CU Parents’ Guide to Boulder
Welcome to Boulder, CU parents and families! Maybe you’re dropping off your freshman (gulp…you got this!), visiting for Family Weekend or attending CU graduation (woo hoo, you made it!). You'll likely be looking for things to do near the University of Colorado while you’re here, and we've got your guide to Boulder’s chill vibe, amazing food, great shopping and even better views.
It’s a long-running joke that Boulder is “25 square miles surrounded by reality.” Curious about how it got to be such a unique place? Read our Boulder Myths and Truths page, or check out this guide to all the Things Boulder Is Known For.
Things for CU Families to Do
See the Famous Flatirons
Those slanting ochre sandstone formations you see all over CU’s marketing materials are Boulder’s pride and joy. An up-close look at the Flatirons for yourself is a must. Head to Chautauqua Trailhead, where you can take some pictures and go for a hike on an extensive trail network if you like. (On summer weekends, you can ride the free Park-to-Park Shuttle from the CU Regent Lot or downtown to avoid parking hassles.)
Stroll Pearl Street
If the Flatirons are Boulder’s pride and joy, Pearl Street is its heart and soul. With four brick-paved blocks closed to traffic, this open-air promenade has the energy of a European plaza, lined with dining and shopping, great for people-watching and catching street performances.
Go for a Hike or Nature Walk
Put your feet to a trail for some nature therapy and adventure. Two gentle but spectacularly scenic trails are available at Wonderland Lake or Bobolink Trailhead. If you want more of a workout, head to Realization Point (be prepared for a short but steep and winding drive up Flagstaff Road) and try Range View or Boy Scout trails.
Museum of Boulder
If your student’s going to be here for a few years, wouldn’t it be nice to know more about the city they’ll call home? The Museum of Boulder tells Boulder’s story with fascinating multimedia exhibits. The museum has spacious galleries, a maker's workshop and a rooftop that's perfect for photo ops in front of the Flatirons.
Taste Tea at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
How a hand-carved, hand-painted and hand-assembled Persian teahouse ended up in Boulder is quite the story (read it here). You can visit Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse and enjoy a cup of tea — one of dozens of varieties they serve, sourced with care from across the globe. A nice, big, shady patio beside Central Park makes this a great place to dine outside.
Public Art Walking Tour
This easy, scenic walking tour will take you on a leisurely stroll down Pearl Street in a pleasant loop that should take about an hour, depending on how long you stop to admire the artwork. Boulder’s collection of murals is also constantly expanding, no surprise in one of America's top ten most vibrant arts communities.
Go for a Scenic Drive
A nice mountain drive will give you the broader lay of the land and give you time to chat as a family. We’ve compiled several easy scenic drives here. Our recommendation would be to do the Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park Scenic Drive.
Try an Electric Bike Tour
If you’ve never tried an e-bike, you’re in for a treat. You'll feel like a superhero zooming up hills with the greatest of ease. Pedego's Best of Boulder E-Bike Tour takes you through historic downtown and up to the foot of the Flatirons. Find more tours and e-bike rental info here.
Where to Eat
Need a great place to treat your student while you’re in town, or a nice place to dine while they are occupied? Try one of these.
- Café Aion Right next to campus, this is exceptionally good Mediterranean fare in a chic, peaceful space.
- Corrida The view here is unsurpassed, and so is the Spanish-influenced cuisine.
- The Kitchen Boulder’s original farm-to-table phenom.
- River and Woods A pretty courtyard and complexly re-fashioned family favorites.
- Blackbelly A favorite spot in town for meat-focused dishes by a “Top Chef” champion.
- The Sink Robert Redford was once a janitor here. Every inch of the walls is covered in customer artwork, and you’re welcome to add your own.
- Mateo Great downtown location with a flower-bordered patio and delicious French Provencal food.
- Organic Sandwich Great for a quick, to-go bite downtown, but exceptionally delicious.
- SALT Simply delicious, locally sourced New American fare with a flower-lined patio.
- The Boulder Cork A reliable favorite with clubby-feeling, private spaces to chat with your student.
Where to Shop
- Pearl Street and Twenty Ninth Street are Boulder's main shopping districts.
- The Boulder Book Store and Trident Booksellers and Café will keep you browsing the shelves for hours.
- Barbara & Co, Cedar & Hyde Mercantile, Island Farm and Evereve are some of the top women’s shops that moms tend to love.
- For outdoor gear, the sky’s the limit. There’s an outdoor store on nearly every corner. Some local faves: Neptune Mountaineering, Prana and Black Diamond. Here’s a guide.
Where to Get Supplies
Need a hot plate, a broom or some extra hand sanitizer for your student’s dorm room or apartment? Here’s where to go.
- Target (Pearl St. and 28th St.) is the go-to big-box store for move-in supplies.
- HomeGoods is close to campus (28th and Arapahoe) and has discount kitchenware, office decor, bedding and decor.
- World Market is also right off 28th St. and has affordable, boho-style furniture, decor and more.
- Trader Joe’s (28th and Walnut) is a favorite grocery store (their cookie butter is proven to help students study better ;) and is very near both Target and World Market. Or the closest grocery store to campus is Safeway (Arapahoe Ave. and 28th St.).
- Twenty Ninth Street shopping mall is great for the Apple Store, Nordstrom Rack and plenty of other clothing and home goods shops.
- University Cycles will take good care of you if you need to pick up a bike for your student.
Lay of the Land
Boulder is compact and easy to get around, and downtown Boulder is especially walkable. The area next to the University of Colorado is called “The Hill”; you’ll find quick-bite eateries, coffee shops, yoga studios and more here, catering to students. The city is surrounded by 45,000 acres of open space, with forest and foothills always minutes from your hotel door. More Neighborhood Info
More Info on Top Attractions
Get the inside scoop on our Boulder's attractions.
Where to Stay
Nearly all hotels in Boulder are only a few minutes from campus, as Boulder's geography is quite compact.