Boulder is one of the liveliest college towns in the country, filled with a young population that seems to divide its time between phenomenally healthy daytime pursuits and almost equally unhealthy night-time activities.
With an easygoing, forward-looking atmosphere and plenty of great places to eat and drink, Boulder makes an excellent place to return to each night after a day in the mountains. Downtown centers on the leafy pedestrian mall of Pearl Street, lined with all sorts of lively cafés, galleries, and stores – including several places where you can rent mountain bikes. The most obvious short excursion is to drive or hike up nearby Flagstaff Mountain for views over town and further into the Rockies. For rock climbing, Eldorado Canyon State Park offers many opportunities; the excellent Neptune Mountaineering, in the Table Mesa shopping center at 633 S Broadway (Tel:303/499-8866, Web: www.neptunemountaineering.com ), can answer questions and provide gear.
The Denver Post once described Boulder as "the little town nestled between the mountains and reality." Shadowed by the towering Flatirons and surrounded by more than 31,000 acres of recreational open space and nature preserves, Boulder is 28 square miles of outdoor heaven. Named after the mammoth rocks scattered across the terrain, Boulder brims with big city sophistication, college town intelligence, and environmental sensibilities.
Boulder's historic civic center serves as a gathering place for the entire city. Anchored by Pearl Street, a vibrant thoroughfare boasting a magnificent four-block pedestrian mall, the Pearl Street Mall , the downtown area brims with tourists, but is also a lively haven for the eclectic locals. The tree-lined promenade, long ago a refuge for the wildest of the wild westerners, is alive with cafes, galleries, brewpubs, restaurants and every type of shopping imaginable.
If high culture is on the agenda, then browse around at one of the galleries brightening downtown, including the popular Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art . You can also check out the Dairy Centre for the Arts for productions by local theater and dance troupes, or a graceful performance from the Boulder Ballet .
The Boulder County Farmers Market adds a bit of flavor from April to October and offers everything from organic veggies and local wines to famous homegrown cantaloupe. Boulder Creek Path , crowded with bikers, in-line enthusiasts, walkers and wanderers, also meanders though downtown. Along the way, the trail passes the Underwater Fish Observatory , Central Park , City Hall, and the Heartling Sculpture Park before winding into Boulder Canyon towards the mountain town of Nederland.
The big box retail chains, strip malls, fast food fry pits (even Boulder has them), occupy a long stretch of 28th Street, just a bit south of the city center. The area is great for last minute stops before heading to the mountains. This strip is also the place in town to find a movie theater.
Known as "The Hill" by locals, the neighborhood is the home of the University of Colorado . Literally parked on a hilltop above downtown, the district provides the typical college town quirkiness and a host of popular attractions including the Heritage Center and the Sommers Bausch Observatory .
Spread across more than 600 acres of rolling landscape, University of Colorado is a feat of architectural beauty with old stone buildings topped with red Spanish tiled rooftops. Just moseying about the campus creates a sense of wonder, especially while moving through tree-lined passageways, or gazing into the serene depths of Varsity Pond. Catch a CU football game at Folsom Field . For an abstract pulse of the student body visit the CU Art Galleries (currently closed until Fall 2009) which displays contemporary work by revered artists as well as students. Try to see Foucault's Pendulum make a move or stargaze at the Fiske Planetarium .
After checking out the University of Colorado , head over to The Hill's entertainment district. The area's bars and restaurants fill with students searching for pizza and cold beer. Neo-hippies wander the streets and the coffee shop crowd finds hot beverage solace in one of the many quaint cafes. The area can get a little rowdy, especially after Buff games and long nights of drinking.
The residential neighborhood bordering The Hill is an odd mix of fraternity and sorority houses, apartment complexes, rental houses and attractive single-family homes. The streets are usually bustling with activity well into the night.
Chautauqua Park rests at the base of Flagstaff Mountain on the southwest side of University Hill. The park, one of three remaining from the early 1900s cultural movement, features a dining hall and an outdoor auditorium that hosts an excellent summer concert series.
Boulder contains a wealth of pocket residential communities peppered with parks and open space. Martin Park, on the south side of town, is a step into 1950s tract housing. Table Mesa, nestled in the western foothills, is home to the National Center for Atmospheric Research and miles of easy nature trails.
Most of Boulder's big business sectors reside on the fringes of the city. Gunbarrel, on the eastern edge of town, is home to IBM and Celestial Seasonings . Boulder's small southern neighbor, Louisville, is home to Storage Tek. Broomfield, nine miles south of Boulder, recently opened the posh Interlocken Business Park and Resort and is attracting national attention as a hot relocation spot.
If you are searching for an otherworldly experience all together, take a day and visit one of the area's mountain towns. Eldorado Springs, where the world comes to rock climb, was once a hangout for the well-to-do including Damon Runyon and President Eisenhower. Now, it is a quaint commuter community of about 900 residents. Nederland, home to Eldora Mountain Resort , is a tourist-oriented former gold claim that still possesses a bit of the anti-establishment mountain attitude.
You might think dining in Boulder requires a taste for granola, yogurt, tofu or nutrition smoothies. While Boulder residents might be extremely active (they average two bikes per person—road and mountain) and the healthiest population in the land, they still love to eat. Training for marathons can make a person hungry. A talented crop of chefs, drawn to the city's hip lifestyle, create cosmopolitan menus rivaling the big towns. The offerings range from fine dining to brewpub fare.
As you walk along Pearl Street, aromas drifting from the restaurants penetrate the senses, making it hard to choose where to dine. From sophisticated cuisine to inexpensive pub grub and microbrews, get ready for a quality dining experience. For the health minded looking for stereotypical Boulder fare (i.e. natural foods), stop in at the Creative Vegetarian Cafe for some of the best fiber fodder this side of California. The Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery is a brewery with a Boulder twist, specializing in full-bodied ales and mostly meatless bar fare.
Upscale bistros and stylish cafes pepper the downtown vicinity. A good majority of the restaurants feature seasonal menus emphasizing contemporary American creations. The imaginative dishes usually involve salmon, trout, lamb, or chicken. Most local chefs feature homegrown organic ingredients including seasonings, spices and vegetables.
Try Q's Restaurant in the Hotel Boulderado for a taste of regional fare and Boulder's most happening ambiance. Chef John Platt is a master of artistic presentation, and the roasted rack of lamb is well worth the expense. Jax Fish House proves you can be landlocked in a mountain town and still find incredible clam chowder and other ocean delights. Plus, the martinis are the best around.
The sunny riviera comes alive at Mediterranean (a.k.a The Med). Incorporating a wood-burning oven, this cozy hideaway just off the Pearl Street Mall serves traditional favorites from Spain, France and Italy. The wood burning oven also flickers at Antica Roma Ristorante & Bar and the 14th Street Bar and Grill, baking innovative Neapolitan pizzas, along with other Italian standards.
For deep-dish, Chicago style pizza and an intoxicating drink menu, stop in Old Chicago and take the world beer tour. The patio is one of the rowdiest in town, especially during the summer. BJ's Pizza, Grill and Brewery brings the chain element to Pearl Street, but still handcrafts some fine local ale while serving an array of pizzas and sandwiches. Hometown brewpubs include the Walnut Brewery which concocts a masterful blends of barley and hops and goes way beyond the traditional bar fare.
Downtown's ethnic offerings span the mountain depths of the Himalayas, chart the cold coastal waters of Japan, and delve into the exotic mysteries of India all in less than a 10 block area. Trek over to the Himalayas Restaurant for authentic Tibetan and Nepalese cuisine featuring some amazingly spicy curries. Mij Bani mixes the healthy (and spicy) eats of old world India with the spiritual flavorings of Nepal.
Sushi lovers line up outside Sushi Zanmai for wild nights of karaoke and the freshest rice wrapped in seafood money can buy. Japango's sushi bar is the tops, but the funky eatery also caters to those who prefer Japanese fare a bit Americanized. The Boulder Dushanbe Tea House , a gift from Boulder's sister city Dushanbe, Tajikistan, adorns the eastern fringe of Central Park and is a cultural experience in itself. The international menu includes creations from such places as Tajik and Algeria.
Juanita's , a festive Mexican joint a block from the Pearl Street Mall , draws the local crowd for platters piled high with all the standards: burritos, tacos and enchiladas. The Rio Grande's potent margaritas (there is a 3-drink limit) are powerful enough to knock anyone silly, and make the Mexican fare taste even better. If you want to skip on the fancy cuisines and simply bite into a no frills burger, head over to Tom's Tavern . It is the best place in town to hear how things used to be in Boulder. The folks that run the place make everyone feel like a local and prepare home-style classics, along with the biggest burgers in town.
No trip to Boulder should be complete without stopping in a downtown coffee shop and debating a little Buddhist philosophy over java and eclairs. If you are up for bantering with locals, check out the Trident Cafe or Sidney's Cappuccino and Art Bar. For the less adventurous, there is always Starbucks.
No matter how many businesses move to town or how high the median income might be, Boulder is still undeniably part college town. The depth of cheap eats, pizza joints and coffee shops on The Hill reflect this reality. For a quirky example of the feel of this campus area look no further than the Sink . Low ceilings and graffiti coated walls give the place the urban charm of a hip subway tunnel, and with every tasty pizza comes a bit of local attitude. The joint is always rocking with distressed poets, suburban hippies and hungry students. Frat boys and business cohorts hit the drink specials at Teresa's Pizza Colore. A local chain, Abo's is the perfect stop for pizza by the slice.
Illegal Pete's caters to the big burrito crowd, packing all sorts of veggies, rice, beans and meats into a tortilla the size of a large pizza. Hapa On The Hill is where to go for cheap sushi. Moe's Broadway Bagel is probably the closest thing to healthy the neighborhood has to offer.
On the other side of The Hill, travel into the past for a feast at the Chautauqua Dining Hall . Now open year round, the seasonal menu features Colorado lamb and rainbow trout.
28th Street Vicinity
Muddled in the mass of chain eateries and fast food fry pits, and lost in the labyrinth of strip malls congesting the area, are some of Boulder's best dining surprises. Dolan's , a longstanding Boulder tradition, dabs heavily into the regional cuisine and is the place to go for steak and seafood. If you are entertaining clients, try the Boulder Broker for a juicy porterhouse or filet. John's Restaurant is best for romance and magical New American cuisine. Zolo Grill , a Zagat favorite, specializes in fiery southwestern fare and a lively atmosphere.
For vegetarian fare, sports and microbrews kick back at the Lazy Dog Sports Bar and Grill . Do not worry, the joint also cooks up the traditional burger and fries. Casa Alvarez conjures a taste of old Mexico straight from the family recipe book. Turley's is a great neighborhood stop for healthy grub, and Dot's Diner is an inexpensive start to the day.
Foothills and Mountains
There is nothing quite like dining alongside a mountain, watching the sun creep away, witnessing the city lights settle into an easy glimmer, and mustering up a bit of romance. The Flagstaff House is perhaps Boulder's most elegant (and pricey) dining experience. Perched atop Flagstaff Mountain, it is the place for rattlesnake and alligator appetizers and the best Buffalo filet in the world- and at the price, it should be. The Red Lion Inn also exudes a bit of romance, but is also a great place for business meetings, and the German cuisine emphasizes wild game.
Nederland has quite a few interesting dining spots loaded with all sorts of mountain characters, but Neapolitan's pizza joint is the most popular layover for tourists, especially after a long day of skiing at Eldora Mountain .
Boulder is a small town, a mere 28 square miles. With such a small amount to cover, the best way to experience the sights of Boulder is on foot or by bike, but there are also attractions in the area surrounding Boulder that are worth a visit.
Boulder Creek Path The Boulder Creek Path is a great way to get acquainted with the area's natural surroundings. Pick up the trail on the east end of town, at Scott Carpenter Park . The Roach Galleries are nearby. You can opt to linger about the park for a while or even stray a bit off the trail to dine at Murphy's Grill or Old Chicago .
Underwater Fish Observatory Stop by the Underwater Fish Observatory , where you can stare through glass panels at trout and other aquatic wonders below the water surface. Have lunch at the Healthy Habits Restaurant . Nearby is the University of Colorado historic district. Here you will see buildings dating back to 1876, the year Colorado became a state and Boulder received the university. The Heritage Center and the Macky Auditorium Concert Hall are two notable buildings on campus.
Central Park Also on the Boulder Creek Path is Central Park . The lively green is always crawling with locals and students, especially on summer days when the Boulder County Farmers' Market is in full swing. Have lunch at the Walnut Cafe . This spot is also a great stopping point for those who want to head over to the Pearl Street Mall . If you're with young ones, stop into the Scott Carpenter Park , which was built for children.
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art Art lovers can head over to 13th Street to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art . The Mary Williams Fine Arts is also located downtown. Music lovers can take in a show at the Boulder Theater . Food connoisseurs have an overwhelming choice of fine regional dining, brewpubs and local joints, like Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant .
Flatirons Flagstaff Mountain is located in the Foothills region of Boulder. Once you've spent the day hiking and taking pictures, dine at the Flagstaff House . Also stop by the Boulder Falls . Chautauqua Park is at the bottom of the Flatirons landmark. After you've explored the Park, the nearby Greenbriar Inn is a good place to stop in for dinner.
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