Story by Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
A recent trip to Colorado took us to the towns of Boulder and Golden, before visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. Both of these towns boast a combination of natural and urban settings. Both are famous for their outdoor activities and energetic downtowns. And both towns lie at the foothills of the Rockies and sit on the doorstep of nature.
Boulder – a passion for the outdoors
Boulder is home to the University of Colorado, and like most college towns, it has a young and vibrant feel. This energy is most apparent in the locals’ love of the outdoors. Perhaps it’s the more than 300 miles of hiking and biking trails, or the 45,000 acres of open space and the sun-soaked climate that have Boulderites rushing to the outdoors. For that matter, Outside magazine has called Boulder “America’s No. 1 Sports Town.”
We found the best way to get up close to the Flatirons, the reddish, slanting rock formations that are Boulder’s most defining landmark, was with a hike in Chautauqua Park. We also experienced a guided fat tire ebike tour from Boulder Tour Company. This “Best of Boulder” tour will take you to many of the top spots around town and is a great way to see and learn about the town.
We also enjoyed an invigorating walk along Boulder Creek Path and watched the tubers and kayakers maneuver their way through the rapids. The Pearl Street Mall, a four-block pedestrian mall in Historic Downtown, was a great place spend half a day. Loaded with interesting shops, inviting restaurants, and creative galleries, the mall has been described as the “best place on the planet” for people-watching and enjoying street entertainers. If you tire out from all this activity, you can still enjoy nature with one of four scenic drives that emanate from Boulder.
And the place to stay in Boulder – definitely the Hotel Boulderado. Built in 1909 by a group of citizens buying $100 shares intending to bring some “charm and sophistication” to this mining supply town, the Hotel Boulderado continues to offer Rocky Mountain elegance in a welcoming, friendly atmosphere. The hotel’s design reflects a mix of Spanish Revival and Italian Renaissance styles. Two impressive details of the hotel are immediately seen upon entering the lobby – a magnificent stained-glass atrium ceiling and beautifully-crafted cantilevered staircase.
Forty-two of the hotel’s 160 rooms are located in the historic building and boast a charming Victorian-inspired décor with modern amenities. The North Wing features modern furnishings, décor and amenities along with contemporary, nature-focused artwork capturing the ambiance of the Rocky Mountains. The Hotel Boulderado is ideally located in the heart of the Historic District, one block from the Pearl St. Mall. It is a member of Historic Hotels of America and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Three on-site restaurants and bars offer guests a variety of dining choices. Spruce farm & fish – Boulder’s longest continually operating restaurant – is located in the original dining room offering creative and contemporary items emphasizing locally sourced ingredients, spirits, and beer. Two signature dishes include the Colorado Bison Filet and the Seared Sable Fish.
A great spot to grab lunch, relax at Happy Hour, or enjoy a casual dinner is the Corner Bar. With an expansive patio, the Corner Bar is one of Boulder’s best people-watching spots. In the lower confines of the hotel, a unique venue beckons people to step back in time.
License No. 1, the name giving tribute to the fact that this was Boulder’s first liquor license acquired after local “prohibition” ended in 1967, offers a 1920’s speakeasy ambiance. Serving hand-crafted classic cocktails as well as appetizers, dinner, or late-night bites, License No. 1 offers live music and comedy acts on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
Gold-rush-era atmosphere in Golden
Just as in Boulder, Golden is a prime spot for outdoor activities. Clear Creek beckons tubers, kayakers and fishermen, and the paved Recreation Path and Clear Creek Trail Gateway are perfect for walkers, hikers, and cyclists. There are more than 60 trails for bikers and hikers in town and 8,000 acres of regional open space surrounding Golden.
We drove the Lariat Loop Scenic and Historic Byway, a 40-mile winding stretch through the foothills complete with historic sites, scenic stops, and fun attractions. Be sure to at least take the drive up Lookout Mountain for a great view of Golden, and visit the Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite. We found the museum really quite interesting.
Golden is home to a number of breweries and distilleries – one being the world’s largest single-site brewery – Coors. Tours are available, but you need an advanced reservation.
Accommodations with a Southwestern vibe
The Boulderado’s sister property, Table Mountain Inn, located in Golden, Colorado, also has a long history and serves as a special place in town. However, unlike Hotel Boulderado, the Inn has seen a variety of iterations since its opening in 1925. It was 1991 when Table Mountain Inn and Cantina reopened sporting its now iconic Southwestern ambiance as reflected in the exterior’s stucco siding and the interior décor. The Inn boasts the “Spirit of the West,” an attitude in line with Golden’s motto, “Where the West Lives.” Seventy-four Southwestern-styled guest rooms include a number of rooms with fireplaces, premium bedding, jetted tubs, and balconies with beautiful views of the Foothills and Table Mountain.
The Table Mountain Grill & Cantina serves fresh Southwestern cuisine using locally sourced ingredients. The Grill & Cantina has a great vibe to it with its vibrant Santa Fe décor and outdoor patio. Two menu items to consider are the Burrata and Jamon appetizer and the Rocky Mountain Ruby Trout with a cornmeal dusting and esquite.