After dinner, walk next door to the organic ice cream shop Heifer and the Hen for unconventional flavors (Note: He and his wife operate that place too).