1. Where to Stay
Get pampered at the lavish St Julien (from $249), which includes a swank spa offering treatments with botanicals from Colorado’s forests ($105 for 50-minute Swedish massage). The modern, understated hotel rooms have soaking tubs and sandstone balconies, and the property stands just across the street from the city’s best speakeasy, the Bitter Bar.
Experience Boulder’s past at the Hotel Boulderado (from $239), where Victorian opulence is on display in the lobby’s original mosaic-tile floor and ornate stained-glass ceiling. Open since 1909, the hotel pays homage to its history in the 160 rooms, with lamps, wallpaper, and armoires inspired by the century-old originals.
Escape the crowds at Alps Boulder Canyon Inn (from $174), a rustic bed and breakfast just outside the city filled with stained-glass windows and fireplaces. Book a room with a balcony or French doors that open onto the furnished patio to fully enjoy the view of the surrounding mountains.
2. Where to Eat
Book a table in advance for dinner at the Kitchen, a casual neighborhood eatery that’s fueled Boulder’s thriving farm-to-table movement. Dishes like hand-rolled gnocchi with porcini mushrooms ($18) are seasonal and simply prepared, but opt to sit with locals and staff at the weekly Community Night ($35 per person), a four-course, family-style dinner highlighting the best ingredients from local producers like Cure Organic Farm.
Enjoy people-watching just off the Pearl Street Mall at the Black Cat, which is almost exclusively supplied with produce, pigs, sheep, and poultry from chef Eric Skokan’s 120-acre organic farm outside the city. The menu changes daily but recent examples of the creative fare include diver scallops with smoked onion and toasted barley ($15) and duck breast roasted in fennel honey ($29).
Taste the dishes of northeastern Italy made with local ingredients at Frasca, where James Beard Award winner Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson serves a four-course prix fixe ($75) that changes themes weekly (currently it’s heirloom tomatoes). Call before you go to inquire about special events where top chefs like John Besh and Marcus Samuelsson do guest stints in the kitchen.
3. What to Do
Get active and explore local farms on a half-day bike tour led by Awe-Struck Adventures (from $45 including rental and food). Pedal from downtown Boulder along a creek path to the rolling hills of the Front Range, with a break to tour a local farm, like Lone Hawk or Olin, before enjoying an alfresco dinner of wood-fired pizza and fresh vegetables while musicians play.
Check out the mid-season bounty at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market (every Saturday, 8 a.m.–2 p.m.), the largest of its kind in the state, to browse the stalls of more than 100 vendors. Then, experience the best dining downtown has to offer during a two-and-a-half-hour survey of the area ($70) led by Local Table Tours. Be sure not to fill up beforehand, because restaurants on the tour, like Tahona Tequila Bistro, will serve you full dishes rather than samples.
Take a ride on the Brew Bus ($45; every Sunday through October 14) to sample some of the city’s best beers directly from the source. Hop on Banjo Billy’s self-proclaimed “hillbilly shack” on wheels and then spend an hour each at Upslope Brewing Company and Asher Brewery (Boulder’s only certified organic brewery) to tour the facilities and sample the goods. Finish up with the one-of-a-kind craft brews at Avery Brewing Company, where selections include a dark stout called Mephistopheles.
4. Insider’s Tip
Since opening in 2011, Cured has earned praise and adoration for being one of the city’s best shops for cheese, cured meat, and wine. Lesser known, though, are the shop’s special events. Call in advance to see if your trip coincides with any of the intimate pop-up dinners the shop hosts with local restaurants, including an upcoming event highlighting jamón Ibérico and nouveau tapas at Cafe Aion.
5. Oddball Day
Take a break from the food frenzy to experience Boulder’s long-established arts scene. Start out with café au lait and beignets from Lucile’s, a Creole brunch joint inside a small Victorian house that plays zydeco, jazz, and Cajun music. Next, walk a few blocks to the Pearl Street Mall and take a quick stroll down the famous pedestrian-only strip to see street performers, musicians, and impressively eccentric residents. A few minutes down the road, head to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art ($5) to see exhibitions from local artists, or participate in lectures and dance events held throughout the week. From there, grab a taxi and head a few miles from downtown to Redstone Meadery, one of the country’s largest producers of honey wine, for a free tour and tasting, as well as live music on Saturdays. Head back downtown for dinner at Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, a gorgeous space that 40 Tajikistani artisans adorned with hand-carved and hand-painted ceilings, walls, and columns. The rotating menu offers an eclectic sampling of world cuisines in dishes like Indian masala dosa ($15) and Persian spice-rubbed chicken ($16). Afterward, walk to the Laughing Goat, Boulder’s top artists’ café, for the readings, gallery showings, and musical performances held there nightly. Finish the night by raiding the board-game closet at Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery and sipping a happy-hour pint of award-winning, homemade craft beer (half pints from $2.40, 10 p.m. to close).
Downtown Boulder lists more than 120 restaurants in the city center and highlights lunches for under $5 and places to find late-night eats.
Free alternative weekly newspaper Westword is based in Denver but lists Boulder’s art and music events.
Happy Hour Boulder can steer you toward the best drink deals at almost any time of day.
Food blog Grace(full)Plate is a mix of recipes and notes on new arrivals to the city’s dining scene.
Check the city’s official website for detailed information on rock-climbing areas, hiking trails, and fishing streams.