20 Best Things to Do in Boulder, CO

Boulder, CO

Imagine waking up to a view of the majestic flatirons, the smell of fresh mountain air, and the soft murmur of Boulder Creek nearby.

That's the daily reality of living in Boulder, Colorado.

Every morning, I find myself eager to go out and experience the city's vibrant energy and numerous outdoor adventures.

This enthusiasm has led me to delve deep into Boulder's corners, uncovering its hidden gems, and immersing myself in the local culture.

I'm excited to guide you through the 20 best things to do in Boulder, Colorado.

Get ready to be charmed by this city, a place that effortlessly blends natural beauty with urban sophistication.

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About this article: This article was written by a local contributor based on their own experiences and those around them. While this list showcases some remarkable places, it's important to note that this is an opinion piece, and there are many other exceptional places to visit that are not featured here.
Our aim is not just to guide you to popular places but to encourage you to venture out and experience the city for yourself.

Explore the Shelby American Collection

1964 shelby cobra in Shelby American Collection
Sicnag, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I always found myself pulled towards the thrilling atmosphere of the Shelby American Collection.

The roomy venue, packed with the magic of mid-century racecars, mesmerized me every time I stepped through its doors.

The museum's charm lies not only in its iconic, impeccably maintained cars but also in the detailed plaques adorning each one.

They tell tales of the cars' rich histories and exciting races - stories that ignite the imagination and transport you to the golden era of automobile racing.

1966 Ford GT in Shelby American Collection
Sicnag, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

For someone like me, who watched 'Ford V Ferrari' and fell in love with the captivating world of automobiles, the Shelby American Collection is a paradise.

It is a place where one can relish in the beauty of historic cars, absorb the incredible automotive history, and get lost in a world of speed, fury, and excitement.

Despite visiting numerous times, my love for this place only grows. Every visit uncovers a new detail, a new story, that I had missed in my previous trips.

The Shelby American Collection is not just a museum.

It’s a journey, a thrilling ride into the past, a celebration of the automotive world's glory days.

And I’m just lucky enough to have this treasure trove in my city, ready to quench my thirst for automotive knowledge whenever I need it.

Experience the Outdoor Thrill at Valmont Bike Park

A biker at Valmont Bike Park
D. Scott Larson / Shutterstock.com

Whenever I feel a rush for adrenaline, Valmont Bike Park is the first place that pops into my mind.

I've been frequenting this public bike park for several years now, and its charm never fades.

Nestled in the heart of Boulder, it's a sprawling 40-acre paradise for people who love biking, regardless of their skill level.

My friends and I often spend our weekends exploring the numerous trails here.

You can never get bored with the diverse range of features designed for every level, from beginners to professionals.

Trust me, there's nothing quite like the exhilaration of gliding over jumps, taking sharp turns, or sailing down slalom slopes.

The park is also meticulously maintained, the turns are deep, the jumps are thrilling, and the variety is nothing short of mind-boggling.

But the park isn't just about biking. I frequently notice old vans and trucks parked in the gravel lot.

Daytime view of Valmont Bike Park
D. Scott Larson / Shutterstock.com

Yes, the lot can be a bit dusty, and sometimes, kids tend to practice their biking skills there too.

But honestly, that's part of its charm - a place that is bustling with energy and enthusiasm.

Apart from biking, I also enjoy the amenities the park offers.

The picnic area is a perfect spot to relax and recharge after an intense ride.

And the restrooms are always clean and well-maintained.

Discover the Charm of Peoples' Crossing

Last week, I decided to embark on a leisurely stroll through one of my favorite local gems called "Peoples' Crossing."

Tucked away in the city, this small park serves as a hub for an impressive network of scenic trails.

The paths wind around and lead to some of the most spectacular rock formations in the area.

As I walk, my footsteps echo on the concrete path, leading me towards the Big Rock.

The journey may seem mundane, but the destination is anything but.

The magic of Peoples' Crossing truly unfurls as I venture off the beaten concrete path and onto the lesser-known green trails.

The adventurous spirit in me relishes the challenge these trails provide.

They stretch beyond the Big Rock, leading me deeper into this urban wilderness.

But the beauty of Peoples' Crossing isn't just limited to its trails and rocks.

The park is also home to a picturesque river pathway, perfect for those days when I just want to take a leisurely stroll.

It's the sort of place where you can forget about the hustle and bustle of city life, even if just for a moment.

The park's main trails have their own unique charm.

The first time I stumbled upon the large red rock outcroppings that line one of the trails, I was left in awe.

Coupled with the strong stream that runs nearby, the aura of serenity it creates is something you have to experience firsthand to truly appreciate.

Peoples' Crossing holds a special place in my heart.

It's more than just a park - it's a testament to Boulder's natural beauty and a reminder of the tranquility that can be found right in the heart of the city.

Spend a Day on the Mount Sanitas Trailhead

The peak of Mount Sanitas
Hustvedt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A typical day in Boulder, Colorado isn't complete without a hike on the Mount Sanitas Trailhead.

Here, you can find me, along with my trusty four-legged companion, tackling the challenging trails on a daily basis.

This isn't your average hiking trail. With its numerous switchbacks, steps, clear trails, and stunning views, the Mount Sanitas trail is nothing short of a local wonder.

Every time I embark on this trail, I am reminded of why I fell in love with Boulder in the first place.

The majestic pine trees and the prickly-pear cacti nestled against the rocky sides of the trail create a perfect blend of nature's beauty.

The breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains are like the icing on the cake.

It's a serene place that's perfect for taking a breather, gulping down some water, and capturing stunning photos.

It's not uncommon to find visitors from out-of-state exploring the trails, often catching their breath as they adjust to the change in altitude.

Yes, the trails can be challenging, especially if you're new to the terrain, but that's what adds to the allure of Mount Sanitas.

The trail offers different levels of challenge, keeping the hikes engaging and adventurous.

However, the trail has its own set of quirks. There are numerous small rocks scattered along the path, and the steep climbs can be slippery.

So, I always make sure I'm wearing my sturdy hiking boots whenever I set foot on the trail.

Also, while I've had my fair share of hikes here, I still wish the trails were a bit more clearly marked.

One of the unique features of this trailhead is the chance to take in the panoramic views of Boulder City.

It's a sight that never gets old, no matter how many times I've seen it.

Climb the Freestanding Boulders at The Spot Bouldering Gym

Some folks call it a workout, but for me, it's an adventure every time I step into The Spot Bouldering Gym.

Sure, the gym offers traditional training equipment, but the real thrill lies in the freestanding boulders that reach up and beckon me to navigate their treacherous terrain.

But it's not just about the climb. What sets this gym apart is the thoughtful attention to detail.

Imagine the thrill of gripping meticulously clean holds, set in walls that mimic the texture of real rock.

It's an immersive experience that makes every climb feel like a journey into the wild.

And let's talk about the variety. From beginner-friendly boulders to the towering challenge of the gym's colossal wall, every climb presents its unique challenges and triumphs.

The routes, each with its distinct holds and ratings, test your mettle in different ways, keeping the adventure fresh and exhilarating.

The gym also has its practical perks. It's well-equipped with restroom facilities and ample storage for gear.

And if you're a budget-conscious adventurer like me, you'll appreciate the discounted day passes on Fridays.

It's an incredible value for an adventure that rivals the most thrilling outdoor climbs.

Shop at Boulder Farmers Market

People at Boulder Farmers Market
jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

Every Saturday, my day begins at the vibrant Boulder Farmers Market.

It's a place where you can find more than just fresh produce; it's a quaint little world in itself.

My expectations were always met with a surprise.

Instead of the usual potatoes and carrots, I find myself amidst a colorful array of crafts, paintings, sculptures, and photography exhibits.

The smell of fresh produce mixes with the aroma of delectable eats, creating a sensory cocktail that's both relaxing and invigorating.

Fresh produce at Boulder Farmers Market
jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

The market is a lively place, especially on a summer afternoon.

The vibrant colors and the buzz of chatter create an atmosphere that's more akin to a festival than a regular market.

The local vendors are consistent, friendly, and always willing to share their love for the arts.

I love how the first Saturday of each month seems to bring an extra flair with more vendors and artists showcasing their work.

Navigating the market can be tricky due to the parking situation, but it's nothing a seasoned Boulder local like myself can't handle.

Nearby, you'll find an assortment of restaurants, perfect for when you want to end your market trip with a delightful meal.

Radish roots at Boulder Farmers Market
jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

Spend a Day Wandering at Pearl Street Mall

Shops at Pearl Street Mall
Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com

Every time I walk down the charming brick-lined paths of Pearl Street Mall, the hustle and bustle always bring a smile to my face.

It's not just a shopping center, it's a vivacious hub of the Boulder community, brimming with retail shops, boutiques, art galleries, and eateries.

One of my favorite things about Pearl Street Mall is the galore of entertainment that it offers.

The sound of street musicians playing fills the air, and the spectacle of street performances never fails to draw a crowd.

Sometimes, my friends and I would stop by for an impromptu magic show or to watch some talented buskers.

For the little ones in the family, there's no shortage of fun either.

They always insist on playing in the fun spots scattered around the mall.

The splash pad is a particular favorite during the hot summer days.

I always remember their gleeful laughs as they run around in the water.

Pearl Street Mall also boasts a selection of unique, local boutiques and stores.

I've found some of my most cherished items here.

Bed of tulips on Pearl Street Mall grounds
Arina P Habich / Shutterstock.com

On the days I seek some tranquility, I would lose myself in the Boulder Bookstore.

Its vast collection always has something to pique my interest.

Food is another highlight of Pearl Street Mall.

Pasta Jay's is one of my go-to spots. Their delicious pasta dishes are simply irresistible.

After a hearty meal, satisfying my sweet tooth at the local ice cream shop is a must.

Pearl Street Mall gives off a vintage vibe which I absolutely adore.

It's not an enclosed mall, but an open, welcoming space lined beautifully with flower beds, which are always well-maintained, adding to the overall aesthetics of the place.

Night scene at Pearl Street Mall
littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

Pay a Visit to Eben G. Fine Park

There's something quite magical about Eben G. Fine Park.

Nestled in the heart of Boulder, this green oasis is a favorite spot of mine to while away the hours.

I often find myself strolling the trails directly alongside the creek, savoring the serene views that envelop me on all sides.

On any given day, you might encounter locals happily enjoying the swimming holes, dogs playfully exploring, or people relaxing in hammocks strung up between the grandiose trees.

The park is speckled with unique art pieces that are subtly dotted around the landscape, creating a sense of wonder for those who spot them.

Eben G. Fine Park is also a social hub, with a playground, picnic tables, and lush grassy areas perfect for a game of frisbee or a leisurely picnic.

The biking and running trails are always buzzing with life, and it’s not uncommon to catch sight of early morning joggers and cyclists getting their daily dose of exercise.

It’s worth noting that the park is not just for adults.

It's a great spot for older children to explore, although I would advise keeping an eye on them around the creek due to the currents and some narrow pathways that can be quite slippery.

As the day winds down, I generally make my way to the very edge of the park, right before it becomes private property.

From here, I can watch the sun setting, throwing a warm, golden hue over the entire park.

Embrace the Outdoors at Scott Carpenter Park

The grounds of Scott Carpenter Park
egvisuals / Shutterstock.com

Every morning, I stroll down the street to Scott Carpenter Park, the heart and soul of my community.

This park, tucked away in the heart of Boulder, Colorado, is more than just a patch of green, it's a hub of activity and relaxation.

Packed with amenities, from an outdoor pool to a skate park and athletic fields, it's a place that caters to everyone.

Whether you're a dog walker, a family looking for some fun, or someone who just wants to sit by the river and soak up the tranquility, this park has something to offer.

The park's open hills are perfect for flying a kite or sitting down for a leisurely picnic.

One of the things I love is setting up a hammock by the river.

It's a peaceful spot where the hustle and bustle of the city seem miles away.

The kids love the playground and the small water park - it's a great way to cool off in the summer.

For the sports enthusiasts, there's a baseball field and a bike and skate park.

And in an era where sustainability is key, Scott Carpenter Park even provides free electric car charging stations.

The park is welcoming to everyone, young and old.

And the best part? Parking is free!

Have Fun at Foothills Community Park

Whenever I need a breather from the hustle and bustle of life, I find myself gravitating towards the Foothills Community Park.

This expansive 65.2-acre sanctuary is a gem in Boulder, Colorado, offering a plethora of activities to engage in.

I usually begin my day at the park with a refreshing jog along the scenic trails.

These trails, which weave their way through the foothills, offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape - a sight that never ceases to amaze me.

The park also connects to several other trails along the foothills, making it a perfect start or end point for a long day of hiking.

One of the things I truly appreciate about this park is its dedication to promoting community spirit.

The roller hockey rink, for instance, is rarely empty.

I'm not a huge hockey fan myself, but watching a game unfold is always fun, especially when the players are local residents like myself.

And if you're in the mood for some friendly competition, the soccer field and basketball court provide the perfect platforms.

The park is also a haven for dog lovers like me.

There is a dedicated dog area where our furry friends can stretch their legs and interact with other dogs.

My pup absolutely loves this place and it's a delight watching him play with other dogs.

The community garden, managed by Growing Gardens, is another highlight of the park.

Nestled next to the park building, it is a vibrant mix of flora and a soothing sight for sore eyes.

It's always a pleasure to see the local residents come together and engage in something as wholesome as gardening.

Unwind at North Boulder Park

Scenic mountain views from North Boulder Park
Ann Cantelow / Shutterstock.com

I simply cannot imagine a day without visiting my beloved North Boulder Park.

It’s my sanctuary, my playground, and my fitness studio all rolled into one.

Right off the bat, I'll tell you that it’s not just any park; it's an experience.

All you need to do is step foot on the lush, green expanse to know what I mean.

The very air seems fresher here and the towering shade trees are like old friends; their wide, leafy branches providing a cool respite on sunny days.

The park is located in a peaceful city, tucked away from the hustle and bustle, but conveniently close to Pearl Street.

Parking is a breeze, with available spots both on the street and in the adjacent parking lot.

Oh, and the playground! Kids love it, and so do we, adults.

It’s a place where laughter and joy are the order of the day.

While the kids wander off to the playground, you'll often find me rotating between the grilling area and the picnic tables, trying to make the most of the sunny Boulder afternoons.

Experience the Magic of Chautauqua Auditorium

Exterior of the Chautauqua Auditorium
Hustvedt, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every time I step into the Chautauqua Auditorium, I'm captivated by its charm.

It's more than just a concert venue; it's a historic monument that's been captivating audiences for over 125 years.

Overlooking the Boulder/Denver metro area, you can experience the stunning views of the flat irons from here.

With a capacity of just 4,000, concerts here always have an intimate feel, making the experience incredibly personal.

The acoustics in the auditorium are simply wonderful and the comfortable seating adds to the overall experience.

Despite the highest summer temperatures, the auditorium stays fairly cool.

Though, I'd recommend always dressing casually, and maybe bringing a jacket just in case.

I've also had the pleasure of seeing the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band concert, among others, at this extraordinary venue.

The performances here never fail to captivate the audience.

But it's not just about the music; it's the entire atmosphere that makes the experience unforgettable.

Have a Wonderful Day at Valmont Dog Park

Ever since we adopted Rusty, our golden retriever, our afternoons have been filled with joyful barks and wagging tails.

Rusty and I frequent Valmont Dog Park, arguably one of the best dog parks in Colorado.

As we enter, Rusty's eyes light up at the sight of the acres of sand and grass enclosed within a secure fence.

It's not just another dog park, it's a haven for our four-legged friends.

The park is separated into different sections.

There's a smaller area dedicated to the little dogs where they can frolic around without the fear of larger dogs.

Then, there are these semi-fenced mini parks with lush grass and trees.

Rusty usually cools down here after a high-speed chase with his buddies.

And the best part? We never have to worry about water.

With two water sources and several wading pools, the dogs are spoiled for choice.

But it's not just about the dogs.

As dog owners, we appreciate the little things that the park offers us.

The views are just spectacular.

Imagine seeing the sun setting over the horizon, painting the sky with hues of orange and pink, while your dog runs around, basking in the glory of freedom.

Immerse in the Majesty of The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

Exterior of Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

Visiting The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is almost like a rite of passage for us Boulder residents.

Tucked away by the creek and radiating all the charm of a Tajikistan landmark, it's a place that feels like a world away in the heart of our city.

The first thing to note is the teas. There's something uniquely comforting about their mellow quality, their perfect balance.

Whether you're sipping on white peach, white peony, or strawberry lemon, every flavor has a smoothness that lacks any trace of bitterness.

I've often found myself ready to dive into their black teas, but the late hours always seem to catch up with me.

And let's not forget about the food. The samosas are an absolute must-try, and the kale/parsnip soup is a savory delight that doesn't overpower.

Interior of Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com

While not as impressive as the regular menu, the cucumber sandwiches and curried egg salad crostinis are delightful and quickly became my favorite part of the high tea.

The atmosphere, though, is a masterpiece in itself.

Walking into the teahouse is like stepping into a peaceful, relaxing haven, adorned with beautiful decor that makes every visit memorable.

Beautiful interior design of Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
jenlo8 / Shutterstock.com

Have a Scenic Stroll Around Wonderland Lake Park

The first time I stumbled upon Wonderland Lake Park, I was simply searching for a peaceful spot to watch the setting sun paint the sky.

You wouldn't believe how close this serene sanctuary is to the bustling heart of Boulder.

Just a short drive and you find yourself mesmerized by the tranquil lake, enveloped by lush, green foliage.

What I love about this park is the feeling of solitude it offers, despite its popularity.

Yes, you'll encounter fellow walkers, joggers, and dog-owners, but the park's vast expanse absorbs the crowd, maintaining its tranquil vibe.

The loop trail, adorned with picturesque views, is a heaven for casual walkers and passionate joggers alike.

At the heart of the park lies the stunning lake.

Sitting by its shore and watching the flatiron mountains' reflection dance in the soft ripples is an experience to cherish.

Wildlife sightings are frequent too, making each visit unique and enchanting.

If you're a parent, the playground nestled within the park is a joy for the little ones.

Explore the Majestic University of Colorado Boulder

Welcome sign of the University of Colorado
Red Herring / Shutterstock.com

I am lucky to live in the shadow of the University of Colorado Boulder, a sprawling educational institution nestled against the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.

More than just a school, it's an integral part of our community's identity and a place where history and natural beauty intersect.

A visit to the university is like stepping into a different world, where the hustle and bustle of city life gives way to tranquil open spaces and breath-taking landscapes.

The campus is an architectural wonder; the buildings, with their unified stone and red tile theme, are a sight to behold.

The stones are sourced locally and lend a unique color to the structures, a sight that always leaves me in awe.

Being a local, I often escape to this oasis in the heart of Boulder, taking leisurely strolls along the pathways.

On any given day, the campus is buzzing with students, faculty, and visitors, all drawn in by its charm and vibrant energy.

And there's more to it than just the mesmerizing views.

Aerial view of a lacrosse field at the University of Colorado
University of College / Shutterstock.com

For a dose of intellectual stimulation, I often head to the old main building, where they have an exciting space exhibit.

The university's planetarium and observatory are also worth checking out, offering a glimpse into the mysteries of the universe.

Our city takes pride in the university's diverse student population and the high-quality education it provides.

Be it in sports, academia, or community service, the Buffs, as the students are affectionally called, shine brightly.

I've made countless memories here, from attending the lively walking tours to cheering for the Buffs at their home games.

The University of Colorado Boulder is more than just an educational institution; it's a gem in the heart of Boulder.

A building at University of Colorado
Sopotnicki / Shutterstock.com

Experience the Fun at Twin Lakes Open Space

When the sun begins to paint brilliant hues on the Colorado sky, there's nowhere I love more than the picturesque Twin Lakes Open Space.

Nestled in the heart of Gunbarrel, it's virtually at my doorstep, a mere stone's throw away.

This spot used to be a doggy paradise.

My own furry friend, a Labrador Retriever, would wag her tail in pure excitement at the sight of the glistening lakes, ready to dive into her favorite activity - swimming.

She loved the freedom of swimming off-leash, exploring the calm waters at her own pace.

See the Starry Nights at Fiske Planetarium

Fiske planetarium at the University of Colorado
Sharon Wildie / Shutterstock.com

Whenever I need a mini cosmic getaway, Fiske Planetarium is my go-to spot!

The planetarium, part of the University of Colorado Boulder, offers a multitude of captivating shows throughout the week.

Not to mention, the free lobby exhibits that keep you engaged while you wait for the next show.

One of my most memorable visits was when we went to see the “We are Stars” show.

The first show was a spectacular voyage through time and space, leaving us in awe of the universe's grandeur.

However, the follow-up laser show was a bit too intense for my liking.

It was a little hard on the eyes, but the kids seemed to enjoy it.

I had my two little ones with me, aged 3 and 5, and they were absolutely thrilled.

They couldn't stop talking about the stars and constellations they learned about.

The most special visit, though, was during the summer solstice.

The presentation was all about the solstice and the sky above Boulder, Colorado.

Explore the Gateway Park Fun Center

There's nothing quite like a day spent at the Gateway Park Fun Center, nestled about 35 miles north of Denver.

Being its regular visitor, I have seen this place turning into an absolute treasure.

With its mix of outdoor and indoor attractions, it's become our go-to spot for some family fun.

The first thing that catches your eye are the go-carts.

Oh, the thrill they offer! The tracks are in great shape, making it safer and more exciting for the young ones.

They even have kiddie go-cart tracks, which is a real hit with the kids.

They love the independence of operating their own carts, an opportunity that's not easy to find elsewhere.

But that's not all; the mini-golf course is another gem.

It's designed in a very engaging way, offering enjoyment for players of all ages.

We had our twins there recently. Even though they're just two, they were utterly delighted!

The batting cages, maze, driving range, and roller hockey add even more variety to the mix, ensuring there's something for everyone.

Spend an Artful Afternoon at Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Exterior of the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
Kit Leong / Shutterstock.com

I've always been an admirer of art, and living in Boulder has given me the chance to frequently visit the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art.

The museum offers a myriad of exhibitions from regional and international artists, and the rotating exhibits ensure there's always something new to see.

One weekday, I found an empty parking spot right outside the museum which was a pleasant surprise.

The parking system was digital and easy to navigate - a sign guided me on how to pay online.

For just a $2 entrance fee, I stepped into a world of intriguing art pieces.

I'd say, it's always an idea to research the current exhibits before visiting, as sometimes the artistic intent behind certain pieces can be quite complex.

This was not my first visit, but the museum continues to impress me with its diverse range of art.

The small space houses 3-4 artists at a time, making each visit unique and fresh.

I particularly remember the fall/winter selection - a collection of altered photographs (often polaroids) spliced into surreal collages, work by Kevin Hoth & George Perez, and the contemplative photo projections on the shifting nature of "home" by Erin Hyunhee Kang.

My trips to the museum would be incomplete without a stop at the adorable gift shop.

From art prints to unique earrings, it's a treasure trove of souvenirs and gifts.

Final Thoughts

Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast, a lover of history, or simply someone who enjoys good food and shopping, Boulder has something to offer.

There's a whole spectrum of experiences to be had here.

All these places and more make Boulder one of the most diverse and lively cities to live in or visit.

Boulder, with its array of activities and attractions, truly is a gem to explore and enjoy.

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