Close Menu

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 commencement (woo hoo, you made it!). You'll likely be looking for things to do near the University of Colorado Boulder 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? Check out this guide to all the Things Boulder Is Known For.

Where to Stay 

Nearly all hotels in Boulder are only a few minutes from campus, as Boulder's geography is quite compact. For hotels within one mile of campus, see our Hotels Near CU page.

Travel Tip

During peak times (hello, spring commencement!), Boulder's hotels book up quickly — as far out as a year in advance. It's best to book a hotel as soon as you know your travel dates.

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.)

Women Hiking Flatirons with Dog

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.

Pearl St

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. 

Couple walking among yellow Flowers on a Boulder trail

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.

Inside the Museum of Boulder with displays

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.

Women walking out on the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse Patio

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.

Pearl Street sculpture of a woman on a swing

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. Scenic view of the mountain range along the Trail Ridge Road

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.  

Group riding e-bikes on Boulder streets


Parking on Campus

You can find parking information, including ADA-accessible parking and transportation, for families and guests on CU's website.

Parking in Downtown Boulder

  • CITY GARAGES are free on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays
    • Mon–Fri: First hour $1.75 • Hour 2-6 $1.25 per hour • Hour 6-12 $15.99 flat rate • $3 flat rate if you enter and exit between 3pm and 3am
    • Garages use gateless entry and payment. Look for the QR code on the wall or go to to register one time, then you’ll never need to stop to pay again.
  • CITY SURFACE LOTS are pay by meter or ParkMobile app (
    • Sundays and city holidays are free
  • ON-STREET PARKING Use the on-street meter kiosks or the ParkMobile app (
    • $1.50–2 per hour, enforced Mon–Sat, 9am–7pm
    • Saturdays: No maximum • Sundays and city holidays free

Getting Around Campus

The University of Colorado Boulder has an excellent, interactive campus map to help you find your way. And don't be afraid to ask passersby for directions if you need help.

Getting Around Town

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.

Bike Sharing

BCycle is Boulder’s electric bike-sharing program, with 50 stations around town. Bring your own helmet. Find stations on the app at

Lime Scooters

Go to the Lime website ( to find a nearby electric scooter. You can ride them in bike lanes or multiuse paths. Yield to pedestrians, don't ride on Open Space trails and return to a Lime Grove when your ride is finished.

Public Buses

An extensive bus network can help you get around — especially the HOP, which runs a loop to Boulder’s top spots. Visit the city's website for more information, and download the Transit app ( for real-time schedules.

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.

Photo by Justin Bilancieri

The Sink

  • 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.
  • 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

Photo by Gwen Gray

West End of Pearl Street

Shop Supplies for Your Student

Need a hot plate, a broom or an extra towel or two 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.