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Free Things To Do in Boulder

If you have extra time, Pearl Street Mall is worthwhile.

#1

#1 in Boulder

Free
These jaw-dropping rock walls flanking Green Mountain have become the symbol of the city, with many Boulder businesses sporting their image as a logo. Flatirons One through Five are the most prominent, but there are also several smaller formations  with more creative names  to explore. Altogether, these picturesque slopes are the most popular rock climbing areas around (you can even see markings left by some of the first climbers, dating back to the 1940s, on Number Three). But for those of you who aren't quite comfortable entrusting your life to a harness, you can still take in the Flatirons from one of the area's hiking trails – recent visitors said there's a trail for every age and skill level. For information about Flatiron trails, visit the City of Boulder website.
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Hiking Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
The Flatirons
These jaw-dropping rock walls flanking Green Mountain have become the symbol of the city, with many Boulder businesses sporting their image as a logo. Flatirons One through Five are the most prominent, but there are also several smaller formations  with more creative names  to explore. Altogether, these picturesque slopes are the most popular rock climbing areas around (you can even see markings left by some of the first climbers, dating back to the 1940s, on Number Three). But for those of you who aren't quite comfortable entrusting your life to a harness, you can still take in the Flatirons from one of the area's hiking trails – recent visitors said there's a trail for every age and skill level. For information about Flatiron trails, visit the City of Boulder website.
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#2

#2 in Boulder

Free
Perched on the southwest edge of the city, this tiny extension of Boulder Mountain Park offers some of the city's most photo-worthy vistas. Originally established in the late 1800s as a verdant retreat, this National Historic Landmark now hosts a handful of community events like concerts and festivals. Even when there isn't anything marked on the social calendar, Chautauqua is still a place to go for a breath of fresh air: Numerous paths and gardens await hikers, bikers, picnickers and dog walkers, while more adventurous travelers explore the rugged mountains nearby.
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Parks and Gardens Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Chautauqua Park
Perched on the southwest edge of the city, this tiny extension of Boulder Mountain Park offers some of the city's most photo-worthy vistas. Originally established in the late 1800s as a verdant retreat, this National Historic Landmark now hosts a handful of community events like concerts and festivals. Even when there isn't anything marked on the social calendar, Chautauqua is still a place to go for a breath of fresh air: Numerous paths and gardens await hikers, bikers, picnickers and dog walkers, while more adventurous travelers explore the rugged mountains nearby.
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#3

#3 in Boulder

Free
Stretching from Eighth to 20th streets in downtown Boulder, this buzzing thoroughfare is a shopaholic's Yellow Brick Road. Here, you'll find familiar brand names like Urban Outfitters and Patagonia sharing sidewalk space with local boutiques, trendy galleries and laid-back cafes. If you're not much of a shopper, come to Pearl Street for the fabulous dining, entertaining street performances and the prime people-watching.
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Shopping Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Pearl Street Mall
Stretching from Eighth to 20th streets in downtown Boulder, this buzzing thoroughfare is a shopaholic's Yellow Brick Road. Here, you'll find familiar brand names like Urban Outfitters and Patagonia sharing sidewalk space with local boutiques, trendy galleries and laid-back cafes. If you're not much of a shopper, come to Pearl Street for the fabulous dining, entertaining street performances and the prime people-watching.
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#4

#4 in Boulder

Free
No wonder everyone in Boulder seems so relaxed: The city is home to North America's largest producer of herbal tea, which packages and sends more than 8 million tea bags every day. Founded in 1969, Celestial Seasonings has since grown to serve more than 1.6 billion cups of tea (including green, red, white and chai varieties) a year to consumers all over the world.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory
No wonder everyone in Boulder seems so relaxed: The city is home to North America's largest producer of herbal tea, which packages and sends more than 8 million tea bags every day. Founded in 1969, Celestial Seasonings has since grown to serve more than 1.6 billion cups of tea (including green, red, white and chai varieties) a year to consumers all over the world.
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#5

#5 in Boulder

Free
After you've conquered the Flatirons, what better reward than an ice-cold pint of local Boulder ale? Though Denver is often regarded as Colorado's reigning beer city, Boulder can keep up, offering 20 breweries in its 27.8 square miles. To acquaint yourself with the city's suds, embark on the bike-friendly Boulder Beer Trail (which also includes stops at wineries and distilleries). Or, take the advice of visitors and locals and start your tasting tour at Avery Brewing Co., beloved for its India pale ale, brewery tours and large patio.
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Entertainment and Nightlife Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Breweries
After you've conquered the Flatirons, what better reward than an ice-cold pint of local Boulder ale? Though Denver is often regarded as Colorado's reigning beer city, Boulder can keep up, offering 20 breweries in its 27.8 square miles. To acquaint yourself with the city's suds, embark on the bike-friendly Boulder Beer Trail (which also includes stops at wineries and distilleries). Or, take the advice of visitors and locals and start your tasting tour at Avery Brewing Co., beloved for its India pale ale, brewery tours and large patio.
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#7

#7 in Boulder

Free
Ask any Boulder resident for a hiking recommendation and they'll probably point you to the Boulder Creek Path. This 5½-mile-long trail  completely undisturbed by automobile traffic  traces Boulder Creek from Boulder Canyon eastward through downtown to the Stazio Ballfields on the eastern fringes of town. On any given day, you'll come across walkers, bikers, rollerbladers and even the occasional kayaker. Compared to other hiking trails in the area, Boulder Creek Path is fairly easy, and if you head from east to west, the second half of your walk will be all downhill.
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Hiking Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Boulder Creek Path
Ask any Boulder resident for a hiking recommendation and they'll probably point you to the Boulder Creek Path. This 5½-mile-long trail  completely undisturbed by automobile traffic  traces Boulder Creek from Boulder Canyon eastward through downtown to the Stazio Ballfields on the eastern fringes of town. On any given day, you'll come across walkers, bikers, rollerbladers and even the occasional kayaker. Compared to other hiking trails in the area, Boulder Creek Path is fairly easy, and if you head from east to west, the second half of your walk will be all downhill.
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#8

#8 in Boulder

Free
If you're looking for a hike the whole family can enjoy, aim for the top of Flagstaff Mountain. Rising out of Boulder Mountain Park, Flagstaff Mountain sits about 5 miles southwest of the city. If you're a novice trailblazer, you may find this mountain challenging due its altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. But there are numerous paths to choose from that span a variety of difficulty levels, and kids will enjoy what awaits them at the top of the mountain. Sitting on Flagstaff's summit, the nature center offers interactive exhibits, games and activities that teach children about the area's geography and wildlife. Flagstaff's peak also boasts numerous picnic areas and viewpoints. As for the romantics, the family-owned Flagstaff House Restaurant serves locally praised cuisine with beautiful vistas.
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Hiking Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Flagstaff Mountain & Summit Nature Center
If you're looking for a hike the whole family can enjoy, aim for the top of Flagstaff Mountain. Rising out of Boulder Mountain Park, Flagstaff Mountain sits about 5 miles southwest of the city. If you're a novice trailblazer, you may find this mountain challenging due its altitude of nearly 7,000 feet. But there are numerous paths to choose from that span a variety of difficulty levels, and kids will enjoy what awaits them at the top of the mountain. Sitting on Flagstaff's summit, the nature center offers interactive exhibits, games and activities that teach children about the area's geography and wildlife. Flagstaff's peak also boasts numerous picnic areas and viewpoints. As for the romantics, the family-owned Flagstaff House Restaurant serves locally praised cuisine with beautiful vistas.
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#9

#9 in Boulder

Free
Even if you're not a prospective student, recent visitors recommend you pay a visit to the beautiful University of Colorado Boulder campus, located just minutes from downtown Boulder. When you're not lounging at Norlin Quadrangle (a designated a National Historic District), learn about the university's history at the CU Heritage Center (housed in Old Main – the first building on campus). Or brush up on your astronomy skills at the Fiske Planetarium.
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
University of Colorado Boulder
Even if you're not a prospective student, recent visitors recommend you pay a visit to the beautiful University of Colorado Boulder campus, located just minutes from downtown Boulder. When you're not lounging at Norlin Quadrangle (a designated a National Historic District), learn about the university's history at the CU Heritage Center (housed in Old Main – the first building on campus). Or brush up on your astronomy skills at the Fiske Planetarium.
... more
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#10

#10 in Boulder

Free
You don't have to be a hiker, a skier or a rock climber to experience Colorado's scenery. For a more laid-back glimpse at the mountainous landscape, head to the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art. This museum houses one of the largest privately owned collections of post-1950s Western-themed artwork. Along Leanin' Tree's walls you'll find everything from action-packed canvases portraying cowboy life to serene landscapes depicting the purple mountains majesty.
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Museums Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art
You don't have to be a hiker, a skier or a rock climber to experience Colorado's scenery. For a more laid-back glimpse at the mountainous landscape, head to the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art. This museum houses one of the largest privately owned collections of post-1950s Western-themed artwork. Along Leanin' Tree's walls you'll find everything from action-packed canvases portraying cowboy life to serene landscapes depicting the purple mountains majesty.
... more

#11

#11 in Boulder

Free
Most people consider a conversation about the weather to be a desperate attempt at small talk. But at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, sun, rain, wind and snow are always important topics. At this stunning sandstone building atop Table Mesa  a landmark some might recognize from Woody Allen's film, "Sleeper"  scientists study weather-related phenomena such as ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect. On a visit to the center, you can see some of the tools used to conduct experiments, like weather balloons, satellites and even robots. Meanwhile, hands-on exhibits are sure to excite the budding meteorologist in your family. After you've sufficiently toured the complex, get some fresh air along the Walter Orr Roberts Nature and Weather Trail, where you can learn all about Table Mesa's wildlife.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
National Center for Atmospheric Research
Most people consider a conversation about the weather to be a desperate attempt at small talk. But at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, sun, rain, wind and snow are always important topics. At this stunning sandstone building atop Table Mesa  a landmark some might recognize from Woody Allen's film, "Sleeper"  scientists study weather-related phenomena such as ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect. On a visit to the center, you can see some of the tools used to conduct experiments, like weather balloons, satellites and even robots. Meanwhile, hands-on exhibits are sure to excite the budding meteorologist in your family. After you've sufficiently toured the complex, get some fresh air along the Walter Orr Roberts Nature and Weather Trail, where you can learn all about Table Mesa's wildlife.
... more
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