If you’re planning a weekend getaway to Boulder, these definitive guides are packed with everything you need to know for an adventure of a lifetime. From scenic hiking trails to expert advice on where to stay and eat and unique shopping trips, you have all the details you need to make your first trip to Boulder an unforgettable experience.

Whatever type of adventure you’re after, you can see it all with these three mix-match itineraries. Take your pick and get ready for a weekend filled with fun activities, entertainment, and outdoor adventure. Traveling like a local starts here!

Trip 1: Seeking Adventure in Boulder

Or skip ahead to Trip 2 (the Shopping Enthusiasts) or Trip 3 (the Touristy Tourist)

Looking for: Scenic views, thrill-seeking adventures, and natural wonders

Things to Do:

Find your next adventure in Boulder (time varied) – Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails in Boulder. Boulder Open Space is a great spot to do so with trails ranging from beginner to difficult. If you’re a beginner, try Red Rocks Trail. If you hike a bit, but you’re new to Colorado, Mesa Trail or this Gregory Canyon loop might be for you. Want something that’s seriously difficult? The Bear Peak Canyon loop is nearly 8 miles long with almost 3,000 feet of elevation gain. Be warned, altitude can kill you in Colorado, regardless of your physical fitness. Know how to detect altitude sickness, how to prevent it, and how to fix it before tackling any trail. Here’s a basic guide to get your research started.

Hike to the Royal Arch in Chautauqua Park (3-5 hours) – If you’re up for the challenge, make the short yet strenuous 3-mile hike out and back to the royal arch hidden among the rejuvenating beauty and diverse landscape of Chautauqua Park. Overlooking stunning views of the city, this all-natural wonder stands about 20 feet off the ground and rests at an elevation of approximately 6,915 feet above sea level. Be aware, the last mile of the hike is fairly steep and rocky, but finding this hidden gem is totally worth it!

Royal Arch in Boulder, Colorado. Photo Credit: dosecreative (iStock).
Royal Arch in Boulder, Colorado. Photo Credit: dosecreative (iStock).

Discover Your Next Ultimate Adventure at Eldorado Canyon State Park (time varied) – From mountain biking trails to more than 500 climbing routes in the sandstone cliffs and fly fishing experiences, there’s no limitation when it comes to seeking adventure activities in Eldorado Canyon State Park. Get out there and discover an incredible array of adventures at one of the most unique state parks Colorado has to offer.

Visit Rocky Mountain National Park (time varied) – Rocky Mountain National Park is another top-rated attraction located about 60-90 minutes outside the delightful city of Boulder. Make your way to the east entrance of the park to discover quaking aspens, diverse terrain, and an abundance of wildlife including mule deer, wild herds of elk, bighorn sheep, and even monster sized moose. Make sure you bring your camera and binoculars practically everywhere you go for a chance to spot wildlife and capture the perfect mountain moment on this wildly exciting adventure. The park also features several miles of beautiful trails including OutThere Colorado’s personal favorites – Emerald Lake Trail, Black Lake Trail, and the popular Colorado 14er Longs Peak.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Elk Photo Credit: milehightraveler (iStock).
Photo Credit: milehightraveler (iStock).

Visit Neptune Mountaineering to gear up for your next Colorado adventure or check out the La Sportiva Retail Factory Store for major savings including 40% off select apparel. Whether you’re interested in reaching new heights with rock climbing or exploring the rugged sport of trail running, you’ll find everything you need for an adrenaline-fuelled experience at any one of these top-rated outdoor gear and clothing stores in Boulder.

Places to Eat & Drink:

WoodGrain Bagel & Deli – Need something quick and easy for breakfast? From bacon egg and cheese sandwiches to avocado toast garnished with cracked pepper, WoodGrain Bagel & Deli is your go-to breakfast and coffee spot for awakening your adventurous spirit.

Avery Brewing Company – Get to know Colorado craft beer at Avery Brewing Company with a guided educational tour and many free bubbly samples. Not only is the beer intensely fresh and hoppy at this local craft brewery, but they also serve up outrageously good comfort food. Bottoms up!

Illegal Pete’s on Pearl Street – If you’re in the mood for a quick bite, the fully loaded burritos at Illegal Pete’s are out of this world! With tasty fillings like grilled chicken, fajita veggies, pork carnitas, beer battered fish, fresh salsa, cheesy queso, and even housemade guacamole, you can customize your order any way you wish at this quick-service bar and restaurant in Boulder.

Sanitas Brewing Co. – While exploring the best of Boulder, be sure to fuel up for your next big adventure with street-style tacos topped off with all your favorite fixin’s and an icy cold beer from Sanitas Brewing Co. Bring your adventure pals or make new ones at this hip brewery.

Where to Stay:

Airbnb – If you’re looking for budget-friendly alternatives to hotels, then Airbnb is your number one choice for vacation rentals in Boulder. From private rooms to entire houses and even shared spaces, you’ll find a variety of rental options for every kind of travel budget you can possibly imagine.

If you’re looking to escape college crowds, head just a few miles outside the city and plan your stay in the charming little mountain town of Layfette. The town is filled with adorable coffee shops, lunch cafes, restaurants, and a good mix of locally-owned shops and popular retail stores.

Trip 2: The Trip for the Shopping Enthusiast in Boulder

Or skip to Trip 1 (the Adventurous Tourist) or Trip 3 (the Touristy Tourist)

Looking for: Shopping, live music, and popular attractions.

Things to Do:

Stroll Down Pearl Street For Endless Shopping Opportunities (time varied) – If you’re in need of some retail therapy, then you’re in luck! Pearl Street is one of the best places to shop in Boulder. With a variety of trendy shops and boutiques to explore downtown including our personal favorites Ku Cha House of Tea, Bliss BoulderPeppercorn, and Art Source International, you’ll be sure to find the perfect souvenir during your travels. Shop your heart out all the way from 11th street to 17th street at Pearl Street Mall in the lovely downtown area of Boulder.

Pearl Street, Boulder Colorado Photo Credit: SWKrullImaging (iStock).
Photo Credit: SWKrullImaging (iStock).

Shop Fresh Fruit and Colorful Blooms at The Boulder County Farmers Market (1-3 hours) – Support local vendors by coming out to shop at The Boulder County Farmers Market, where you’ll find everything from fresh organic produce to homemade baked goods and inexpensive crafts. Eat, drink and shop local, you’ll be so glad you did!

Enjoy Live Music Nights At St. Julien Hotel (2-4 hours) – Snag a seat at the bar and jam out to some great live music at St. Julien Hotel. This upscale hotel offers signature cocktails, tasty dishes, and a fun crowd for enjoying a sophisticated night out on the town. Perfect for relaxing with a group of friends or your significant other.

Places to Eat & Drink:

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar – Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar is your go-to destination for the finest and freshest selection of seafood. Get your oyster fix at this fine-dining oyster bar and shuck the night away!

Foolish Craig’s Cafe – Beyond authentic French crepes, Foolish Craig’s Cafe serves up the best Sunday brunch in downtown Boulder. Try the butter rum caramel crepe cakes or the chorizo eggs benedict if you dare. Either way, you won’t be disappointed at this wonderful brunch spot!

Corrida – Enjoy delicious Spanish-inspired eats and drinks with unbeatable mountain views of the Flatirons at Corrida. The perfect setting for a romantic evening.

Riff Urban Fare – Riff Urban Fare is a modernized eatery that offers creative cocktails, local beers, and savory dishes like the gold potato gnocchi to satisfy your appetite.

Where to Stay:

Hotel Boulderado – Filled with years of rich and exhilarating history, the Hotel Boulderado offers a wide range of experiences from vintage hotel rooms to historical charm and awe-inspiring mountain views. If you’re looking for a neat place to stay that’s centrally located near downtown Boulder and within close reach of the nightlife scene, this is a great option for luxurious travelers.

St. Julien Hotel & Spa – Heighten your travel experience at St. Julien Hotel & Spa, this trendy escape features a full-service salon and day spa, large indoor pool, and a variety of upscale dining options. Located right in the heart of the city, this is a magnificent place to stay in Boulder. Plus, what’s not to love about being in walking distance of all the downtown shops and restaurants.

Trip 3: The Trip for the Touristy Tourist in Boulder

Or skip to Trip 1 (the Adventurous Tourist) or Trip 2 (the Shopping Enthusiast)

Looking for: Top-rated attractions and fun things to do when visiting your college freshmen.

Things to Do:

Explore the Jagged Flatirons (time varied) – Explore arguably the most iconic landmark in Boulder, the Flatirons. Famous for its craggy rock formations and razor-sharp peaks, the Flatirons are nestled along the eastern slope of the Green Mountain. If you plan on visiting the Flatirons, here are a few things you’ll definitely want to before you go.

Flatirons Colorado, Photo Credit: SWKrullImaging (iStock).
Boulder Flatirons from across from the parched hillsides of Chautauqua Park. Photo Credit: SWKrullImaging (iStock).

Step into the world of weather at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (2-4 hours) – Explore all things weather, climate, and storms with hands-on exhibits and self-guided tours centered around atmospheric science and current research at the National Center for Atmospheric Research. All ages are welcomed and admission is free!

Catch Epic Views at Lost Gulch Overlook (time varied) – Go for the perfect day hike or make the drive up the winding canyon roads to the top of Lost Gulch Overlook, where you’ll find some mighty fine views that stretch all the way from the eastern plains to the snowy mountain peaks of Rocky Mountain National Park. Break out your camera for this Instagram-worthy spot!

Photo Credit: Breanna Sneeringer

Places to Eat & Drink:

Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar – At Hapa Sushi Grill and Sake Bar, you’ll be in sushi heaven with a wide variety of sushi rolls and creative cocktails. This trendy spot is an all-time favorite for sushi addicts and adventurous drinkers.

T/aco – If you’re feeling Mexican food with a slight twist for lunch, then head over to T/aco. Where they have dozens of crazy taco combinations bursting with flavor like the seared ahi tuna made with fresh mango salsa, guacamole, and cilantro. A must-try spot for all the tacos lovers out there!

Pizzeria Locale – Pizzeria Locale serves up authentic Neapolitan pizza in an elegant family setting, complete with a spectacular wine list. The classic Margherita pizza is outstanding, but you’ll also want to try the “Salsiccia” made with tomatoes, peppers, spiced fennel sausage, and parmesan cheese.

Where to Stay:

Residence Inn by Marriott Boulder Canyon Boulevard – With quick and easy access to CU Boulder, hiking trails, and the downtown scene, the Residence Inn by Marriott Boulder Canyon Boulevard is the perfect off-campus hotel for families planning college visits. With your stay, you’ll get to enjoy a complimentary breakfast, spacious rooms, fitness centers, and a large indoor pool and hot tub.

Things You Should Know:

Keep Cars Locked – Whether you’re hitting the trails or out exploring the town, always keep your car locked with valuables completely out-of-sight. Car break-ins are on the rise, especially in touristy areas.

Mind The Weather – The weather in Colorado might surprise you. From severe hail storms to winter flurries, it’s important to check the weather forecast before hitting the trails, even if you’re only planning a short or moderate hike.

Mind The Altitude – Despite what you’ve heard, altitude sickness is a real danger and sometimes even deadly. To avoid unexpected sickness, ease into physical activity slowly, rest well, and most importantly – drink lots and lots of water.

Wear Your Sunblock – Protect your skin from extreme Colorado sun rays by regularly applying sunscreen, even on cloudiest of days.

Skip College Crowds – Travelers who are looking to escape the overwhelming crowds of college students in Boulder should avoid late night spots located on “The Hill.”

Pet Restrictions – For health and safety concerns, pets are not allowed in select areas this includes Pearl Street and the Farmers Market. Always check pet regulations before you go.

A Final Note:

Did you find what you were looking for in the trip-style you most relate to? If not, we encourage you to take a peek at items from other itineraries on this list to a build-your-own perfect trip!

Nearby Excursions

Mount Evans Scenic Byway (Drive time 1 hour away) – Drive to the top of one of Colorado’s classic “14er mountains”. Reaching above 14,000 feet, Mount Evans Scenic Byway will leave you in awe of the stunning beauty and magnificent depth. Be sure to check the weather for road closures in the winter.

Colorado Springs (Drive time 1.5-2 hours away) – Explore numerous beautiful outdoor attractions in Colorado Springs including, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Garden of The Gods Park, Pikes Peak, and Seven Falls at the Broadmoor.

Golden (Drive time 45 minutes away) – Make your way to Golden, located just outside of Boulder, where you’ll find the Coors Brewery and a modern downtown area consisting of touristy shops, restaurants, and a number of historical museums.

Red Rocks Amphitheater (Drive time 1 hour away) – Nothing beats the beautiful outdoor setting and the spirit of the mountain concert venue at Red Rocks Amphitheater. Spend your evening under the stars while attending music concerts and festivals.

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