Trip at a Glance:
Day 1 – Welcome! Get settled and then go out and explore Boulder’s food, coffee, and arts scene. Eat, drink, and shop to your heart’s content!
Day 2 –Start with a stroll through Boulder’s Farmers’ Market, then sample some local nosh and libations. Treat yourself to the Foodiest Town in America!
On your way into town, stop at the Scenic Overlook at mile marker 42 - take a selfie of the Boulder Valley and see the Flatirons and the red roofs of the university. Boulder has long been known for its famous landscapes and forward-thinking residents and remains a very progressive and innovative city. The downtown is filled with high-end boutiques and trendy cafés, and there are pro-level cyclists with flashy jerseys everywhere – but there’s still a natural, down-to-Earth feeling underneath the polish. It’s no surprise that in relatively recent years, the town has morphed into a mecca for artisans, makers and craftspeople.
Start your Boulder experience with breakfast at LUCILE'S CREOLE CAFE. Housed in a Victorian home painted in its signature pale yellow hue, the restaurant is named after the owner’s mother (look for her photo on the menu). Lucile’s has been serving up brunch since 1980. Masks, posters, Mardi Gras beads and other colorful trinkets from Creole country adorn the walls, and jazz music wafts softly through the dining room. Here, you’ll find classic dishes like shrimp n’ grits, gumbo, red beans and rice and praline waffles. Finish out the meal with chicory coffee and warm beignets dusted with powdered sugar.
With a full belly, head to the BOULDER MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART to get a taste of the city’s art scene. The best entertainment deal in the city, admission is free for members and visitors 12 and under, and $1 for everyone else. The museum boasts an ambitious exhibition schedule as well as innovative public programming including field trips, “Summer Games,” (a street festival where art and sports collide), and Spark!, a series of programs designed for visitors with early stage early-stage Alzheimer’s or dementia and their caregivers.
Now, it’s time to hit PEARL STREET, a vibrant downtown pedestrian promenade and the heart of the city. Along this corridor, you’ll find locally-owned shops, cafés and breweries, and an eclectic mix of students, families, tourists, locals, street performers and all-around interesting characters. A stroll along the mall is the easiest way to sample some of the best of Boulder’s craft offerings.
First, grab a coffee at one of the many bustling shops. You’ll have plenty of choices – each spot has its own vibe. If you’re a coffee aficionado, head for BOXCAR Coffee Roasters. Roasted at altitude, this is far and away the best java in town. THE CUP serves a great cold brew (and has milkshakes!). OZO COFFEE is popular among the work from home crowd, as is LAUGHING GOAT COFFEE HOUSE – good spots to catch locals and their artistic, literary & musical expression in their natural habitat. Book lovers will appreciate TRIDENT CAFE, which doubles as a used book store and has live music on occasion.
Time for some shopping! BOULDER ARTS & CRAFTS GALLERY features a selection of handcrafted American gifts including jewelry, woodwork, ceramics, pottery, photography and fibre arts. One of the oldest artist cooperatives in the United States, the gallery represents many artists from Colorado and others from across the country. Most items are one-of-a-kind or produced in very limited quantities. ALPINE MODERN has more of a global fare. The flagship store on Pearl Street has a carefully-curated selection of lifestyle and home décor items from around the world. There’s also an adjoining café if you need to check some emails or grab a quick snack. Both spots are great places to purchase gifts or travel trinkets for yourself or your loved ones.
For dinner, splurge on a night out at one of the city’s acclaimed restaurants. OAK AT FOURTEENTH is consistently voted one of the best restaurants in the Southwest, and has an ever-evolving seasonal menu and enviable wine list. Lunch or dinner, the standout selections are their small plates. Make sure to order a few things to share with the table before diving into entrees.
Built as a cabin in 1929, FLAGSTAFF HOUSE is another award-winning Colorado institution. Set at an elevation of 1829 meters just five minutes from downtown, the dining room and outside terraces overlook the city and nearby foothills – the quintessential Boulder view. The menu – French-American with some global influence – changes daily and features bounty from local farmers and ranchers as well as regional artisans. Think Colorado lamb with white-truffle-infused polenta, or seared sweetbreads with fava beans. Pair your choice with something from the 15,000-bottle wine cellar, which is heavy on varietals from California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and Champagne. The restaurant has won the coveted Wine Spectator Grand Award every year since 1983.
After dinner, check out the city’s nightlife. BOULDER THEATER is located in a beautiful former opera and silent movie house, and hosts everything from film festivals to touring musicians. During the summer (June through August), the COLORADO SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL at the University of Colorado, Boulder is worth a visit if you’re a fan of The Bard. If you’re in town during the winter months, make sure to catch a performance by THE BOULDER PHILHARMONIC in a cosy indoor venue.
Epicureans can’t visit Boulder without a trip to the heart of the city’s food scene – the famous BOULDER FARMERS MARKET. From April through November (the longest market season in Colorado), more than 80 local vendors set up outside, rain or shine, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Consistently voted one of the best farmers markets in America, you’ll find everything from flowers to honey to bison here. Vendors must meet rigorous standards and grow or produce what they sell: no wholesaling allowed.
Next, have lunch at BOULDER DUSHANBE TEAHOUSE. This is a truly unique experience that you can only have in Boulder. Situated along Boulder Creek (not far from the farmers market), the teahouse was a gift from Boulder’s sister city Dushanbe, Tajikistan. It was constructed completely by hand with no power tools, disassembled, and shipped to Boulder, and reassembled on its current site. The beloved structure is a popular tourist attraction as it represents international friendship, cultural exploration, global cooperation and intricate beauty. Make time to enjoy the elegant ritual of afternoon tea in this lush oasis - you’ll be glad you did.
Boulder is also home to CELESTIAL SEASONINGS, the largest tea manufacturer in North America. Join one of their daily, free, 45-minute tours (every hour on the hour), which include tasting and a peek into the manufacturing process (visit on a weekday to experience the factory in action). There’s a small cafe on-site with a gallery of tea-related artwork. (Celestial Seasonings is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.)
Craft beer and spirits lovers will be in their element in Boulder. With more than 23 breweries, four distilleries and six wineries, the choices are plentiful. Standouts include AVERY BREWING (even non-beer drinkers love their sour beers), MOUNTAIN SUN (which has a laid-back vibe and substantial vegan/vegetarian menu), and J & L DISTILLING (craft cocktail lovers, this is your spot). Flights and food are available almost everywhere, so settle in and sample the local styles and flavors. (Mountain Sun and J & L Distilling are temporarily closed.)
For dinner, make reservations at THE KITCHEN. This beloved American bistro was operating sustainably long before "green" was part of the vernacular, and the flagship location has retained – and deepened – their commitment to ethical business practices over the years. The food here is simple, yet elegant and complex, letting the über-fresh ingredients take centre stage. Everything from the pasta to the sauces and desserts are made in-house. Two sister concepts adjoin the restaurant: THE KITCHEN NEXT DOOR is a more casual setting with sandwiches, burgers and daily specials; THE KITCHEN UPSTAIRS is a lively cocktail bar with keg wine, snacks, and small plates.
Another shining example of Boulder chefs’ commitment to local and sustainable food sourcing is BLACK CAT BISTRO. Owners Eric and Jill Skokan opened Black Cat in 2006, named as a whimsical nod to the restaurant’s “lucky” location on 13th Street. Since then, they’ve created their own 130-acre certified organic farm to go along with it. There, they produce vegetables, Tunis & Karakul sheep, Mulefoot pigs, heritage chickens and turkeys, and Toulouse geese, supplying the restaurant with never-ending seasonal bounty and exposing Front Range diners to heritage breed animals they may have never heard of, let alone tasted. The culinary team also forages locally, using wild ingredients such as mushrooms, juniper and wild plums that reveal Colorado’s unique, high-altitude terroir. (Black Cat is temporarily closed due to COVID-19.)
Tonight, head for the iconic FOX THEATRE, near CU-Boulder on “The Hill,” for some live music. The building has a storied history: since its original construction in 1926, it’s been a vaudeville theatre, a dance hall, and even a cafeteria. Today, it’s as a popular stop for national touring bands and up-and-coming artists, with an intimate seating capacity of just 625. Check the theatre’s site to see who’s playing when.