When it comes to charming mountain towns with just the right amount of “edge,” Boulder is hard to beat. Besides its other-worldly beauty and endless offerings in terms of fun (read: party town) and outdoor adventure, Boulder is also a force to be reckoned with on the up-and-coming foodie scene (they were doing local and farm-to-table long before it became a “thing”). With a relaxed, happy hippy-ish, yet cool and contemporary vibe, there’s a reason why Boulder always tops the “best towns to live in ” lists, and it’s not just because of the pot brownies.
Where to crash and get some R&R
If you’re looking for relaxed luxury and pampering in a beautiful and central location, look no further. A Conde Nast Traveler favorite, the hotel boasts an award-winning spa, chic lounge, and modern bistro with sick views of Boulder’s Flatiron rock formations.
This quaint 10-room inn is run by a Zen monk and his wife who offer unlimited tea and cookies, as well as a lovely garden and meditation room. The Briar Rose is a zero-waste house and the owners even do their organic food shopping by bike.
Located in the heart of downtown, The Boulderado is a historical (allegedly haunted!) beauty that opened in 1909 and has remained an elegant treasure ever since. Charming and affordable, the hotel also houses one of Boulder’s most popular, low-key bars called Catacombs.
Where to chow down and then unbutton the top button
Because I went to college in Boulder, I have to give props to some of the old school places that are absolute staples in Boulder and Illegal Pete’s on The Hill (area adjacent to campus) is one such place. This is a low-key “Mission-Style” Mexican joint with kick-ass burritos, salsas, and tacos that has been around since the ‘90s. It’s what Chipotle wishes it could be.
Another establishment on The Hill that’s been around forever and an absolute “can’t miss” is The Sink (est. 1923). It’s a funky and eclectic bar/restaurant known for their Sink Burger and pizza with thick braided crust served with honey for dipping. Obama recently stopped in for a slice, and Robert Redford worked there as a janitor before he flunked out of CU back in the 50’s.
Snooze is an “a.m. eatery” with a cheerful, retro vibe that serves up imaginative breakfast and lunch fare. They also offer a creative Mimosa, Bloody Mary, and Morning Margarita menu for those of you who like a good “Sunday Funday.” Don’t miss their Velvet Elvis Pancakes.
The Buff is a Boulder institution and the home of hearty breakfast and lunch dishes, as well as 99 Cent Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s (on Sundays). This casual, but lively spot was featured on The Travel Channel’s Man vs Food, which highlighted their famous dish appropriately called “Saddlebags” (pancakes stuffed with eggs, bacon, sausage and ham!).
This is one of the most celebrated spots in town with an ongoing avalanche of accolades from the who’s who of food & wine press including Bon Appetit and Travel & Leisure, helping put Boulder on the culinary map. Their menu is inspired by the cuisine of Northeast Italy, and their sommelier Bobby Stuckey is one of the best in the country, with a James Beard award under his belt for the masterful wine list.
This is where my love affair with the delights of the sea began way back in 1997. A long-standing and beloved little joint on Pearl Street, Jax is known for their innovative dishes, fresh seafood, and emphasis on local and organic produce. They boast a cozy, vibrant atmosphere and thoughtful cocktail menu.
Where to drink up and get down
Any place with the words “refreshment palace” in the name deserves a visit. Every time I’m at Centro, I’m reminded of why I love Boulder because it embodies some of the town’s best qualities – it’s casual, cool and has a great view. The outdoor bar/patio area faces the mountains. On a sunny Colorado day with one of their Blistered Pina cocktails in hand, this place is heaven.
This is the place to hit up if you’re looking for a landmark dive bar with some Boulder quirk. Bikes, wagon wheels, skis and bison heads hang from the ceiling and there are ample foosball, air hockey and pool tables. Good place to enjoy some local craft brew and a burger.
The Bitter Bar is Boulder’s answer to the speakeasy trend. This cocktail driven hot spot offers mixology classes on the regular, a cozy patio, and live music every Thursday. Bonus: they serve homemade S’mores.
The Rio is a Boulder institution that just gets better with age. In recent years, they added a rooftop with amazing views of downtown and the mountains. Go for the margaritas, solid Mexican food and fun atmosphere.
Ants in your Pants
Where to go when you can’t sit still
This gorgeous park nestled against the mountains is an amazing place to hike, with countless trailheads that weave through the peaceful, colorful foothills. A trip to Boulder isn’t complete without a trip to the Flatirons – the famous red rock formations accessible via trailheads in Chautauqua Park. The Flatirons provide varied and unique rock climbing routes, including technical climbs and bouldering.
Tubing or kayaking down Boulder creek is a must during Boulder’s dry, hot summer months. There’s a stretch of the creek that offers a 20 slalom gate course for more agile and competitive kayakers. Kayak rentals are available at Colorado Water Sport and tubes can be bought at Whitewater Tube Co. Bikers and rollerbladers can follow along the creek on the adjacent 16 mile path.
Visit Boulder’s one and only winery and tasting room for award winning wines made from Colorado grown grapes.
I Just Bought These Pants
Where to nab the best threads
This little boutique on Pearl Street is a great place to shop for cute and casual duds, selling brands like Tucker, Genetic Denim, and Splendid.
With shops like H&M, Madewell, Anthroplogie, and Nordstrom Rack as well as some fast casual restaurants and a movie theater, Twenty Ninth Street will satisfy your shopping and entertainment cravings.
If you’re down to drop some serious dough on an enviable wardrobe, check this place out. They sell high-end designer threads from the likes of Lanvin, Missoni, Isabel Marant, Band of Outsiders, and Celine.