Sometimes, visiting Boulder feels like traveling to another planet, the air is so pure, the skies are so blue, and the people are so welcoming. Located in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, Boulder is one of America's leading outdoor destinations, but it has more to offer than trails, ski slopes, and mountains.
If you just want to enjoy the scenery or test your physical capabilities, you can rent equipment and climb in the Flatirons, take a tent out onto the trails and sleep under the stars or take mountain bikes to local spots like Marshall Mesa.
But you don't need to leave town to enjoy a stay in Boulder. Travel during the Colorado Music Festival to watch some of America's finest orchestras, walk along Boulder Creek (or try some tubing if the weather is fine) and dine at superb restaurants like Sushi Zanmai or Frasca.
There's a reason why the world's elite athletes flock to Boulder - and it's not just about access to expert training. The fresh air, mountain setting and local culture make it the ideal place for world-class runners and everyday vacationers alike.
More than anything else, Boulder is an outdoor destination. Hike deep into the Rockies, climb the Flatirons or just wander along the Boulder Creek Trail in the center of town. Wherever you go, you'll find pure, clean air and gorgeous views.
Boulder has a well-educated, upscale population and offers a year-round program of cultural events. There are the classical music performances during the Colorado Music Festival in September, daily music gigs at the Fox Theater and international premieres during the Boulder International Film Festival in March.
If you love to combine your vacations with exercise, nowhere is better than Boulder. Swim or go tubing on Boulder Creek, rent mountain bikes and take them to Marshall Mesa or shoulder your pack and climb Flagstaff Mountain.
Along with the great outdoors and vibrant cultural attractions, Boulder is also a great place to shop. The hub of the city's shopping scene is Pearl Street in the Downtown neighborhood, where over 1,000 independent stores compete for your attention.
Boulder is also ideal for travelers with an appetite for gourmet food and drink. Dine at organic-farm-to-table brasseries like the Kitchen or Asian restaurants like Know Thai, before hitting the Boulder Craft Ale Trail to visit breweries like Avery Brewing.
Protected by the Open Space & Mountain Parks, the Flatirons are Boulder's central landmark. Flatirons are slanted reddish 300 million-year-old rock formations anchored amidst Boulder's foothills. There are five Flatirons berthed alongside the Southwest slopes of Green Mountain. Hike the Chautauqua Trailhead trail that leads to the Flatirons. Or, hike Woods Quarry and get a bird's-eye view of the majestic landscape. If you love heights, then climb the Third Flatiron. Ranging from 4-10 pitches, the Third Flatiron is the most popular rock among rock climbers. After a venturous hike or climb, head over to Chautauqua Park. Spread a towel on the grass, and have a picnic while taking in the breathtaking view of the Flatirons.
Stroll over to Pearl Street and choose from a plethora of stores, shops, and restaurants to visit. Listen to music by the street performers while you shop around at clothing boutiques. Visit the Pearl Street Mall's breweries and compare the flavors between Mountain Sun or Boulder Beer. With so many things to see and do, you'll spend an entire day adoring Boulder's culture. Before you leave, stop by at the Art Mart and choose an aspen-leaf ornament or a Flatirons photo as a souvenir to take home with you.
Eldorado's Canyon State Park is a nature lover's paradise. The park is open to the public from sunrise to sunset and offers over 500 technical rock climbing routes. Climbers from around the world visit the park to climb "Eldo's" precipices. Hike or ride your bike on the Rattlesnake Gulch Trail and come across the ruins of an old burned-down hotel. Or, hike the Eldorado Canyon Trail and get a birds'-eye view of the glorious cliffs enclosing the park. After that, venture to South Boulder Creek and grab a picnic table. Heat up the grill while you throw a line and wait for the fish to bite.
Located on the campus of the University of Colorado, the Fiske Planetarium blends art and science into spectacular shows. Lean back and enjoy "Perseus & Andromeda", one of the planetarium's many laser shows. Then, marvel at the amalgamation of psychedelic and abstract art of Liquid Sky. The "Pink Floyd: Dark Side of the Moon" show is the most popular. All programs are shown on an 8K digital theater with surround sound. For a visual narrative of the cosmos and universe, catch the "We Are Stars" video.
Go on a 45-minute free tour of Celestial Seasoning's headquarters. The behind-the-scenes tour takes you from the raw ingredients to the finished product. Visit the Mint Room and Tea Shop and pick up a few gifts & collectibles. Don't forget to pick up a ceramic teapot or a Sleepytime plush bear.
Boulder is a wonderful summer destination. Between June and August, the temperatures are rarely uncomfortably hot, and the trails, watering holes and mountains are there to explore. Both spring and fall can be good times to go (but pack a raincoat), while winter sees excellent skiing conditions, but very low temperatures.
Boulder is not far from Denver International Airport, which is the easiest way to reach the city. From the airport, the AB bus, run by the Denver-Boulder Regional Transportation District, is the cheapest route to Boulder, costing $13 and taking 70 minutes. There are also door-to-door shuttles and taxis at the airport (which cost around $40).
Boulder is easily reachable by train, thanks to Denver's Union Station. Located about an hour by bus or car from Boulder, Union Station is served by Amtrak's California Zephyr, which links Denver to destinations both to the east and west.
If you are driving from Denver, take Highway 36. I-70 is the best way to approach Boulder from the west, I-36 runs from the Pacific Northwest, and I-70 is the best road to take if you are coming from the east.
Boulder doesn't have an interstate bus station of its own, but it's easy to reach by bus in any case. Just take Greyhound or Megabus services to Denver and change to the RTD bus from Market Street Station, which will add just over an hour onto your journey.
Boulder offers some accommodation with stunning views, but visitors tend to pay a premium for the views. The Alps Boulder Canyon Inn in Boulder Canyon is one of the best hotels on the outskirts of town, while Downtown options include the Hotel Boulderado and the St. Julien Hotel. For a slightly more romantic stay, you could also try Briar Rose Bed and Breakfast, while student-oriented hostels like Boulder University Inn offer cut-price accommodation near the university.
Downtown – Boulder isn't a large city, and Downtown is the major cultural hub. It also includes Pearl Street Mall, where you'll find the town's best shopping opportunities along with popular bars like the Sink and the No Name Bar.
University Hill – Located just across Broadway from the University of Colorado, University Hill is centered around student life, which means that it's full of bars, cafes and live music venues. Check out the farm-to-table menu at Cafe Aion and the Fox Theater, which has a packed weekly roster of music acts.
SoBo – Once the home of horror writer Stephen King, SoBo (South Boulder) is right in the foothills of the Rockies. Although it's mainly a residential neighborhood, South Boulder is a great base away from the city center and ideally located for heading into the hills whenever you feel like it.
Public transit in Boulder is provided by RTD, which regularly win nationwide awards for the quality of its service. Single local fares are $2.60 ($5.20 for a day pass), and you can also buy books of 5 day passes for $26.
If you've missed your last bus, don't fancy cycling or want to get around town conveniently, taxis are a good way to travel in Boulder. Typical local rates are $2.50 for the meter drop then $2.25 per mile with a $1 charge for every extra passenger. Uber is active in the city as well and charge a basic rate of $1, then $1.10 per mile, with a minimum charge of $6.40, so they may well be a cheaper option.
While there's probably no need to have your own car to get around Boulder itself, if you want to explore the trails and climbing sites in the Rockies, having your own car is essential. Companies like Hertz, Avis and Enterprise have outlets in the city and at Denver International Airport.
The best place to shop in Boulder is definitely Pearl Street Mall. Located in the Downtown neighborhood, Pearl Street is a pedestrianized district that has attracted huge numbers of independent businesses in recent years. Highlights include the souvenir store Art Mart, kite shop, Into the Wind, and Peppercorn, a kitchen boutique - but there are over 1,000 stores crammed into the four block area.
As you'd expect from an upscale student town, Boulder has a large number of organic grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Lolita's Market. However, for cheaper groceries, check out Safeway or King Soopers. In general, grocery costs won't be that high. Expect to pay $2.90 for a gallon of milk and $1.80 for a pound of apples (at the more affordable stores).
Gourmet eating is one of Boulder's strong suits, with some truly exceptional eateries (and an incredibly high general standard of food). For a real experience, head up to Flagstaff House, which overlooks the city. Back in town, Illegal Pete's makes great burritos, Efrain's II is an excellent Mexican eatery and Frasca is a fantastic Italian restaurant. There's a wide range of cuisines to choose from, so everyone's tastes should be covered. Expect to pay around $30 for a high-end meal and less than $15 at most other places.