Travel & Tips

15 Cool Things to Do in Boulder Right Now

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Boulder, Colorado

Ah, Boulder—the home of the Flatirons, CU Buffs, iconic Pearl Street, and so, so much more. Regardless if you’re a Boulder local, situated in Denver, a student on campus, or family in town visiting, there are all sorts of fun activities—indoors or out—to enjoy. Satisfy your food cravings with a diverse range of cuisines at all price points, fit right into the active Boulder lifestyle with plenty of hiking and biking (motorized or otherwise), and immerse yourself in art, culture, and history at any number of attractions from museums to galleries to particularly artsy parts of town (looking at you, NoBo). If you’re heading to Boulder soon or are already there, here are some pretty cool things you should check out.

Flagstaff MountainFlagstaff Mountain
Flagstaff Mountain | Colin D. Young/Shutterstock

Hike (and dine) on Flagstaff Mountain

Flagstaff Mountain is a fairly easy, 2.1-mile hike available to people of all hiking abilities, plus dogs and horses, too. Enjoy getting your steps in while also taking in picturesque views of the Front Range and the valley of Boulder below. Just be sure to bring your fancy dinner pants, because a night of wining and dining at Flagstaff House is sure to be one to remember.

Visit CU Boulder for events or to check out the planetarium

Aside from being a beautiful, sprawling campus of higher education, CU Boulder is also often host to a variety of events open to the public. And whether or not you’re there for a special star show or a themed event, a trip to Fiske Planetarium is always a unique and enjoyable experience.

The West End TavernThe West End Tavern
The West End Tavern

Eat and drink to your heart’s content on the Pearl Street Mall

The Pearl Street Mall is the beating heart of Boulder’s food, drink, and shopping scene, a colorful four-block pedestrian thoroughfare through the heart of downtown lined with street performers, food carts, and ample people watching. Pearl Street Pub and West End Tavern are a few longtime favorites, beloved Brasserie Ten Ten has recently reopened to the utter joy of locals and out-of-towners alike, and OAK at Fourteenth always puts on a show-stopping meal, with amazing drinks to boot. For more casual fare, Pizzeria Locale and Gaku Ramen are surefire spots, Avanti always has something new and different to offer (plus consistently great views), and Sherpa’s Adventure Restaurant & Bar has some of the best Nepalese, Tibetan, and Indian food in the greater Boulder-Denver area. P.S.: Not stopping at Chiri’s Momo Delight is the ultimate rookie mistake.

Get your cultural fix at the Museum of Boulder

Gloomy winter days got you down? Find fun and fascination at the Museum of Boulder, which always features aesthetically impressive and often thought-provoking exhibits, plus a ton of information on the history of Boulder itself.

The FlatironsThe Flatirons
The Flatirons | Rich Wolf/Shutterstock

Hike the trails (and get brunch) at Chautauqua

The first thing anyone should do when arriving in Boulder (especially with out-of-towners in tow) is to get an up-close peek at The Flatirons, Boulder’s signature mountain range that has long served as a symbol of this one-of-a-kind town. The best place to do that is Chautauqua, an iconic local park that also houses a historic dining hall, concert auditorium, and rental cottages with mountain vistas. Hike the trails, toss the disc around, or just enjoy the views over brunch on the dining hall deck. You can’t go wrong either way.

Stroll along Boulder Creek

One of the most “Boulder” things you can do in Boulder is go tubing down Boulder Creek, a warm-weather activity enjoyed by locals (and adventurous visitors) for generations. But in the colder months, a leisurely stroll or bike ride is just as exhilarating. The 5.5 mile path is perfect for sipping a hot beverage or getting in some exercise while surrounded by the creeks rushing water and ample foliage. It’s also a great segue for checking out the Boulder Public Library.

Avery Brewing CompanyAvery Brewing Company
Avery Brewing Company

Explore Boulder’s hefty craft beer scene

It is perhaps unsurprising that Boulder hosts a solid craft beer scene, with standouts like Avery and Upslope amongst the most well-known of the bunch. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find excellent brews at more off-the-beaten path spots like VisionQuest and Boulder Beer. (Check out our full brewery roundup here.) There is also something called the Boulder Beer Trail, which includes can’t-miss spots like Oskar Blues and Bohemian Biergarten. Do it.

Admire the Flatirons with a drink at the St. Julien

When you wanna get a little more fancy (while pretending like you can afford to stay here), grab a cocktail overlooking the Flatirons at the four-star St. Julien Hotel & Spa. The drinks are a bit more pricey than you’d pay elsewhere, but the vibe is upscale and the views are top-notch. It also tends to be less crowded than more well-known Flatirons-viewing watering holes like the West End.

The Fox TheatreThe Fox Theatre
The Fox Theatre

Rock out at the Fox and Boulder Theatre

As great as Red Rocks is, you don’t have to leave Boulder to get your live music fix. While legendary dive venue Tulagi is long gone, the always-fun Fox Theatre on University Hill (aka “The Hill”) brings in a bevy of live rock and hip-hop acts, plus plenty of other genres, too. Meanwhile, the historic Boulder Theatre can be counted on to class up any Boulder evening with top-caliber music acts from the likes of Switchfoot to live comedy from David Spade and Trevor Wallace.

Boulder TeahouseBoulder Teahouse
Boulder Teahouse

Get touristy at the Dushanbe Tearoom

This is something you don’t see every day. The appropriately opulent Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, tucked along Boulder Creek as a gift from its Tajikistan sister city of Dushanbe, might be slightly touristy but is well worth a trip. In addition to an unsurprisingly vast tea selection, it also has an array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and a pretty sweet lunch and brunch menu, including global dishes like raclette, samosa, and karaage. A visit here is one well spent.

Shop local at Lolita’s Market and Lucky’s

As you might expect in a town as granola-friendly as this, Boulder is home to a number of top-shelf independent local grocery stores you should visit if given the chance. Sure, you could go to chains like Whole Foods and King Soopers when you run out of trail mix, but why not shop like a true Boulderite instead at locals-friendly spots like Lucky’s Market and Lolita’s Market & Deli

Boulder Museum Of Contemporary ArtBoulder Museum Of Contemporary Art
Boulder Museum Of Contemporary Art

Get artsy at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Art lovers need not make the trek down increasingly traffic-clogged Highway 36 into Denver for their art fix, with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) offering big-city culture with a small-town flair along Boulder Creek. Also stop by the Boulder Farmers Market and Boulder Bandshell, both located within easy walking distance, on your way out as you discuss the latest exhibit you totally pretend to have understood.

Sip fancy cocktails at the historic License No. 1

Every town needs a good cocktail bar, and Boulder’s License No. 1 fits the bill in spades. While not quite as campy and fun as the former Catacombs Bar which was once housed in this space located in the basement of the historic Hotel Boulderado, License No. 1 can be cashed in for all your mixology needs in a cool speakeasy-style space. (The name is a nod to the spot being the recipient of Boulder’s first legal liquor license in 1969.)

Sushi ZanmaiSushi Zanmai
Sushi Zanmai

Sing it loud and proud at Sushi Zanmai

There are a number of good spots to get sushi in Boulder like Hapa and Japango. But there is only one longtime local sushi spot that’s been doing karaoke on Saturday nights for the past 31 years. It’s Sushi Zanmai, and you should go if you know what’s good for you.

Explore one of America’s best state parks at Eldorado Canyon

Visitors to Boulder will no doubt want to explore nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, located just 45 minutes north in the town of Estes Park. But while the popularity of the national park has exploded in recent years, Eldorado Canyon State Park—located just 20 minutes south of town—is an often overlooked Boulder County gem ideal for rock climbing, trail running, and canyon gawking.

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Jay Gentile is an award-winning freelance journalist specializing in travel, food & drink, culture, events and entertainment stories. In addition to Thrillist, you can find his work in The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN Travel, Chicago Tribune, Lonely Planet, VICE, Outside Magazine and more. Follow @thejaygentile
Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer who loves a good DIY Halloween costume. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_ on Twitter for more updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.

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