The top 10 things to do in Boulder are well and good if you’ve never been to Boulder before and want to see the famous sights: the Flatirons, Boulder Falls, the Pearl Street Mall, and so on. But if you want to find where the locals go, places where tourists are few and far between, and places where locals send their friends and family when they come to visit, then look no further.
The following are the top five hidden gems in Boulder with explanations of why they’re awesome, why they’re unknown, and why not absolutely everyone will like them.
1. Boulder Outdoor Cinema: This weekly summer event redefines going to the movies. Locals bring lawn chairs, comforters, sleeping bags, bean bags, and even inflatable couches and get comfy while watching their favorite cult classics. The Outdoor Cinema is unknown because it’s pretty low-budget; instead of advertising, they depend on word-of-mouth to bring in the crowds. All shows are suitable for family entertainment, but you might not like this particular gem if you can’t stand people talking during movies — many people just can’t help but sing along to The Sound of Music.
2. Colorado Shakespeare Festival: Considered one of the top three Shakespearean festivals in the country, this one is also held in one of the more beautiful venues: the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre on the University of Colorado campus. Locals pack picnics or buy from the Bard’s BBQ and enjoy the free entertainment while they dine, which may be anything from a capella madrigals to a medley of brass instruments. Then, 45 minutes before curtain time, the Producing Artistic Director does a prologue to tell interested theater-goers all about the production. These conversations are fun and informal and are bound to enhance your playgoing experience. However, you may not enjoy the festival if you haven’t ever read any Shakespeare — the plots can be hard to follow if you’re too preoccupied with trying to understand what the actors are talking about.
3. Eben G. Fine Park: During the summer, Eben G. Fine is the place to be. Locals come here to sunbathe, lounge in the shade, grill, picnic, and tube down the Boulder Creek. It’s not the easiest park to find, so most tourists and newcomers don’t know about it until they’ve been taken there by a local. If you’re looking for a secluded spot, though, this is definitely not the place.
4. Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant: Leaf creates delicious meals that vegetarians and omnivores alike enjoy. The chefs use organic ingredients to make their seasonal, international cuisine, and Leaf’s bar is comprised of environmentally-friendly wines and amazing organic, infused Vodka martinis. Leaf has a nondescript exterior and is slightly off the pedestrian section of the Pearl Street Mall, so most tourists may not even think to stop in this unique restaurant. Its uniqueness, though, means that people who are accustomed to very traditional, American fare could be put off by the fact that they may not recognize everything on the menu.
5. Boulder Outlook Hotel & Suites: This hotel truly lives up to its slogan, “The Cure for the Common Hotel.” Located across the street from the University of Colorado, the hotel’s indoor recreation area brings a little bit of Boulder and the Foothills indoors with its 11-foot bouldering rock, its chlorine-free indoor pool with a waterfall, and its flagstone spa tub. Located inside the hotel is Blues & Greens, a restaurant that offers local food and local music. Boulder Outlook is not a chain and is outside the more touristy districts of Boulder, which may explain why it is still a hidden gem. However, people who prefer luxurious hotels or quaint B&Bs may not like the feel of the Outlook.
For more of Boulder’s top hidden gems, see the guide I’ve created, Top 10 Hidden Gems of Boulder.