Known for its natural beauty, this Front Range gem is as adventurous on the trails as it is on its downtown streets
Extreme sports and adrenaline are the hallmarks of this town, what with the Rocky Mountains rising from its backyard. Add 245 sunny days every year and more breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S., and you’d assume you’ve got a handle on Boulder’s priorities. Right? Think again: Home to the University of Colorado’s flagship campus, it’s also a brainy place to be. Chat up a local about TEDx (Boulder sometimes hosts the idea-driven talks) or the gallery scene, and you’ll see what we mean. It may not be a metropolis, but it’s a dynamic thought leader with an eco-friendly, international vibe–as well as a massive cache of open space in which to roam.
9 A.M. For breakfast, visit the ornate Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse (), hand-carved and tiled by Tajikistan artisans and reassembled here. Try the kookoo sabzi, a green herb omelet served with crispy saffron rice.
10 A.M. Hike the less-traveled trails of Settler’s Park () on the west end of town, where routes wind through red rocks and eventually to views of 13,000-foot peaks.
12 P.M. Downtown, stroll the bustling car-free Pearl Street Mall (), where shops both chic and quirky are punctuated by kiosks overflowing with event posters–it’s a college town, all right. One block west, hit up Cedar & Hyde Mercantile () for minimalist tableware like Tina Frey Designs’ hand-cast white resin bowls.
1 P.M. At tiny but charming River and Woods (), tuck into highbrow comfort food like poutine piled with white cheddar, green chiles, and short ribs.
2 P.M. Time to feed your mind. Dairy Arts Center () is the nexus of the art scene, with galleries showing paintings as well as vibrant mixed-media pieces and installations.
3:30 P.M. Check out downtown’s emerging East End, a maker hood where creative reuse reigns. Todd Reed () crafts rings from raw diamond and recycled metal, and the durable and stylish Sherpani () travel bags are reincarnated plastic bottles.
4:30 P.M. Happy hour at nouveau bistro Emmerson () means globetrotting cocktails like the Madrid Club Punch: Absolut Elyx and Raynal VSOP meet mango and rooibos.
5:30 P.M. The award-winning team behind Frasca Food and Wine has a new hit with Pizzeria Locale () next door. Settle in for Neapolitan-style pizza and a killer Italian wine list.
7 P.M. Join the studio audience at solar-powered eTown Hall (), where live performances take place about four times a week. Otherwise, catch a play, film, or concert under the wooden rafters of the Chautauqua Auditorium (). Sunset hike? Too busy.
Perfect Night At the 49-room Basecamp Boulder, start your day on the bouldering wall and end it by grabbing a s’mores kit to roast at the hotel’s patio firepits. (From $289; .)