Tuesday, October 28

Free and cheap things to do in Boulder

A couple weeks ago I ran into a couple on the bus who needed directions to the Boulder International youth hostel. They asked about other things to do in the neighborhood and I thought I'd post my list here. The hostel is located on "The Hill", a residential and light retail area just west of the CU Boulder Campus and I'm only including things that one can get to on foot or with a short bus ride.

Boulder Creek: If you walk downhill to the north from the hostel you'll hit Boulder Creek which runs east/west through the heart of Boulder's downtown. The creek is a destination in itself. There is a wide path next to the creek which runs to several destinations, several park areas for leisurely sitting, wading spots, and in the summer the creek is open to tubing. Boulder Creek also hosts two of the city's largest festivals the Boulder Creek Festival at the beginning of the summer and the Hometown Fair at the end of summer.

Farmer's market: Every Saturday morning (8 am to 2 pm) and Wednesday evening (4 pm to 8 pm) from the beginning of April through the end of October. Fresh food including seasonal veggies, sprouts, bread, homestead cheeses, and products like handmade soap and jellies. There are meals for sale, expect to spend $5 - $7 for pho, noodle bowls, pizza, and burgers (vegitarian options available everywhere).
The farmer's market is more than shopping. There are buskers, you can have knives sharpened, bikes repaired, and find out about local hiking, schools, and much more. It's also a huge outdoor picnic for residents so it's great for kid watching, finding a game of hacky sack, or just starting conversations.

The Hop: The Hop is a circular bus route within Boulder's Community Transit Network. For $1.75 ($2.00 starting in 2009) you can visit all of central Boulder's hotspots without a car. This includes: the Hill, the Pearl Street pedestrian mall, Pearl street, the 29th Street mall (a newly-constructed plaza-type mall featuring Borders, the Apple Store, Macy's, Target, and more), The Dairy Center (with neighboring REI and Circuit City). Ask for a transfer when you get on and you can transfer to other busses in the CTN, including the Hop2Chatauqua during the summer.

International Film Series: The International Film Series screens over 100 films every year, all year long. In general, the films are shown in venues on the CU campus, in walking distance of the hostel. Admission is $5.

BMoCA: The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art hosts local and international exhibitions of contemporary art. Cost is $5 per adult normally, but admission is free on Saturdays when the Farmer's Market is open.

Boulder Public Library: Just west of Broadway on the Boulder Creek Path (or on Arapahoe) is the main branch of the Boulder Public Library. The branch is made up of two building connected by an enclosed bridge. The southern building contains the library with a spacious magazine reading area. The bridge has a perpetual used book sale and a coffee shop. The north building hosts an ongoing free art exhibition and also has two theaters which host a variety of films, lectures, and music.

Chatauqua: The Colorado Chatauqua was built in 1898 as part of the Chatauqua movement -- programs aimed at increasing the education and culture of adults across America in the days before radio and TV. "Chatauqua" in Boulder means both a park boasting awesome vistas and hiking trails and the historic buildings including a theater and a gourmet restaurant. The flagship events at the theater are part of the concert series which isn't cheap. However there are conversations, films, and smaller concerts weekly which fall in the $4 to $7 range.

The Dairy Center: The Dairy Center for the Arts is a renovated dairy building which has been formated into three performance spaces, a lobby gallery, a photo gallery, an enclosed gallery and classroom spaces. The galleries are generally open to the public whenever events are taking place and they are generally free. Performances range from aerial dance, vocal and instrumental music, comedy, dance, and theater. Prices are set by the groups performing so look for 2-for-1, sliding scale, and name-your-own price events.

The Pearl Street Mall: I hesitate to add a mall to a list of free and cheap things to do... I have trouble "going shopping" without buying and that's not free and often not cheap. However I know there are people with more self-control than I and the Pearl Street Mall is a lovely pedestrian mall with many buskers and public art installations. There are also several used bookstores and a surplus store on the east end of the mall if you have to do some cheap buying. It also hosts several independent coffee shops including the Trident and The Laughing Goat.

The 29th Street Mall: See above for disclaimer. The public art at the 29th street mall includes interactive art from the national labs (NIST, NCAR) located around Boulder. Boulder's only first run theater, the Century, is at the mall. Early bird tickets are $5.50 (seems to be the first showing of any movie.). See the entry on the Hop for more about the mall.

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NotSoBigLiving is the story of a woman inspired by Sarah Susanka, Bill McKibben, Airstreams, Tumbleweed houses, Mennonites, Jimmy Carter, hippies, survivalists, Anasazi, Pema Chodron and Joko Beck, Scott Peck, Buckminster Fuller, and Al Gore to see what she can do to reduce her carbon footprint in her mid-80's suburban townhome. Strategies include roommates, alternative travel, organic eating, planting a victory garden, mindfulness, and a belly full of laughter.