48 Hours in Boulder
Text by Janelle Nanos
Boulder wins raves for, oh, just about everything. Here are seven must-dos.
1. Hop on a Bike The best way to explore Boulder is by bicycle (the number of bikes is nearly equal to the number of households, and they plow some major bike paths before roads when it snows). "You can get anywhere in the city by bike more easily than you can by car," says Elizabeth Train of Bikes Belong, a nonprofit group promoting bike use throughout the U.S. Pedal along the Boulder Creek Path, a paved seven-mile stretch that will take you from downtown to the base of Fourmile Canyon. Playgrounds, parks, and grassy patches scattered along the route are perfect for picnics.
2. Eat Local The city has embraced the locavore (local food) movement, and no place does local better than The Kitchen , voted the city's best restaurant overall by Boulder Weekly this past year. Nearly every item in this zero-waste bistro's decor is hewn from recycled products. Large chalkboards on the wall list the day's menu of free-range meats, veggies, and cheeses—and where each was sourced. Choices may include duck confit, hand-rolled gnocchi, and the Eton Mess—an aptly named dessert of berries and cream. Down Pearl Street, the James Beard Award-winning chef of Frasca is "getting raves all over the country," for his cuisine inspired by the tastes of Friuli, Italy, says Greg Glasgow, features and entertainment editor at the Daily Camera.
3. Graze the Market Boulder insiders turn up early on Saturday mornings to grab the freshest items from the 13th Street farmers market. Should you decide to sleep in, you'll still find a lush variety of local produce, cheeses, honey, coffee, and Boulder regulars all out on display. Compile a fantastic lunch with some freshly prepared tamales, gyros, and Sisters' Pantry dumplings. "I stand in line for the dumplings every time I'm home on a Saturday," says Keith Desrosiers, executive director of the nonprofit Center for ReSource Conservation.
4. Hike the Flatirons The essence of Boulder's beauty lies in a commitment made over a century ago by the city's founders. The creation of an open-space system, a set of land-use limitations to control the city's boundaries and to corral sprawl, allowed for over 45,000 protected acres around the city; area taxpayers now kick in money to support its preservation. "The system is a jewel, it's the best part of Boulder," says naturalist Jim Philips. Over 90 miles of trails weave throughout the Front Range, great for hikers, mountain bikers, animal lovers, and runners. Don't be discouraged if a world-class athlete passes you on a trail: Many Olympians train in Boulder, thanks to its high altitude and the city's "whole concept of well-being," says Philips.
5. Take Tea For four years, artisans in Boulder's sister city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, worked to create their gift to the city. Today, the iconic Teahouse is an authentic representation of Persian art and architecture, and is the only building of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The walls, ceiling, and columns were carved and painted by hand, while ceramic tiles lining the outside walls depict the Tree of Life. The brunch menu offers Indian curry omelets, pancakes, and orange focaccia French toast. The teas are as fun to say aloud—oolong, yerba maté, rooibos—as they are to drink; they're served with a tiny hourglass, so you know how long to let them steep.
6. Shop Pearl Street Pearl Street is the central artery of independently owned shops and galleries through which all things run. Often packed with University of Colorado students when school is in session, in summer it brims with street performers. Pick up leather coats and high-end jeans at Weekends, fawn over the super-soft sweaters at Knit Wit, wander the lamplit shelves at the Boulder Bookstore, and let your senses guide you at Savory Spice Shop, where glass jars of seasonings and spices line the walls. The west end of Pearl is slightly quieter and more hip.
7. Get Smarter The Colorado branch of the Chautauqua Movement, an early 20th-century effort to bring people together to discuss ideas and issues of public interest, is considered the best-preserved Chautauqua site in the West, and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Rangers offer guided hikes on 40 acres, and concerts and films are held in the auditorium throughout the summer.
Fast Facts Boulder is 5,430 feet above sea level: Drink lots of water to deal with thinner air. It has four distinct seasons, with great skiing in winter and summer highs reaching the 80s. It boasts more sunny days than San Diego or Miami.