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    Hiking the Flatirons

    Free Things to Do in Boulder

    Seeing Boulder on a budget is easy if you know where to go. Take advantage of these free things to do in Boulder and save some cash for an indulgent dinner or shopping spree — or add an extra day or two to your itinerary.

    Celestial Seasonings Tour

    Go behind the scenes of this major tea manufacturer’s production plant to see how teas are blended, packaged and shipped. You’ll walk on the factory floor, hear the machinery, watch the conveyor belts and learn where the herbs and tea leaves are from. Notable perks to the free, 45-minute tour include the famously invigorating mint room, free samples of every tea they make and an art gallery of the distinctive tea-box art. Celestial Seasonings shares a location in northern Boulder, very close to the Leanin' Tree Museum & Sculpture Garden of Westwern Art (see below).

    Leanin Tree Museum

    Leanin’ Tree Museum & Sculpture Garden of Western Art

    The exceptional roundup of Western sculptures and paintings at Leanin' Tree Museum & Sculpture Garden holds more than 250 original paintings and 100 bronze sculptures. It is actually a private collection of greeting card publisher Ed Trumble but is open to the public for free. Outside, a peaceful path winds through large-scale bronze sculptures — bugling elk, bald eagles and cowboys on horseback — while inside the gallery are more sculptures and many fine paintings depicting scenes of the Old West. Plus, on weekdays, you can take a 45-minute factory tour. Nearby is Celestial Seasonings (see above).

    Boulder Creek Path

    Stroll or bike down this paved sanctuary right in the heart of Boulder. You'll find locals getting in a workout and lots of families playing creekside. Pick up the Boulder Creek History Tour brochure at a visitor center to make it come to life even more.

    University of Colorado’s Museums

    The CU Museum of Natural History insect and fossil collections and CU Heritage Center’s architecture gallery and tribute to Glenn Miller all are hidden gems waiting for your exploration. Both welcome visitors with only a suggested donation. 

    Hiking at Chautauqua

    The minute you see Boulder’s iconic Flatirons (the slanting, reddish sandstone slabs at the base of the foothills), you’ll want to get a closer look. Hike right up to them using the Chautauqua Trail, which traverses a sprawling plot of open space with dozens of other trails of varying levels of difficulty.

    Pearl Street Sunny Day

    Strolling Pearl Street

    While we concede that Pearl Street has lots of tempting shopping (not exactly free), it’s also a great place for a stroll (absolutely free). There are play areas for kids, blossoming flowerbeds in the warmer months, street performers year-round and plenty of benches to sit and enjoy some of the world’s best people-watching.

    Brewery, Winery or Distillery Tours

    See how Boulder’s notably large community of brewers, winemakers and distillers have honed their crafts — and be treated to tastes of their delicious concoctions — on tours of local facilities. Many of them on this list offer great free tours.

    Boulder Farmers’ Market

    Named the No. 1 farmers’ markets in the nation by USA Today, the Boulder Farmers’ Market is a must-visit on a Saturday morning or Wednesday evening (Wednesdays 4-8pm, May–October; Saturdays 8am– 2pm, April through November). Bring your camera to capture bright displays of flowers and lusciously ripe produce, nibble on free samples ranging from granola to pasta sauce, listen to live music and simply enjoy the effervescent atmosphere.

    Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

    While BMoCA normally charges $5 admission, the museum is free every Saturday and Wednesday evenings during the Boulder Farmers’ Market. Boundary-pushing and genre-bending contemporary art exhibitions await your discovery inside this small but worthwhile museum.

    Gallery Hopping Boulder
     
    Gallery Hopping

    Creativity runs deep in Boulder, and the best place to see the community’s artistic outpourings are in the galleries sprinkled throughout town. All along Pearl Street and the surrounding areas are art galleries featuring the best local talent, as well as artists from around the world. Another fun way to view the work of Boulder artists is to participate in the Open Studios Fall Artist Tour, during which artists open their studios and homes to guests for the first two weekends in October.

    National Center for Atmospheric Research

    Perched above Boulder, and with dramatic views of the city below, is the I.M. Pei-designed National Center for Atmospheric Research. You could go for the architecture, views and hiking trails alone, but a free tour and hands-on exhibits are worth a longer stay to illuminate weather- and climate-related topics in ways you’ve never considered before.