Things to do around town
Boulder is a place of adjoining boundaries and fascinating intersections. Founded in 1859 shortly after the discovery of gold in Boulder Creek, the town resides at the boundary between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains and was originally inhabited by peoples of the Southern Arapaho tribe. It is ecologically special, as birds and animals common to the east overlap with their western cousins. Likewise, people from all parts of the country have converged on Boulder, lending the small town of 102,000 residents a cosmopolitan flair more associated with larger cities. It’s fair to say that the pioneering spirit lives on in the creative, radical, and entrepreneurial spirit of the locals. Boulder has much to offer whether you’ve got an hour or a day to explore.
On the University of Colorado at Boulder campus…
While on campus for the conference, there are few notable spots worth checking out. At the Natural History Museum (next to the School of Education) you’ll find complimentary coffee and tea along with a quiet place to work and access the museum’s free science exhibits. In the Atlas building closer to the Engineering Department, Pekoe Sip House offers a wide variety of coffee, tea, and gluten free snacks for purchase. For a 360 degree view of Boulder, you can take the elevator up to the top floor of the Duane Physics building. And if you’re keen to sit outside amidst the hustle and bustle of campus life, check out the quads in front of the Norlin Library and Macky Auditorium, two notable CU-Boulder buildings.
For those with a free morning or afternoon, consider a walk along Boulder Creek, or head downtown to Pearl Street for great food and shopping. A few suggestions:
- Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse - A gift from Boulder’s sister city in Tajikistan, offering delicious and ethnically diverse teas and food.
- Hotel Boulderado - A famous, haunted, and beautifully ornate historic hotel. Enjoy a glass of wine in the Western decor of the atrium.
- Banjo Billy’s Bus Tours - Cruise around Boulder in a funky but comfy bus learning about the town’s colorful history. Tours depart from the Hotel Boulderado.
- Pearl Street Walking Mall - A four block pedestrian mall filled with chic bohemian shops and unique places to eat and drink.
- Celestial Seasonings Tea Tour - A ten minute drive from downtown, offering free tea tastings and tours (voted one of the top ten free tours).
- Boulder Farmer’s Market - A place to catch a taste of the local fair, offering produce, artisan crafts and cheese, live music, and ready-made snacks (Wednesday evening and Saturday morning).
Denver and surrounding areas…
- Red Rocks Amphitheatre - The world famous live music venue is a site worth seeing even without a show ticket. Stroll the hillside and enjoy the picturesque rock formations and bird’s eye views of Denver.
- Butterfly Pavilion - Located in neighboring Westminster, the pavilion offers an opportunity to immerse yourself in the wonders of tropical flora and fauna. Open daily.
- Denver Art Museum - One of the largest art museums between the West Coast and Chicago, this museum is located in the Civic Center of Denver and offers a range of international and local exhibitions.
- Larimer Square - The tourist hub of downtown Denver, lined with shops, restaurants, and access to other local attractions (Take a direct RTD bus to Denver downtown)
- Venues for live music - Ogden Theater, Bluebird Theater, Fillmore Auditorium
Dining and imbibing
Boulder's many amazing restaurants rank it as a top destination for foodies, and the town's abundance of pubs and craft breweries help establish Colorado's reputation for quality imbibing. Below you’ll find suggested establishments that are within walking distance or a short bus ride from the Millennium Hotel and the CU-Boulder campus. The breweries are scattered around town and some will likely require motorized transport.
University Hill, which adjoins the western edge of the CU-Boulder campus, is a low cost hangout for college kids and profs wanting to grab a quick lunch. Just across Broadway Avenue, it's the closest food option to campus and includes a wide range of options. Familiar staples Starbucks, Qdoba, Five Guys, and Jimmy Johns are there, though local faves include Illegal Pete's (burritos), Half Fast Subs, and Thai Avenue, among many others. At day's end, do as President Obama did in a 2012 campaign visit and stop by The Sink for pints, pizza, and the artful graffiti.
Near the Millennium Hotel
The Millennium Hotel is a block from the intersection of 28th St. and Arapahoe Ave., which is a major crossroads in Boulder with many dining options. The Twenty Ninth Street mall anchors the intersection and is ideal for quick meals at Chipotle or Noodles & Company (both founded in Boulder), along with Pei Wei, Modmarket, and Smashburger, among several others. Additional recommendations within walking distance:
- Flatiron Coffee ($) for a locally roasted eye-opener. On Folsom St. you’ll also find Village Coffee ($) and Brewing Market ($).
- Larkburger ($) – Fresh, fast, delicious burgers paired with truffle & parm fries.
- Rincon del Sol ($) – Simple, affordable Mexican food and powerful margaritas.
- Tibet Kitchen ($) – Authentic momos and noodle dishes affordably priced.
- Il Pastaio ($$) – Voted best Italian in Boulder with delicious homemade pastas.
- Pizzeria Da Lupo ($$) – Boulder’s best pizza, wood fired pies and amazing salads.
- Zolo Grill ($$) – A local favorite for upscale Southwest cuisine and tasty margs.
Arguably the heart of Boulder, Pearl Street is lined with colorful shops and restaurants, and is the ideal location for an afternoon excursion or nicer dinner with colleagues. Get there with a brisk 10 minute walk north along Broadway Avenue or a short ride on the Skip bus. Pearl Street includes a walking mall where locals stroll, enjoy the flowers, and dodge street performers. The mall includes budget-friendly happy hour hangouts The Boulder Cafe, The Lazy Dog, and Connor O’Neil’s Irish Pub, though there’s much more a few blocks east and west of the walking mall. Some notable selections:
- The Laughing Goat ($), Ozo’s Coffee ($), or Foolish Craig’s ($) for breakfast on the go.
- Sherpa’s ($) - A Tibetan and Indian-inspired menu with mountain climbing decor.
- The Mediterranean ($$) - “The Med” specializes in tapas and great wines.
- Tahona ($$) - An inviting tequila bar featuring modern versions of Tex-Mex classics.
- Pizzeria Locale ($$) - Wood-oven pizzas and Italian drinks like a Fernet with Coca-Cola.
- Shine Restaurant ($$) - Off the walking mall. Local, organic, and full of veggies.
- Frasca ($$$) - Fine, fresh Italian dishes paired with world-class wines.
- Salt Bistro ($$$) - The best in local, seasonal fare prepared masterfully.
- Jax Fish House ($$$) - Fully stocked oyster bar and the best fish in the West.
- The Kitchen, The Kitchen Upstairs, and The Kitchen Next Door ($$$) - A family of restaurants with farm-to-table fare and fabulous wine and cocktails in an appealing urban space.
- Oak at Fourteenth ($$$) - A stylish neighborhood restaurant that features local and seasonal American cuisine and unique cocktails.
Boulder Pubs & Breweries
Rival neighbor Fort Collins has the renowned New Belgium Brewery, but Boulder includes several jovial pubs and award-winning small and mid-sized craft breweries sure to please any hop heads and malt lovers. Also included below are spots for delicious cocktails and wines from notable establishments with well-stocked cellars.
- Backcountry Pizza & Tap House – On Arapahoe, with many local beers.
Bohemian Biergarten - Just off Pearl Street. Old-style German beer and small plates.
Boulder Beer Brewery - Colorado’s first microbrewery. Pub fare and live music.
Fate Brewing - Great ales complimenting tasty food. Good for large groups.
Mountain Sun - A local favorite on Pearl Street. Creative beer and pub food.
Tap houses (some with light food service)
- Avery Brewing - A Boulder staple. Highly recommended for lovers of strong beer.
- Twisted Pine - An intimate tap house frequented by locals.
- Upslope Brewing - Another local favorite on the north side of Boulder.
Colorado’s Outdoor Opportunities
Boulder has a much deserved reputation as an athletic and outdoorsy place for those who enjoy hiking, biking, and climbing. Paved bike paths wind through the town, more rugged trails are located in the nearby foothills, and majestic Rocky Mountain National Park is an hour away. Below are several recommended outings organized by driving distance and relative difficulty (easy = ; challenging = ).
Please note that Boulder is a mile above sea level and the higher mountain elevations can exhaust and dehydrate even the most seasoned hiker. The mountain weather can also be highly unpredictable. If you head out, don’t forget warm clothes, plenty of water, sunscreen, a reliable map, and a snack. Also, cell service is great along the front range, but spotty in the mountains.
Adventures in or near town...
- The town of Boulder has an impressive web of paved bike paths (see boulder paths Boulder Pathway Map for a map). There are several bike shops for rentals as well as bike kiosks. ()
- Chautauqua Park, a local mountain park located near CU (Baseline Road), offers some of the best and closest hiking and climbing options. Hike to the summit of Green Mountain for a view of the continental divide or enjoy a family picnic near the ranger station. Stop by the dining hall for a post-hike bite or beer. ( to )
- Boulder Parks and Open Spaces. Over the last few decades, Boulder County has acquired an array of properties and old ranches. Biking and hiking options abound (see Interactive open space map). ( to )
- Mount Sanitas. A relatively short but strenuous hike up a mountain that overlooks North Boulder. A local favorite. ()
- Mountain Biking. Boulder has a lot of mountain biking trails. Check out Wonderland Lake, Marshall Mesa or the Flatirons Vista trails. ( to )
Within an hour’s drive of Boulder...
- Eldorado Springs: For a relaxing afternoon, head over to the town and neighboring state park of Eldorado Springs for a dip in the spring-fed pools or a vigorous walk in the park (fee required). Great scenery, small town feel. ( to )
- Nederland, CO: This small mountain town at the top of Boulder Canyon is a gateway to great Boulder Mountain Parks, Arapahoe National Forest, and Indian Peaks Wilderness. The Hessie or 4th of July trailheads () will take you through stands of aspen and subalpine forests. For a more casual walk to spot early season wildflowers, try Mud Lake () or lower Caribou Ranch (). Upper Caribou () offers a chance to explore the abandoned Bluebird mining town.
- Biking: A variety of mountain biking trails are nearby Boulder, in the towns of Lyons and Golden ( to ). Stop by A popular 28-mile road ride is from Boulder to Lyons and back via highway 36 ().
- Rock climbing: Boulder Canyon, Chautauqua Park, and Flagstaff Mountain are the three closest outdoor climbing areas ( to ). Beginners are advised to check out one of Boulder’s many rock climbing gyms, Movement, Boulder Rock Club or The Spot, all of which offer excursions and lessons.
Half to full day adventures...
- Peak to Peak Highway: Start in Boulder and head up Nederland. Head south to Rollinsville and the classic Rockies terrain of East Portal Trailhead (). Head north for gorgeous views of the Indian Peaks and then descend to Lyons for beer at local favorite Oskar Blues Brewing.
- Rocky Mountain National Park: Located by Estes Park, CO, only an hour north from Boulder. Numerous hiking, camping, and climbing options ( to ). Look for elk and bighorn sheep. If open, try the unforgettable drive along Trail Ridge road that climbs to 12,000 feet!
- Fort Collins, CO: Home of Colorado State University, Fort Collins is famous for breweries and numerous artsy shops and restaurants. Just outside of town is the Poudre River canyon, which has many picnic areas and several great trails. If you make it all the way to the pass to ogle the crags, consider dropping over to State Forest State Park and the largest moose population in the lower 48.