Budget Travel: Boulder, Colorado

If there’s any city in the US that you could compare to Amsterdam, Boulder might be it. Located about forty-five minutes from Denver, Colorado, Boulder is widely known as a hippie hang-out and boasts some of the most liberal laws in the country. But like Amsterdam, there’s more to Boulder than it’s tie-dyed, dreadlocked image.

Fantastic outdoor activities like hiking, rock-climbing, bicycling, and white-water rafting lie within easy reach of the city, which is situated at the foot of the unique Flatiron rock formations (see below).

Boulder is also home to the main campus of the University of Colorado, which ensures that there’s never a shortage of cultural activities. A Shakespeare festival is held on the college’s campus each summer, and the Pearl Street Mall (below), a four-block pedestrian walkway in downtown Boulder, is home to street musicians and artists of all kinds, as well as some great local bookstores. The Boulder Farmers Market takes place on 13th Street between Canyon and Arapahoe on Wednesdays and Saturdays between May and October; don’t miss it.

Also located on 13th Street, the gorgeous Boulder Teahouse, a gift from Boulder’s sister city of Dushanbe, Tajikistan, is also well worth a visit. From 1987-1990, the ceilings, tables, and columns of the teahouse were all hand-painted or hand-carved in Dushanbe, and they were then flown to Boulder where they were eventually assembled. (Boulder, for its part, opened an internet cafe in Dushanbe, albeit 20 years late.)

Sounds great, right? But can it fit your budget? Of course it can!

If you plan on visiting Boulder during the summer, my advice to you is simple: rent an apartment on Craigslist. Thousands of students abandon their apartments during summer break, and many of them would be glad to rent them out for a week or two for even a nominal fee. Couchsurfing is another great (cheap) option, and there appear to be plenty of available hosts. For something more upscale, try the historic Hotel Boulderado. Built in 1909 and with the original Victorian interior, the hotel is simply stunning.

Boulder’s vibe is youthful but not immature, artistic but not pretentious. It’s a great destination for anything from a family vacation to a solo camp-out– and best of all, it doesn’t have to break your budget.