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The Flatirons, Boulder, Colorado
Photograph: Shutterstock

The 13 best things to do in Boulder right now

Looking to take in some natural beauty or top-notch dining? Look no further than the best things to do in Boulder.

Written by
Julie Dugale
&
Rebecca Treon
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You may know Boulder as a satellite of Denver, but this western city has an appeal all on its own. Set at the intersection of the mountains and the plains with the Flatirons as its backdrop, Boulder was made famous in the 1970s by the Robin Williams show, 'Mork & Mindy,' and it's long been known as a hippie enclave. Lately, though, the city has ballooned with the advent of the local Google campus and other industry headquarters. Regardless, Boulder still retains its funky charm, so much so that locals call it 'The People's Republic.' 

In Boulder, there's easy access to the outdoors (there's probably a biking or hiking trail or water access right out your back door), great restaurants that range from food truck to upscale, plenty of art and entertainment options, and lots of craft beer to sample. Discover what the locals love about this city that's a mecca for nature lovers, college students, and culture hounds alike: These are the best things to do in Boulder.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere.

Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do in Boulder

Probably the most iconic sight in Boulder, these rock formations jut picturesquely into the sky, their craggy stone faces and wooded trails standing sentinel over the town. Whether hiking or climbing, conquering the Flatirons affords spectacular views of the Continental Divide. Start in historic Chautauqua Park, take the Chautauqua Trail, and follow signs for 1st/2nd Flatirons. Feeling ambitious? Take the Royal Arch Trail off of Bluebell Road Trail to get your sweat on.

This charming pedestrian thoroughfare stretches four blocks along Pearl Street from 11th to 15th Streets, but the buzzy vibe from the retail and restaurant scene extends several blocks in either direction. Boutiques. Cafes. Coffee shops. Galleries. Trinkets. Cocktails. Food carts. Artisan kiosks. Fountains in the summer. Tulips in the spring. People watching year-round. And, always, the street performers. Look for the famous zip-code guy, the folds-himself-in-a-box guy, various fire-breathing daredevils, and, of course, the wandering minstrels.

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This Colorado teahouse, handcrafted by dozens of artisans in Tajikistan (Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan and a sister city to Boulder), was a gift from the Middle Eastern country as a symbol of the cities’ friendship. You can lunch or brunch at the Dushanbe Tea House, but the internationally inspired tea-time menu is perfect for noshing on small plates. Check out the intricately carved and painted ceiling and the Fountain of the Seven Beauties while you dine.

The trail system just slightly northwest of downtown includes several routes that connect to form a very manageable loop hike that’ll last anywhere from a couple hours (hey, trail runners!) to a half day. There’s a little something for everyone: Follow the steep and wooded Mount Sanitas Trail to the summit; enjoy a breathtaking view of Boulder below; and take a breezy jaunt down wide-open Sanitas Valley Trail on the other side.

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With 20-something breweries, half a dozen distilleries and four wineries, Boulder’s got small-batch booze on practically every corner, forming a trail with plenty of suggested tasting routes. Craft beer is pretty much considered the nectar of the gods around here. You might even hear this region referred to as the “Napa of Beer.” A stretch? Maybe. But you can hop on the trail—consider biking or using Boulder’s handy bus system—to see for yourself.

Note: Temporarily closed for tours 

Yep, the factory that makes the tea in your cupboard is right here in Boulder, and you can see where the magic happens on a 45-minute tour. Celestial Seasonings has been a part of the fabric of Boulder since the 1970s, when its original brew, Mo's 24, was created. From the raw ingredients to the blending and packaging, the free tour walks you through the whole process. (Fun fact: the factory’s address is on Sleepytime Drive, named after their famous chamomile bend.)

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A local rite of passage for adreneline junkies and lazy river lovers alike, tubing Boulder Creek is a favorite summer pastime. Tubing season runs from May to August, with Tube to Work Day (the Boulder version of Bike to Work Day) on July 15. Start at Eben B. Fine Park and go all the way to 55th St. for a rapids and chute-filled adventure, or if you want an easier float, start at 6th Street or at Boulder Public Library. You can rent tubes at Whitewater Tube Co. or buy one from McGuckin Hardware (an icon in its own right), Rob's Village Conoco, or Foot of the Mountain Motel, just be sure to also include important safety gear like a helmet, a life jacket, and water shoes.

Rayback Plumbing was a fixture in Boulder for 60 years and its owner Marion Rayback was known for his commitment to the community. Today, the warehouse has been reinvented as a place where the community he loved can congregate in a space that includes rotating food trucks, live music, and a beer garden with indoor and outdoor dining spaces. Grab a beer, gather your friends, and enjoy some live music or some corn hole with a perfectly Boulder backdrop.

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Sherpa's Adventurers Restaurant & Bar is one of many places in Boulder that allows visitors to feel like they're worlds away. Owner Pemba Sherpa, who is basically a mountain climbing badass, founded the restaurant (and a tour company) to share the culture and cuisine of Nepal and Tibet. The restaurant has an awesome patio for outdoor dining, plus, indoors, there's a travelers lounge filled with expedition photos, Nepali artifacts, mountaineering gear, and books to excite would-be trekkers. And let's not forget about the yak: the yak will tell your fortune for a price.

Population 230, Gold Hill is a 150-year-old settlement about 10 miles up Left Hand Canyon outside of Boulder. Gold was first discovered in the area in 1859 by a group of prospectors, and when a fire devastated the town the following year, the settlement was moved to the current townsite. Drive up unpaved roads and visit the Gold Hill Museum, have brunch at the Gold Hill Inn (or even stay at the lodge) and enjoy 360-degree views of Indian Peaks and Longs Peak. Take a hike and then take a beautiful drive on the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway.

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The Colorado Chautauqua was the western outpost of the popular cultural, social and educational movement at the turn of the 20th century, and its legacy lives on today. Several cottages are available for overnight stays, the auditorium hosts live concerts and silent films, and the dining hall has been serving meals on the wraparound porch with views of the Flatirons since 1898. The grounds are covered in gardens and ample space for a picnic (which you can grab at the General Store) or an outdoor concert, and it backs up onto 40 miles of hiking trails.

Next to the banks of Boulder Creek and just a few short blocks from Pearl Street, the Boulder Farmers Market, and the Dushanbe Tea House, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) brings all the sophistication of bigger cities to a smaller venue. Bonus: it's free for kids under 12, free for everyone on Saturday and just $2 admission otherwise. And though the museum is housed in a historic 1906 warehouse and has been around for almost 50 years, it s rotating exhibits are thoroughly modern and thought-provoking.

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Starting in 1992, a gaggle of cyclists have climbed onto cruiser bikes on Thursday evenings to toodle around town and spread cheer, wishing spectators and other passersby a 'Happy Thursday!' The rides take place in the spring, summer, and fall with a different theme each week. Costumes are enocouraged but not required and the event is BYOB (Bring Your Own Bike). But if you don't have one, never fear: cruisers are available to rent at several bike shops around town. 

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