Why Hotel Boulderado is a Great Destination in Colorado

Julie Diebolt Price Avatar
hotel boulderado boulder co - Hotel Boulderado at the corner of Spruce and 13th Street.

Hotel Boulderado, a cherished historic landmark in the heart of downtown Boulder, Colorado, welcomed me with Victorian-era charm. This 119-year-old iconic hotel uniquely blends Victorian (with a little Spanish Revival) architecture and modern amenities. With its stunning stained-glass ceiling and cherrywood grand staircase, the lobby instantly transports you to a bygone era. Yet, the well-appointed suites provide all the conveniences of the 21st century, making it one of the best hotels in Boulder.

The Hotel Boulderado is not a cookie-cutter hotel chain. On the National Register of Historic Places, it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind property that begs to be explored. And explore, I did!

While my visit was hosted at Hotel Boulderado, all opinions are my own.

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About Boulder

We can’t talk about the Hotel Boulderado without sharing a bit about Boulder, Colorado, which has a vibrant history that dates to the mid-19th century. The city was founded in 1859 by explorers seeking gold in the Rocky Mountains. The discovery of gold in the nearby mountains led to a boom in population, with many miners and their families settling in the area.

In the 1870s, the Colorado Central Railroad reached Boulder, further boosting its growth. The University of Colorado was established in Boulder in 1876, the same year Colorado became a state, and it has since become a significant influence on the city’s culture and economy.

In the 20th century, Boulder evolved from a mining town into a hub for education, research, and technology. The National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Institute of Standards and Technology established their headquarters in Boulder, attracting scientists worldwide.

Boulder is also known for its commitment to environmental sustainability. In the 1960s, it became the first city in the United States to tax itself for funds to acquire, manage, and protect open space. Today, Boulder continues to be a progressive city with a strong focus on education, technology, and environmental preservation.

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hotel boulderado boulder co - Cherrywood staircase in the lobby at Hotel Boulderado.
Cherrywood staircase in the lobby at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

How to Get to Hotel Boulderado

I drove north from my home in Arizona and connected from Interstate 40 to Interstate 25 in Albuquerque. Near Denver, I headed west on Highway 36, which deposited me into downtown Boulder.

From the north, take Interstate 25 south from Wyoming and connect to Highway 36 again.

Boulder is about an hour’s drive northwest of Denver International Airport.

Guest reviews on TripAdvisor make Hotel Boulderado a Traveler’s Choice for 2023.

Hotel Boulderado is in a great location near the Pearl Street Mall and the University of Colorado. I could quickly explore on foot and by car to experience various things to do in Boulder and discover other great places to eat and shop.

Unseasonably warm fall weather blessed my days with sunny skies, dazzling and colorful leaves adorning the trees, blending with spectacular Rocky Mountain views that took my breath away. It was a picture postcard.

hotel boulderado boulder co -
Original lobby entrance of Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

About Historic Hotel Boulderado

A member of Historic Hotels of America, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Hotel Boulderado was the first luxury hotel in Boulder. Opened on January 1, 1909, the hotel attracted vacationers and businesses nationwide.

The hotel was cleverly named for the words “Boulder” and “Colorado” specifically so no guest would forget where they had stayed.

When the Hotel Boulderado opened on January 1, 1909, a champagne toast was supposed to celebrate the occasion. However, Boulder was dry; there were no bars, wine menus, or anything like that. So, the hotel opened without a champagne toast. Then, Prohibition hit in 1920 and was repealed in 1933. Boulder remained dry until 1967–about sixty years!

Self-Guided Tour of Hotel Boulderado

You can explore the history of Hotel Boulderado through the self-guided tour on the 3rd floor. Pick up a brochure near the landing to learn about the photos and artifacts in the hallways.

Docent Tour

I was fortunate to meet Laurel McKown and have a guided tour. Laurel has been with the Hotel Boulderado for over 40 years. She shared much of the history and brought it to life when discussing the artifacts. She was particularly pleased with acquiring a football game in a cabinet, similar to foosball, with a prominent place in the lobby.

The Lobby at Hotel Boulderado

hotel boulderado boulder co - The last remaining water fountain at the Hotel Boulderado lobby.
The last remaining water fountain at the Hotel Boulderado lobby. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Take a Drink from the Past

When Hotel Boulderado opened in 1909, the city of Boulder was laying water pipes high in the mountains. Once there, the city captured the melting ice and snow that flowed from the Arapaho Glacier on the east slope of the Continental Divide.

Before long, business owners inscribed their water fountains with the words “Pure Cold Water from the Arapahoe Glacier.” The fountain in Hotel Boulderado is the only one that remains. The spelling of the glacier has changed over the years.

Today, the city owns the Arapaho Glacier and is in a protected watershed. Although Boulder now has additional water sources, its residents still receive two percent of their water from the glacier.

hotel boulderado boulder co - Stained-glass ceiling at the lobby of Hotel Boulderado.
Stained-glass ceiling at the lobby of Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Stained Glass Ceiling at the Hotel Boulderado

The intricate stained glass over the lobby is extraordinary. I thought it was open to the outside but learned it has skylights above and lighting between the building towers. You can peek through the curtains into the space over the stained glass through windows on the third floor.

The beauty of the ceiling is not original, as it was redone a couple of times. In 1959, when snow was heavy, a section of skylight collapsed, and a corner of the stained glass had to be repaired. At another time, to modernize, the stained glass was replaced with red, white, and blue Plexiglass, which was unpopular.

In 1977, new owners hired California artisan Marie Distel Garcia to restore the stained-glass ceiling. She hand-crafted 1500 square feet of new leaded Italian stained glass based on the original ceiling from 1909. The steel gridwork that holds the stained glass is original to the hotel.

hotel boulderado boulder co - Close-up of the stained glass ceiling in the lobby of Hotel Boulderado.
Close-up of the stained glass ceiling in the lobby of Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Guest Rooms at Hotel Boulderado

There are 156 guest rooms in the hotel, of which 42 of the rooms and suites are located in the historic section. Each room is uniquely appointed in the décor and style of Victorian times.

The Historic Wing at Hotel Boulderado is served by one the oldest operating Otis elevators west of the Mississippi. The elevator requires someone from the Front Desk to run it, signaled with a bell that looks like a doorbell on the wall to ring for service. When I was there, the new elevator was under construction a few feet away so that guests could operate the new one independently. I enjoyed being whisked away upstairs by the staff. It helped me appreciate the history of the building.

The North Wing, connected to the Historic Wing by a skywalk from the second floor, has 114 guest rooms and suites that feature current furnishings and nature-focused artwork.

All rooms enjoy sweeping views of the Rocky Mountain foothills, the Boulder Flatirons, and Downtown Boulder.

hotel boulderado boulder co - Sitting room of Historic King Suite in Hotel Boulderado.
Sitting room of Historic King Suite in Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Historic King Suite

The spacious King Suite accommodations on the fourth floor in the Historic Wing were a pleasure to behold when the bellman deposited my luggage and me into the 4th-floor corner suite. It was sunny and bright because two windows faced east, and two windows faced south in the sitting room.

hotel boulderado boulder co - Bedroom of Historic King Suite at Hotel Boulderado.
Bedroom of Historic King Suite at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

In the bedroom, two windows faced south, overlooking the corner of 13th Street, and the adjoining bathroom has a Spruce Street south-facing window. It was easy to imagine the bustling activity of this busy corner in the horse and buggy days.

All windows, framed by elegant brocade draperies, have sheer curtains for privacy yet still let in the light. The windows open to let in the fresh mountain air.

Victorian-era luxuries include:

  • The king bed with five pillows (a girl can’t have too many).
  • Fine linens.
  • Overstuffed chairs.
  • A comfy couch.
  • Other furniture and floor lamps from the period.

Modern touches in the spacious suite include a built-in cabinet with a small refrigerator, sink, and coffee maker in the sitting room, a big-screen TV in the sitting room, and one in the bedroom. Mugs and glasses were perfectly aligned on logo coasters on the desk and sink area.

The refined touches made a difference. Fresh flowers in a small vase with chocolates alongside were thoughtful. The toilet paper roll end was folded to match the towels on the rack. Every towel rack was full of fluffy white towels, which made for a luxurious experience.

hotel boulderado boulder co - Dawn from the window of the Historic King Suite at Hotel Boulderado.
Dawn from the window of the Historic King Suite at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

My favorite time of day was watching dawn break in the east while seated at the desk and enjoying a cup of coffee. I also enjoyed seeing the neon lights from the Boulder Theater light the neighborhood from my desk perch at dusk and into the evening.

hotel boulderado boulder co - Night view of the Boulder Theater from the Historic King Suite at Hotel Boulderado.
Night view of the Boulder Theater from the Historic King Suite at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Amenities at Hotel Boulderado

Hotel Boulderado offers these modern amenities:

  •  24-Hour Front Desk
  •  Complimentary Wireless Internet
  •  Valet Parking
  •  Bell Service
  •  Room Service from 7 am to 10 pm daily for In-Room dining
  •  On-site Restaurants and Cocktail Lounges
  •  Windows open to let in fresh mountain air
  •  Air Conditioning
  •  Same Day Laundry Service & Dry Cleaning
  •  Concierge Services
  •  Iron, Ironing Board & Hair Dryer
  •  In-room safe
  •  Premium HD Cable Channels
  •  Free Wifi
  •  On-Demand Movies
  •  Luxurious Aveda Toiletries
  •  On-site Fitness Center
  •  Access to ONE Boulder Fitness
  •  Plush Boca Bathrobes
  •  Premium Bedding & Linens
  •  Local Silver Canyon Organic Coffee
  •  Fresh Flowers & Chocolates
  •  Bottled Local Spring Water
  •  Business Services Available
  •  ATM USD
  •  Accepts Major Credit Cards
  •  Car Charging Stations
  •  Paid Guided History Tours (based on availability)
  •  4 pm check-in/11 am check-out time

Dining Options at Hotel Boulderado

hotel boulderado boulder co - Historic Spruce Farm & Fish Dining Room.
Historic Spruce Farm & Fish Dining Room. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Spruce Farm & Fish

The Spruce Farm & Fish restaurant features the original antique tile floor and stained-glass windows. Part of the hotel’s original dining room, the restaurant is one of the oldest dining spaces in Boulder County. I dined in the porch room, which has enclosed the hotel’s original exterior brick wall.

I enjoyed the pan-seared jumbo sea scallops over angel hair pasta with a unique cream sauce for dinner, paired with a delicious La Crema Pinot Noir wine. I finished the meal with a luscious bowl of mango sorbet and bright ruby raspberries.

Dining at Spruce Farm & Fish is an experience you won’t want to miss.

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hotel boulderado boulder co - The Corner Bar exterior at Hotel Boulderado.
The Corner Bar exterior at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

The Corner Bar

hotel boulderado boulder co - The Corner Bar interior at Hotel Boulderado.
The Corner Bar interior at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

The Corner Bar, with a lobby entrance and street entrance, offers American-tavern-style cuisine featuring lite bites, energizing lunch options, and mouthwatering dinner entrees. The outside seating area, decorated with bright flower baskets, makes an excellent place for people-watching.

hotel boulderado boulder co - License No. 1 exterior at Hotel Boulderado.
License No. 1 exterior at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Located on the lower level of the Hotel Boulderado, License No. 1 is a speakeasy-style cocktail lounge. This eclectic destination is so named for holding one of the first liquor licenses post-Prohibition in Boulder County. It is the current liquor license today.

hotel boulderado boulder co - Room Service at Hotel Boulderado.
Room Service at Hotel Boulderado. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Unfortunately, License No. 1 wasn’t open when I stayed at the hotel. I would gladly have enjoyed the Happy Hour there.

Room Service

Room Service was a luxury I enjoyed one morning. You know you are in breakfast heaven when your meal is delivered on time, has all your favorites, and you can leisurely dine in the cozy white robe provided by the hotel.

I chose the Salmon Lox, Cream Cheese & Bagel Plate the morning I ordered Room Service. The Everything bagel had everything on both sides, not just the top. It was warm and crisp from the toaster, with generous portions of cured and smoked thinly sliced salmon, tangy capers, cream cheese, shaved red onion marmalade, romaine lettuce, and tomato.

Executive Chef Mike Thom

During my visit, I had the pleasure of interviewing the Executive Chef of Hotel Boulderado, Chef Mike Thom.

Originally from Upstate New York, Chef Mike stopped in Boulder on his way to open a restaurant in Baja California in 1987 and never left. Honing his skills through working for Concepts Restaurants and Frank Day, Managing Director of the Hotel Boulderado for 30 years, Chef Mike brings his French and Italian-influenced specialties to the table.

The pandemic changed many people’s careers, but Chef Mike remained in his beloved Boulder. He returned to work for Frank Day at the Hotel Boulderado almost four years ago and knows his guests well.

Chef Mike said, “When guests come to Colorado, they expect food from the region, like bison, trout, and lamb–things they can’t get when they’re not here.” So, he focuses on Colorado Southwestern, New Mexican, and Mexican dishes at Hotel Boulderado. He and his staff proudly prepare real food from scratch, even down to the sauces.

He went on to say that the standard menu will always have about a dozen items that won’t change because regular customers expect it. Being in a neighborhood surrounded by houses makes the Hotel Boulderado unique, with families and neighbors as regular guests.

Chef Mike says the best and easiest thing about his job is that he works with great food and great people. He calls it a giant family. That is undoubtedly reflected in the meals and service I enjoyed as a guest.

Handicapped Accessible

The Hotel Boulderado is wheelchair accessible from the 13th Street entrance, parking garage, and Meeting Center (North Wing) entrance.

Final Thoughts

Hotel Boulderado is a historic and iconic Colorado experience. They’ve thought of everything in hospitality for their modern guests while keeping with its historical 119-year heritage.

The Hotel Boulderado
2115 13th Street
Boulder, CO 80302

Julie Diebolt Price is an award-winning professional photographer, educator, author, and travel writer. She writes about two things – photography and travel (along with a little food and beverage). Julie educates and mentors aspiring photographers. As a journalist who loves to travel, she creates memorable experiences and shares them with words and pictures.
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