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Boulder on a Budget: Free & Cheap Things to Do

Stretch your vacation dollars in Boulder with these money-saving things to do and wallet-friendly eateries.

Enjoy a Budget-Friendly Trip to Boulder
Enjoy a Budget-Friendly Trip to Boulder

Tour a Science Center

Get an in-depth look at weather and climate change with a free tour at this world-class laboratory in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Browse the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s (NCAR) interactive exhibits in the visitor center to learn about fascinating weather phenomena such as lighting, tornadoes and more. This is a big hit with kiddos, too.

Stroll Pearl Street

Explore downtown Boulder’s charming Pearl Street, a brick-paved pedestrian lane that’s lined with colorful art galleries, only-in-Boulder shops and local eateries. While you’re here, catch a show by one of the many street performers, window shop the storefronts, and enjoy the prime people-watching.

Go Hiking

Take in dramatic views and fresh air from one of Boulder’s many hiking trails. Pack a picnic to make a day of it, and remember to bring your camera. Take your pick from trails such as South Mesa Trail, Red Rocks Trail at Settler’s Park or Chautauqua Trailhead, which is located a few minutes from downtown Boulder. Or, explore the breathtaking canyons and panoramic overlooks at Eldorado Canyon State Park ($8 per vehicle), just a 20-minute drive southwest of Boulder.

Tour North America’s Largest Tea Factory

Get a sneak peek at how tea is blended, packaged and shipped during a free, 45-minute guided tour of the Celestial Seasonings tea factory. You’ll get to walk right onto the factory floor and see how more than 100 varieties of tea are produced, including favorites like Sleepytime Tea and Lemon Zinger.

Visit Free (and Nearly Free) Museums

Boulder’s arts and culture scene is rich, diverse and surprisingly budget friendly. Visit a free University of Colorado museum, such as the CU Art MuseumCU Heritage Center or the CU Museum of Natural History. And wander among provoking-pieces of modern art at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, where admission is just $1.

Tour a Brewery

Get a taste of Boulder’s booming craft beer scene by taking a free tour of one of the local breweries, such as Boulder BeerFATE Brewing CompanyUpslope Brewing Company or Avery Brewing Company, and keep your bar tab low by visiting during happy hour or by trying just a few tasters.

Sample Foods at Boulder Farmers Market

Every Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon, peruse the wares of local farmers and specialty food purveyors at Boulder Farmers Market outside on 13th Street, between Canyon and Arapahoe. It’s free to browse and sample, and the numerous food stands offer an array of cheap eats.

See Classic Cars at Shelby American Collection

Marvel at pristine classic cars — from the Shelby Mustang to the Ford GT 40 — at the Shelby American Collection (open Saturdays), for only $5. Open Saturdays 10am–4pm.

Browse Art Galleries

Up and down Pearl Street are a number of art galleries to browse for free, but you also can find art in the most unexpected places. There’s street art at Pearl and 21st Street and Arapahoe and 13th, plus sculptures all along Pearl. Also visit the main Boulder Public Library on Arapahoe Avenue to see rotating exhibits in the Canyon Gallery, or visit one of the five Naropa University Galleries, located throughout its three Boulder campuses.

Find Cheap Eats at Local Eateries

Save money without sacrificing flavor when you pull up a chair at one of Boulder’s many budget-friendly eateries. Savor freshly made Chinese dumplings and pot stickers at Zoe Ma Ma, authentic noodle soups at Tibet Kitchen, Indian curry specialties at Curry -n- Kebob, handmade empanadas at Rincon Argentino and freshly prepared gyros at Mediterranean Market & Deli.

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