Flanked by Rocky Mountain National Park and populated by as many bicycles as people, Boulder, Colorado, is a city of and for lovers of the outdoors. Located 30 miles northwest of Denver, Boulder maintains 56 parks and 200 miles of trails, setting aside a whopping 40,000 acres of green space within city limits. This small town of 100,000 residents even owns a waterfall 11 miles to the west. Locals affectionately refer to Boulder Falls as the “Yosemite of Boulder Canyon.”
A town in love with the outdoors couldn’t ask for a better neighbor than Rocky Mountain National Park. This 415-square-mile wilderness area is home to an astonishing array of wildlife, from elk to bighorn sheep, and from cougars to black bears. More than 300 miles of hiking trails crisscross the park at an elevation of 7,500 feet or higher.
Driving along the 50-mile Trail Ridge Road makes for a great day trip from Boulder. Winding through rugged mountain terrain to a summit of 12,000 feet, this spectacular drive holds the distinction of being the highest national byway. It is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors whose Boulder day trips extend into the evening hours will discover a night sky unlike anything visible close to the city.
Among the best things to do in Boulder is to visit the Museum of Natural History at University of Colorado. Kids love the hands-on Discovery Corner, where they can solve puzzles and identify fossils. The Anthropology Hall displays artifacts of the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo and Ancient Pueblo peoples. To explore the city's past, visitors might stop at the Boulder History Museum, which exhibits 35,000 historically significant items donated by residents during the past six decades.
Touring the Celestial Seasonings tea factory is another of the more interesting things to do in Boulder. Free 45-minute tours not only acquaint visitors with the production process but also offer samples of every tea produced in the plant. Celestial Seasonings sells all of its products at discount prices in the on-site tea shop.
Anyone serious about shopping should head to Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. City officials planned a revitalization of the downtown area beginning in the 1960s, eventually excluding automobile traffic from four blocks of Pearl Street, which became the mall. The city also worked to maintain the historical integrity of its downtown buildings. Most of the 1,000 stores and businesses in this heart of the city are local enterprises.
Summer travelers to Boulder can enjoy the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, a 50-year annual tradition at the Mary Rippon Theatre at University of Colorado. Once ranked among the nation’s best Shakespearean festivals by Time magazine, the Boulder festival goes beyond the typical theatrical experience. A prologue before each play provides context for the audience, and performers interact with audience members afterward. Also, not far from the outdoor amphitheater are the Shakespeare Gardens, which provide a glimpse of the particular plants and trees mentioned in the Bard’s works.