Best of Boulder 2019 — Entertainment & Culture


Music Venue


18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, 720-865-2494

Silver: Boulder Theater

Bronze: Chautauqua Auditorium

There is a good reason why half the well-known rock bands in the world have a music video featuring the torch-lit rock cliffs of Red Rocks Amphitheatre at dusk. Why’s that, you ask? It’s only the most beautiful outdoor music venue on the planet, and ever since U2 shot its famous “Sunday Bloody Sunday” video here in 1983, everybody who’s anybody has just had to make one here as well. In all seriousness, Red Rocks is considered one of the top venues in the world by both musicians and ticket-holding fans, so it just makes sense that our readers would agree. If you’re looking for an excuse to head down to this Morrison stage, just take a gander at its 2019 concert schedule and you’ll find one for sure.

Movie House/Theater


2032 14th St., 303-786-7030

Silver: AMC Flatiron Crossing 14

Bronze: Boedecker Theater

Seeing a film at Boulder Theater is something special. From the beautiful art deco interior and exterior to the old-school velvet curtains that wrap the stage, Boulder Theater is a local treasure. It’s also truly an all-around entertainment venue featuring live music of all genres, comedy, spoken word, conferences and private celebrations in addition to films. And now, The Lounge next door is serving McDevitt Tacos. So, head on over for a few tacos and a drink during happy hour before the movie, and you’ll know why our readers call this their favorite movie house. 

Susan France The Boulder Theater Crew

Place to Dance


6185 Arapahoe Road, 303-440-8303

Silver: Boulder Theater

Bronze: Tahona Tequila Bistro

Write-in: Block 1750 F

From swing dancing to the waltz, one-step to salsa, the Avalon Ballroom is home to Boulder’s best dance floor. Head on down to the venue for different events and workshops to learn new dance styles or meet folks already jivin’ and groovin’ to the beats you love. At the weekly meetups, find like-minded people pursuing Zumba, Scottish Country dance or aerobic workouts, to name just a few of the year-round activities.



Various locations around Boulder County

Silver: Chase Bank

Bronze: FirstBank

Banks are like bananas. You think you know what they are, and then you go to Hawaii and you’re like, “This is a banana? This is fantastic.” That’s how we’re assuming our readers feel about Elevations Credit Union, which takes banking from a mundane institution into something greater — a partnership where you feel like your financial situation is cared for. The friendly staff, the commitment to bolstering the local economy, the wallet-friendly banking account structures… there’s a lot to like about Elevations.

Live Jazz Venue


900 Walnut St., 720-406-9696

Silver: Nissi’s 

Bronze: The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse

There’s nothing quite like sipping a delicious glass of wine or a cocktail on the St Julien Hotel & Spa terrace during the summer, taking in the breathtaking view of the Flatirons in the (nearby) distance. The only thing that makes it better is the addition of some of Boulder’s best live jazz music. That’s why year after year our readers vote St Julien’s as the best place to experience live jazz music. Boasting both local talent and traveling bands, you can take it all in from the comfort of your own table or get up and dance. Not summer yet? Don’t fret. St Julien’s T-Zero Lounge offers live jazz all winter long. 

Reader Comment: “Odd to choose Best Nonprofit when it is about
their mission. What does ‘best’ mean?”

Editor’s note: Many businesses, whether nonprofit or for-profit organizations (including the Weekly) prioritize their mission ahead of profits. “Best” means that they have succeeded in their mission, at least in the eyes of Weekly readers.

Open Mic


1709 Pearl St.; 2907 55th St.; 1720 Pleasant St. 

Silver: The Attic Bar & Bistro

Bronze: Oskar Blues Breweries (various locations)

Whether you’re a first-time open mic’er with a poem or a song, or a stand-up veteran, you want and need an inviting, comfortable place to showcase your talents. The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse fits the bill, catering to both novices and experts alike. The laid-back atmosphere helps you feel at home when the room is full of strangers. Our readers tell us the Goat’s talent level on open mic night is the best around. So, come on out and support our local creatives and help them feel right at home.

The Laughing Goat Coffeehouse owner, John Jenkins, gets ready for open mic night.
Susan France

Summer Camp


10063 Gold Hill Road, 303-442-4557

Silver: Avid4 Adventure

Bronze: YMCA Summer Camps

Write-in: Easton Summer Camp

This is Colorado Mountain Ranch’s seventh time among the pages of Best of Boulder. Looks like our readers have stayed impressed with the high-quality summer experiences this camp affords. The Walker family, who has now been running the camp for generations, sure know what they’re doing. Since 1947 they’ve been offering summer camps — that’s a lot of practice, so expecting a steady level of perfection from this iconic pillar of the Boulder County community isn’t actually so far fetched.

Sports Bar


1346 Pearl St., 303-440-3355

Silver: World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill

Bronze: Red Zone at the Pumphouse Brewery

Write-in: Ralphie’s Bar & Grill=

Since 1997, the Lazy Dog Sports Bar & Grill has been locally owned and operated. This could be why our readers have called out this sports bar again and again for its superior game-day atmosphere, not to mention the other nights of the week rocking with live music. The packed lunch and dinner menus offer everyone something appealing, while the alcohol list features 16 rotating taps and three fully stocked bars. So, drop on by and enjoy your favorite sport, whether it’s something played with a ball… or just drinking.

Festival/Event (non music)


13th Street between Arapahoe and Canyon, 303-910-2236; Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont;400 E. Simpson, Lafayette

Silver: Boulder Creek Festival 

Bronze: Frozen Dead Guy Days

Buying fresh, local produce and products is no longer just a trend, it’s a way of life. And while there are plenty of farm stands and local shelves at stores around Boulder County, nothing beats walking around a Boulder County Farmers Market on a Saturday morning (or weekday evening), talking with the farmers and other makers, enjoying the festive atmosphere and community. Whether you know exactly what you need or just want to peruse a variety of stalls, it’s always a good time. That’s why week after week, our readers choose the Boulder County Farmers Markets as the place to be. 

Susan France Boulder Farmers Market employee Chloe Redenbaugh

Reader Comment: “Need a category that is a bit outside of theater, nonprofit or festival. Maybe Social Justice or Human Rights organization?”

Local Celebrity


Silver: Zip Code Man 

Bronze: Gregory Alan Isakov

Can you guess this year’s winner? Here’s some hints: He’s thrilled you with his work on the Colorado State Board of Education. He wowed you as the representative for Colorado’s second congressional district. He’s been a member of more congressional caucuses than you knew existed, helped get pot legalized in Colorado and now calls himself the first openly gay and Jewish governor of Colorado. You guessed it. Our readers’ favorite local celebrity is Jared Polis. Thanks for your service, Jared!



1750 13th St., 303-443-2122

Silver: Museum of Boulder

Bronze: National Center for Atmospheric Research 

Since its founding in 1972 by a group of local artists, The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) has been at the cutting edge of the Boulder County art scene, exploring contemporary art through traveling exhibits, performances, music, visual art and educational programs for people of all ages. BMoCA provides these enriching experiences for over 114,000 regional, national and international visitors annually, making this museum the centerpiece of art for our area and the favorite of our readers.

Place to Play Pool


1136 Pearl St., 303-449-4987

Silver: World Famous Dark Horse Bar and Grill

Bronze: The Outback Saloon

Write-in: Dillingers Food & SpiritsI

If the perfect atmosphere for a good old-fashioned game of pool was transformed into a song, the Sundown Saloon would hit all the notes: free games, cheap pitchers of beer, soft lighting, eclectic characters, loud music. Even after cresting three-and-a-half decades of service, the Sundown Saloon has maintained a grasp on its original grungy, homely, approachable vibe, a haven for many yearning for yesteryear.

Local Musician/Group


Silver: Big Head Todd and the Monsters

Bronze: Hazel Miller

Here’s proof that popularity transends existence. For 11 years, Elephant Revival toured the country sharing their lively blend of gypsy, Celtic, Americana and folk music. But in 2018, the band had to make a difficult decision: with pressing family matters making it hard to tour and carve out time to make new music, the band decided to put family first by taking a hiatus from Elephant Revival. They still individually continue to advocate for public lands and other social justice causes, and they still participate in their annual Trail Revival project, which works in conjunction with the state of Colorado to clean up and restore trails within the state’s public lands. We hold on to the hope that life will offer this talented group of musicians a chance to create together again. Until then, thanks for all the music and activism Elephant Revival!

Courtesy of Boulder Ballet/David Andrews Courtesy of Boulder Ballet/David Andrews

Live Dance Group


2590 Walnut St., Suite 10, 303-443-0028

Silver: Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance

Bronze: Streetside Dance Studios 

With performances that range from elegant, classic fairy tales to contemporary stories of imagination, power and love, ballet is a mixture of athleticism and grace. Boulder Ballet takes the audience into different worlds though its interpretations of the human story. Since the 1980s, the company has been enriching the whole region with their mix of classic and contemporary shows, while pursuing innovation, programmatic growth and an attention to quality that really makes these dancers shine. With programs all year long, Boulder Ballet always has a unique theatrical performance just waiting for you to experience. 

Live Theater


5501 Arapahoe Ave., 303-449-6000

Silver: Colorado Shakespeare Festival 

Bronze: University of Colorado Boulder Theatre & Dance

Write-in: Motus Theater

Our readers know that when they want a little taste of Broadway, they can catch a great show at BDT Stage. Members of the company have performed on stages all over the country, from New York to Chicago and Hollywood. They’ve been cast in sitcoms and feature films. Some have been nominated for Academy Awards. At BDT Stage, you get to interact with the actors as they serve you food and drink before the play and during intermission. It’s an intimate, Broadway-quality show for a fraction of the price. Hard to question why it’s our readers’ favorite live theater group.  

NonProfit/Charity Organization


2323 55th St., 303-442-4030

Silver: Planned Parenthood

Bronze: Eco-Cycle 

Write-in: Attention Homes

We are blessed with some of the best nonprofits anywhere. Whether it’s feeding hungry people, saving the environment, funding education needs or any number of other good deeds, Boulder County has a big heart. But even so, year after year in this category, our readers tell us that it is the Humane Society of Boulder Valley’s treatment of our less fortunate four-legged furry friends that makes them the best of the best. Congrats, BHS, and a special thanks to all the dogs and cats who snuck onto their owners’ computers to fill out a Best of Boulder survey.  

Performing Arts Venue


2032 14th St., 303-786-7030

Silver: Dairy Arts Center

Bronze: Chautauqua Auditorium 

Night after night, Boulder Theater’s stage hosts brilliant musicians playing their world-class music of every genre imaginable. But that’s not all. This venue’s lights shine down on poets, spoken word artists and intellectual leaders of all stripes. Just check out the famous marquee out front. You never know if you’ll see new names or those familiar. The lineup is constantly evolving, welcoming in an increasingly diverse collection of musicians, performers and educators. Our readers love this place because they know that the future of this community landmark will always include a wide array of great performances.

Staff Pic: Alternative Date Night

Fiske Planetarium

2141 Regent Drive, Boulder, 303-492-5002,

When you’re looking to wow that special someone with a creative date, take them to Fiske Planetarium. What’s sexier than exploring fundamental questions about the origins of the universe in glorious 8K resolution on a 65-foot-diameter dome with surround sound? Not a damn thing, that’s what. Fiske’s MegaStar projector shows 10 million stars and the Milky Way, all in the climate-controlled comfort of a 206-seat auditorium. Catch a laser light show set to music from Pink Floyd or Lady Gaga, or get lost in the psychedelic art of Android Jones’ Samskara. Your date will be impressed, and if they’re not… thank u, next. 

Reader Comment: “Thorne Nature Experience is an incredible organization that provides outdoor education opportunities free of charge for some of the most underprivileged kids in our county.”

Music Festival


Town Park, Telluride, 800-624-2422

Silver: Colorado Music Festival 

Bronze: RockyGrass Festival 

You know it must be special when our readers’ favorite music festival takes place several hours to the southwest in the spectacular mountain community of Telluride. Despite its location, this world-famous fest does have its roots in Boulder County. It’s put on each year by Lyons’ own Planet Bluegrass. If you haven’t been to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, this is the year to go. The combination of the best music festival lineup anywhere set against the backdrop of the San Juan Mountains is impossible to beat. And don’t let the name fool you, there’s way more on the ticket than just bluegrass. And hanging out in Telluride ain’t chopped liver.

Advanced Education 


1505 University Ave., 303-492-5148

Silver: Naropa University

Bronze: Front Range Community College 

People have been partaking in the University of Colorado Continuing Education program for more than a century. That’s 100 years of folks learning about everything from anthropology to climate science to media studies to, yes, neuropharmacology, and more. Online, evening and weekend courses make the workload suitable for those with other responsibilities, and students can finish degrees, earn new certificates, and learn new skills all on their own schedule.

Classical Music


1595 Pleasant St. (performance space, Macky Auditorium), 303-449-1343 

Silver: Boulder Symphony 

Bronze: Colorado Music Festival and Center for Musical Arts

Did you know that Brahms was a regular at the Red Hedgehog coffeehouse in Vienna? Or that Vivaldi was nicknamed the red priest? Or that Schubert spent the last days of his life reading the novels of James Fennimore Cooper? Or that Haydn’s “Water Music” was first performed on a barge in the middle of the River Thames, thus earning its name? Now that the classical music trivia is out of the way, it’s time to talk about Boulder’s favorite classical music outfit: The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra. “Boulder County’s cultural gem,” the Boulder Phil has been sharing the music of Brahms, Vivaldi, Schubert, Haydn and more for over 60 years. 

Staff Pic: Place to Teach Gen Z What a VCR Is

Media Archeology Lab

1320 Grandview Ave., Boulder,

The Media Archeology Lab (MAL) has a pretty woke motto: “The past must be lived so that the present can be seen.” Whoa, right? This research lab and hands-on museum uses fully functional vintage technology to answer questions about what the future of media might look like. Ever wonder what the world’s first portable computer, the Osbourne 1, looks like? Well, it weighs 25 pounds and you can find it at the MAL. Are you an audiophile? The MAL has a wicked collection of audio materials ranging from a 1914 Edison Diamond Disc recording of “Medley of American War Songs” to a cassette tape of R.E.M.’s Automatic for the People from 1992. The lab hosts artist and scholar residencies and exhibitions, and visitors to the museum are encouraged to play. Check the website for visiting hours. Arcade Games

Susan France Press Play

Arcade Games


1005 Pearl St., 720-508-4916

Silver: Tilt Pinball

Bronze: Dave & Buster’s 

Write-in: Quarters Bar + Arcade

Really, is there a better place to get into some arcade games than Boulder’s Press Play Bar? Our readers say, “Nope. No way. Press Play all day.” Walk down the stairs into Press Play’s emporium of classic arcade games, hop on Cruis’n USA, order a drink from the full bar and take in some live music. The games are well maintained and the atmosphere is always fun and lively, so a good time is practically guaranteed, even if you clunk out in Pinball or can’t manage to get past M. Bison in Street Fighter. Good luck, and have fun.

Art Gallery


2590 Walnut St., 303-440-7826

Silver: Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art

Bronze: Boulder Arts & Crafts Gallery

Write-in: R Gallery

What a treat it is to have the Dairy Arts Center in Boulder County. Our readers love checking out the Dairy’s various cultural offerings, such as films, theater, speakers and art exhibits. The space is welcoming, the talent level high and the galleries and films are carefully curated. All forms of art are represented in the space over the course of a season, and once you’re done perusing the current exhibit, head over to the Dairy’s Boedecker Theater for a flick you likely won’t be able to see elsewhere, or to the Gordon Gamm Theater to take in a play. 

Private School 


10455 Dawson Drive, Lafayette, 303-665-6679

Silver: Shining Mountain Waldorf School 

Bronze: Boulder Country Day School

Four core beliefs have defined the Dawson School since its inception, namely the values of respect, compassion, courage and integrity. In offering an array of challenging courses, a robust selection of after-school programs and initiatives and a competitive sports environment, students return to these four pillars every step of the way. Dawson School’s supportive educational environment encourages students to pursue their dreams. And the sports programs build community while teaching fairness and responsibility. Put it all together with the thoughtful after-school academic and arts-related opportunities and you have a student headed down the college-ready path.

Staff Pic: Celebration of Cultural Harmony

Soul Rebel Festival,

For the last 17 years, Robert Oyugi has put on the Soul Rebel Festival — by himself. This annual grassroots festival showcases local and international reggae, Afro pop, world and American roots musicians. It honors legendary reggae studio musician and founder of The Yellow Wall Dub Squad Fazal Prendergast, who passed away in a fatal car accident in 2005. The festival benefits MESA (Moving to End Sexual Assault). Funky beats for a good cause — what could be better? 

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