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Shop ‘Til You Drop
Any exploration of Boulder should start at the priceless Pearl Street. Beginning at the 800 block, in an area known as the West End, continuing through the Pearl Street Mall, which runs between 11th and 15th streets, and ending with the East End, at 21st Street, this section of Boulder is eclectic, vibrant and always a good time. Thanks to big support for independent merchants, 85 percent of the roughly 1,000 downtown businesses are locally owned and operated. No bland big box stores for Pearl Street – this avenue is filled with funky art galleries stylish home and clothing shops, bountiful book stores and more great bars and restaurants than can be found in towns twice Boulder’s size.
An afternoon’s visit cannot really do Pearl justice – that much time alone can be happily spent on the Mall, a pedestrian-only stretch filled in warm weather with street performers, fountains and small gardens. Among Pearl Street’s retail don’t misses: Beat Book Shop, Boulder Army Store, Bliss, Boulder Arts and Crafts Gallery and Earthwood Gallery. Be sure also to hit up Jax Fish House during happies for $2 Oyster Shooters (an east coast oyster, vodka, and bloody mary mix served in a shot glass), then head next door and sample the West End Tavern’s mouth-watering wings while kicking back on their rooftop deck.
Get Fed At The Med
Fabulous restaurants are everywhere in Boulder, but there are none so beloved as The Mediterranean Restaurant, know to all as simply “The Med.” For over 17 years this rambling eatery, which despite massive expansions still usually boasts long lines at the door, has dished up the finest Italian, Spanish, French and Greek dishes. Among the highlights: an exquisite madako octopus cerviche ($8) that manages to be neither fishy nor rubbery and Paella Mariscos ($15.95) a showstopping seafood paella so good you’ll swear you’re in Spain. The Med only accepts reservations for parties of eight or more, but don’t complain – it just gives you more time to relax at the bar with one of their fabulous white sangrias.
Take a Hike
Although the Rockies, well, rock for just about any outdoor activity, visiting hikers may want to spend a few days taking to the trails in and around Boulder before making for the mountains. They offer their own serene beauty, and it’s not a bad idea to get acclimated to the city’s 5430-foot elevation before heading even higher.
The many trails and paths winding through and encircling Boulder include those surrounding Boulder Reservoir, a 700-acre recreation facility laced with rolling paths overlooking the water. Along with areas for hiking, cycling, boating and fishing, there are spots set aside for swimming, so bring a suit.
Mt. Sanitas, a trail close to downtown, offers 1,255 feet of elevation gain, along with a stunning view from the summit. Called moderate, this three mile loop will whip the butts of those hikers used to a more oxygen-rich environment. Take lots of water.
Historic Chautauqua Park, which overlooks Boulder, offers a number of trails leading into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. They vary in length and difficulty, but expect some quick elevation gain with all. And those signs warning of mountain lions and bears? They’re for real.
Soothe The Savage Beast
Live music fans know one of the best places in the world to hear it is the Front Range of Colorado. From Denver’s historic Fillmore Auditorium, to the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, the whole area is rife with venues both singular and spectacular. While Red Rocks in particular must not be missed, neither should Boulder’s less grand but still greatly charming Fox Theatre, long a favorite with Boulder residents. With a 650-person capacity and no seating but for benches lining the walls of the room, the Fox has nonetheless played host to such blockbusters acts as the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow. Just be sure to get served by Spot, a Fox bartender so famous for his potent concoctions that the “Spot Shot” is now offered not only at the Fox, but at drinking establishments throughout Boulder.
Boulder is so close to the Rockies, it would be a crime to visit the city and not the mountains. If you’re looking for a bit more of an adrenaline rush than can be provided by camping or hiking, try horseback riding. For extra adventure opt for a five-hour trail ride with Glacier Creek Stables. It won’t be easy on your backside, but the over 1,000-foot descent down a switchback trail will provide enough action for even the most inveterate thrill-seekers. The ride runs $90 per adult, but the unobstructed view of the Continental Divide alone is worth the price of admission.
For a a greater – and much wetter – challenge, take a three-hour drive from Boulder to Canon City and let Royal Gorge Rafting guide you down the Arkansas River. There are several different trips available; the most intense is through the Royal Gorge section of the river, which features Class IV and V rapids. A full day on the water runs around $100 and includes lunch.
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