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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.

University of Colorado’s Museums & Sites

The CU Museum of Natural History insect and fossil collections and CU Art Museum's diverse collection of items encompassing over 10,000 years of human history are hidden gems waiting for your exploration. Both welcome visitors with only a suggested donation. On weekdays, be sure to check out the full-scale (22 feet long and nine feet wide!) reconstructed Triceratops skeleton on display in the lobby of the Sustainable, Energy and Environment Community (SEEC) building on East Campus.

CU Museum of Natural History

Self-Guided Mural Tour

Boulder has seen an explosion of murals in the last few years, with more than 135 popping up in that timeframe. The latest murals in the Street Wise Boulder series all share a theme of social justice. Check out our mural page and look for the “family-friendly” notation to know which are most accessible for families. Or go on this easy downtown walking tour, which takes you by some fun and memorable sculptures and murals. There are plenty of places to stop for snacks and treats along the way, too.

Photo by Gwen Gray

Penfield Tate mural

National Center for Atmospheric Research

Perched above Boulder 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.

Tour of NCAR

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.

Photo by Justin Bilancieri

Pearl Street

Valmont Bike Park

This spectacular bike park stretches across 42 acres, doesn’t cost a dime and has some of the best views in Boulder. Whether you’re a pro or a total newbie, Valmont Bike Park offers tracks for every level of rider, even the little ones (and trust us, they will love it). PS: Don't miss the accompanying 10,000 square-foot skate park, complete with bowls, rails, ledges, boxes and street features.


A post shared by Manny Perillo (@mptango)


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. And find more trails throughout beautiful Boulder.

Chautauqua Trail

Boulder Public Library

Spend an afternoon in Boulder's peaceful, sun-drenched public library, the ideal spot to lose yourself in a good book and cup of coffee. In addition to the wide selection of literature, Boulder Public Library also features an art gallery, modern architecture, outdoor murals, a giant playground and a local foods cafe overlooking Boulder Creek. Check out their events calendar to catch classes for adults and kids.

Boulder Farmers Market

The Boulder Farmers Market is a must-visit on a Saturday morning or Wednesday evening (Wednesdays 3:30-7:30pm, May through 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.

Photo by Denise Chambers

Boulder Farmers Market

First Friday Art Walk

Every first Friday is your chance to discover Boulder's art scene up close when local artists in North Boulder open up their studios for a festive community event. The entire event is free and you can nibble on snacks, stroll a cool neighborhood and discover inspiration in a city that lives, sleeps, eats and breathes creativity. 

Photo by Gwen Gray

The Crowd Collective in NoBo


Thanks to our mild, often clear-skied weather, there are plenty of spots in Boulder to cozy up and gaze at the stars. Grab a hot chocolate and your blanket and check out our list of top spots to stargaze in Boulder.

Photo by Vincent Ledvina

Gorgeous night sky above the Flatirons

Skate Park at Scott Carpenter Park

Surf’s up in the Boulder foothills! Open to skateboarders and in-line skaters, this park features free-flowing forms and bowls, rails, ledges, boxes and street features for any level of skater to play on. Or just take it easy and cruise.

Photo by Gwen Gray

Scott Carpenter skatepark

Scenic Drives

To say there is no shortage of stunning views and vistas both in and surrounding Boulder is the ultimate understatement. Whether you're hoping to catch those elusive golden aspens in fall or monumental peaks for a majestic photo backdrop, it's always a worthwhile activity to load up with your favorite snacks and take to the open road. Check out our list of five must-do scenic drives from Boulder.

Photo by istockphoto

Peak to Peak Scenic Byway

Flagstaff Nature Center

Located at the summit of Flagstaff Mountain, Flagstaff Nature Center is typically open 10:30am-4pm Friday-Sunday during summer and fall months (June-September). It's a great place to bring the little ones to explore and learn about wildlife, wildflowers and other plants as well as the history of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks through interactive games and activities. Please note, this is a volunteer-staffed facility and isn't guaranteed to be open, but there are always plenty of hikes to do nearby!

Photo by Gwen Gray

Flagstaff Nature Center

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

While BMoCA isn't technically free, the museum invites guests to "Pay from Your Heart" — whether it's one penny or one hundred dollars, you pick your admission fee. Whatever you choose, boundary-pushing and genre-bending contemporary art exhibitions await your discovery inside this small but worthwhile museum.

Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Free Festivals and Events

There's always something happening in Boulder, and it's often free and open to the public. Browse our events calendar for the full spread (select "Free Events" to filter by category). In the meantime, here's a selection of free events from every season.

  • FallMapleton Hill Porchfest Every September dozens of local musicians play and sing on quaint porches of the historic homes in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood.
  • WinterSnow Much Fun Light Displays Thousands of twinkling lights illuminate Boulder's Civic Area and downtown Boulder every holiday season, November-January.
  • SpringConference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado One hundred experts on a huge variety of topics are brought in from around the world to participate in 200 panels, discussions, plenaries, concerts and events — all free and open to the public.
  • SummerBands on the Bricks From oldies to alternative, Bands on the Bricks is Boulder's premier outdoor summer concert series taking place on the bricks of the Pearl Street Mall from 5:30-9pm on Wednesdays in June and July.
Photo by Downtown Boulder Inc.

Bands on the Bricks