I’m a Denver resident so I have to be upfront and admit that I’m not as familiar with Boulder. I’ve included items for both cities.
If you’ve got a few hours, I’d recommend a walk from the Tattered Cover LoDo to My Brother’s Bar and back. There’s a good view from the top of Confluence Park (though the Union Station construction will mar things a bit behind you unless you’re fascinated by trains). If you’ve more time,
I suggest going to the Tattered Cover’s Colfax location. It’s a beautiful space in a historic theater. A quick stop at Book Bar (west of everything else in the Highlands) is well worth it.
I’d heard about the Tattered Cover before I’d moved here twenty years ago. While the other locations have never had the same charm as the old Cherry Creek store, the Colfax and Elizabeth location is beautiful, airy, and well stocked. The Lower Downtown (LoDo) location is a close second favorite.
My Brother’s Bar
Has been a quiet institution for a long time. There are stairs that no longer rise to a missing second floor, a beer garden (they only play classical music). Jack Kerouac immortalized it. Not nearly as bookish, but still worth a stop and great for an inexpensive lunch. Don’t confuse it with Brother’s Bar. That’s where most of the bad reviews come from.
Book Bar is neat little coffee shop/bar/bookstore. My book club meets there sometimes. It’s just a perfect little book themed space with great coffee and better wine.
Murder by the Book
Sadly, this little gem of a store no longer has a storefront so it’s technically cheating to put it here, but I want to support their online efforts to stay afloat.
Boulder, especially Pearl Street, is a highly walkable place. It’s a great area to wander and see and well worth some hours. I prefer it in the summer when the students aren’t around and the weather is warmer, but it’s a good place any time of year. If you’ve a couple of hours to spare, be sure to walk the creek past the library and see the dam under Broadway.
Trident Café and Bookseller
I have a soft spot for the Trident as I met my ex there for our first real date. The Trident is close to the Boulder Bookstore and open until 11 pm so it’s a good place to go and browse used books if you’re wandering around after Booktopia.
Whether you’re staying in the Hotel Boulderado or not, check out the Catacombs bar. Not bookish per se, but a cool, inspiring space (especially for mystery or fantasy writers).
Boulder Public Library
A quick walk from the Boulder Bookstore, the public library branch is well designed and near the creek, so it’s a good place to clear your head and see the town.
The Stanley Hotel
If you were taken with the Shining, then the drive to Estes Park from Boulder will be worth it. If you’re going to spend the time then I recommend making sure you explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Not bookish in itself, but it has some of the most amazing views.
Erika Napoletano’s List of Independent Bookstores
I found this list of bookstores for Boulder and thought I’d share:
Please note that Left Hand closed a while back (thanks Rachel Adler for the tip).
I didn’t mention Boulder Bookstore as Booktopia will give you the chance to see it.
Thanks to my book club and Brian Staley for helping with this list!