The University of Colorado Boulder sits in the heart of the city, and its students and faculty help make Boulder a center for research and culture. Here’s our roundup of campus highlights, most of which you can do in just a day or two!
Important COVID-19 Notice:
Museums, facilities and public programs at CU remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, most of the activities listed below are not currently available.
The best way to start a visit to CU’s famously beautiful campus is from a few miles away. One of the most dazzling views of campus (and Boulder in general) is from Highway 36 West, between the McCaslin Boulevard and Foothills Parkway exits. At the crest of the hill, pull into the turnout to the visitor kiosk and look for CU’s iconic red tile rooftops below. You can also head to Chautauqua Trailhead — any of the numerous hiking trails provide vistas of the campus — or drive up Flagstaff Road to Panorama Point.
Walk through the doors of Old Main and you’re stepping into history. This was CU’s first building, and today, the third floor houses the CU Heritage Center. Highlights include a moon rock collected by Apollo 15 astronauts, memorabilia from the life of musician (and alum) Glenn Miller and photos from the early days of university life. The museum’s most playful exhibit (and one the kids will love, too) is a replica of campus built from thousands of LEGO® bricks. It took seven months to plan and seven professional LEGO builders more than three months to finish the creation.
For nearly 60 years, CU has been home to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, which runs from early June to mid August. Recent lineups have included traditional fare such as Taming of the Shrew and Hamlet, along with modern homages like I Hate Hamlet and Wittenberg. Although some productions take place indoors, most are held in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre (our favorite way to watch The Bard). Bring a picnic dinner to enjoy on the sprawling lawns outside the theater before the show.
CU's Fiske Planetarium is one of the largest planetariums between Chicago and Los Angeles. Check out their schedule for a calendar of engaging and interactive full-dome films, live talks by leading researchers, live theatrical and musical performances, and late-night liquid sky and laser shows set to music, with titles like "Laser Gaga," "Laser Floyd" and "Liquid Sky Prince."
Photo by Jasen Miller/Flickr Creative Commons
Located just south of University Avenue, Varsity Bridge is one of the most picturesque spots on campus. Whether lush and green in the spring, red and gold in the fall or frosted with snow in the winter, this is the location on campus to snap a photo. You may also spy some wildlife while you’re there: look for fish, turtles, raccoons and even foxes on the water’s edge.
CU Presents brings world-class performances to campus, including a visiting artist series, the popular Takács Quartet, a popular annual holiday festival, CU Opera and CU Theatre and Dance productions. Want something cutting edge? Catch a performance at the ATLAS Black Box Theater; shows incorporate music, dance, theater, film and new media. Film buffs will love CU’s International Film Series, which spotlights new cinema from the U.S. and across the globe, as well as classics like Alfred Hitchcock’s "The Birds."
Photo: Glenn Asakawa/University of Colorado
Nature is on display in Boulder, so a trip to CU's Museum of Natural History seems in order. This treasure trove stores more than 4 million objects, from dino bones to Colorado's largest collection of bee specimens. If the study of civilization is more your speed, make sure to swing by the museum’s anthropology section to see collections of Southwestern pottery and textiles and Navajo and Pueblo silverwork. The CU Art Museum is also well worth a stop, with works from diverse aesthetic and cultural origins encompassing over 10,000 years of human history.
No, we’re not talking ramen noodles from a dorm room hotplate. Just across Broadway, you’ll find The Hill, blocks of funky shops, bookstores, cafes and restaurants. Stop in for a slice of pizza at The Sink (where a young Robert Redford was once a bus boy) or nosh on upscale farm-to-table tapas at Café Aion. If you’re around in the evening, catch a show at The Fox Theatre on 13th Street for the full Hill experience. Global dining is also available on campus at the Center for Community, an award-winning dining center offering cuisine from 10 micro-restaurants representing different world cultures.
CU loves its sports teams and athletes. Whatever your preferences, whenever your visit, there’s bound to be something to spark your excitement, from basketball, tennis and track and field to skiing, soccer and the ultimate CU sporting experience: cheering on the Buffs football team at Folsom Field. Go Buffs! Keep an eye out for CU’s lovable mascots: Ralphie (a real buffalo) and Chip (a more cuddly, costumed fella).
For five days each April, the Conference on World Affairs brings the world to CU. One hundred experts on a huge variety of topics are brought in from around the world to participate in more than 200 panels, discussions, plenaries, concerts and events — all free and open to the public. Originally founded in 1948 as a forum on international affairs, the CWA expanded rapidly in its scope to cover a vast variety of topics. The film critic Roger Ebert, who participated in the CWA for four decades, referred to it as "the Conference on Everything Conceivable."
Here's a very helpful map of campus, with clickable layers to view wheelchair-accessible sidewalks and building entrances, photos of buildings, dining options, public parking and more.