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Best Boulder Nightlife

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By day, Boulder is bright, sunny and sporty. After hours, when the night owls come out, Boulder pubs and night clubs come to life. The Pearl Street Mall, whose popular clubs attract a 20s and 30s crowd, and On The Hill, where the students party, are hotspots. Bars, pubs and clubs pack ‘em in on Friday and Saturday night—at least on weekends. Pearl Street can be pretty quiet on midweek nights in winter. Visitors from big cities often complain that Boulder nightlife is pretty tame, but it’s busy enough for locals and for the cops who keep an eye on things to make sure it stays tame. Closing time is usually 2AM.

The Catacombs

Neighborhood: Downtown

The Catacombs Bar in the dim basement of the Hotel Boulderado is like a grab bag, with the scene and the crowd changing from night to night. Sometimes there’s live music, sometimes not. Sometimes there’s some entertainment (karaoke night, trivia night, etc.), sometimes not. Sometimes there’s a tourist crowd, sometimes more locals. The Catacombs schedules “theme nights” like Trivia Night on Tuesday, Karaoke Night on Wednesday and a DJ most Thursdays through Saturdays. You never know, till you check it out. And when you do, order a reasonably priced round and see what happens. 

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Boulder Theater

Neighborhood: Downtown

This art deco landmark hosts national touring acts, top local performers, film festivals, second-run movies at good prices, special events and is the venue from which National Radio Broadcast eTown is often broadcast. No, you won’t find stadium seating, cup-holders or commodious restrooms, but you will be able to buy a beer, a glass of wine, a soft drink or a snack at the main floor bar, which is often set up with chairs, with or without a dance floor, and other times with what they call “fully seated shows.” The front and back balconies have conventional, immovable theater-type seats. Some shows are only for age 21 and older. Adjacent George’s Food & Drink, operated by the theater, is a good place to stop for a drink or a bite before or after the show. The box office is in the storefront right next door to George’s.

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Rock N Soul Cafe

Neighborhood: East Boulder

This East Boulder treasure, improbably located in a strip mall, is a haven for live music lovers—rock, funk, soul, jazz, you name it—almost every night of the week. It is a café in more than just name and serves lunch, coffee, happy-hour specials and dinner to earlybirds, and the music starts. The atmosphere is casual, admission is reasonable ($8 is not uncommon) and the audience really appreciative. Most performances start at 7:30 and finish by 10 or 10:30PM, so it’s not a real late-night place. Nightcrawlers can continue elsewhere, but many Boulderites head home because they have big outdoor plans the next morning.

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The Walrus

Neighborhood: Downtown

Boulder doesn’t have much in the way of dive bars, but the Walrus is as close as it gets with fairly reasonable drinks, peanut shells on the floor, plus (often) good and (always) loud music. People don’t tend to order frou-frou cocktails but simple mixed drinks like Jim Beam and water, Captain Morgan rum and Coke, vodka and tonic, low-class beers like PBR or Bud in the land of the microbrewery or pitchers of cheap beer. The downtown convenience helps for bar-hopping, with the Walrus often being the last stop when the scuzziness is more easily overlooked. The young, often noisy crowd plays pool, Foosball, air hockey and such. Darts would probably be a real hazard. The college and immediate post-college clientele is OK with the grubbiness, but isn’t that what a dive bar is supposed to be? 

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