Situated at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is one of the best destinations in the Mountain West to experience picturesque views, a vibrant arts culture and a thriving local food and drink scene.
While Boulder is one of the pricier cities in the US, you can still experience some of the best it has to offer without making a dent in your wallet. From adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities on the famed trail network to strolls around the farmers market, local art districts and more, here’s our guide to the best free things to do in Boulder.
There’s prime people-watching along the pedestrian-only Pearl Street in downtown Boulder © Page Light Studios / Getty Images
Saunter down Pearl Street
Spend a morning, afternoon or evening exploring downtown Boulder’s main street – a pedestrian-only thoroughfare lined with historic buildings that house a variety of local shops, galleries and eateries. Catch a street performance, do some window shopping and enjoy the bustling atmosphere – there is sure to be some prime people-watching. And if you’re in town at the right time of year, the Pearl Street mall also hosts a number of free local events, such as Casual Fest, an independent artist market and local music festival.
Explore the Boulder Creek Bike Path
Traversing the Boulder Creek path is a beautiful, active and free way to sightsee around town. The central commuting artery bisects the city from east to west, hugging Boulder Creek for approximately 7.5 miles of paved trail. The path connects downtown to the University of Colorado campuses and several charming local parks, and while it’s used by joggers, walkers and bikers alike, bicycles are the most popular mode of transportation here.
So pack a lunch, grab a bike and hit the trail for an afternoon that won’t disappoint. We recommend starting at Eben G. Fine Park and biking east, stopping at Scott Carpenter Park for a bite to eat beneath a splendid view of the Flatirons.
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Discover the National Center for Atmospheric Research
Take a hike, learn about our climate and solar systems and browse community art galleries – all for free and in the same location. The National Center for Atmospheric Research is a laboratory, museum and trailhead access point located on a mesa overlooking the city, and it’s one of the most unique free attractions that Boulder has to offer.
Parking is also free, but arrive as early as possible – especially on the weekends – to avoid crowds. Hiking trails cater to a variety of difficulty levels, and it’s easy to make an active excursion as long or as short as you wish. If your hike beneath the Rockies sparks an interest …….