Fellow expeditioner Jenna Blumenfeld fills us in on Boulder’s best kept secrets and the many ways to enjoy this sunny city — local style.
On your first day here, seeing this is a must: Head down to Pearl Street to peruse the shops lining this car-less mall. This is prime time to people watch as well. If it’s a nice day (and seriously, when is it not in Boulder), buskers will be lining Pearl Street. Keep an eye out for the guy who stands on his bass while playing it, the Jamaican who fits his whole body into a Lucite box, and if you’re lucky, the didgeridoo player. Lest you feel utterly horrible about your spare tire, try to avoid looking directly at the impossibly sculpted bodies of Boulder citizens. The downside to Pearl Street? Greenpeace employees will be out in full force asking for money. Don’t get sucked in. You’ve been warned.
Most people don’t know this, but to get a true taste of the local culture”… Venture into the mountains. A true Boulderite is influenced by the surrounding scenery. Afterwards head to Avery Brewery and snag a craft IPA in their taproom””now have three more. We work hard and play hard in Boulder.
For a glimpse of daily life, I recommend this form of transportation: Rent a bike from University Cycles or Boulder Cycle Sports and spend an afternoon meandering along the superb bike trails. Boulder Creek Trail follows the””you guessed it””Boulder Creek. You can follow that baby for miles. Get far enough east and the snow-capped Rockies start to pop above the horizon of the Foothills, lending a spectacular view.
I had my best night’s sleep at: Feeling swanky? Empty your wallet to stay at St. Julien””ideally located downtown. This ritzy hotel has it’s own massive lobby, bar, and spa that rivals any Manhattan hotel. Or spend a night at the historic Boulderado Hotel. Apart from its awesome name, this 1909-established structure is a National Registrar Landmark.
A meal at this local eatery has me salivating for days: Chez Thuy, a Vietnamese restaurant is a local’s secret. While the interior doesn’t look like much, the food is spicy and complex, and a massive menu ensures there’s something for everyone. Another option is to sample Boulder’s zeal for local and organic food by visiting the iconic restaurant, The Kitchen.
Best place to find artisan handicrafts: Hit the Saturday Farmers Market. In addition to finding organic veggies, meats, craft cheeses, and live bluegrass music, several booths sell artsy knick-knacks. Be sure to visit Isabelle Farm for the very best produce.
Local celebration not to be missed: Hah! Every day is a celebration in Boulder, but try to come over Memorial Day weekend to see the Bolder Boulder””a 10k running race through the town that coincidentally has about 10,000 participants.
Favorite pastimes: Hiking, skiing, running, rock climbing, yoga-ing. You pick the “-ing”, and you must do it here.
The music scene is alive and well here: The Boulder Theater and Fox Theater are cool venues, which host exceptional artists like Ziggy Marley, Trampled By Turtles, and more. But almost any bar or restaurant has music as well. Laughing Goat Coffeehouse hosts music every single night, and Conor O’Neill’s Pub has an open traditional Irish pick every Sunday.
Where the locals get tipsy: Start your evening at The Bitter Bar for an expertly crafted cocktail. Low lighting and private booths are the springboard for your epic evening ahead. Next head over to Centro Latin American Kitchen and pop yourself on the outside deck. Lively banter and a packed bar will have you making friends in no time. Later on (we’re talking 11pm here), descend into the Sun Downer, referred to as the “Scum Downer” by some. Pool tables and recent Colorado University graduates abound for a night harkening back to your frat house days.
Or if you’re feeling especially scrubby, walk down into Catacombs located below the Boulderado (making it especially easy to stumble home). This casual dive has arcade games, a jukebox, drink specials, and an awesome dance floor. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself dancing to The Rolling Stones at 1:40 A.M. on a Wednesday night, barefoot, sweaty, and giddy with happiness.
For a more bucolic/green setting I escape here: Chautauqua Park is a popular place filled with trails, and it has one of the best views of the Flatirons anywhere in Boulder.
Most ludicrous stereotype about the people here: There are two. One is that everyone is a stoner and smokes pot all the time. There’s a fair share of burnt-out hippies populating the streets, and catching a waft of marijuana on the street during the day is a frequent occurrence””indeed there are numerous dispensaries all over the city. The other is that everyone is a marathon runner or crazy (and I mean CRAZY) athlete. Here’s a typical conversation I have at work: “Hey what’d you do this weekend?” “I climbed a fourteener for 13 hours and then a 2-hour long Bikram yoga class. What’d you do?” “Oh awesome, I went for a 70 mile bike ride and then ran a marathon.”
But while both stereotypes are somewhat true, people here are just genuinely nice. So be nice back to them.
If I had only 24 hours to explore Boulder I would: Wake up early. Grab a coffee and a ‘Z Bar’ at Spruce Confections Bakery (a delicious blend of oats, chocolate chips, almond butter … so good). Take a free yoga class at Prana. Eat lunch at The Kitchen Next Door, a subsidiary of The Kitchen. Go for a looooong bike ride. Get decked out in your finest Patagonia apparel and catch a concert at the Boulder Theater.
Jenna Blumenfeld (Jenna Ogden Blumenfeld when she’s in really big trouble), is a freelance travel writer living in the sunny confines of Boulder, Colorado. While her main beat is adventure travel (think skiing, hiking, rock climbing … basically any ‘-ing’ activity), she also writes about food, wine, and culture. You can see more of Jenna’s writings at The Expeditioner.
Can’t get enough culture? Check out last week’s Get Cultured: Madrid and be on the lookout for the next installment in the series.
Photo of Chautaugua Meadow by: JefferyTurner