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boulder, colorado: a local's guide to the best things to do in this rocky mountain paradise

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

Welcome to Boulder, Colorado - a Rocky Mountain paradise that offers an abundance of activities and breathtaking views for both locals and visitors alike. Discover the best things to do in this stunning city through the eyes of two local Coloradans who know the ins and outs of Boulder's hidden gems and popular attractions.


From hiking in the majestic mountains to exploring the vibrant arts scene, there's no shortage of fun and excitement in this outdoor enthusiast's haven. You'll not only experience the city's natural beauty, but also become acquainted with its unique culture and friendly residents.


So, let's dive into the ultimate local's guide to Boulder, Colorado, and uncover the best things to do and activities that you won't want to miss in this Rocky Mountain paradise.


If you're also interested in where to eat/drink and where to stay for your trip to Boulder, Colorado -- read our full Boulder, Colorado travel guide here.


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Things to Do (Outdoors)


As we've said, Boulder is an epic place to fill your soul with some amazing outdoor experiences. We are avid hikers, but Boulder offers just about everything outdoorsy from rock climbing, bouldering (how appropriate), a nearby ski resort, whitewater rafting, and Rocky Mountain National Park. Beyond outdoor sports, the town has some beautiful places to wander outside, shop, and people watch. Other activities that are popular are Boulder brew tours and Boulder walking tours. Here are our top-rated things to do in the great outdoors in and around Boulder.

Chautauqua Park

If you don't visit Chautauqua Park, you'd be missing out on the single most exciting landmark in the city. Boulder's iconic Flatirons are striking angled rocks that make up a portion of Boulder's foothills. Throughout town, you'll often have a view of the Flatirons to the west and you'll notice the rocks are used in a ton of logos and branding around town. There are dozens of choices for hiking trails that take off at the Chautauqua Trailhead. Parking can be a bit tough since this is a well-used park ($2.50 per hour on weekends and holidays), but there's plenty of street parking available if the lot is full. Our favorite trail is a 2.5-mile loop called the 1st/2nd Flatirons Loop. Although short, the elevation gain is significant and you'll feel your legs burning as you climb over rocks on your way to the lookout.



Boulder Creek Path and the Boulder Canyon

Looking to see beautiful urban scenery and mountain scenery on one trail? Look no further than the Boulder Creek Path -- which, you guessed it... runs along a beautiful creek the whole way. It is a 5.5-mile concrete path that runs from downtown Boulder all the way up into the infamous Boulder Canyon. It is fantastic for bicycles, runners, or even just those that want a nice stroll. There are plenty of grassy areas to stop along the way and enjoy a picnic!


Did someone say tubing? Yes, absolutely. During the warmer months of the year, the Boulder Creek is filled with locals and tourists alike enjoying a tubing adventure. It was even rated one of the top 10 best lazy rivers for tubing in the US by Men's Journal. Even if you didn't pack a tube in your suitcase, they have rentals available by the hour or day at Boulder Nordic Sport and Foot of the Mountain Motel.


If you're lucky, you might even catch the epic event each year where locals hop on their tubes for a commute to work. If you happen to be there the last weekend in July, you will see locals coming out to enjoy the day known as "Tube to Work Day". They even dress in their fanciest suits and work attire -- a hilarious tradition!


Pearl Street Mall

We aren't usually the shopping type, but Pearl Street Mall is such an iconic component of Boulder. This four-block pedestrian-only outdoor mall is lined with Victorian-style restaurants, local shops, art, bars, and street performers. If you want to soak up the true quirkiness of Boulder, sit on Pearl Street and people watch for an hour or two.

Photo on the right courtesy of BoulderColoradoUSA.com


Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is an iconic camping/hiking trail destination near Estes Park and is very high on many people's bucket lists. Head here for all the information you will need about visiting the park.


If you plan to make a day trip to the park from Boulder County, it is about an hour's drive. If you're visiting in the summer months, expect large crowds of people. In 2018, Rocky Mountain National Park was the third most visited National Park in the USA!


As a kid, I remember sitting in my grandparent's basement watching a slideshow of photos from a vacation to Rocky Mountain National Park my dad and his parents went on. Think classic American 1960s outdoor nostalgia, an old station wagon, hot dogs, rustic camp chairs, Coleman brand stoves, and some interesting outfits. The thing I remember most about those photos was the wildlife! My grandparents were surrounded by dozens of elk, a few moose, a bear, and the list goes on and on. Hopefully, you'll have the opportunity to witness the same natural wildlife as the photos show.


Despite the heavy traffic, Rocky Mountain National Park absolutely lives up to the hype and is a must-visit destination!



Eldorado Canyon State Park

This state park is a less-visited gem that provides unforgettable scenery, many options for hiking, rock climbing, and beautiful day-use areas with picnic tables. To visit the Eldorado Canyon State Park from the Boulder area is about a 30-minute drive.

Saturday & Wednesday Farmers Market

One of the best ways to experience a city's culinary scene and local artisan scene is to head to the local farmers' market. The Boulder Farmers Market is on Wednesday evening (4pm - 7:30pm) and Saturday morning (8am-2pm) and is located right downtown on 13th street between Arapahoe Street and Canyon Street. The market runs from April through November. They even have some local live music for your enjoyment!


Some of our favorite items to consume are the famous Palisade peaches, Olathe sweet corn, Rocky Ford melons, roasted green chile, and Happy Leaf Kombucha.

 

Things to Do (Indoors)


Visit the Fiske Planetarium

If you are looking for a divine scientific and otherworldly experience, then this is a must. This 65-foot diameter dome is the largest planetarium between Chicago and Los Angeles and seats 206 guests. The Fiske Planetarium has an 8am to 5pm museum exhibit in addition to the planetarium that hosts live star talks, concerts & special events, full-dome films, star shows, and exhilarating laser fantasy & liquid light shows. A lot of times the laser fantasy show is synced to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon album. Talk about trippy! All shows require tickets in advance. Check Groupon for the best deals.


Drink Tea at Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

As it turns out, Boulder's sister city is Dushanbe, Turkey. The tea house building was created 100% by hand and was built in Dushanbe, Turkey. It was then disassembled and shipped to Boulder, as a gift, where it was reconstructed. The beauty of its exterior will definitely catch your eye if you're walking by and might cause you to temporarily forget which country you're in.


Now Dushanbe Teahouse has become a popular destination to enjoy fancy tea and fine cuisine. If you want to be swept away to another country and culture in the heart of Boulder, this is the perfect way to do it!


On the weekends they offer brunch from 9am to 3pm, tea time from 3pm to 5pm with light snacks, and dinner from 5pm to 8pm. Due to its popularity, reservations are required.



Attend a Concert and/or Visit Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

If you are visiting Boulder on a weekend at any time throughout the year, it is guaranteed that at least one major concert will be that same weekend. Boulder's music scene attracts some of the most famous artists, as well as talented local Colorado musicians. There's everything from free shows to ticketed shows and all genres of music. For a full schedule of concerts visit this page. If you know ahead of time you want to see a live concert, buy your tickets well in advance as most sell out.


By far the best concert venue in the world is Red Rocks Amphitheater near Morrison, Colorado. About an hour's drive from Boulder, you will find yourself in one of the most interesting geological locations in the world. For a list of upcoming Red Rocks Amphitheater shows, click here. If you want to attend a show at this iconic venue, you'll need to purchase tickets the minute they go on sale! As people come from all over the world to see their favorite artists at this venue, tickets are guaranteed to sell out quickly.


Red Rocks Amphitheater isn't only for concert-goers though. Visitors are allowed at the venue whenever there is not a concert going on. The majority of visitors come to marvel at the otherworldly geological formations, hike, visit the museum, or eat at the outdoor restaurant. In the morning, many locals exercise by running up and down the steep steps.


Practice Mindfulness at Yoga

Yoga is plentiful in Boulder, so there are a lot of options if you're looking for an hour of stretching and breathing. We recommend Googling studios based on your preferred type of yoga.


Sip Beer on a Boulder Brewery Tour

Boulder is home to a few famous breweries like Avery Brewing Company, Twisted Pine Brewing Company, and Upslope Brewing Company. If the weather isn't cooperating for outdoor activities, joining a brewery tour is a great way to spend an afternoon indoors. Many Boulder breweries offer free tours, which include generous "tastings" of beer along the way. We recommend checking out the brewery websites to see what their tour schedule is.

 


To sum up, if you're planning a trip to Boulder, Colorado, be sure to check out these must-see attractions and activities. Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast or a foodie, this vibrant city has plenty to offer. As local Coloradans, our daily routine generally consists of a good hearty breakfast with strong coffee, an outdoor activity (or 10), and making our way to a patio brewery by 4 or 5 pm. We hope you enjoy Boulder, Colorado, and don't forget your sunscreen!


in love and adventure, Bre, Daniel and Indy

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