There are a ton of best museums in Boulder. You know, for such a smallish city, Boulder is sure steeped in culture and arts of so many kinds. It could be due to the fact that we have been voted the smartest city in the country more than once; after all, we’ve got two universities here, plus a community college if you count Longmont as part of the bigger Boulder environment. This means a lot of things, but the main lesson (see what I did there) is that Boulder is teeming with big-brained people with all kinds of talent across the world of knowledge.
Also because of the height of learning to happen in Boulder, we’ve got a ton of excellently curated museums across the city (and county). And that’s not even including the more commercially centered art galleries cramming the storefronts of Pearl Street: nope, Boulder boasts the real deal, whether it’s science-based or natural history museums, or expertly curated arts of all styles and media, Boulder’s got it, in spades.
Here are the Boulder’s five top museums you should absolutely visit:
Winner of the gold medal Best of Boulder Award for best museum, the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the highest quality art museums you’ll find anywhere. It’s easy to see why Boulderites voted BMoCA as the best: expertly curated exhibitions of some of the tip-top artists from not only around the Boulder area, but all over; a beautiful near-downtown space that is also rentable for special events, and some of the most unusual and fun events for its fundraising campaigns, BMoCA is bar none in the art department.
Currently, their main exhibit is one called Pattern and Dimensions, which features eminent abstract artist Clark Richert. Richert has been a pioneer in the realms of multimedia for decades, but this exhibit focuses on his early work, abstract paintings, and public installations. This fantastic exhibit is up now at BMoCA and will be so till mid-September.
Museum of Boulder
A relative newcomer to the Boulder museum scene, the Museum of Boulder has hit the ground running with its phenomenal, interactive exhibits which focus on Boulder’s history and heritage, winning the Best of Boulder silver medal award for best museum. Not content with your typical history museum displays, the Museum of Boulder is all about an experience: their Boulder Experience gallery is an interactive celebration of Boulder’s past, present, and future; the Google Garage is a hands-on maker space where visitors can get their hands dirty in the innovation and creation process; and the current Rooster magazine exhibit showcases some of the best artists around in the history of the magazine and a display of its original cover art.
One exciting thing that’s in the works at the Museum of Boulder is the gathering of resources to create Boulder’s first children’s museum. This Discovery Zone, as they’re calling it, will be the cutting edge of a museum experience geared for the little ones, with places to explore, ways to ignite the imagination, and of course, all sorts of play. Check their website for news, and for information about how you can help them build this wonderful new museum experience for Boulder’s kids.
CU’s Art & Natural History Museums
Really there’s no way to choose a better between the art and the natural history museums at CU Boulder. So I know I’ve cheated a little, but bear with me: both these museums represent the best of the scholarly activity of this city—robust, excellently curated, and constantly actively researched, the CU art museum and the renowned CU natural history museum are equals in excellence.
The art museum has several fascinating exhibits up right now, and some really cool sounding ones on deck: there’s an exhibit centered around climate change, one that connects various artists with color and line, and I’m very much looking forward to an exhibit in July called Body Language, myself.
You can’t have grown up in Boulder without having the CU Natural History Museum experience, and for very good reason: this excellent museum has a huge outreach program for learners of all ages, both hands-on and more research-based programs. Don’t let the natural history part of its name fool you: it’s got stellar artists on display at all times, along with its historical and scientific exhibits. There’s a top tier potter on display there now, and soon will be a curated fashion exhibit, with original clothing and a historical overview. The CU museums are always free, too, so it’s a great way to spend some quality time feeding your brain on the cheap.
NCAR’s Visitor Center
Speaking of scientific type museums (with free admission, no less): Bronze medal Best of Boulder winner for best museum is one of the most fun and educational experiences you can have in Boulder. The National Center For Atmospheric Research has a really cool permanent exhibit up in their visitor’s center, and it’s got all the hands-on and fascinating stuff on display there that you can possibly imagine. What? You can’t imagine what could be fun or cool about weather? How about creating a tornado right there in the middle of the lobby? Manipulating a dual pendulum and seeing how its movement changes? Looking at all the gorgeous pictures of various clouds, then downloading the app to do your own cloud-watching? It’s seriously some of the neatest stuff to look at and play with, and they too do outreach programs, to bring environmental education to Boulder’s school-aged citizens. Plus, they have various rotating other exhibits that move through there, too—last time I was there they had an amazing photography exhibit featuring landscapes from several prominent Boulder artists.
Longmont Museum & Cultural Center
Longmont is part of Boulder County, and its huge museum and cultural center is part of the rich cultural heritage of the area. Home to some of the best arts, excellently curated, along with historical and educational exhibits to teach about Longmont’s history, the Longmont Arts & Culture Center also boasts multiple beautiful performance spaces, and hosts theatrical events and concerts of all kinds. This museum is worth the drive north, and then some.
Honorable Mention: Leanin’ Tree
Though the venerable local museum of Western art closed a couple of years ago, Leanin’ Tree continues its legacy of the art of the West by hosting tours of its greeting card factory. It’s right on Longbow, in Gunbarrel, so you can tour the Leanin’ Tree facilities and then go tour the Celestial Seasonings tea factory, which is just nearby, and probably one of the most popular tours you’ll find in Boulder. Not technically a museum (in Leanin’ Tree’s case, not anymore anyway), but they both are definitely museum-like, fun and educational ways to spend a rainy Boulder day.
Did we miss your favorite best museums in Boulder county? Let us know in the comments, and we’ll be sure to check it out.