I recently spent a few days in Boulder, Colorado. With the vibrant Pearl Street, nearby Rocky Mountains, and an abundance of hiking and biking trails, Boulder has the perfect combination of outdoor adventure and big-town food and culture.
I stayed at the historic Victorian-era Hotel Boulderado. The hotel has a perfect location, just a few blocks from Pearl Street in the heart of downtown Boulder and easy walkability to many of the attractions, museums, Boulder Creek, and exactly what I wanted for a weekend in this mountain town.
Hotel Boulderado: the First Luxury Hotel in Boulder
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Current owners Frank and Gina Day work hard to preserve one of Boulder’s most famous landmarks, keeping the historic feel of the hotel while making sure their guests enjoy contemporary comfort. The beautiful hardwood and original tile flooring that greets you in the lobby is all original to the Boulderado.
If you’re lucky enough to check in on a Friday, you’ll be serenaded by jazz music from CU Boulder’s music school students playing in the hotel lobby.
Then, you’ll pass through one of the Boulderado’s most-photographed features: the Mezzanine, bathed in gold and scarlet light by a breathtaking stained-glass ceiling. While the original Italian stained-glass fell victim to a snowstorm in 1959, the current tiles were hand-painted by a local artisan, Maria Garcia.
In the lobby, you can find several historic pieces from the early days of the hotel including the below original house phones and National Cash Register.
At the concierge desk, you’ll be checked in with today’s technology, but wander into the main lobby to check out the original ledgers, updated to show the current date every day.
Before you leave the lobby, you’ll also find an old-fashioned marble water fountain proudly toting water from Arapahoe Glacier. This may seem like just another lovely historic feature, but it is the only running water fountain in Boulder, CO—be sure to pack your water bottle for those bike rides and hikes!
You’ll be ferried upstairs by one of only five Otis elevators in the U.S., or you can ascend the original, cantilevered cherrywood staircase that rises from the basement through the center of the hotel to the fifth floor, following in the footsteps of famous visitors like Helen Keller as well as countless brides who’ve made their vows at the Boulderado.
The Niwot Curse
When Chief Niwot’s tribe of southern Arapahoe natives were forced by white settlers to move out of Boulder valley, the Chief famously predicted that any visitors to the valley would long to live there. The rapid population growth of the Boulder/Denver metro area in recent years would seem to prove Chief Niwot right, and so would the booming Boulder tourism industry that just keeps on booming.
Since the days of the Gold Rush, when the town was little more than an outpost for heading up to mountain mines, tourists have been eager to visit Boulder. But the mountain town wasn’t exactly an easy vacation destination—that was until the Hotel Boulderado opened its doors.
Hotel Boulderado History
Opening on New Year’s Day in 1909, the Boulderado was the first luxury hotel in Boulder. Visitors could enjoy the rugged terrain and retire to comfortable accommodations, and the increase in tourism naturally brought businesses to Boulder as well.
But that wasn’t the only first that the Boulderado would claim—when a state-wide prohibition against serving alcohol in hotels was lifted in 1967, the Boulderado was the first Colorado hotel to receive a liquor license. Hence, the “Speak Easy” bar in the hotel’s basement is now called License No. 1.
Hotel Boulderado was designed by local architects William Redding & Son. The five-story brick building incorporates both Italian Renaissance and Spanish Revival features and follows a trend of open court hotels started with the Palace Hotel in San Francisco and then with Denver’s Brown Palace Hotel.
On the third floor, you’ll find an official Historic Hotels of America self-guided tour that takes you through the Hotel Boulderado’s past, featuring historic photos and artifacts, including an antique organ and a Victorian hall-tree.
On this floor, you’ll also find displays with everything from old traveling trunks, to clothes from the early 1900’s as well as antique fans.
Interestingly, fans were meant for much more than cooling devices. It was much more of a communication device. See below for these fun ways ladies would use their fans.
This is a theme that will come up again and again, in the hotel’s informational materials, in your interactions with staff, and in the very experience of walking through the halls: when you stay at the Boulderado, you’re not just staying in a hotel but becoming part of Boulder’s history.
Rooms at the Hotel Boulderado
With 160 gorgeous rooms, the Boulderado is definitely a place where you want to get your reservations in early. While every room in the Hotel Boulderado is designed for both comfort and luxury, several of the rooms—particularly corner rooms like the sought-after Room 444—including stunning views of the Flatiron Mountains.
Whether you choose a Traditional Queen or a Classic King, the decor of the rooms in the historic section of the hotel will make you feel like a Victorian socialite, but with modern amenities like premium HD channels and Aveda bath products. Rooms in the north wing feature contemporary decor with additional space and amenities, just in case Victorian isn’t your style. Accessible rooms are also available for guests with various mobility needs.
Bringing the whole family? Reserve a double-queen suite, or the Presidential Suite for a deluxe romantic weekend. Be sure not to miss the self-guided history tour and exhibit on the third floor, but each floor of the hotel and the lobby features historic artifacts.
Art and Historic Photos
One of my favorite things at the hotel is the beautiful art and historic photos found throughout the lobby, the hallways on the 3rd and 4th floor as well as the Licence No 1 Speakeays.
There are also beautiful pieces in the lobby that are also more current, whimsical and beautiful.
Awards and Accolades
Hotel Boulderado is a member of Historic Hotels in America and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Boulderado hotel was awarded the Travelers’ Choice award from Tripadvisor in 2020. Laurel McKown, Hotel Boulderado’s Director of Housekeeping and In-House Historian, was awarded Hotel Historian of the Year as a part of Historic Hotels of America’s Awards of Excellence in 2020.
In 2018, the Boulder hotel won an award for Best Renovation Project from Colorado Meetings + Events due to the extensive updates completed in the lobby and mezzanine spaces.
These are just a few of the recent awards.
Events and Celebrations
While folks who live in and near Boulder may not get the visitor’s experience, the Boulderado is a staple of local life through events and celebrations. Downstairs off of the lobby are several multi-use rooms, including the opulent Driftwood Room, which frequently host events, meetings, and parties for Boulder locals and visiting groups alike. The hotel hosts many happenings every year, including holiday teas, weddings, Christmas parties, and even performances for CU’s School of Theatre & Dance.
The Food & Restaurants
Spruce Farm & Fish
True to Boulder’s expansive culinary culture and focus on healthy lifestyles, restaurants at this Boulder hotel offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian options and many options are very gluten-free. Spruce Farm & Fish offers casual fine dining, the perfect upscale experience to suit Colorado’s first luxury hotel. Like all restaurants in Boulder, however, you won’t feel awkward if you’re dressed for hiking.
Enjoy prime steak, locally-sourced trout, or a vegetarian bahn mi with crispy tofu that puts pork to shame. In a landlocked state, you’ll be floored by the juicy muscles, oysters, and calamari, and with the wide variety of salads and sandwiches, it balances Boulder’s love for organic veggies with stomach-filling heartiness.
Spruce Farm and Fish also serves brunch. Specialties include prime rib hash, strawberry and sweet cream cheese pancakes, and of course a superb Denver omelet.
The Corner Bar
The Corner Bar is a bar and restaurant with a lovely wrap-around outdoor patio. It’s perfect for a leisurely lunch, or an afternoon happy hour which is offered daily from 3pm-6pm, or a great late-night meal. In the Corner Bar, you’ll find tourists and local grad students alike enjoying beer, cocktails, and wine.
License No. 1
After hours, head down to the hotel’s basement where License No. 1—known to locals as the SpeakEasy—hosts entertainment every night that it’s open, including stand-up comedy every Thursday.
Enjoy classic cocktails and Boulder Beer brews with snacks like tuna poke or a rosemary chicken sandwich. Don’t feel like leaving your gorgeous room? The hotel offers in-room dining for every meal, featuring signature dishes from their restaurants.
With options for every taste, Hotel Boulderado is not only a must-see Boulder landmark but also the perfect place to land after a long day of hiking, kayaking, shopping, or art-gallery-viewing. Even if you aren’t able to stay here on your first trip to Boulder, you can enjoy the hotel’s gorgeous environment by popping in for dinner or a drink or strolling through the Mezzanine.
It’s saying something that in a place as beautiful as Boulder, with so many outdoor activities to lure you, Hotel Boulderado might just tempt you to spend your vacation in your room!
Hotel Boulerado Information
2115 13th Street, Boulder, CO 80302 | 303.440.2880 | www.hotelboulderado.com
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Alexa Meisler is the editorial director of 52 Perfect Days. Born in Paris, France she has since lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. She currently resides in San Diego with her husband and son where they enjoy exploring California and Mexico.
Travel has always been a part of her life; traveling to such places as Morocco, Tangiers and Spain as a young child as well as taking many road trips to Mexico with her grandparents as a young girl. Since then, she has traveled abroad to locations such as Russia, Taiwan and throughout Europe.
Prior to working at 52 Perfect Days she was a freelance travel writer; focusing on family and women’s adventure experiences.