GPS: 40°01'N 105°15'W
Conveniently located at the base of five of the world’s most impressive slabs of sandstone, the Flatirons, it's no surprise that this town is considered something of a climbing mecca. Boulder residents recognize their town’s potential as an outdoor adventurer’s cloud nine, and have successfully preserved over 36,000 acres (14,569 hectares) of nature preserve and recreational space.
Both top-roped and bouldering routes abound, but for beginners, the 3rd Flatiron offers one of the best routes in the country. The climb has a multi-pitch ascent with comfortable belay stations and a stunning view of Boulder and the fellow Flatirons. If trekking is more your style, Boulder is replete with hiking trails up into the Rocky Mountain foothills. For a quick day trip with great city views, head up the Mount Sanitas trail from just north of downtown (www.bouldercolorado.gov), or take the Anne U. White Trail, a 3.2 mile (5.1-kilometer) trip along the wildflower-studded Fourmile Canyon (www.protrails.com). And if you just want to kick back in the great outdoors, take your cue from the locals with a leisurely afternoon float down Boulder Creek in an inner tube (www.bouldercoloradousa.com). In the winter, enjoy ice skating at the downtown ice rink, or hit the 10,000-plus-foot (3,048-plus-meter) slopes at Eldora Mountain Resort, just west of Boulder. There's cross-country and snowshoe trails, along with beginner to expert runs and four terrain parks.
In this university town with a ski-bum vibe, most restaurants specialize in all things local, natural and eco-oriented. Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery on Vine Street is a kind of beer-topia, decorated with colorful chalk-art menu masterpieces that announce the pub’s ever-evolving, award-winning beer selections. The food is traditional pub fare done right, with portions large enough to satiate those coming in from the slopes or on a study break.
The Bradley Boulder Inn, located right off the quaint downtown Pearl Street, is centrally located with easy access to local attractions ($195, www.thebradleyboulder.com).