Within one hour of arriving in Boulder, Colorado, I found myself eating raw, vegan pad thai, sipping on hibiscus iced tea (which was attuned to a crystal, naturally), and surrounded by women in yoga pants giving each other tarot card readings (I’m not even kidding). The things to do in Boulder were a little more woo-woo than I had expected. I most certainly was not in New York anymore, and I was digging every minute of it. Just a half hour outside of Denver, Boulder is a great destination for a three-day weekend filled with fresh mountain air and seemingly endless bike trails. Locals joke that it’s “25 square miles surrounded by reality,” with an intellectual community that loves the great outdoors as much as it craves the amenities of urban life. Oh, and if it breaks your heart to leave Fido at home while you’re on vacation, bring your dog with you on a trip to this beloved Colorado city. There are countless things to do in Boulder for both you and your four-legged buddy. But more than anything else, what truly made me fall in love with Boulder was the foodie scene. The city incubates indie food brands that blossom into supermarket staples while still staying true to their original dedication to producing high-quality treats using sustainable practices. Justin’s nut butter, Celestial Seasonings tea company, Horizon organic dairy, and a number of other brands you probably have in your pantry right now were born (and still maintain a presence) in Boulder. And that doesn’t even touch on the thriving farm-to-table restaurant scene. Foodies are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do in Boulder. Ready to start planning your next adventure? Read on to discover the best things to do in Boulder for a healthy, active vacation (fueled by good food!).
Things to Do in Boulder’s Foodie Scene
Digging into the local healthy food and drink scene is one of the most memorable things to do in Boulder. Expect esoteric health tonics, gourmet farm-to-table dinners, and high-protein snacks.
A meal at a local farm-to-table restaurant like Shine Restaurant & Potion Bar should also be high on your list of things to do in Boulder. Shine’s kitchen is 100-percent free of GMOs and gluten—and 100-percent full of grass-fed meats and fresh veggies. This spot whips up a hearty brunch with stacks of fluffy buttermilk pancakes and scrambles of just-picked vegetables, while coconut curry, grass-fed burgers, grain-free fettuccine, and taco plates fill tables at dinner. As for those potions, the colorful 6-ounce adaptogenic herb-infused sippers promise to work some magic on your health.
The top of every list of things to do in Boulder should include visiting a vegan restaurant—the cruelty-free food in this city is just too delicious to miss, even if you typically eat meat. Enter Thrive, the spot with the raw pad thai and the tarot cards. Superfood smoothies dominate the menu (and each is attuned to a specific crystal). Thrive also whips up some hearty salads, nut-milk-based puddings and porridges, and flavorful snacks (the nori wrap is particularly popular). Grab a seat outside if the weather’s nice.
Before you walk over to the pedestrian mall for a little shopping and a lot of people-watching, grab some of the best coffee in Boulder at the Laughing Goat. This cafe skips the gimmicky stuff in favor of strong classic espresso drinks that you can spruce up with a half dozen spices on the coffee bar. Come back after dark, when the cafe switches over to a live music venue with beer and wine, and you won’t want to leave.
Perhaps you prefer your vegan grub with a little less woo-woo. Try Native Foods, a small chain of vegan fast-casual joints that has meat- and dairy-free versions of all your favorite comfort foods. It’s a little more down-to-earth than Thrive but no less delicious. Choose from options like portobello-sausage burgers, Baja tacos, Buddha bowls, double cheeseburgers, and avocado crunch wraps. And a side of the tangy, dairy-free mac ’n’ cheese definitely wouldn’t hurt.
This rustic-chic restaurant takes inspiration from historical American cuisine for its upscale menu of farm-to-table dishes. Meals like smoked chicken, garden veggies, rainbow trout, and rabbit loin come meticulously plated, with dynamic textures and vibrant colors that make the foods look as glorious as they taste. But the real treasure at Arcana is the bread: baskets of black garlic bread, rye caraway potato buns, and pull-apart dinner rolls—perfect for soaking up the craft cider.
Your list of things to do in Boulder absolutely must include a quick stop at the headquarters of Justin’s, nut butter extraordinaires. Swing by to see the mini-museum of Justin’s artifacts (like the original nut butter jar), pick up some complimentary nut butter squeeze packs (perfect to throw in your backpack for a hike), and sneak a few treats from the giant bowl of mini peanut butter cups. If you’re lucky, you might run into Justin (yes, the Justin) himself—he’s there most days of the week, concocting new nut butter creations that might eventually land in your local supermarket.
Things to Do Outside in Boulder
In a place where locals bike (and even sometimes tube) to the office and weekends are spent seeking out new trails, physical activities dominate the list of things to do in Boulder. Don’t forget to pack your sneakers, hiking boots, and a pair of Birkenstocks (just to fit in).
Chautauqua Park is your gateway to the Flatirons, the slanted sandstone formations blanketed in lush greenery, that set the backdrop of the city. One of Boulder’s most iconic sites, the Flatirons have plenty of great hiking opportunities with bird’s-eye views of the city. Trails range in length and difficulty, but no matter which one you choose, make sure you bring plenty of water and take breaks as you need them (that high altitude is real!).
Rock-climbing is definitely an option when it comes to things to do in Boulder. But before you go outside, you might want to get a feel for the sport on the indoor climbing walls at Movement Boulder. The skilled team offers short introductory courses, climbing training, and technical instruction. The supportive, community-focused environment will give you the confidence you need (and maybe even a climbing buddy) to do some real rock climbing around Boulder.
When a city has a semi-official “Tube to Work Day,” you’ve got to spend some time around the creek. You won’t have to go far—the Boulder Creek runs right through downtown and has plenty of nearby picnic areas, an adjacent bike path, and gravity-defying sculptures (the work of local stone-balancing artists). Plus, wading in the creek is especially refreshing on those hot summer days.
Biking is a must for any list of things to do in Boulder. Don’t worry about lugging your two-wheeler on the plane, though. The Boulder B-Cycle program allows you to borrow bikes for 30-minute rides and drop them off at any of the 45 docking stations around town. No need to sign up for a lengthy membership, either—the 24-hour “day tripper” pass is perfect for tourists (and at just $8, much more affordable than any other way of getting around).
Things to Do in Boulder to See How Locals Live
Wondering about the locals’ favorite things to do in Boulder? We’ve found a few places that’ll immerse you in the culture of this great city.
You don’t know the full potential of farmers markets until you step foot in the one in Boulder. Every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning, 13th Street (between Canyon Boulevard and Arapahoe Avenue) fills with vendors showing off their glistening locally grown produce, pouring kombucha straight from the tap, and selling all kinds of fresh treats (think jars of honey, golden bread, spicy salsa, chocolate, and hummus in every flavor). There’s also a food court with everything from pizza and crepes to tacos and Chinese buns. The epic experience is a weekly ritual for many local families—expect crowds.
Adjacent to the Boulder Farmers Market is a building that seems a little out of place with its Central Asian architecture, bright colors, and dazzling patterns. It’s the Dushanbe Teahouse, which was a gift to Boulder from its sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan, roughly 30 years ago. It took more than 40 artisans to carve and paint the teahouse’s stunning ceiling and pillars by hand, resulting in a structure that reflects traditional Persian design. While the teahouse is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, visiting in the late afternoon should be on your list of things to do in Boulder—that’s when it hosts its daily afternoon tea, complete with tiered towers of sweet and savory snacks and, of course, fresh pots of tea.
Pearl Street Mall
A stroll down Pearl Street Mall, the outdoor pedestrian-only thoroughfare, is one of the most quintessential things to do in Boulder. Whether you want to explore the shops, taste the local craft beer, or just do some people-watching (there are lots of colorful characters hanging about), the Pearl Street Mall won’t disappoint. Plus, it’s probably the best spot to pick up souvenirs for your friends and family.
When it comes to things to do in Boulder, saving the environment hits high on the list for locals and visitors alike. Visit the Pollinator Garden to see how residents are working to save bees and protect butterflies, and even taste some locally produced honey. Nature lovers will relish in the blooming flowers and views of the Flatirons.
Things to Do in Boulder for Mind × Body Wellness
This health-minded community is no stranger to self-care. Wondering where to get a massage, do some yoga, or just chill out in Boulder? Look no further.
Feeling the need to stretch out after a long flight? Take a class with Jenna, the yoga instructor behind All Terrain Yoga. As the name of the company implies, classes take place in unexpected places (including outdoors, right next to the Boulder Farmers Market!). Can’t make it to one of her weekly sessions? Don’t worry—yoga’s one of the main things to do in Boulder, and you’ll find plenty of other studios around town. Yoga Loft, the Yoga Workshop, and Amana Yoga are a few favorites.
Learn how to channel the peaceful vibes of Boulder from within by participating in a drop-in meditation session at the Boulder Shambhala Center. Choose from both open meditation practices and guided instruction depending on your needs and preferences. And if you get really into it, consider extending your trip to Colorado to include a wellness retreat at the Shambhala Mountain Center in Red Feather Lakes, just two hours away.
When so many of the top things to do in Boulder involve playing outside, you’ll need to schedule some time for a little bodily pampering. There’s no better place to do it than at the Spa at St. Julien, an award-winning day spa with therapeutic massages, body scrubs and wraps, natural facials, hair treatments, and nail care. The spa makes many of its products out of herbs from the on-site garden. (Can’t get more natural than that!) After your treatment, restore your mind at the inner relaxation lounge and consider a dip in the 50-foot indoor lap pool at the fitness center. (Spa guests get a free pass!)