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11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Boulder, CO

Written by Carri Wilbanks
May 4, 2020

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Boulder has always prided itself on being unique, but this city, just 45 minutes northwest of Denver, also boasts stunning natural beauty thanks to its Rocky Mountain location.

Boulder residents tend to embrace healthy lifestyles, and when it comes to things to do, the city is definitely focused on outdoor activities, with more than 200 miles of hiking and biking trails, as well as lots of rock climbing opportunities. Boulder is also home to the University of Colorado at Boulder and has a lively student population.

There are two main areas that attract tourists: Downtown is anchored by the pedestrian-only Pearl Street Mall, which is filled with shops, art galleries, and restaurants that also spill out to the surrounding blocks. Farther south on Broadway (one of two main north-south drags through Boulder, the other being 28th Street) is The Hill, where the university is located. It is filled with more restaurants and shops.

However, many of Boulder's top attractions, like The Flatirons and Flagstaff Mountain, are located in the hills and parks surrounding this outdoorsy city.

Plan your sightseeing and find the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Boulder, Colorado.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Flatirons

Flatirons
Flatirons

Visible from pretty much anywhere in town, Boulder's most distinctive feature is its natural backdrop, the Flatirons, which are a line of five huge, slanted slices of sandstone. One of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the city, the Flatirons area is also home to dozens of hiking trails that take tourists into the surrounding foothills, and one, the Flatirons Vista Trail, that leads right into the rocks.

The best place to begin admiring the Flatirons is the Open Space Mountain Parks area, a beautiful meadow space at the city's southwestern corner off Highway 93, where many of the hiking trails start. There is a paid parking lot on the west side of Highway 93.

Location: Open Space Mountain Parks, off Highway 93, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/flatirons-vista-trailhead

2. Pearl Street Mall

Pearl Street Mall
Pearl Street Mall | James Tiffin Jr. / photo modified

Boulder's most iconic man-made attraction is the Pearl Street Mall, which is definitely one of the top sightseeing spots in town. Running along Pearl Street for four blocks, the brick-paved pedestrian mall should be walked at least once while visiting. This buzzing area is filled with shops, both national chain brands and independent boutiques, as well as art galleries and dozens of restaurants.

There are benches where you can relax and do some top-notch people watching, and you'll usually stumble upon street performances. The Pearl Street Mall is the heart of Downtown Boulder, but not the only attraction here. The blocks surrounding the pedestrian-only walkway are home to more shopping and dining options and are equally popular with tourists.

Location: Pearl Street, between 11th and 15th Streets, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: www.boulderdowntown.com/

3. Chautauqua Park

Chautauqua Park
Chautauqua Park

Boulder was the first city in the USA to specifically tax itself to preserve open space, and as such has a plethora of impressive city parks, including beautiful Chautauqua. The park, which is next to the Open Space Management Area, features stunning Flatirons views and plenty of hiking trails climbing up from its wide-open meadow setting.

It also has a cultural component. Chautauqua has been preserved as a historic landmark since 1898, when Boulder residents approved a bond issue to purchase the 80 acres it sits on.

Today, it is home to a community center dating back to the late 1800s that hosts lectures and music festivals, as well as a romantic restaurant, The Chautauqua Dining Hall. There is also a playground and tennis courts. Admission to the park is free.

Address: 9th Street and Baseline Road, Boulder, Colorado

4. Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory

Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory
Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory | F Delventhal / photo modified

When locals take their family sightseeing in Boulder, a stop at the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory is usually on the agenda. The company is the largest herbal tea producer in North America, serving up more than 1.6 billion cups of tea annually.

The Boulder factory packages more than eight million tea bags a day, and visitors can tour the facility for free daily. The 45-minute tours give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how the tea is made.

You'll get to check out the company's herb garden, as well as pay a visit to its Mint Room, where huge bags of peppermint and spearmint tea are stored before shipping - the smell in here is intense. There are also free tea tastings.

Address: 4600 Sleepytime Drive, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: www.celestialseasonings.com/visit-us

5. Eldorado Canyon State Park

Eldorado Canyon State Park
Eldorado Canyon State Park

Part of Colorado's state park system, Eldorado Canyon is another top tourist attraction just outside Boulder. Home to soaring sandstone cliffs that are popular with rock climbers, the park boasts more than 500 technical climbing routes.

If you don't climb, however, no worries as there are also plenty of hiking and mountain biking trails as well as picnic spots along pretty South Boulder Creek, which also runs through the park. In winter, visitors can try snowshoeing and cross country skiing - it's easy to rent equipment from outdoors shops around Boulder.

Address: 9 Kneale Road, Eldorado Springs, Colorado

Official site: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/EldoradoCanyon

6. University of Colorado at Boulder

University of Colorado at Boulder
University of Colorado at Boulder

The CU Boulder campus is well worth a wander. It has plenty of impressive architecture, like the Old Main building, which was the university's first structure, dating back to 1876. The campus also boasts a number of attractions like the outdoor Mary Rippon Theatre, where the Colorado Shakespeare Festival performs in summer.

Here, you'll also find the Museum of Natural History, where more than four million objects, including Colorado's largest collection of bee specimens are on display. And the CU Art Museum, which has more than 8,000 objects covering some 10,000 years of human artistic creations.

Address: Regent Drive, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: https://www.colorado.edu/

7. Fiske Planetarium

Fiske Planetarium
Fiske Planetarium | Sam Howzit / photo modified

On the CU Boulder campus, Fiske is one of the largest planetariums between Los Angeles and Chicago and also one of the most impressive.

The venue features a busy event line-up throughout the year. These include talks by leading researchers in the field, opportunities to check out the stars through the lens of the powerful Zeiss telescope, live musical and theater performances, interactive full-dome films in its completely immersive theater, and popular late-night laser and liquid sky shows that are set to music.

Address: 2414 Regent Drive, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: www.colorado.edu/fiske/

8. The Hill

CU Boulder neighborhood
CU Boulder neighborhood

Directly to the west of the CU Boulder campus, The Hill is the city's college neighborhood and a buzzy place to wander when school is in session. Here, you'll find a number of student-focused shops and restaurants like The Sink, which has been attracting visitors for decades with its graffiti walls and delicious pizza. You'll also find live music entertainment venues like Fox Theatre.

Location: West of CU Boulder off University Blvd, Boulder Colorado

9. Flagstaff Mountain

Flagstaff Mountain
Flagstaff Mountain

A favorite destination to watch the sunset, you can either hike up or drive to the top of Flagstaff Mountain, which offers stunning panoramic views of Boulder and behind from its 6,983-foot-high summit. Also at the top is the Flagstaff Summit Nature Center, where you can learn about the local flora and fauna.

To drive up the mountain, take Flagstaff Road to Flagstaff Summit Road. There is a $5 fee to park at the summit. If you want to hike to the top, depart from the Flagstaff Trailhead where Baseline Road turns into Flagstaff Road. It is a moderate to strenuous two-mile hike up to the summit.

Location: Flagstaff Summit Road, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/flagstaff-trailhead

10. Mount Sanitas Hiking Trail

Mount Sanitas Hiking Trail
Mount Sanitas Hiking Trail

Winding up both sides of the ridge that leads to Mount Sanitas' summit, the Mount Sanitas Trail is a challenging but rewarding hike that's a local favorite - although many Boulderites choose to run the trail for a quick workout.

The climb is rated moderate to difficult, and if you're not used to the altitude, you will definitely feel it on the way up, with a 1,343-feet of elevation gain in just over 1.5 miles (it's a 3.1-mile round-trip). But make it to the top, and you'll be richly rewarded with beautiful views across the valley.

Location: 0.5 miles west of 4th Street on Mapleton Ave, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: https://bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/mount-sanitas-trailhead

11. Valmont Bike Park

Valmont Bike Park
Valmont Bike Park | Brad Fagan / photo modified

If mountain biking is your preferred outdoor activity, then you'll love Boulder's natural surface terrain park. Covering 42 acres, it offers a range of amenities for different skill levels, from beginner freestyle riders to cyclocross experts.

In the terrain park, you'll find dirt jumps, dual slalom, and two pump parks. For cyclocross there is a sandpit and two staircase run-up features. For more traditional riders, check out the network of single-track trails of varying difficulty. This attraction is also family friendly, with kid specific amenities.

Address: 3160 Airport Road, Boulder, Colorado

Official site: https://bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/valmont-bike-park

12. Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art | NikiSublime / photo modified

Located downtown, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art has been around since 1972 when it was founded by a group of local artists. Today, it is one of the top venues in the state to showcase contemporary art.

The three galleries here rotate exhibits of regional, national, and international art. There is also a 100-seat black-box theater that puts on innovative performances, from dance to poetry readings, held throughout the year. The art exhibits are often eclectic and explore topics from racial inequality to disparities in wealth and poverty. Check their informative website for upcoming exhibits.

Address: 1750 13th Street, Boulder Colorado

Official site: https://bmoca.org/

Where to Stay in Boulder for Sightseeing

  • Luxury Hotels: Boulder's top luxury hotel is the St. Julien Hotel and Spa. It has a prime downtown location with fabulous views of the flatirons. The locally owned hotel is also known for showcasing regional art and live music in its restaurant. The rooms are stylish and comfortable and there is an excellent spa here as well.

    Another top luxury hotel in Boulder is the Hotel Boulderado, which is just a block away from the Pearl Street Mall downtown. The historic property was built in 1909 and has 160 rooms and suites that feature period decor. There are multiple restaurants on-site, and the property is pet-friendly.
  • Mid-Range & Budget Hotels: Try the Hilton Garden Inn Boulder for a downtown location that is on the high end of the mid-range bracket. The four-star property features causal, modern decor and spacious rooms with original local artwork. The hotel offers bike rentals, has a fitness center on-site, and can organize activities for kids.

    Embassy Suites by Hilton Boulder is another popular good-value option. The trendy hotel has a central location and rooms and suites with mountain views, stylish furniture, and locally created artwork on the walls. Breakfast is included in your rate, and there is also a restaurant on-site. The fitness center here is also cool and spread over two floors. They even have a heated rooftop pool, which is rare for Boulder.

    One of the few budget-focused properties in Boulder, the Boulder Adventure Lodge has very affordable rates. It also offers clean and comfortable rooms that have a mountain chic vibe and don't feel generic. The location right on Boulder Creek, just five minutes from downtown, is another perk.

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