Exploring Near Boulder
Both the mountain town of Nederland and the big city of Denver (well, big for Colorado) are located approximately 30 minutes from Boulder. Both are fun destinations if you'd like to spend a half-day exploring. To reach Nederland, simply follow Canyon Boulevard west and up through Boulder Canyon. To get to Denver, take 28th Street south as it becomes Route 36. Bear right onto Interstate 25, and then take the Speer Boulevard exit.
Nederland is a fun and funky mountain town located 15 miles west of Boulder (map). At an elevation of 8236 feet, Nederland is usually 10° cooler than Boulder. A great summer retreat from the heat, Nederland is also a prime launching spot for fall Aspen leaf viewing.
If you're looking for a cup of coffee in town, try Buffalo Bill's Coffee and Confections located in a converted set of train cars on Bridge Street. Or for a less touristy feel, visit the New Moon Bakery on First Street or Happy Trails across from Buffalo Bill's. All three spots offer gluten-free snacks. For lunch or dinner, you can find great Indian/Nepalese food at Kathmandu restaurant just west of New Moon. Recently built Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery on First Street is popular with the BBQ and beer crowd. A variety of bars and pubs — including the historic Pioneer Inn — will give you a taste of the local mountain culture.
Nederland scenery is beautiful, and can be enjoyed via several hikes. The Barker Reservoir, which you'll pass as you enter Nederland from Boulder Canyon, is a great spot for a gentle walk. Higher-elevation hikes such as the Fourth of July trail and the Brainard Lake offerings are accessible nearby. For information, visit the hiking page.
In 2010, Nederland unveiled the Carousel of Happiness — an historic carnival-style carousel with hand-carved wooden animals and an antique metal frame. Sculptor Scott Harrison has been working on the carousel for 25 years, having first conceived of the project while serving as a Marine in Vietnam. Rides are only $1, and a small gift shop features carousel-inspired art from local artists and craftspeople. The carousel is located adjacent to Buffalo Bill's coffee shop.
LoDo, which stands for "Lower Downtown" Denver, has transformed dramatically over the last ten years. Once a sleepy area, it has recently undergone a renaissance. These days you'll find renovated historic buildings, upscale lofts, bustling pubs, and Coors Field — home of the pennant-winning Colorado Rockies. Within the LoDo area, you can explore ritzy Larimer Square and find the start of the busy, urban 16th Street Mall. For a nice stroll, begin at the Tattered Cover bookstore (map) and walk northwest over the Denver Millennium Bridge to the Confluence Park area — home of REI's national flagship store.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science, located on the east side of Denver at 2001 Colorado Boulevard (map), features an IMAX theater, a Planetarium, and a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits. At the museum, you can learn about Colorado's unique geology and wildlife, explore the galaxy, and watch re-creations of dinosaurs in battle. Especially fun is the Hall of Life, which features clever, interactive exhibits that measure your health via your diet, physical fitness, and driving skill.
The Denver Botanic Gardens feature 9,500 plant species from around the world, with a particular emphasis on plants and flowers from the Rocky Mountain region. Locals enjoy the intimate summertime outdoor concert series (tickets go fast!) featuring well-know artists such as The Subjdues and Richard Thompson. Also popular is the holiday Blossom of Lights and corn maize. The main location for the Botanic Gardens is located at 1005 York Street (map), near the popular Denver shopping district of Cherry Creek.
In October 2006, the Denver Art Museum unveiled a dramatic new building by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind. The expanded museum now offers a large range of educational programs, lectures, and films. Permanent collections focus on African art, American Indian art, contemporary western design, and mountain-west American art. Recent visiting exhibits included pieces from the Louvre. Add a social spin to your experience by checking out the Final Friday "Untitled" events, "Conversation Lounge" chats, and "Uncorked" wine tastings. The museum is located at 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway (map), near the Denver Mint and Colorado History museum.
Elitch Gardens is the local summer amusement park — complete with roller coasters, water rides, and bungee-cord free-falls. Elitch is typically open from May until October, and is located at 2000 Elitch Circle (map). Nearby is the Denver Downtown Aquarium, featuring marine life exhibits and opportunities to dine next to stingrays and colorful fish. Also in the neighborhood is the Pepsi Event Center, home of the Denver Nuggets and Avalanche, and Invesco Field, home of the Denver Broncos.