Things To Do For Free In Boulder

Boulder foothills

This post is a long-time coming. I grew up in Boulder and have spent many hours there without spending money by the minute. Surrounded by beautiful hiking trails, and full of easily walkable neighborhoods, Boulder has a plethora of things to do for free or cheap. It can be an expensive town to dine in, but to me, Boulder still maintains it’s core values of openness to any price range and inclusiveness. It’s a great place to visit for any budget, in my opinion, and there are a few highlights one should consider. Thanks for reading our post on things to do for free in Boulder.

Hiking for free – Chautauqua

Chautauqua is a famous hiking trail right at the base of the flatirons. To get there, you take Baseline road all the way to the park, where you’ll find parking spots on the left. These parking spots are coveted for their proximity to the trailhead. But on busy weekends, there are plenty of ways to get creative with your vehicle parking on other side streets, or you can take the Hop bus which is an excellent option–more about that later on. Chautauqua trails will offer you several hours’ worth of free fun. The pro-tip is to drive a little farther past Chautauqua and take your next left into Gregory Canyon. Parking may be just as scarce, but there are less people on this slightly more wild and secluded trail.

Free window shopping – Pearl Street Mall

No post would be complete without paying homage to the OG of walking malls. Let’s face it: it’s hard not to love Pearl Street. While it’s shop character has undergone a metamorphosis with the changing times, there are still some classic stores like the Peppercorn. Window shopping here is fun because you actually might end up buying something really cheap and getting in on the action. Other fun stores abound. Looking at the art can be fun and inspiring. Regardless of the time of year, Pearl Street offers a free chance to walk somewhere enjoyable. We routinely take our kids here when there’s “nothing else to do.” If you do get hungry, there is an Avanti now which is sort of a commercial sell out move, but can offer a reasonably-priced meal. The beauty of this location is you can either start in Chautauqua or end there and use the hop route in both directions.

Free drive up Mapleton Avenue

I know, driving isn’t technically “free,” and some people will be without a car. By the way, if you don’t have a car, you can have a field day using buses. We can get from our house in Westminster on a local RTD bus 120 to the Broomfield Station, change to the F1 and get to Downtown Boulder, then use the aforementioned Chautauqua Hop to do this entire afternoon. But I digress. If you have your car in Boulder, drive up Mapleton Avenue westbound. Get lost in this area because the homes are truly remarkable and historic. There are plenty of nooks and crannies and you can even temporarily park and walk around.

Extra credit – free parks

There are some decent parks near downtown, such as Eben G. Fine park. You could take the walk uphill on Broadway to the Norlin Quadrangle (“the Quad”). I’m always particularly struck by how idyllic the campus is in any season. That’s all for now, let us know in the comments section if you tried any of these things to do for free in Boulder.

Folsom Field
Campus at dusk. Photo credit: Jessica Crothers

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