Experience the popular attractions in Boulder from all angles, even from above: from the cozy basket of a hot air balloon, on a diving glider, while plunging from an airplane. Take an aerial tour of the region on a helicopter, or get some bird’s-eye shots with a drone.
There are so many different ways to do Boulder, bird style. Here are just nine of our favorite ways to explore Boulder’s blue skies.
1. Do Brunch in a Hot Air Balloon
There are two main hot air balloon outfitters in the Boulder area: Life Cycle Balloon Adventures and Fair Winds Hot Air Balloon Flights.
Drifting above Boulder County and witnessing the Flatirons from above will give you a whole new perspective of the region. Make it even more novel with a special hot air balloon package.
Life Cycle serves hot chocolate, coffee and tea before lift-off. For something extra, book a deluxe brunch flight or celebrate with a champagne flight. Their balloons are ideal for a romantic excursion because these smaller balloons only take two to five people at a time. An intimate, personalized flight is Life Cycle’s specialty. Watch the sun peak over the horizon in a sunrise flight.
Fair Winds, in Erie, also can arrange private flights. It offers daily flights but the best time to fly, due to weather, is May through November.
2. Go Skydiving With the Best
Longmont-based Mile-Hi Skydiving is widely considered one of Colorado’s top skydiving companies. It claims to be the state’s top-ranked and biggest skydiving business, with more than 35,000 plane jumps every year. It also boasts the state’s largest full-time, twin-engine, jet-prop aircraft.
Bottom line (er, top line?): If you have the jitters over your first plunge from the clouds, Mile-Hi Skydiving is a reputable option that’s also conveniently close to Boulder.
3. Learn to Fly a Glider (or Take an Aerobatic Flight)
Mile High Gliding offers the expected peaceful, scenic flights over the mountains and alpine lakes, but what many people don’t realize if you can actually learn to fly one of these gliders for yourself. Take an intro to flying class or, for a more comprehensive education, an immersive five-day, 30-flight course.
Not up for being pilot but still craving some adrenaline? Book an aerobatic flight, where you’ll do airshow-style flips and spins, wing-overs, loops and aerial roller-coasting. Not a good bet for your very first glider flight, but an incredibly unique opportunity for experienced, healthy and fearless adventure-seekers. Don’t worry, passengers get their own parachute.
One of the most popular flights is the Mountain Flight, where you’ll cruise above the Boulder-area mountains and canyons, then coast back to town and over the University of Colorado campus. Want more city views? There’s a flight for that, too. It’ll take you right above downtown. Talk about Instagram-worthy pics.
4. Visit the Boulder Airport
It’s no DIA (there’s no commercial service), but Boulder boasts its own municipal airport for private, business, recreational and emergency aircraft. If you or your little ones love to watch planes take off and land, this is a fun, free hangout for the day. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get to chat with a pilot.
One highlight at the Boulder Municipal Airport, 3327 Airport Road, is its Airport Day, a fun, free, family-friendly event held every other year on Father’s Day weekend. Take photos with World War II airplanes and other antique aircraft, military aircraft, gliders and aerobatic planes, plus fire trucks, kids’ activities and food vendors. (In the past, kids have been able to build model rockets and balsa wood airplanes and try a flight simulator.)
If you’re lucky, you might get to take a ride in a helicopter or be able to buy a ride in a glider. You can even climb inside most of the aircraft on display.
The Boulder airport is also home to the annual 1940s World War II Ball, where the whole airport takes a step back in time, with live swing bands and dancing, a Sinatra impersonator, aircraft on display, costume contests and more.
5. Attend the Rocky Mountain Air and Ground Festival
Broomfield has its own airport, too, the Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport. One of the best ways to enjoy it (assuming you don’t have your own plane and pilot license) is at the Rocky Mountain Air and Ground Festival. This family-friendly festival is packed with exhibitions, performances and events centered around air transportation. OK, there are some fun exhibits about ground transportation, as well (ahem, car shows). But today we’re all about the winged things. The thrilling aerial acrobatics and formation flying up, up, up in the sky is always the climax.
The event, held at the airport, 11755 Airport Way, is free and open to the public. It draws about 15,000 people every year.
6. Enjoy Air Shows at the Longmont Air Expo
Longmont’s Vance Brand Airport is home to the exciting Longmont Air Expo, featuring fly-overs and performances in the sky, plus fun displays about all things aviation, from history to military and jets to helicopters. In between gawking at the planes and meeting the pilots who fly them, fill up with food and drinks from the local vendors. This event is free and open to the public.
7. See Boulder Via a Helicopter Tour
If you think you know Boulder, try meeting it from this angle. Boulder Air Tours offers one of the most interesting guided tours in town: helicopter tours that you can customize to meet your own interests. Or book a pre-set flight plan of your choice, including a real-estate tour (to hunt for dream properties), a backcountry tour (find the best places to go hiking or climbing) or a Boulder city tour. See the Pearl Street Mall, Boulder Canyon, CU campus and more points of interest in Boulder, all from a bird’s-eye view.
Flights tend to take about a half hour but can be extended if you want to see even more.
8. Fly Model Planes
If you like to be the pilot while keeping your feet on the ground, check out the Boulder Aeromodeling Society. This club runs a remote-control plane field at Boulder Reservoir. You’ll find two paved runways, a special area for sailplanes, a shelter and more. But to use this area, you need to be a member of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
Some of the members even compete in international contests, although most are just casual flyers who like to build and fly mini planes.
If drones are more your speed, first make sure you know the city’s drone regulations – you can’t just fly them anywhere.
CU has its own club, the CU Drone Racing Club, a group of students who like to build and fly “aerial robots” and help each other get better at it. The ultimate goal: Put together a team of skilled drone racers to compete against other groups. Check out the club’s events on its Facebook.
9. Browse the Spirit of Flight Center
Head to Erie for an educational walk through aviation history. The Spirit of Flight Center, 2650 S. Main St., is a museum centered around flight memorabilia and aircraft. You’ll see vintage, modern and corporate planes, touch bullet-scarred planes, see a rare target drone and learn about veterans, including women pilots. The display is constantly rotating and changing so every visit is different.
The center also holds special events throughout the year, like a “Haunted Hangar” party Oct. 13, in celebration of Halloween.
The nonprofit museum is open to the public year-round during certain hours (10 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday, Wednesday Friday and the second Saturday of each month). You can even rent out the center for private events in a unique setting.