Boulder is a magical place located just northwest of Denver along the front range. It sits at the base of the Flatirons, one of Colorado’s most famous landmarks. Whether you are looking for a place to have a beautiful picnic, going on a college tour, or trying to find the most beautiful spot to have a happy hour beverage, Boulder does not disappoint.
While Boulder is a picturesque college town, it is also so much more. There are a plethora of outdoor activities at your fingertips. It’s home to delicious restaurants, unique shopping, and a new Google campus. There are adventures to be had and you don’t even need a car to have them. Boulder has both public transportation options as well as too many walking/bike paths to count. Boulder will always hold a special place in my heart as it is both where I met and married my husband, Jake. We are both proud University of Colorado alumni. When the two of us feel like we need a quick getaway — with or without our kids —we head north to Boulder.
You have a few options to take in order to get to Boulder from Colorado Springs. The most direct route is to head north on I-25 and keep going until you get to US-36 west towards Boulder. US-36 turns into 28th Street, which is a main artery through town.
If the traffic in Denver is bad, then you can either go through Golden, or you can pay a toll and bypass all of metro Denver on E-470. That will take you to Louisville and hook you back up with US-36. The drive is not the most scenic, but it is also not long. Without any traffic, you will be in Boulder in about an hour and a half.
During the 19th century, Zebulon Pike, a name familiar to the people of Colorado Springs, along with a few other explorers, were commissioned to check out the Boulder area. Like many towns in Colorado, mining was the industry that fueled both interest and investment in the region. In 1871, the town of Boulder became incorporated. The University of Colorado opened in 1877 establishing Boulder as an educational hub for the state.
People began to recognize all of the beauty surrounding the city and as a result created spaces in town which would remain open for public use and be preserved for anyone to come and experience. Boulder is still a popular vacation destination to this day. It is also home to many world-class athletes who choose the area to live and train. It has become a beacon for environmental sustainability and personal individuality. To learn more about the city visit bouldercolorado.gov.
Walk down Pearl Street. A stroll along this pedestrian-only street is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Meander past world-renowned street performers and small places to sit down and enjoy both the scenery as well as the people watching.
Hike at Chautauqua Park. Named one of the most beautiful places in the United States, Chautauqua Park is an open space at the foot of the famous Boulder flatirons. There are numerous hikes beginning from the parking lot, but this is a popular area so try to get there early.
Check out the Dushanbe Tea House. A gift from Dushanbe, Tajikistan, a sister city to Boulder, the tea house boasts beautiful, hand-carved and painted decorations throughout the entire space. Take a load off and have a fabulous cup of tea.
Head to the campus of the University of Colorado. CU is known as one of the most beautiful college campuses in the United States. The style of the buildings is categorized as Tuscan vernacular and is reminiscent of the hill towns of Italy.
Take 20 years off of your life on “the hill.” This is one of the hubs of student life at CU. Many of the students who live off campus do so in this part of town. It’s proximity to campus, as well as many bars and restaurants, are a popular choice for the college crowd.
Five Family-Friendly Activities
Boulder Public Library. This incredible, newly expanded library stretches across Boulder creek. It has a playground outside as well as a children’s area and café inside. This is a great place to watch the ducks.
Splash in Boulder Creek. There are a few stops along the creek to play around in the water. If it’s a warm day, consider taking a tube and going on an adventure.
Eat ice cream on Pearl Street. With Ben and Jerrys and Haagen-Dazs being only two of the many places to get ice cream, it’s a must on a sunny day.
Hike Mt. Sanitas. While it’s not the easiest hike in the area, this trail is a 3.2-mile loop with additional connecting trails to explore. The view from the top allows you to see all of Boulder and even all the way to Denver on a clear day.
Take a short drive to Lyons. About 30 minutes north of Boulder is the small town of Lyons. Destroyed by flooding in 2013, Lyons has built back even better than it was before. Laverne M. Johnson Park will be an instant favorite for any family with its incredible playground and tubing creek.
Five Places to Lay Your Head
Hotel Boulderado. Opened in 1908 and by far the most famous hotel in Boulder, the Hotel Boulderado is located in the heart of it all. Just steps from Pearl Street, you are walking distance to many restaurants, bars, and places to shop. There’s even a super interesting bar in the basement of the hotel aptly named License No. 1 as it is home to one of Boulder’s first liquor licenses after prohibition.
St. Julien Hotel and Spa. If you want a place with a view, then look no further. With stunning views of the flatirons and a short walk to Boulder Creek, this is one of the most luxurious hotels in town. It also just so happens to be where I was married.
Briar Rose Bed and Breakfast. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, consider this small B & B. The hosts are both knowledgeable about the area and wonderful cooks.
Basecamp Boulder. This is a cool motel-style place that claims to be for those who are up for an adventure. It’s in an ideal location and is a bit more budget friendly.
Embassy Suites. For people who may want a little bit more space, this relatively new Embassy Suites may be the perfect choice.
Five Places to Tantalize Your Tastebuds
The Buff. This is the perfect place to go for a tasty breakfast or lunch. The Buff is quintessential Boulder. It’s been around for years but has recently changed locations.
The Sink. Located on the hill, The Sink has been around for a long time and has had many famous visitors. In fact, it is Boulder’s oldest bar and restaurant.
Illegal Pete’s. If you are a fan of Chipotle, you must check out Illegal Pete’s. I’m a HUGE fan of the potato burrito. Yum.
Flagstaff House. If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, this may be the place. It is an upscale dining experience with beautiful views and delicious food but it is a bit on the pricey side.
Oak. Known as being one of the best restaurants in Boulder and located in the Pearl Street area, Oak is another stylish, fine dining restaurant to try.
With so much to do and explore, Boulder is an easy choice for a quick getaway. Bring your hiking shoes, shopping bags, sense of adventure and get going!
This post is part of an ongoing series called Travel Colorado. To read about more great travel destinations in our state, click here.