As we prepare to leave, I thought it might be worthwhile to write a travel guide for the place we have called home for the last four years.
We have absolutely loved living in and exploring Boulder.
While it may feel like it can easily be seen in a weekend, there is something about living here that really helps you appreciate it even more.
Waking up and being able to walk to a mountain hike in the morning and grab coffee on the way home is a daily ritual we cherish.
We only live two blocks from Pearl Street and often just walk down for the people watching. There are always street performers, sometime a Boulder Stampede, and often live music (especially in the summer when Bands on the Bricks has live music every Wednesay).
We are so grateful for the amazing friends we have made and the lifestyle we have enjoyed living in Boulder.
Here are some of our favorite things to do and places to eat.
Best Restaurants in Boulder
Emmerson – This is such a fun and relatively new restaurant in Boulder. The food is delicious and innovative. I have been here for both lunch and dinner and thoroughly enjoyed myself. However, what really stands out to me are their cocktails and desserts. If they have the Pavolova, get it, you won’t be sorry!’
Kitchen Upstairs – Located upstairs from “The Kitchen”, this is our favorite spot for happy hour or late night drinks and nibbles. We love their small plates (particularly the grilled cheese, tacos, and oysters and garlic fries). The ambiance is perfect and such a delightful way to start or end the evening.
Mateo – I particularly like Mateo for their brunch menu on the weekends. The quiche is always delicious.
Sherpa’s – This is our favorite casual place to stop for lunch on chilly day. We’ve been out hiking a number of times in late fall/winter motivated by a hot bowl of Sherpa Stew. We always order it with Cheese Naan, and Bottomless Chai Tea.
Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant – While most places in Boulder are good about catering to dietary restrictions Leaf is particularly great if you are vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free or gluten-free and the food is delicious. Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, I think you will like Leaf. I like going for lunch and Happy Hour. The cauliflower buffalo tacos are fantastic (very spicy). I also enjoy their Huevos Rancheros. I have really liked nearly everything I’ve tried, but wasn’t particularly fond of the “crab cake burger”.
Oak at Fourteenth – Oak is a great choice for any occasion. They do book up so reservations are a must at dinner time. Great cocktails and food. Not blown away by their dessert (definitely better off going to Emmerson). Love their Shaved Apple and Kale Salad, the Crispy Fried Pickles are a must-try, and the shareable Crispy Pork Shoulder is divine.
The Post Brewing Company – Delicious fried chicken, craft beer and blues/jazz music every Tuesday night. Need I say more?
Rayback Collective – This is a very fun food truck park and beer garden, they also have live music sometimes. This is the most kid friendly place on the list (but also super fun if you don’t have kids).
Frasca – If you are looking to splurge or have something special to celebrate Frasca is your place. It was just nominate for a James Beard award (2018). If you happen to be in town on a Monday, they do a Monday Night Wine Dinner that is worth taking a look at, they always have upcoming menus on their website.
Coffee and Juice
Boxcar Coffee – My favorite coffee shop in Boulder is Boxcar. It has a small but delicious selection as well as divine pastries. It also shares a space with Cured, a specialty foods, wine and charcuterie shop where you can get a simple and delicious lunch or breakfast sandwiches to take with you hiking.
Wonder Press – A delightful juice, nut milk, and coffee bar. The juices may seem expensive but you can easily share a bottle (I think they are about 16oz so if you share each person ends up with an 8oz juice) and upon returning the bottle, you can get $1 cash or a $2 credit towards your next juice purchase.
Best Breweries in Boulder
I’m not a big beer drinker but I’ve visited many breweries as a designated driver. These seem to be every ones favorites:
Mountain Sun – Mountain Sun can get quite busy but it is convenient because it is right on Pearl Street and easy to walk to.
Upslope Brewing Company – Upslope has two locations, one in North Boulder and one in East Boulder. They are pretty much the same so it’s just a matter of what is convenient for you. They have board games to play and sometimes live music as well. If you want to take a tour, be sure to wear closed toed shoes. They serve empanadas and also have food trucks that occasionally set up outside if you want to grab a bite. Be sure to check their calendar for details on music and food.
Avery Brewing – Avery has grown so much since we moved here and now has a new massive facility in Gunbarrel (about a 15 minute drive north of downtown Boulder). It’s definitely worth a visit. They have their own full service restaurant so you can easily go for lunch and dinner. I would advise making a reservation in advance.
Things to Do in Boulder
The hiking options around Boulder are endless. But Mount Sanitas, Sanitas Valley, and Red Rocks are three of our favorites because they are within walking distance from downtown. All three trailheads start in about the same place.
If you head west (towards the mountains) down Mapleton Avenue (a beautiful street with some of the loveliest homes in Boulder) you will come to Mount Sanitas and Sanitas Valley trailhead on the right and just a little further down on the left is Red Rocks Trailhead.
After you veer to the right onto the trail about 1 minute in you will come to a fork with a map posting. If you head to the left at the fork you will be headed up Mount Sanitas, it is a strenuous but doable climb to the top and then you come down via Sanitas Valley.
If you don’t want to climb to the top, you can take a more leisurely hike up the valley (heading right at the map, down the wide gravel path) to a bench that overlooks the valley and then turn around and come back down the way you went up.
If you decide to do Red Rocks you will find a trail heading up on the left hand side of the road, just past the sign for “Knollwood” subdivision. You will climb up, coming to the top where there are beautiful red rock formations and a view of the valley. You can do the trail as a loop, but I prefer to continue down on the other side which will let out at the far western end of Pearl Street. Once you reach the end of the trail, go left down the sidewalk to head back toward downtown. The first coffee shop you will come to is Spruce Confectioners which is a great place to stop for coffee and a pastry, especially on a Sunday morning in the summer when they have great live music in the courtyard. Get there early for the best selection and less time in line.
Chautauqua has great hikes and a convenient restaurant in their “Dining Hall” that’s great for a casual breakfast or happy hour. They also have a variety of lectures and concerts, be sure to check out their schedule before planning a trip.
Boulder has a Farmers Market on Wednesday afternoons (4pm-8pm, May through October) and Saturday Mornings (8am-2pm, April through mid November). It is located on 13th street between Canyon and Arapahoe, next to the Boulder Tea House. Our favorite things to buy are flowers, Mushrooms from Mile High Fungi or Hazel Dell Mushrooms (the Lion’s Mane is incredible), goat cheese from Haystack Mountain Creamery (especially the one in the shape of a pyramid), and fresh Heirloom Tomatoes.
They also have an outdoor food court, often with live music. My all-time favorite thing to get is the Vietnamese Breakfast Crepe from Savory Saigon with their Special Basil sauce (you have to ask for it) instead of hollandaise. It’s amazing! I get mine plain but you can get it with chicken, chorizo, or salmon (my dad’s favorite).
David loves the breakfast sandwiches at the stand two or three down from Savory Saigon (I don’t remember the name, but you’ll know it when you see it).
Most all the shopping in Boulder is on, or just off of Pearl Street between 18th and 9th street. Some of our favorite shops on this stretch include:
Peppercorn – An incredible cooking and home goods store. The first floor has every kitchen contraption you can imagine and the upstairs features a variety of home
Voss Art + Home – A lifestyle store featuring unique home goods, art, jewelry and some adorable baby clothes.
Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary – Just around the corner from Voss, next to the Boulderado on Spruce Street you will find Rebecca’s Apothecary. A delightful shop with fascinating tinctures, sprays, bath salts, skincare products and so much more. The staff are very helpful and knowledgeable but are also good at leaving you in peace to explore. This shop also has some really interesting classes you could check out if you have time.
Two Hands Paperie – Beautiful paper shop with nice stationary.
Boulder Bookstore – A must-visit in Boulder. The best part is right when you walk in the front door where the employees sponsor their favorite books with descriptions on why they chose that book.
Where to Stay In Boulder
St. Julien Hotel and Spa – The nicest Hotel in Boulder is the St. Julien. It has a great location but it’s definitely on the pricey side and I’m not sure it’s worth it given that you will want to be out exploring and not inside your hotel. It does have a nice patio with a great view where you can enjoy a cocktail whether you decide to stay there or not.
Hotel Boulderado – The Boulderado is an establishment in Boulder. Even locals love grabbing a beer and nachos at The Corner Bar (in the Boulderado) and the location is excellent. I’ve heard the rooms are pretty tired though.
Embassy Suites – Hilton just built a brand new Embassy Suites near 29th Street Mall, just east of downtown. While that may not sound very desirable, everyone I’ve talked to who has stayed there has loved it. It is supposed to be very nice, definitely the best bang for your buck in town.
The downside is that Boulder is definitely a walking town and it’s just a bit too far off the beaten path to easily access Pearl Street (where all the action is) in downtown Boulder.
If you do decide to stay there, you’re probably better off just taking an Uber/Lyft downtown (only a couple minutes drive) so you don’t have to bother with parking or driving if you decide to have a few drinks.
Alternatively, you can easily rent bikes either from a local shop or via Boulder’s bike share program (only $8 a day) which has locations all over Boulder https://boulder.bcycle.com/.
If you decide to take a trip to Boulder I hope you love it as much as we do. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or need additional suggestions.