25 Best Things to Do in Boulder (CO)

Source: Flickr / Pedro Szekely | CC BY-SA 2.0

Boulder is a city in Colorado located at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, next to the Great Plains. Located in the Boulder Valley, the city is best known for its wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking and rock climbing. Interestingly, Boulder sits at a high elevation offering amazing mountain views from all over.

With a laid-back style and home to the largest university in the state, Boulder is also known for its progressive attitude and innovative community. So, make sure to check out the incredible artwork displayed in all the museums and art galleries and to try the different flavors from the talented Boulder chefs.

Interactive Map of 25 Things to Do in Boulder (CO)

Source: Map data @2020 Google

1. Pearl Street Mall

Pearl Street Mall
Source: Flickr / Pedro Szekely | CC BY-SA 2.0

Pearl Street Mall is a celebrated pedestrian mall featuring an array of retail shops, boutiques, art galleries, and eateries. The area features some very unique and trendy shops which offer something for everyone. They have street performers, food places, drink places, and everything in between.

This is also a fun place to go out for a meal since most of the restaurants offer really cool outdoor seating with great views. Overall, Pearl Street Mall provides a nice walk with pretty things to photograph and an excellent ambiance.

2. Chautauqua Park

Chautauqua Park
Source: Flickr / J Iannone | CC BY 2.0

Located at the base of Flatirons, Chautauqua Park is a National Historic Landmark featuring hiking, lodging, dining, films, and more. The trails are clearly listed by difficulty and you know exactly what you are getting into. Besides, the park offers many rock climbing trails.

All the trails are great but even the easiest one can be a bit hard for people who are not used to hiking or the altitude. One of the most popular trails is the Flat Iron loop via the Chautauqua trail. The trail is heavily trafficked for most of the way. Remember to take lots of water and enjoy the views.

3. The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Source: Flickr / sk | CC BY-ND 2.0

Built in 1987, The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is an ornate landmark shipped piece by piece from Tajikistan and rebuilt creekside, with teas and light bites. The back story says that the teahouse was built by Boulder’s sister city and assembled there as a show of friendship between the two sister cities. And from 1987 to 1990, over 40 artisans from Tajikistan donated their artwork to the establishment in Boulder.

Nowadays, the place has beautiful scenery with cute decoration inside the restaurant, great staff, and of course the incredible food from various parts of the world. Not to mention their huge tea selection.

4. Boulder Theater

Boulder Theater
Source: Flickr / Jesse Varner | CC BY 2.0

The art deco institution of Boulder Theater was established in 1906 for various music shows and most avant-garde films. This is a terrific venue for a wide variety of types of shows to go check out like concerts and comedians.

The theater is conveniently located by Pearl Street Mall and in walking distance to many choices of wonderful nearby eateries. Overall, this is a fun venue offering entertainment for all ages and featuring a full-stocked bar. With a top-notch layout, Boulder Theater does a great job at maintaining its historical look.

5. Valmont Bike Park

Valmont Bike Park
Source: Flickr / Brad Fagan | CC BY-SA 2.0

The public 40-acre Valmont Bike Park entertains all ages and levels. The park features many trails with jumps, stairs, and slalom slopes. There is also a dog park next door and a skate park.

On the south side of the park, there are some single tracks with great rock trains, rock drops, and even a flipping teeter-totter. And on the north side of the park, there are huge dirt jumps sections with XS lines for children and XL for semi-pro and very advanced riders.

6. Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park
Source: Flickr / Brad Fagan | CC BY-SA 2.0

The Eldorado Canyon State Park is best known for rock-climbing and outdoor activities, thanks to its sandstone cliffs and natural attractions. The park features more than a few different trails to check out. In fact, one of the trails rewards you with views of Denver, which is a good turnaround spot for an out and back hike since otherwise the trail keeps going.

The canyon gives a great variety of stuff to do including watching climbers, walking up the canyon trails, or playing in the crystal clear water. The lighting of the sun and shade is great for photos.

7. Boulder Farmers Market

Boulder Farmers Market
Source: Wikimedia / kvng | CC BY-SA 3.0

At the Boulder Farmers Market, local vendors offer fresh produce, plants, crafts, and eats every Saturday, April through November. The market features a great variety of local produce, artisan products, as well as meat and dairy. Overall, it is on the smaller side, but vendors are each individually unique with high-quality produce.

However, multiple sellers are cash or market bucks only, so you will have to use the markets ATM which is conveniently located. Besides, the location by the creek is nice and ideal to stop by after a walk or bike ride in the morning.

8. Lost Gulch Overlook

Lost Gulch Overlook
Source: Flickr / Peter Alfred Hess | CC BY 2.0

Lost Gulch Overlook offers an amazing overlook of the surrounding mountains and the thin air at the top will take your breath away. The drive up is also scenic and winding. Once at the top you will find plenty of places to relax and enjoy the views. Just remember the road does not stop at the top. If you get to a lake, you are going down the backside and you may want to turn around and head back the way you came.

You can also hike in this area but if you have kids, watch them like a hawk because many spots have dangerous cliffs. On the weekends it can get crowded so plan your adventure early.

9. Gateway Park Fun Center

Gateway Park Fun Center
Source: Pixabay / eberhartmark

Gateway Park Fun Center is an amusement park with both indoor and outdoor attractions including mini-golf, go-karts, and arcade games. The center offers options for the entire family with constant fun and an overall joyful experience.

With two 18-hole golf courses, the fun never stops and it gets progressively harder as you play. Also, the go-karts are amazing with the choice of having your own to drive and or a two-seater which applies to safety which is key. Lastly, is the arcade with many games and prizes to win.

10. University of Colorado at Boulder

University of Colorado at Boulder
Source: Flickr / Zach Dischner | CC BY 2.0

The large public school of the University of Colorado was founded in 1876 and it is known for its scenic campus as well as its law program. The campus itself is beautiful with a unique style of building walls. And there are many different kinds of food choices in cafeterias. 

It is as if you are walking through a modern Italian town, or someplace in southern California. The buildings almost all have awesome stonework and red tile roofs, and there are areas here and there with ponds to sit nearby. The Front Range gets over 300 days of sun per year, and that is reflected in the red tile roofs and solar panels gracing the very progressive Boulder.

11. Sunrise Amphitheater

Sunrise Amphitheater
Source: Flickr / kallu | CC BY-SA 2.0

Located in the Boulder Mountains, Sunrise Amphitheater offers great views of the University of Colorado and a big part of Boulder downtown. This place can be used for many different events. Just make sure to call in advance to get a reservation. However, you can visit any time of the week.

They also have great hiking spots in the surrounding area. Great for the kids to climb on the rocks while you take in the views. It is not too far of a drive out of the way. And if you keep driving a little further, you will end up in the woods.

12. Royal Arch

Royal Arch
Source: Flickr / Christian Collins | CC BY-SA 2.0

The challenging Royal Arch trail is part of the Chautauqua Park. It starts with an easy gradual incline on a gravel road from the Chautauqua parking lot and then the fun part comes with rock steps after rock steps. The hike is quite shady through much of the rocks and it has lots of elevation gain. This is actually a great workout, and totally worth the view at the top.

Although it is challenging, this great quick hike is actually pretty easy as long as you are in decent shape. And like the rest of Chautauqua, it is usually crowded on the weekends.

13. Colorado Shakespeare Festival – Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre

Colorado Shakespeare Festival - Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre
Source: Wikimedia / Nawe97 | CC BY-SA 4.0

The Colorado Shakespeare Festival performs at this historic university outdoor amphitheater which has two stages with Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre as the main one. Attending the festival itself is a fun experience with really high-quality productions. Make sure to check out the “original practices” performances, if possible. These are performances done as when Shakespeare’s troupe originally performed them. They offer limited sets/lights/costumes, very limited practice time, and lots of audience participation.

Mary Rippon is considered the best stage of the festival. There is a large, grassy, shaded quad that abuts both theaters. And a lot of people bring picnic lunches or dinners to enjoy before the play.

14. University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

University of Colorado Museum of Natural History
Source: Wikimedia / Gaurav | CC BY 3.0

The University of Colorado Museum of Natural History focuses on the Rocky Mountains and Southwest with everything from dinosaurs to kids’ zone. For example, the paleontology and anthropology exhibits are each one large room with an excellent specimen collection.

With five galleries, the exhibits rotate, and the displays are interactive with many of them being hands-on. In fact, there are many “ok to touch” displays that are especially fun for the kids. Some of the highlights include the Discovery Corner for the young visitors and the BioLounge, where you can purchase a hot beverage. Even though it is a small museum the staff does an excellent job of making use of the space.

15. Boulder Falls

Boulder Falls
Source: Flickr / David Gibbs | CC BY-ND 2.0

The nice, quick, scenic roadside attraction of Boulder Falls is a beautiful hidden gem located only 20 minutes’ driving from Boulder. The walk to the falls and back is a little over 1/4 mile and suitable for all skill levels.

The waterfall is very nice and only 100 yards from the trailhead. Parking is available across the street, but the walk is very easy. Although it has a few stairs, the walk takes a few minutes to get to the falls from the parking area. Just make sure to get there early to avoid the crowds or choose to go on a weekday.

16. Shelby American Collection

Shelby American Collection
Source: Flickr / Sicnag | CC BY 2.0

The roomy venue of Shelby American Collection exhibits famous midcentury racecars, plus photos, artwork, and memorabilia. This is actually one of the best collections of American racing history. The displays include everything from survivor cars to fully restored ones, from classic to modern. You can even check out historical race cars like Ken Miles’ GT40.

Even though it is a fairly small museum with the entire collection fitting in one large room, it is shockingly amazing. If you are in Boulder, enthusiastic about cars, and have a couple of hours to kill, this location is a must.

17. Boulder Escape Room

Boulder Escape Room
Source: Wikimedia / SparkFun Electronics from Boulder, USA | CC BY 2.0

At the Boulder Escape Room, you have 1 hour to solve puzzles, find clues, solve riddles, and decipher hidden messages to escape one of the detailed rooms. You can choose from The Psycho Killer, try to escape Area 51 at The Abduction, and Captive rooms.

Located at the Pearl Street Mall, you can explore Boulder’s underworld while working with your team to escape the room. Overall, it is a great family and friends experience and activity. It is challenging enough for the adults but yet still fun for the kids.

18. Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides

Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides
Source: Flickr / Katie Bordner | CC BY 2.0

Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides is an outdoor activity organization offering several experiences around Boulder. You can go backpacking on multi-day hikes, mountain biking, fly fishing, rock climbing, go on ski tours and snowshoeing, ziplining, whitewater rafting, and go on hikes in general.

The organization provides custom, private, and unique activities for all ages and levels. Besides five local state parks, they can take you on tours of Rocky Mountain National Park, Roosevelt National Forest, and White River National Forest. The staff is very organized and concerned with its customers’ safety. Do not be alarmed if they ask you numerous questions about your previous adventures. They just want to know how far they can take you.

19. NCAR Mesa Laboratory

NCAR Mesa Laboratory
Source: Wikimedia / Thomson M | CC BY 3.0

The architect I.M. Pei’s pink-sandstone weather center and museum of NCAR Mesa Laboratory houses high-tech earth-science exhibits and explains what the US National Center for Atmospheric Research does. There, you will also learn why this center is so important.

The center features awesome interactive exhibits on Earth’s weather patterns, phenomenology, and predictions, as well as an exhibit on I.M. Pei’s architecture and Solar/Space studies. There is also an area describing the computer server hacks and mainframe. Besides, the views from there are amazing and from the parking lot, you can access all the local hiking trails.

20. Fiske Planetarium

Fiske Planetarium
Source: Flickr / Steven Miller | CC BY 2.0

Fiske Planetarium at the University of Colorado Boulder features shows several times a week as well as lobby exhibits. Some of their shows include the Laser Gaga which is super entertaining and the show about the Sun. All the shows have great narration, and the host spends lots of time explaining the mechanisms of the fantastic digital projection system.

This is a fun place to take kids and then show them the large scale model of the solar system outside. Given that it is a planetarium, you are in for a treat and will for sure leave it with more knowledge about our universe.

21. Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
Source: Flickr / joshua twentythree | CC BY 2.0

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art features galleries hosting changing regional and international artists of all stripes plus performances and more. You have to stop by to see the art and read the labels, which are just as interesting.

Located in a beautiful location next to the Tea House, the building itself is a historic landmark. The outside is unassuming, but inside lies some of the best examples of contemporary art, displayed beautifully. The interior of the old brick building is stunning in itself.

22. First Flatiron

First Flatiron
Source: Flickr / James Tiffin Jr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Rising 1,000 feet above Boulder’s Chautauqua Park, First Flatiron is the hardest Flatiron to climb. However, there are trails for basic, moderate, and advanced skill levels. And along the way up you are offered stunning views of Boulder for miles. As you progress through the trail you are offered forks that are well marked based on the level of difficulty.

You cannot get to the top of the actual outcropping without climbing gear, though you can get pretty close. And the views going up, from the top, and going down are all amazing! There is a parking lot, ranger station, and restaurant at the base.

23. Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery

Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery
Source: Unsplash / Clem Onojeghuo

The artist-run shop of Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery features a wide range of local artwork pieces on offer, from jewelry and ceramics to prints and sculptures. Besides, you can also find photography, pottery, paintings, textiles, and more.

Located right on Pearl Street Mall, the staff is always friendly and helpful. Stop by if you are nearby, it is worth even just to look around. For any admirer of art, spending only an hour in this gallery will not be enough. This is also a great place to find a special gift or your Boulder souvenir.

24. Folsom Field

Folsom Field
Source: Wikimedia / Thelastcanadian | CC BY-SA 4.0

Folsom Field is the historic home of the Buffaloes football and other CU-Boulder teams with club, suites, and concessions with the typical stadium food and a decent selection of beer. This is a fun environment to watch games and concerts. There is not a bad seat in the place, and the view of the mountains is awesome.

For non-event days you can walk around the stadium but cannot get on the field. The stadium also has a bunch of University departments occupying various offices. Just be sure to take some sun protection for the games.

25. Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery
Source: Flickr / daveynin | CC BY 2.0

The artsy and uniquely decorated Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery offers craft beers, brewery tours, and pub grub plus folk, acoustic, and bluegrass music some nights of the week. A really cool thing they do is send you to the bar while you wait for a table, and you can sample as many beers on tap as you want. 

Just make sure you have cash or cheque since they do not accept any form of cards. Also, they provide games for you to bring to your table to play, such as cards and apples to apples. Their highlights include the hand-cut fries which are worth the trip alone and the bison burger.