After living there for about 6 months a few years back, I can definitely say that there are plenty of fun things to do in Boulder, CO. Located about 45 minutes drive northeast of Denver, Colorado’s capital, this mid-size city enjoys a fabulous position right in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, and is a favorite place to live for anybody who has an active lifestyle and enjoys the outdoors.
Right in the heart of Boulder, you will find hiking and biking trails; the creek is a fun place for a walk or to run; and the city is very child-friendly. The presence of the largest university in Colorado State make it a fun, thriving place to live and to explore. Add to this a number of eclectic cafés, good bars and excellent restaurants and you will definitely want to put it in your Colorado itinerary!
Curious to discover all the unmissable things to do in Boulder, CO? Just continue reading, and I will reveal all its secrets!
The Best Things To Do In Boulder, CO
Go hiking in the Flatirons
The five slanting sandstone slabs known as the Flatirons are situated to the west of Boulder. Originally called the Chautauqua Slabs, it is thought that they were dubbed “the Flatirons” because they resembled an old clothes iron.
It’s estimated that the rocks date back 300 million years but were tilted to their form between 35 and 80 million years ago. They’ve become a symbol of Boulder, and are popular with rock climbers and hikers alike. There are many trails in and around the Flatirons for you to embark on – it’s definitely one of the most popular things to do in Boulder.
For a guided hike of the Flatirons, click here.
Stroll around the University of Colorado at Boulder Campus
Set on the backdrop of the Flatirons, the University of Colorado, Boulder, boasts a charming campus that’s full of history and is ideal for a stroll on a sunny afternoon. Founded in 1886, before Colorado even became a state, two cities – Boulder and Canon – competed to host the university. Boulder won, and Canon got the runner-up institution: Colorado State Prison.
Situated just to the south of Pearl Street Mall, the campus is leafy and filled with historic attractions. From the Old Main, a Tuscan Vernacular Revival-style building dating to 1876, to the Mary Rippon Theater, and the 1923 Macky Auditorium, it’s a pleasant place to wander.
Stargaze at the Fiske Planetarium and Science Center
Also situated on the Campus grounds is the Fiske Planetarium and Science Center. Opening its doors in 1975, this impressive building plays host to the USA’s largest planetarium between Chicago and Los Angeles.
Come to the planetarium for presentations, see interactive films, and listen to talks conducted by leading researchers. It’ll really get you excited to explore the universe! There’s an ever-changing list of events going on; sometimes you may even be able to catch a theatrical production or musical performance, so make sure to check in advance.
Explore Pearl Street Mall
The beating heart of Boulder, Pearl Street Mall is where all the action of the city takes place. If you take a trip to Boulder, chances are you’ll find yourself here at some point during your trip.
The red-brick pedestrianized mall runs for four blocks from 11th Street to 15th Street and is home to a whole cluster of local stores, breweries, restaurants and other interesting attractions.
Home to around a thousand businesses in all, it’s the perfect place for foodies to spend time exploring, and has a vibrant downtown atmosphere.
Chill out in Chautauqua Park
A landmark of the city, the founding of Chautauqua Park has a history that dates back to when the city of Boulder started preserving the wildlands – more than a century ago. As well as its stunning natural scenery, Chautauqua Park features historic hotspots, from wood cabins and a quarry.
But it’s not just about the history. Situated right in the middle of the city, here you can hit up any number of walking trails and bike tracks, or you can do as locals do and play a round of tennis, or put together a picnic to enjoy on the grass – it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Boulder.
For a guided tour that also goes to Chautauqua Park, click here.
Discover a world of tea at Celestial Seasoning Tea Factory
I think I lost count of how many times I have visited this tea factory. I even won mugs and t-shirts at some point during guided tours where the guide would ask us curiosity questions. So, tea fans rejoice: you can sample all kinds of your favorite brews right here in Boulder. Celestial Seasoning Tea Factory is actually North America’s largest herbal tea manufacturer, brewing up 1.6 billion cups of tea per year!
The factory is out in the Gunbarrel neighborhood, northeast Boulder. You can actually go and tour their factory and see what the company has been up to for its 40 years of history. It’s a multi-sensory experience (definitely the case when you enter the peppermint room!), where you can take in a gallery exhibiting product design of the past, see the factory where 8 million teabags are produced daily, and even get the option of sampling more than 90 different types of tea.
The best part? It’s free!
Get lost (not literally) in Eldorado Canyon State Park
Close to the city, the Eldorado Canyon State Park encompasses 885 acres of nature across two separate sections: the Inner Canyon and Crescent Meadows. It’s a very popular location for rock climbers, who come here to enjoy some of the best rock climbing in the area.
If that’s you, you should definitely make time to visit: There are more than a thousand technical rock climbing routes at Eldorado!
But if you’re not into rock climbing, there are still miles of picturesque trails that weave through land and take in some of the park’s spectacular scenery. Bring a picnic and make a day of it.
Tackle Flagstaff Mountain
Standing at an impressive 6,983 feet (2,128.5 meters) above sea level, Flagstaff Mountain rises high above Downtown Boulder. You don’t have to be content with just admiring it from afar, though – you can actually climb it if you feel up to the challenge.
Its location just to the southwest of Downtown means that Flagstaff Mountain is easily accessible. After a fairly challenging ascent, the top will reward intrepid climbers with an epic view out across the plains of the Continental Divide and Boulder down below. You may spot wildlife along the route, too, from deer to bobcats!
Hike Mount Sanitas
Mount Sanitas is a well loved natural playground for Boulderites. Located just north of Downtown, this mountain is slightly smaller (6,863 feet, or 2,092 meters) than Flagstaff and easier to hike around. There are a variety of different trails on offer, accessible for various levels of hiker, including short routes and longer hikes.
Because of its popularity, when hiking here you’ll probably come across a whole cross section of locals, from trail runners to mums out with their kids for the day. When I lived in Boulder with my (now ex) boyfriend, I’d take our dog for a hike there almost every day!
Admire some creativity at Museum of Contemporary Art
Away from hiking and eating, Boulder has a pretty cool art scene, which you can check out at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA). This small gallery has been going strong since 1971 and is housed inside a historic red brick building dating back to 1906.
Perusing the interesting collection here is a nice way to spend an afternoon; it plays host to pieces from regional and international artists alike, with new collections exhibited every season. The admission fee is just $2, so it’s well worth a visit even if you’re on a budget.
For more art in Boulder, you may want to check out this tour.
Learn all about the history of the city at Museum of Boulder at the Tebo Center
Situated in a former Masonic lodge in Downtown Boulder, near the Pearl Street Mall, here is where you can learn all about the history of Boulder through hands-on exhibits.
There’s an interactive gallery offering an insight into the city’s past, present and future, including information about the Arapaho people – the native inhabitants of the land.
You can learn about how Boulder established itself as a health retreat in its earlier days, and then glimpse the city from up high on the museum’s rooftop.
Take a day trip to Estes Park
One of the best things to do in Boulder is to actually get out of town! In fact, there are plenty of mindblowing destinations nearby that are just waiting to be explored. One of these is Estes Park.
This charming border town of Rocky Mountain National Park is just under an hour by car from Boulder. Once you arrive you can stroll around town, along the riverfront Main Street, stop for a coffee and a bite to eat, and take the Estes Park Aerial Tramway for incredible views.
There are dozens of easy access hikes to embark on from here, as well as the scenic Peak-to-Peak Highway to drive between Estes Park and Nederland.
Soak up the views from Panorama Point
If you’re a fan of a good view, then you should definitely make a beeline to Panorama Point during your trip to Boulder. Though you can hike up to this point, many decide to drive up for nighttime views out across the city.
It’s a great place to come for sunset in Boulder, as the sun goes down the city illuminates. If you’re more of a daytime person, bring a picnic and enjoy the views with a picnic at one of the benches here. You can even see further than just Boulder, with vast, open scenery to soak up from this vantage point.
Stroll along Boulder Creek Path
When you want to stretch your legs and enjoy the surrounding beauty that the city has to offer, you should take a stroll along Boulder Creek Path. Running for 5.5 miles (short of 9 km), this urban trail begins at 55th Street in the east of the city, all the way to Boulder Canyon in the west.
Along the route, the trail follows the creek through the central part of town, and out into the countryside. As you stroll along, you’ll pass several historic landmarks along the way. Today, it’s a favorite for local runners and those who just want to stroll with a friend. It certainly was a favorite of mine – when I lived in Boulder, I’d go there for a run with my dog (that’s unless I was hiking!).
Try the suds at Avery Brewing Company
The Avery Brewing Company was founded back in 1993 and has been a staple of Boulder’s brewing scene ever since. Their aim is simply to create the perfect beer, so if you’re a beer lover then this should be on your list of things to do in Boulder.
This long-established brewery is now very popular, and even offers tours, so if you’re interested in the brewing process you can visit and learn all about how the magic happens. Or if you’d prefer to sample a few different brews, simply swing by their taproom. Grab a table on the outdoor patio and order some food to go with their award-winning beer, too.
Make your way to Golden
Another great day trip from Boulder, Golden is just a half hour drive away from the city. This aptly named former Gold Rush town, tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, is a friendly place to visit to learn about one of Colorado’s most historic towns.
With the town slogan of “Where the West Lives”, spending the day here is all about soaking up the Gold Rush atmosphere. You can visit the Golden History Museum and Park to learn about pioneer life and culture; hit up the Colorado Railroad Museum; and sample a fresh brew at Coors Brewery. Here you’ll even find the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, among other attractions.
Splash around at Boulder Reservoir
Boulder Reservoir is a local favorite for a place to chill out and kick back on a mountain backdrop. Here on a sunny day you’ll find people kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, laying out on the beach and meeting with friends around this man-made lake. There’s a sandy shoreline for picnickers to spread out a blanket.
If you’re feeling active, then you’ll be pleased to know there’s a place to rent water sports equipment, or just go for a dip in the designated swimming area. And with a number of hiking trails, you can also take a stroll in nature and enjoy the views.
Browse the produce at Boulder Farmers’ Market
Surrounded by all that countryside, it’s no wonder that there’s some amazing produce on offer at Boulder’s very own Farmers’ Market. This is a great place to visit if you want to see what Boulder life is like as a local.
This market began back in 1986 as a way for local farmers to sell their fresh produce, and has now grown to be the largest of its kind in Colorado. Here you can pick up all manner of farm-fresh produce, from cheeses and meats to flowers and wine. You guessed it – it’s where I used to shop when I lived in Boulder!
Catch a performance at the Sunrise Amphitheater
Set in a naturally formed vantage point on the slopes of Flagstaff Mountain, here you can get a panoramic view of Boulder and the surrounding area. Its stone benches and stage were added in the 1930s to create the Sunrise Amphitheater as it is now.
If you’re not able to catch a musical performance here, then come for sunrise. True to its name, this is a gorgeous spot to watch the sunrise; you can hike it if you like, but it’s also possible to drive. Watching the sun come up here, surrounded by nature, is truly beautiful. And for those looking for a special wedding venue, note that this is also a popular spot to get married in Boulder!
Are you planning to visit Colorado? Make sure to read these posts:
- The Best Hikes Near Denver
- The Best Free Things To Do In Denver
- The Best Places To Visit In Colorado
- What To See And Do In Rocky Mountain National Park