These recommended 10 Things To Do in Boulder (click here for National Geographic’s list, with lead photo of Trident Café) apply equally well to all visitors, whatever your reason for or length of visit.
Comment with your suggestions! I’ve seen some good ones: Dushanbe Tea House (it’s extraordinary), the Boulder Museum, BMoCA, the splash pad on the Mall for children, Rosetta Hall, Avanti, the historic Boulder Shambhala Center…what else? ~ ed.
Above: Café Aion. Local, organic food, quality meats, vegan options, amazing coffee, good people, stylee. I like it for brunch, particularly.
First of all, park your car.
Rent a bike at U Bikes or gorgeous, friendly Bcycle (our public bike system, I recommend the ebikes) wherever if you want to go nuts on the bike paths (we have hundreds of miles of ’em) and roads. If you want to go nuts on the trails, recommend a gravel bike rental. Or, of course, you can save dough and buy a scrapper on craigslist or FB Marketplace, just shop ahead. Then, when you leave, sell it back. That’s what my friends have done successfully, spending about $85, buying a combo lock (we have lots of bike theft here!), getting it all back when they leave.
Don’t like to bike? Boulder’s small: and so walk-friendly, and has good public transport (including, now, B-Cycle).
Don’t forget to check out the University of Colorado campus. It’s gorgeous, a nice walk, they have a ton of programming (Shakespeare plays, movies, lectures, music, famous folks at Macky Auditiorium, college football, basketball…).
Boulder, Colorado, is sometimes called 25 miles surrounded by reality.
Thing is, in my recent travels I discovered that “reality” is becoming a little more “like Boulder”—bicycles, healthy food, farmers’ markets, cafes, community are everywhere. If anything, we have to keep our forward-looking but tradition-loving pace up—I was impressed by the dining options in Richmond, the bike lanes and pedestrian plazas and daily markets in NYC, the parks and cafés in Halifax, the eco-as-fun at Coachella, the enjoy-your-life mentality of the participants in Carbondale’s 5Point Film Festival.
In any case, back to Boulder.
Here’s 10(ish) things you should think about doing while you’re in Boulder (if you do three of ’em, you’re good).
1. Boulder is famous for its cafés. Rightly so. Check out Trident, Boulder’s original cafe, only a block from the St. Julien Hotel. If you’re staying at the Julien (I like it, though would recommend a B&B, first, or Chautauqua for lodging), take advantage of the free bikes for guests and check out my favorites: Laughing Goat, or Baby Goat, or Beleza, or Ozo, or Ozo, or Ozo, or Spruce Confections, the new January Coffee, Alpine Modern on 9th…all within comfortable walking distance, as well. They all have wifi, except for Spruce and Beleza (which can be a good thing if you want to focus, or converse).
2. Boulder is famous for its yoga studios. Rightly so—folks move from all over the world to study with superstar Richard Freeman at The Yoga Workshop. He’s mostly retired, but still offers teacher trainings. If you have the chance to connect, you’ll love his humor, depth of knowledge. Other studios: Yoga Pod, Corepower, the old school Iyengar Yoga, Yellow Barn. My fiancee Michelle teaches bilingual yoga in the park when it’s warm. There’s free yoga at Prana, maybe elsewhere (say in comments?).
3. Boulder is famous for its hikes. Rightly so. You can be sipping espresso or drinking wind-powered beer in a bar and, two minutes later, be where the wild things are…climbing red rocks and seeing nothing but nature. Our hundreds of miles of open space and fresh air make Boulder, Boulder…and if you’re a HDT-school “my religion is Nature” type (and who isn’t?) you’ll enjoy the quick mental and physical recharge that a quick hike can offer. Sanitas, Flagstaff, Chautauqua are all great hikes a stone’s throw from LOHAS.
4. Boulder is famous for its rocks. Like to climb? Climb Sanitas or Flagstaff, anyone you run into can help you find some rocks fit for your ability. Don’t know how to climb, or want to climb indoors? I boulder at The Spot, a lovely bike ride down the Bike Path away from St. Julien…it can be a little pricey for drop-in plus shoes, but there’s few better whole-body quick, enjoyable exercises. Boulder Rock Club and Movement are also well-loved, and Movement has yoga and exercise rooms and daycare and is greenbuilt. It did sell out to some other climbing gym, but that may not matter to you.
5. Bookstores: Boulder Bookstore—one of the best, biggest, loveliest independent book stores in the US of A. Trident Cafe & Booksellers, Beat Bookstore, Book Worm (omg, so many books)…are well worth a stop for deals. Peruse the shelves, sit in an old wooden chair, it’s solace for the soul.
6. Lunchtime? I recommend Salt, or Mountain Sun, but mostly Leaf, Leaf, Leaf, Leaf, Zeal, Zeal, Zeal, Zeal, Illegal Pete’s for big and cheap. I also love Café Aion, on the University Hill (then stroll around the lovely CU campus), and Sunflower (great for vegetarians). Friends of mine love Brassiere TenTen, only a block from St. Julien.
7. Drinks? I’m a lightweight, these days…but recommend Mountain Sun, Hapa in the back, The Kitchen Upstairs for date night, West End rooftop, Cafe Aion, Centro, and St. Julien itself.
8. A walk or bike ride (see above re B-Cycle…you can also rent bikes at UBikes, if you’re unlucky enough to stay at a hotel or B&B in Boulder that doesn’t offer bikes to guests) along our Boulder Creek. ‘Tis the season when all of Boulder beats the heat in a black rubber innertube and wafts and hollers our way down the Boulder Creek. Not for the faint of heart. Since you’re just in town for a little, I’d skip the innertubing and bike or walk along the creek. It’s gorgeous. You can borrow my dog, Redford, if you want the full Boulder experience (it’s practically illegal to settle in Boulder if you don’t own a dog).
9. Farmers’ Market takes place both Wednesday afternoon and Saturday mornings (through lunch). Incomparable local food, incomparable people-watching, it’s all of Boulder rolled into a few hours. I call it “free therapy”—no matter your mood or energy level, if you jump in you’ll feel better afterward. Nude Foods Market is our newish Zero Waste local-owned grocery. I live by them.
10. Social media for in-the-moment news-you-can-use. Keep in up-to-the-minute touch with the local scene: “like” Elephant Boulder on Facebook for news you can use. Follow prominent local Boulder Tweeters. While you’re at it, check my posts on Top Yoga Tweeters and Top Green Tweeters on my column for Huffington Post.
Above: “Titans of Tech” at a Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, at the historic Boulder Theater. Boulder has a strong, fun, successful tech scene.
11. Eldo Pool. Go swimming, if it’s warm/hot/boiling. Any pool will do, but Eldo is a bike ride/carpool away, has some great history, and you can watch the climbers do their thing in Eldo canyon as you powerball down the slide…landing in spring water (brrr!).
Also, the Rez is well-loved, Spruce Pool, Scott Carpenter…and nothing can beat the Boulder Creek (swim as west as possible, the water gets dirty as you head east).
12. Events. So many. The Shakespeare Fest is heaven. RockyGrass, in Lyons. Chautauqua Music Festival. Hanuman Festival (yoga, etc.). Anything at Rayback, like vegan night. Anything at Junkyard Social Club. Boulder Theater, Fox Theater. Neptune Theater. Boulder Arts does a ton of stuff. My favorite, Open Studios, is once a year but has spin-off events. Thursday night bike rides. Readings at the Boulder Book Store. Events in the back of Trident. Laughing Goat, when they host events again, is a classic. Nutcracker at Macky at CU. Boulder 360/180 bike ride. Events at the Bandshell. What else? (comment!)
13. Shopping. I don’t really shop…but love McGuckin, our local hardware, Indochine, aforementioned book stores…ummmm…help, locals? Apocalypse, for clothes…Peppercorn is heaven…try and support local, first!
An old photo from Alison’s Cafe, then The Cup, now Ozo—still one of the best cafes in Boulder.
Hope these are helpful. Enjoy your stay, and let us know what you did, what you loved most, and how we can improve our City! Comment below.