The best way to start a weekend in Boulder is with some nature exploration on the hiking trails through Chautauqua Park. Here, giant slabs of rock, the Flatirons, seem to lean against the horizon and the tall grasses are encased by forest thickets. Visitors in 2023 will enjoy a historic year as it’s the park’s 125th anniversary — a testament to the Boulder community’s ongoing dedication to preserving its many nearby natural wonders. After a morning of hiking at high altitude — Boulder sits at some 5,250 feet — a hearty meal is in order, so head into town for lunch. Choose local favorite, Avanti Food & Beverage food hall. Here, you can soak in the Colorado sunshine from rooftop tables and pick from seven restaurants and their vastly different menus. Tuck into a Costa Rican rotisserie at Pollo Tico, or fluffy bao buns and fragrant Taiwanese noodle soups from Pig and Tiger. After lunch, wander through the Pearl Street Mall. In this pedestrian-only area of town, buskers fill the air with music, and tarot card readers and writers of personalized poems will attempt to entice you as you pass. Explore the locally owned stores and the al fresco cafes and tempt your taste buds perusing menus inspired by more than a dozen world cuisines. Spend your afternoon browsing through the farmers’ market for fresh produce and local liquors. Later, dine at Salt for locally sourced steaks, draped in buttery shallots and paired with truffle fries.
Spend your second morning strolling around the historic Mapleton Hill neighborhood. Here, towering 19th- and 20th-century mansions tell the tales of the gold miners who dominated Boulder in its earliest iteration. The neighborhood also borders the Mount Sanitas trailhead, a worthy detour if you still have the energy for hiking among the ponderosa pines. Stop for lunch at Fuji, downtown, which specializes in Japanese and Nepali comfort foods — onigiri, momos, unagi — fused and expertly prepared. From here, head to The Museum of Boulder to take in a permanent exhibit that honors the city’s Indigenous origins. It’s complemented by rotating exhibits put on by local organizations, teaching about environmental initiatives, Colorado’s diasporic history and more. Culture lovers can also visit the art and natural history museums at the University of Colorado, or space out at the planetarium’s daily shows. Before dinner, get another taste of the city’s rich history with a visit to the Hotel Boulderado and sip on a strong cocktail in its mysterious downstairs speakeasy, License No. 1. Then, head to the World Famous Dark Horse Bar & Grill — a Boulder institution. Tuck into an intensely juicy burger patty here or, if you’re feeling daring, try the version that’s slathered in peanut butter and provolone cheese. The bar and grill, decorated with movie props and odds and ends antiques, is an atmospheric spot to spend your evening enjoying bar games and local brews.
Recover from the previous evening’s revelry with brunch at Dushanbe Teahouse. The teahouse was a gift from Boulder’s sister city in Tajikistan, and although its ornate design might seem out of place in a U.S. city, in Boulder it somehow fits. It doesn’t just serve Tajik cuisine — you can also dig into a classic American breakfast, spicy Mexican chilaquiles, an herby Persian omelet or Indian scrambled eggs with layers of curry and turmeric. All are accompanied by a seemingly endless variety of teas. Once you’ve filled up on food, it’s time to think about a drink. Boulder is home to many local producers: 18 breweries, four wineries, a cidery, meadery and three distilleries. Several of them offer tours and tasting rooms. Visit Boulder Beer to sample the products of Colorado’s first craft brewery, venture just outside to tour BookCliff Vineyards, or sip whiskey at the Boulder Spirits tasting room. Alternatively, join the hipster crowd at Bitter Bar for a quintessentially Coloradan cocktail — think cactus-infused gins and pumpkin-spiced old fashioneds. For dinner, try James Beard award-winning Frasca, where the Friulano tasting menu pays homage to Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region, using locally hunted Rocky Mountain game. Or, opt for a healthy meal at Fresh Thymes, a 100% gluten-free eatery with options for all dietary restrictions. After all, a healthy lifestyle is a Boulder tradition.