Editor’s note: This Vs. That is Travel Boulder’s weekly comparison guide designed to help you pick the activities, food, drinks, hotels and events that best fit your preferences. It’s like if a traditional newspaper review had a love child with Yelp, except always reliably researched and experienced firsthand by our local writers. Because sometimes you can best understand an option by seeing what it is not and by placing it side by side with something else.
There’s no shortage of shopping ops in Boulder, but sometimes it’s fun to explore beyond city limits. If you’re headed eastward, you’ll inevitably bump into two charming Boulder County destinations: Louisville and Superior.
At first glance to a visitor, these two towns may blend into one another. But the truth is, they’re quite different and bring a unique flavor to Colorado. Especially when it comes to shopping. Shopping in Louisville brings totally different shops and a different flavor than shopping in Superior.
Neither town is huge, but Louisville is slightly larger, with about 19,400 residents, compared to Superior’s 12,400. Fittingly, Louisville’s downtown has developed a stronger identity. But there’s an exciting movement right now to build out Superior’s downtown district, too.
Here’s a closer look at stores in these east BoCo cities to help you determine which better fits your shopping needs.
Louisville is a short 10-minute drive from Boulder, and it’s worth a visit. It was named America’s Best Place to Live by CNN Money and Money Magazine multiple times, among an impressive list of other accolades. Louisville isn’t far from Denver, either: just about 20 miles.
This town is especially known for its art scene and historic downtown, lined with century-old, wooden buildings that serve as a reminder of the town’s past. Although it’s not huge, downtown Louisville is totally walkable and home to more than 100 businesses, including some of the region’s hippest bars, coffee shops and restaurants. Cute boutiques and art shops make this a full-day destination.
How to spend a day here: Take the Dash to Louisville if you don’t have a car (or feel free to drive here; parking is usually no problem). Stroll down Main Street, grab ice cream at Sweet Cow on Front Street, window shop and you’ll likely catch live music any night of the week. The proper downtown is about five square blocks, but make sure to venture off the main drag (to Pine, Front and Walnut streets) because the adjacent streets are just as exciting. Wander a bit north on Main, too.
After shopping, make sure you set aside time to visit one of Louisville’s independent, award-winning restaurants. The Huckleberry is the place for brunch. And pie. Across the street is Moxie Bread Co., which sells some of the best fresh-baked bread in the region and savory sandwiches.
Nightlife is hoppin’ at Waterloo (with its rooftop deck), Por and Lucky Pie. Well, at least until 10 p.m., when things close down. Late night: Head to Henry’s dive bar. Louisville even has its own small breweries, 12 Degrees and Gravity Brewing.
The shops: Louisville is where to go if you want to visit a locally owned boutique that you can’t find anywhere else. Come here for one-of-a-kind souvenirs and gifts. Here are a few highlights:
- The Singing Cook: This is a quirky kitchen shop with gourmet food, too. And yes, the owner sings. Ask her to belt out a tune while you peruse the gadgets, cookware, towels and spices.
- The Book Cellar: Because we still love an indie bookstore; it’s good for the soul.
- Wildwood Guitars: This music shop was named one of the 20 best guitar stores in the country by Premiere Guitar.
- Assorted Goods and Candy: The old-fashioned candy and goodies here totally fit the historic vibe in downtown.
- Little Horse: Score adorable midcentury-style home decor, plus books and even vinyl and vintage stereos. Oh, so Boulder.
- Old Friends: This gift shop has all kinds of great finds, like copper mugs, handmade jewelry, hand-painted Turkish dishes, home decor and baby clothes.
- By Chance: If by chance (see what we did there?) you need more gifts and home furnishings, this shop’s got you covered.
- Found Underground Consignment and Refuge Decor are two excellent consignment shops downtown if you’re looking for a bargain.
Check this out: A must-visit in Louisville is the high-fashion shop, Eleanor and Hobbs. It’s one of the most fashion-forward shops in Boulder County. This is where to go for designer and brand-name fashion, such as AG Jeans, Citizens of Humanity, Frank and Eileen, Michael Stars, Toms, Velvet and more.
Special events: On Saturdays in the summer, downtown transforms into a cute farmers market that’s not as impressive as Boulder’s but still features veggies, baked goods and other homemade treasures.
On Fridays in the summer, Louisville holds a Street Faire, with live music and dancing. This is Louisville’s biggest event for now going on 17 years. It attracts as many as 6,000 (or more) people to downtown every Friday and features nationally known and local bands.
“It is a beloved community event that people look forward to every year,” says Marilyn Davenport, vice president of the downtown business association.
In the winter, downtown boasts an outdoor, old-fashioned ice skating rink at the Steinbaugh Pavilion and carriage rides. WinterSkate has been a family-friendly staple, complete with holiday music, for more than 13 years.
Louisville also has First Friday Art Walk nights throughout the year, a quaint, old-time Labor Day Parade and Christmas parade called the Parade of Lights, as well as a host of arts and cultural events, according to Davenport.
Although the town is smaller, Superior’s shops aren’t.
Superior boasts its own list of honors. The Movoto real estate blog named Superior the top place to live in Colorado. And then Niche named Superior the No. 1 best suburb to live in the nation. The chamber calls Superior the “Gateway to Boulder Valley.”
You will find some beautiful neighborhoods here, plus ample shopping in multiple different shopping areas. But Superior’s downtown is not yet fully developed. “Downtown Superior,” as it’ll be called, is growing. Plans include an urban feeling that will honor Superiors coal mining history.
How to spend a day here: This is where to go if you are looking for the tried and true, the big names that you are already familiar with. Obviously, you could spend an entire day and paycheck at Target alone, but there are many other popular stores to visit. You can also get your nails did, a haircut and a massage in a single Superior strip mall.
After you’ve ventured into Target to get one thing and left with a cart full, you can refuel at chains like IHOP, Panera Bread or Panda Express. Or if you’re looking for something healthier, you can grab a bite from Whole Foods. For a local plate, there’s Wayne’s Smoke Shack, which serves meat by the pound that you can enjoy outside. Casual and quick is the name of the game in Superior.
The shops: Superior has several shopping districts.
The Superior Marketplace has your Super Target, Whole Foods, Petsmart, Michaels, Party City, OfficeMax, Safeway, TJ Maxx, Sally Beauty Supply, Walgreens, Ulta Beauty and a Starbucks to fuel all of the big-time spending. This is the most popular place for shopping. Families can appreciate it also has the area’s only Chuck E. Cheese, plus a Costco.
Superior Plaza is another shopping pocket located nearby, anchored by a Starbucks and rounded out by an Old Chicago Pizza and Tap Room and sub shop. You can shop for liquor and cell phones here but not much else.
Downtown Superior is in development but does offer a few notables, like Sticks Coffee Company, a pizza place and multiple sports-related businesses.
Rock Creek Village has a lot more personality to it. Sure, there are the chains: Pizza Hut, Subway, Safeway. But there’s also Velo Stop Bicycles (rent and buy bikes here) and several local restaurants, including a sushi spot.
Check this out: The Niche is the coolest place to shop in Superior. This boutique carries women’s apparel and awesome home decor goods and accessories at pretty reasonable prices. You will find cutting-edge trends here, spanning private labels to established brands to exclusive designers. The Niche gets in new products every day, everything hand-picked, in small batches and unique.
The Niche also has a branch in Nevada and California. This is the only store in Colorado.
Special events: The town of Superior has a variety of annual events. The annual, huge community garage sale is our favorite shop-centric event. Every spring, residents across the town all hold a garage sale, so the whole town transforms into a fun flea market.