15 Fun Things to Do in Boulder Right Now, from Floating Down a Creek to Dining on a Mountain

Beyond drinking beer. But also that.

Boulder, with its signature Flatirons, youthful—and, most often, health-centric—population of movers and shakers, and abundance of things to do, see, and snack on, is an adventurer’s paradise. It is the intersection of outdoor enthusiasts and foodies, college students and spry retirees, and everyone that falls in-between. There is so much happening in Boulder, far more than just hiking and strolling Pearl Street, so we figured it best to offer a well-rounded list of fun things you can experience whether as a visitor or a local. From fine-dining atop mountains to the best karaoke this side of the Mississippi, Boulder has it all. Here are 15 cool things to do in Boulder right now.

Flagstaff Mountain
Flagstaff Mountain | Colin D. Young/Shutterstock

Hike (and dine) on Flagstaff Mountain

Flagstaff Mountain is a fairly easy, 2.1-mile hike available to people of all hiking abilities, plus dogs and horses, too. Enjoy getting your steps in while also taking in picturesque views of the Front Range and the valley of Boulder below. Just be sure to bring your fancy dinner pants, because a night of wining and dining at Flagstaff House is sure to be one to remember.

Visit CU Boulder for events or to check out the planetarium

Aside from being a beautiful, sprawling campus of higher education, CU Boulder is also often host to a variety of events open to the public. And whether or not you’re there for a special star show or a themed event, a trip to Fiske Planetarium is always a unique and enjoyable experience.

St Julien Hotel & Spa
Photo courtesy of St Julien Hotel & Spa

Relax at the St. Julien spa

In addition to being a lavish hotel that’s perfect for a weekend getaway (not to mention the perk of eating at Jill’s Restaurant & Bistro or sipping cocktails from T-Zero on the garden terrace), St. Julien is also the go-to spa destination in Boulder. Why? Well, the services run the gamut, meaning you can get pampered from tip to toe in whatever way you desire. Our suggestion is reserving a full “Day of Decadance,” which includes a Swedish Massage, facial, pedicure, and hair shampoo and style, with a glass of bubbly and a charcuterie board to top things off at the end.

Splash around at Boulder Reservoir

Enjoy 700 acres of summertime fun at Boulder Reservoir, whether that means fishing, water skiing, or just soaking up some sun. Between May 15 and Labor Day, people flock to the cool water to boat, swim, picnic, or simply jog or cycle along picturesque scenery. It’s also a great spot for the avid wildlife watcher, too. Just be sure to read up on the FAQs before packing the car.

The West End Tavern
Photo courtesy of The West End Tavern

​​Eat and drink to your heart’s content on the Pearl Street Mall

The Pearl Street Mall is the beating heart of Boulder’s food, drink, and shopping scene, a colorful four-block pedestrian thoroughfare through the heart of downtown lined with street performers, food carts, and ample people watching. Longtime favorites include Pearl Street Pub and West End Tavern (to get your drink on), as well as the unparalleled mountain views (and wine selection) of Corrida or the always fresh, always locally sourced OAK at Fourteenth, whereas the Italian decadence of Stella’s Cucina is new to the Boulder dining scene. For more casual fare, there’s the constant vendor rotation at Avanti F&B, and some of the best Nepalese, Tibetan, and Indian food in the Boulder-Denver area at Sherpa's Adventure Restaurant & Bar. P.S.: Not stopping at Chiri’s Momo Delight is the ultimate rookie mistake.

The Flatirons
The Flatirons | Rich Wolf/Shutterstock

Hike the trails (and get brunch) at Chautauqua

The first thing anyone should do when arriving in Boulder (especially with out-of-towners in tow) is to get an up-close peek at The Flatirons, Boulder’s signature mountain range that has long served as a symbol of this one-of-a-kind town. The best place to do that is Chautauqua, an iconic local park that also houses a historic dining hall, concert auditorium, and rental cottages with mountain vistas. Hike the trails, toss the disc around, or just enjoy the views over brunch on the dining hall deck. You can’t go wrong either way.

Stroll or float along Boulder Creek

One of the most “Boulder” things you can do in Boulder is go tubing down Boulder Creek, a sunny day activity enjoyed by locals and adventurous visitors for generations. But a leisurely stroll or bike ride is just as exhilarating. The 5.5 mile path is perfect for a quick jaunt to hit your fresh air quota (we’re kidding—this is Boulder, after all) or getting in some exercise while surrounded by the creek’s rushing water and blooming foliage. It’s also a great segue for checking out the Boulder Public Library.

Avery Brewing Company
Photo courtesy of Avery Brewing Company

Explore Boulder’s hefty craft beer scene

It is perhaps unsurprising that Boulder hosts a solid craft beer scene, with standouts like Avery and Upslope amongst the most well-known of the bunch. But that doesn’t mean you can’t find excellent brews at more off-the-beaten path spots like VisionQuest and Boulder Beer. (Check out our full brewery roundup here.) There is also something called the Boulder Beer Trail, which includes can’t-miss spots like the Bohemian Biergarten, if you’re having trouble deciding where to start.

The Fox Theatre
Photo courtesy of The Fox Theatre

Rock out at the Fox and Boulder Theatre

As great as Red Rocks is, you don’t have to leave Boulder to get your live music fix. While legendary dive venue Tulagi is long gone, the always-fun Fox Theatre on University Hill (aka “The Hill”) brings in a bevy of live rock and hip-hop acts, plus plenty of other genres, too. Meanwhile, the historic Boulder Theatre can be counted on to class up any Boulder evening with top-caliber music acts from the likes of Switchfoot to live comedy from David Spade and Trevor Wallace.

Boulder Teahouse
Photo courtesy of Boulder Teahouse

Get touristy at the Dushanbe Tearoom

This is something you don’t see every day. The appropriately opulent Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, tucked along Boulder Creek as a gift from its Tajikistan sister city of Dushanbe, might be slightly touristy but is well worth a trip. In addition to an unsurprisingly vast tea selection, it also has an array of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and a pretty sweet lunch and brunch menu, including global dishes like raclette, samosa, and karaage. A visit here is one well spent.

Shop local at Lolita’s Market and Lucky’s

As you might expect in a town as granola-friendly as this, Boulder is home to a number of top-shelf independent local grocery stores you should visit if given the chance. Sure, you could go to chains like Whole Foods and King Soopers when you run out of trail mix, but why not shop like a true Boulderite instead at locals-friendly spots like Lucky’s Market and Lolita’s Market & Deli

Boulder Museum Of Contemporary Art
Photo courtesy of Boulder Museum Of Contemporary Art

Get artsy at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Art lovers need not make the trek down increasingly traffic-clogged Highway 36 into Denver for their art fix, with the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) offering big-city culture with a small-town flair along Boulder Creek. Also stop by the Boulder Farmers Market and Boulder Bandshell, both located within easy walking distance, on your way out as you discuss the latest exhibit you totally pretend to have understood.

Sip fancy cocktails at the historic License No. 1

Every town needs a good cocktail bar, and Boulder’s License No. 1 fits the bill in spades. While not quite as campy and fun as the former Catacombs Bar which was once housed in this space located in the basement of the historic Hotel Boulderado, License No. 1 can be cashed in for all your mixology needs in a cool speakeasy-style space. (The name is a nod to the spot being the recipient of Boulder’s first legal liquor license in 1969.)

Sushi Zanmai
Photo courtesy of Sushi Zanmai

Sing it loud and proud at Sushi Zanmai

There are a number of good spots to get sushi in Boulder like Hapa and Japango. But there is only one longtime local sushi spot that’s been doing karaoke on Saturday nights for the past 31 years. It’s Sushi Zanmai, and you should go if you know what’s good for you.

Explore one of America’s best state parks at Eldorado Canyon

Visitors to Boulder will no doubt want to explore nearby Rocky Mountain National Park, located just 45 minutes north in the town of Estes Park. But while the popularity of the national park has exploded in recent years, Eldorado Canyon State Park—located just 20 minutes south of town—is an often overlooked Boulder County gem ideal for rock climbing, trail running, and canyon gawking.

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Chicago expert Jay Gentile writes about food & drink, travel, events, entertainment, and culture for Thrillist. Jay is also the founder of local music magazine Chicago INNERVIEW and an award-winning freelance writer with bylines in The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, Lonely Planet, Outside Magazine, SPIN, VICE and others. An authority in all things weird and wonderful around his hometown, he currently lives in Wicker Park where he can be found dancing like a sweaty imbecile at shows.
Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram for updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.