Outdoor-lovers, Boulder’s for you. We’ve got sunshine nearly every day; the mountains in our backyard; and patios, rooftops and parks galore. Here’s how to spend the perfect day in Boulder, if you just don’t want to go indoors at all.
Breakfast: Fill up for the day’s outdoor adventures with an outdoor breakfast.
Centro Mexican Kitchen has one of Pearl Street’s biggest, best patios and serves a killer brunch. If you’re in a hurry to get active, snag a $5 breakfast burrito to go, along with fresh Allegro Coffee; they’re sold right out front of the restaurant 7:30-10:30 a.m. weekdays. Or pop in across the street to Ozo Coffee for a cold brew from one of Boulder’s most reputable coffee roasters.
Early morning: In Boulder, always start your day with a hike. The earlier you can get rollin’, the better, since you can miss the crowds. (Yes, trail traffic is a real thing.)
Chautauqua’s trails are scenic, diverse (from easy to challenging, short to long) and among the most popular for visitors; stop by the Ranger Cottage before you head out for trail conditions, recommendations and a map.
Or if you want something a little flatter but equally as scenic, wander along the paved Boulder Creek Path, which is walking distance from the Pearl Street Mall. Walk your way westward up to the Eben G. Fine Park. Have a snack on the grass under the shade of trees. Pack some locally made, vegan and gluten-free Bobo’s Oat Bars (we love the chocolate peanut butter flavor) and a fizzy Izze drink, also made in Boulder. The sparkling clementine flavor is ultra refreshing.
After your snack, grab an inner-tube and toss it on the Boulder Creek. You can rent your tube at the Whitewater Tube Co. Ask about tube delivery. Lazily drift down the creek and take in the mountain sunshine. OK, some parts can get a little rocky and fast, depending on the time of year. Float down to where you started, near Central Park.
If it’s a Saturday morning, this will drop you off right at the Farmers Market, on 13th St. between Canyon and Arapahoe, the place to be for fresh food, shopping, free entertainment and people-watching. It is definitely one of the best places to visit in Boulder.
Lunchtime: Walk to the Rio Grande, 1101 Walnut St., also located downtown, and request a table on the rooftop. You won’t have to leave the outdoors for long, as you enjoy direct Flatirons views and munch on Mexican food. The fajitas are our favorite menu item. Beware of the margs; they’re strong. Might be best to wait until your outdoor day is done.
After lunch, swing by the BCycle station at 11th and Pearl streets, a bike share where you can rent a bike for cheap.
Afternoon: Look at your afternoon like a choose-your-own adventure story.
If you’re up for action, pedal your way through the popular attractions in Boulder to the Boulder Reservoir, on the eastern part of town; the full trek there is about 7 miles each way. The Res is packed in the summer with all kinds of water activities, from swimming to stand-up paddleboarding to boating.
If you’d rather stay in town and are looking for a more low-key ride, explore Boulder’s many bike trails and meander your way to some local breweries with outdoor patios; the West Flanders Brewing Co. or the Mountain Sun Pub are two great places to start.
If the mountains are calling you, instead of a BCycle, walk to University Bicycles at 839 Pearl St. and rent a mountain bike (expect to pay $100 a day). Then follow your curiosity, exploring Open Space and Mountain Parks’ 155 miles of trails. Make sure you know which multi-use trails are open to bikes. Here’s a map of bike trails in Boulder County to give you a head start.
After you work up a sweat on two wheels, it’s time to check in to your hotel.
Where to stay: Basecamp Boulder or A-Lodge
The two best hotels for outdoor lovers are Basecamp Boulder and the Adventure Lodge (A-Lodge).
Basecamp, in central Boulder, is specially designed to be the, well, basecamp to your adventures. Not only is it located close to the Boulder Creek Path, but this unique hotel has a rock climbing wall in the lobby and a room designed to look like a campsite with mats spread out on synthetic grass under the mural of a night sky (camp chairs and S’mores included). Guests here can use bikes, a dry sauna and the hot tub and take advantage of kombucha and local beer on tap.
The A-Lodge is located up Fourmile Canyon Drive, which drops you deep in nature, albeit only five minutes from downtown. What makes A-Lodge our pick is it’s the only place to go camping near Boulder. You can pop up a tent on a site or go car camping (small vans and cars, no RVs) on decks on the hillside above the hotel. Bonus: You can sleep in the outdoors but still get access to the hotel amenities (a hot tub, slackline park, fire pit, movie theater and more).
A-Lodge is the real deal and staff here can give you recommendations on the best places to go hiking, fishing, swimming and climbing.
Not up for camping? Request the cabin. There are also casual dorm-style beds and private rooms.
Dinner: For dinner, bike your way to the Rayback Collective, Boulder’s food truck park, and get a table outside by the fire pit. Play corn hole and yard games while you munch on casual food truck fare that changes daily. Tip back a local beer and listen to live music. The vibe here is oh so Boulder, and the Elmer’s Two Mile bike path, which runs between 28th and Folsom streets, leads you directly to Rayback.
If you’re feeling a bit fancier, head to Corrida, 1023 Walnut St., downtown. This new Spanish-inspired steakhouse is on the rooftop level and boasts one of the city’s rare unobstructed views of the Flatirons.
Food here is Northern Spanish-style and steak reigns king. Try the large-batch paella, made fresh all night long, and wash it down with a Spanish-style cocktail.
Evening: It’s evening, but your outdoor adventures don’t have to stop. Go on a nighttime hike, including guided hikes with naturalists along different trails, one of the most popular activities in Boulder.