BOULDER, Colo. — Not every destination lends itself to a whirlwind tour, but in the beautiful city of Boulder, Colo., you can sample five fun and scenic spots in one afternoon.
Of course, if you have more time, everything on this list is worth savoring. But if you’re just passing through, this doable itinerary offers an easy way to experience the city’s top sights in a few hours. Boulder is also an easy side trip if your primary destination is Denver, about 25 miles away.
The city’s typically sunny, blue-sky weather, gorgeous mountain scenery and easily traversed streets make it a pleasant destination no matter how much time you have.
The Chautauqua movement started in the late 19th century as a summer school for teachers. It later developed into a cultural phenomenon, offering lectures, music, the arts and recreation in thousands of communities around America.
One of the last remaining Chautauquas is in Boulder, now a National Historic Site with original buildings surrounded by parkland. Take a walk, lie on the grass, relax in a rocking chair, or if you have time, buy a ticket for one of its many events — concerts, films and other performances, including unique hikes that combine theater with the outdoors. There’s onsite lodging if you care to stay overnight, but if you’re cramming in a quick stop, one way to enjoy the place is to grab a bite at the Chautauqua Dining Hall. Get a table outside on the wraparound porch and enjoy the views and terrific menu, which ranges from bison to burrata cheese to Brussels sprouts. You can pick up a free map of Boulder inside the dining hall.
Boulder’s 45,000 acres of open space and parkland is supremely accessible. One minute, you’re dining, shopping or walking on a city street; a few minutes later, you can be up in the mountains, surrounded by pine trees, looking down on the city below.
From Chautauqua, it’s a quick drive west to Flagstaff Mountain, past the rock formations known as the Flatirons. The winding drive up the mountain is beautiful, with many spots to pull your car over and go for a short (or long) hike. Be sure to see the Sunrise Amphitheater on the summit. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, it has circular seating, a stage and incredible views. It’s a popular site for weddings.
Boulder Creek Path
Another encounter with the great outdoors can be had just blocks from downtown. On the scenic 8-mile Boulder Creek Path, you can stroll, bike or just sit for a few peaceful moments by the water. Kayakers, fly fisherman and wading dogs are all part of the scene. Part of it is paved, part is dirt and gravel.
Boulder is home to dozens of options for food and drink, but do not miss the one and only Dushanbe Teahouse. Dushanbe offers a formal afternoon tea with a three-tiered tower of pastries, cucumber sandwiches and more, but it’s worth stopping in even if you don’t have the time for a sit-down just to see the building.
The teahouse is named for Boulder’s sister city, the capital of Tajikistan, and its elaborate carved columns, ceramic panels and hand-painted ceiling were mostly handcrafted there by artisans, with some elements made or assembled here by visiting craftsmen. The menu offers breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack in addition to the afternoon tea. A takeout counter is in the back.
Pearl Street Mall
Pearl Street has been Boulder’s main shopping district since the late 19th century and a pedestrian mall since the late 1970s. Today its historic storefronts have been restored and it bustles with shoppers, street performers and children at play. You’ll find eateries, bookstores, boutiques, art galleries, antiques and toys, as well as shops selling everything from skateboards to cigars.