The Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado

The 15 Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado

Boulder, Colorado, is a quirky mountain town with something for everyone. From the towering Flatirons mountains to the quirky shops on Pearl Street to the many restaurants and craft breweries dotting the city, you’ll never run out of things to do in Boulder!

Boulder is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. With scenic views at every corner and a plethora of trails, it’s easy to see why! Hikers, mountain bikers, and adventurers of all kinds will find it hard not to fall in love with this stunning mountain town.

Every season has something to offer in Boulder. Visit in autumn for fall foliage galore, namely the famous golden aspens. Head to the city in the winter to play in the fluffy powder and marvel at the picturesque snowcapped mountains. 

The spring brings showers and, of course, flowers. Hundreds of colorful tulips line Pearl Street, and the trails burst with wildflowers, like red paintbrush, purple lupin, and yellow prickly pear. Boulder comes alive in the summer as everyone enjoys the warmer weather, taking advantage of outdoor dining, live music, farmer’s markets, and more.

And while each season is different, you won’t be without sunshine! Boulder boasts an average of 300 days of sun per year. Also, remember that you’re at elevation – around 5,400 above sea level, to be exact. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you find strenuous activities a little more difficult as your body adjusts to the altitude!

There’s a good chance you’ll experience afternoon thunderstorms in the summer, especially in the mountains above town. Wildfires can occur in the warmer months, so keep this in mind while planning your trip.

Regardless of when you visit, Boulder will leave a lasting impact on you. There are so many must-do things in Boulder, and most likely, you’ll be counting down the days until you can return!

15 Fun and Unique Things to do in Boulder, Colorado

1. Hike the First and Second Flatirons Loop

Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Flatirons

The Flatirons are one of the best things to see in Boulder. These sandstone mountains are made up of five different peaks, with trails snaking their way throughout. Many of them connect, so you’ll likely hike several trails as you explore. Most of them are relatively short, which makes it easy to squeeze at least a couple into your day!

The Flatirons are popular among locals and visitors, so they can get crowded. It’s easy to see why, though – the views of Boulder and the surrounding area are unbeatable, even if you don’t hike very far. The landscape is variable too. You’ll walk through meadows, pine forests, and rocky terrain.

Most trails start at the Chautauqua Trailhead, so allow extra time for parking as it can be busy. The almost three-mile First and Second Flatirons Loop is one of the most popular, but it can be icy at the top in the late spring and early fall due to the high elevation. Just take it slow, and you’ll be rewarded with picturesque views of the Colorado Rocky Mountains!

If you want to continue hiking, there are plenty of other trails to choose from. The world – or the Flatirons – is your oyster!


2. Shop ‘Til You Drop on Pearl Street

Boulder, Colorado Bucket List: Pearl Street

Pearl Street should definitely be on your Boulder bucket list! This lively pedestrian-only walkway has everything a downtown should; street performers, unique restaurants, funky shops, happening bars, craft breweries, and more! Most of the 1,000+ establishments are locally owned, which just adds to its charm.

Pearl Street spans about a dozen blocks and runs from 9th Street on the west end to 21st Street on the east end. Browse the massive Boulder Book Store’s three stories for your next read, or sip on a cup of joe at their in-house coffee shop. Check out Art Mart to shop for pieces by local artists and unique souvenirs. Or pop into Peppercorn for cookware and one-of-a-kind home decor.

Pearl Street is home to many fantastic places to eat – it might be difficult to just choose one! Dine at SALT for fresh, local, and organic eats that change seasonally. Lucille’s Creole Cafe serves up some of the best brunch in town, like the Cajun Breakfast plate. Jax Fish House is perfect if you love sustainably caught seafood.

As a bonus, head to the farmer’s market on Saturdays if you’re in town between April and November!


3. Walk (and Get Tipsy on) the Boulder Beer Trail

What to do in Boulder, Colorado: Boulder Beer Trail

Cheers – the Boulder Beer Trail is here! This curated list includes the best pubs and breweries in the downtown area and is one of the top things to do in Boulder.

If beer isn’t your thing, don’t worry – R Gallery + Wine Bar serves both wine and beer! Their rotating art is for sale, along with locally made beer and wine. Check out live music every Thursday, along with their other events, like open mic poetry and photography nights.

Make sure to stop at Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery for unique craft beers, with new beers on tap every month. The patio is the perfect place to sip if it’s nice out!

Boulder, Colorado Things to do: Boulder Beer Trail

Grab barbeque and beer at West End Tavern, one of the most historic buildings in town! In 1906, it was home to Boulder’s police station. Make your way up to the rooftop and take in views of the Flatirons while you enjoy your meal. In the winter, you’ll be accompanied by patio heaters to keep you warm!

And because no beer trail is ever complete without a biergarten, you can snag a pint at Boulder’s very own Bohemian Biergarten. You’ll feel like you’re in Germany without even leaving Colorado with their assortment of European beers. Prost!


4. Attend Tea Time at Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Love tea, ornate interior design, and unique dishes? Head straight to Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse!

This teahouse was a gift from Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan. Over 40 artisans from Tajikistan hand-painted and hand-carved different parts of the teahouse, like its ceiling, outside panels, and tables. Plants speckle the interior, which is just as vibrant as the colors on the tiles above. It’s hard to imagine that the intricate details in the carvings on the walls and columns were done completely by hand!

With a long list of 100+ teas like honey orchid, mango chili pineapple, and spicy chocolate white tea, it’s a true treat for your taste buds. And in addition to tea, they serve international cuisine for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

For a truly special experience, attend afternoon tea or dim sum teatime. The restaurant only offers dim sum teatime once a month on Saturdays, so definitely make reservations for this special event early. It’s typically booked out several months in advance.

If you visit in the summer, sit at a table on the patio. With roses blooming around you and the creek babbling next to you, it’s a true escape! This one-of-a-kind experience is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Boulder.


5. See Live Music, Go For a Hike, and Get Brunch at Chautauqua

Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Chautauqua

Yes, this is the same Chautauqua that you’ll park at to hike the Flatirons. Chautauqua is almost like a mini village, with cabins, a restaurant, events, an auditorium, hiking trails, and more. This is definitely one of the best Boulder attractions!

Stay in one of the Chautauqua Cottages for a cozy weekend getaway. Book a studio for a romantic or solo trip or one of the multi-bedroom homes for a family vacation. You can even stay in one of the two historic lodges – both built in the early 1900s.

Attend a concert or event at the Chautauqua Auditorium or Community House. There’s almost always something going on, from film festivals to art exhibits!

The Chautauqua Dining Hall delights guests with farm-to-table cuisine and picturesque mountain views. Or, head to the Chautauqua General Store for a quick bite or scoop of ice cream.

Although you’re only minutes from Downtown Boulder, you’ll feel like you’re worlds away at Chautauqua! 

Book a Stay at Chautauqua Cottages


6. Cheer on the Buffs at a CU Boulder Football Game

Fun Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: CU Boulder Football Game

Colorado University of Boulder, or CU Boulder for short, has plenty of school spirit. While CU Boulder technically has one mascot – a buffalo – there are two different versions. Chip, the character mascot, is a person in a bison costume. Ralphie VI, nicknamed Ember, is a live bison.

The perfect way to get pumped for a game? Go to a “stampede” on Pearl Street! These fun events take place the night before each home game, during which the Golden Buffalo Marching Band walks down the street, playing for hundreds of onlookers. Buffs – the nickname for students at CU Boulder, short for “buffalo” – will be in attendance, as well as players and coaches!

If football isn’t your thing, or if you’re not there for football season (usually September through November), the CU Boulder campus is still worth exploring. Check the calendar to see if you’d like to attend any other upcoming events. The university regularly hosts concerts, dance performances, lectures, and more!


7. Go Tubing on (or Walking Along) Boulder Creek

What to do in Boulder, Colorado: Boulder Creek

Is there a better way to spend a hot summer day than floating down a stream on an inner tube? We don’t think so!

While the water itself is usually pretty cold from the snowmelt, it’s refreshing in the summer heat. For an exhilarating ride through rapids, start your float at Eben G. Fine Park and float to 55th Street. If you’d like a more relaxing ride, begin at 6th Street.

Wear a helmet, life jacket, sunscreen, and water shoes for safety. Also check the water levels before you go (look under “Flow Rate”). Floating can be dangerous when the creek is flowing too fast, usually anything above 300cfs. Above 200cfs will still be pretty fast, and the water will be too slow if it’s below 40cfs.

If you don’t visit in the summer, you can still enjoy Boulder Creek. See the cottonwoods lining the waterway turn a brilliant gold in the fall, and simply enjoy walking along the stream in the winter and spring.


8. Catch a Show at the Fox Theatre or Boulder Theater

Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Boulder Theater

Two popular venues live in Boulder: the Fox Theatre and the Boulder Theater. You can dance all night long to live music at both places, and you can’t go wrong with either location. Simply pick the one with the event you’d like to attend!

The Boulder Theater is a larger space located downtown with room for up to 1,000 people. This facility hosts a variety of performances, with everything from concerts to comedy shows to films. Before the show, grab a bite to eat at The Lounge, a small cocktail lounge and wine bar. Its colorful exterior is beautifully decorated in an art deco style.

The Fox Theatre, also known as “The Fox,” is a smaller, more intimate venue. This event center can accommodate up to 625 people, and Rolling Stone even deemed it one of the “Best Clubs in the United States.” You’ll find this venue on University Hill – nicknamed “The Hill” by locals – beckoning passersby with its white marquee and red neon sign.


9. Learn About Boulder’s History at the Museum of Boulder

Unique Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Museum of Boulder
Images courtesy of VisitBoulder

Curious about everything Boulder? Check out the Museum of Boulder to learn more! Discover the city’s history, present day, and future in the Boulder Experience Gallery. Stroll through displays about everything from the Arapaho to the creation of the Kepler Telescope.

But this museum is more than just history. You’ll come across a number of unique items and activities, like the world’s most accurate clock. Compete in the Rocky Mountain Rescue Challenge, where you try to rescue a virtual climber. Some exhibits rotate, so you’re bound to find something new each time you visit! This is what makes the museum one of the best Boulder attractions.

Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Museum of Boulder

Kids will have a blast at the Museum of Boulder too. They’ll love exploring Playzeum, a children’s play area full of wonder, like forests made of rainbows. They can stretch their imagination at the Google Garage, a creative space where kids can make whatever they dream up. This could be a robot, musical number, or building – anything they come up with.

If you’re looking for amazing views, check out the museum’s rooftop for some seriously amazing scenery!


10. Grab a Drink and Bite at the Luxurious St. Julien Hotel & Spa

Unique Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: St. Julien Hotel and Spa

A true luxury hotel, visiting the St. Julien Hotel & Spa is an experience you don’t want to miss in Boulder. Dine at Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro to enjoy organic, locally-sourced food. They even incorporate produce from their very own garden – it doesn’t get more farm-to-table than that!

Savor your meal on the outdoor patio or The Onyx Room, a stunning private dining room. Their innovative menu twists classic meals into one-of-a-kind creations, like handmade tater tots with truffle aioli and berry cheesecake French toast.

In the evening, head to the T-Zero Lounge for imaginative cocktails and fantastic wine. The lounge even uses local Colorado spirits in many of their drinks! To elevate your experience, time your visit with live music performances, which usually take place Wednesday through Saturday.

And if you’re looking for a place to stay, why not book a room at the St. Julien? It’s not surprising that it’s one of the best hotels in Boulder!


11. Snag Tickets to The Boulder International Film Festival

Best Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Boulder International Film Festival
Image courtesy of Randy Malone

Boulder certainly values art and culture, and that’s reflected in its festival lineup. One of the largest events is the Boulder International Film Festival (BIFF). Over the course of four days, you’ll see some of the best new flicks from across the globe. Nerd out among film-obsessed attendees – over 25,000 of them, to be exact!

Enjoy events like happy hours, live music performances, opening night galas, and more. You may very well end up starstruck – some of Hollywood’s biggest stars have attended in the past, like Javier Bardem and Shirley MacLaine.

You definitely won’t want to miss this popular Boulder event! Many agree that it’s one of the coolest things to do in Boulder.


12. Stroll Alongside Boulder Creek on the Boulder Canyon Trail

Cool Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Boulder Canyon Trail
Image courtesy of VisitBoulder

The Boulder Canyon Trail is a relatively flat and easy hike that runs alongside Boulder Creek. The wide road on this out-and-back 2.4-mile hike is paved for the first half mile before turning into gravel.

To make this hike longer, connect with the multi-use path that follows Boulder Creek for 5.5 miles, right through the heart of the city. This walkway is a mix of paved road and gravel.

If you’re up for it, drive 10 miles east to see Boulder Falls, a 70-foot waterfall. You do have to hike to get there, but it’s quite short: only about 100 yards! It should only take about 10 minutes to get from the parking lot to the falls. The parking lot is small and often fills up, and the trail is pretty narrow. Because of that, it’s best to go earlier or later in the day. It’s also closed from November to May.


13. Admire the Awe-Inspiring Views From Flagstaff Mountain

Fun Things to do in Boulder, Colorado: Awe Inspiring Views from Flagstaff Mountain

Flagstaff Mountain has something everyone will enjoy, whether you want to conquer mountain peaks or take a leisurely walk. If you’re not up for much physical activity, you can just drive up the steep road to the top of the summit and take in the scenic vistas! You’ll find some of the best sights in Boulder atop the summit.

Flagstaff Mountain Summit via Gregory Canyon is a popular 5.4 out-and-back hike that takes you to the top of the mountain. For a more relaxed stroll, just meander around the trails after driving to the summit.

You’ll find the Flagstaff Nature Center perched on the summit of Flagstaff Mountain. Stop by to learn about local wildlife and plants. Kids will have a blast playing interactive games and reading books about nature. 

Volunteers are available to help you plan your hike or answer any questions. The center is open Friday to Sunday from June to September when volunteers are available. Plus, it’s free to visit.

Flagstaff House Restaurant is an upscale restaurant located on Flagstaff Road on the way up to the top of the mountain. Make reservations if you’d like to eat there for dinner. The bar and lounge serves appetizers, drinks, and desserts and is first come, first serve. Regardless of what you decide to do, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of Boulder from the large windows and deck.


14. Check Out a Funky ‘Only in Boulder’ Festival

Boulder’s quirky charm influences its many festivals, resulting in a variety of unique events that make you say, “only in Boulder!” These fun celebrations center around avant-garde theater performances, epic outdoor pursuits, and even fairies and elves.

The Boulder International Fringe Festival is probably one of the most unique events. This fair consists of independent – and sometimes downright bizarre – performances over the course of 12 days. The most interesting part? Shows occur all over town, often in unexpected places.

Boulder Fall Fest transforms Pearl Street into a biergarten over the course of three days. Every fall, you can enjoy live music, local food, an artisan market, and of course, beer!

It wouldn’t be Boulder without adding the outdoors into the mix. Get inspired by over 30 films of outdoor enthusiasts accomplishing amazing feats at the Adventure Film Fest.

And, of course, we can’t forget about the Tulip Fairy and Elf Festival, which takes place on Pearl Street. For this event, it’s necessary to dress up in colorful fairy and elf costumes. While it’s quite popular with kids, adults are more than welcome to join in the fun.

The tulips portion of the festival comes from the bulbs planted on Pearl Street every spring. Ideally, costumed attendees will “awaken” the tulips, and get them to bloom!


15. Take a Day Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park

What to do in Boulder, Colorado: Rocky Mountain National Park

Boulder is about an hour’s drive from the famous Rocky Mountain National Park. If you don’t have a car, you can take a day trip with a tour company. This park is a must-see, and chock full of amazing wildlife, like pikas, elk, moose, bears, marmots, and bighorn sheep.

Estes Park, where you’ll most likely enter the park, is a beautiful mountain town that’s worth walking around in. You can tour the Stanley Hotel, the hotel that inspired The Shining. Pop into the many shops, or ride the Estes Park Aerial Tramway to the top of Prospect Mountain.

Head to Bear Lake for beautiful scenery. You can walk the easy 0.7-mile loop trail around the lake or connect to some longer trails if you wish. The 3-mile out-and-back trail to Emerald Lake is worth doing if you’re up for a longer jaunt.

Drive the windy Trail Ridge Road, which goes up to 12,183 feet! Stretch your legs at the Tundra Communities Trailhead area to see pikas, marmots, and alpine habitats. From there, stop at the Alpine Visitor Center and the Continental Divide. You can either turn back around or continue along the road and exit through Grand Lake.

There’s plenty more to do if you have more time, but that’s what we’d recommend if you only take a day trip to the park.

So there you have it! The 15 best things to do in Boulder, Colorado. Which Boulder activities will you add to your must-do list?


Planning a trip to Colorado? Check out our favorite books and travel guides!


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Author

  • Valerie Wheatley

    Val grew up in Portland, Oregon but moved to Oahu on a whim back in 2013. She sold her house and all of her belongings and bought a one-way ticket. Since then she’s taken two around-the-world trips and has visited 60-ish countries while living out of a duffel bag.

    Val started documenting the Wandering Wheatleys travels back in 2013 as a way to update friends and family about her whereabouts and to relay humorous daily interactions. The only readers were her mom and her mother-in-law but that didn’t stop her!

    These days you’ll find Val dreaming up future trips, creating new travel content, managing a team of amazing travel enthusiasts, and chasing around her two adorable but naughty kids.

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