Boulder, Colorado is known for its hipster, health-conscious culture, its gorgeous setting with the backdrop of the Rockies, nearby rivers and Boulder Creek, not to mention the city’s proximity to Denver. With a population of about 103,000 residents, including about 30,000 from the University of Colorado, it’s a fantastic place for hiking, biking, dining, and the arts. Although there’s no way to see all that Boulder has to offer in a day, on a recent visit I made it my mission to hit some of the highlights. Here are my recommendations on how to make the most of a day trip.
The outdoors in Boulder, Colorado
A major, if not obvious, reason that people visit Colorado is for the outdoors. Although Boulder itself is clearly a city, you don’t have to drive far to find gorgeous parks and wilderness. River and mountain recreation are within an hour drive of the city. But if you’ve only got a day here, I’d suggest that you get your does of physical activity from somewhere within city limits. Boulder is an extraordinarily bike-friendly city and it’s one of the best ways to get around town. There’s also some major congestion, especially during rush hour, so avoiding the use of a car will inevitably make your day more pleasant.
Boulder is also extremely walkable—even if you’re further into a residential area, you’ll often find sidewalks and some businesses within walking distance. There are also lots of great places for yoga, in both conventional and unconventional spaces. One great class, led by All Terrain Yoga, can be found at the Wednesday night Farmers Market.
Pearl Street Mall
When most of us picture Boulder, Pearl Street is one of the first spots that come to mind. At this outdoor mall and pedestrian-only downtown area, you’ll find many local businesses. Expect to see children playing and musicians performing and plan to spend some time taking in the sights. Outside of this particular pedestrian-free area, you’ll still find other streets nearby with fantastic shopping, restaurants and museums. Don’t be afraid to stray further. Parking is plentiful here, so although you should be prepared to spend 10 to 15 minutes finding a spot, there’s plenty of on-street parking. You’ll also find plenty of parking lots and garages to choose from. (We don’t recommend bringing your RV all the way into the city though.)
It’s a beautiful area, both during the day and at night.
Whether you’re interested in visiting a brewery or a bookstore, you’ll find plenty to explore here. One popular favorite is the Boulder Book Store. If you or a family member love books, be sure to visit this three-story shop and its in-house café.
If you only do one thing with your day in Boulder, it should be to spend at least a few hours exploring this area.
Visit the Museum of Boulder
The Museum of Boulder just opened this year, and it’s a beautiful museum that strives to connect people and disciplines while sharing stories of Boulder and how Boulder’s history and current stories connect to other disciplines, history and places around the world. It reminded me a bit of the larger—and more established—Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.
It doesn’t just focus on science or history or the outdoors. It really is trying, within each exhibit, to bring all of the pieces together, celebrating local connections and offering hands-on investigative exhibits that will appeal to all ages and abilities. There are, of course, other museums and historical buildings worth a look in Boulder, but this is a great place to start, and admission is only $10.
Finding great food and drink
Boulder does food and drink very well. You won’t have trouble finding something that interests you. I enjoyed an excellent dinner—not too fancy, but classy and with good prices and a great late night feel—at The Mediterranean downtown. It was tough to find a restaurant with great gluten-free options after 9 p.m., but they had some incredible pasta options for me and great bread and pizza for my husband.
If you’re into local food and curious about a community-supported restaurant (with community members purchasing shares of it just like at a farm), you need to try Fresh Thymes Eatery. An entirely gluten-free restaurant, the incredible made-from-scratch cuisine is full of options for vegetarians and vegans. Offerings vary from sandwiches to pizzas to soups to dairy-free mac and cheese and baked goods. They’ve also got a decent selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to enjoy. During our visit, they had cheap tacos during their 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour.
Have a late-night sweet tooth? Boulder is also a great place to find local, homemade ice cream and Glacier is my favorite go-to spot.
And finally, if you’re like me and need to indulge in a fantastic breakfast every now and then, head to Tangerine Restaurant for incredible sweet and savory dishes. On this trip, I indulged in an egg, spinach and an outstanding chocolate chip pancake with blackberry mascarpone cream cheese. The food and service are wonderful, and you can choose from indoor and outdoor seating options.
Finding live music
Pearl Street is a great area for hearing live musicians. Lots of local restaurants and bars hire performers and The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse has nightly donation-based live music.
Visiting Boulder in a day isn’t ideal, but if that’s as long as you’ve got, it’s easy to fill your day.
Need an RV rental while you’re in Colorado? Start here.