Tucked away in the heart of downtown Boulder, you’ll find a shopping, dining, and culture center on Pearl Street, aptly named the Pearl Street Mall. Shopping on the Pearl Street Mall isn’t something just for visitors to the area, however. It’s home to some of the finest names in fashion, art, and literature; and it’s steeped in history, all the way down to the brick streets and kids’ play areas.
Shopping on the Pearl Street Mall can be an in-and-out adventure or an all-day affair, depending on your time constraints and goals. We’ve put together a best-of-the-best list of resources to help you find your way around, identify key destinations, and get a feel for everything Pearl Street has to offer.
Let’s get started with the obvious … where are we headed?
How do I get to the Pearl Street Mall shopping area?
Pearl Street itself runs several blocks through central Boulder, east to west, and is located between Walnut Street and Spruce Street.
The pedestrian-only part of Pearl Street Mall extends between 15th and 11th, and is closed to all vehicle traffic (take note, cyclists — you have to walk your bikes on the pedestrian Mall).
The West End of the Pearl Street area runs from Broadway, till the shops trickle into a residential area around 9th. However, if you keep walking west, you’ll hit the Foothills and some easy hiking. The West End does have traffic running down it, and is centered on aptly named West End Tavern, and world-famous Trident Bookstore and Cafe.
Way down on the other end, The East Side of the Pearl Street area starts where the cars swerve around the pedestrian block on 15th Street, and extends all the way to 28th Street, where the Dairy Center for the Arts is, and where you hit Whole Foods. But technically, the East End (with car traffic down the middle, just like the West End) is said to lie between 15th and 19th. The East Side is where you’ll find the OG Mountain Sun Pub, Snarf’s famous sandwiches, Full Cycle Bikes, and Warby Parker.
Parking for a day of shopping at the Pearl Street Mall
Parking can be found at one of the many City of Boulder public parking garages, curbside meters, or north of the mall in 2- and 3-hour maximum free curbside parking areas.
Curbside metered parking and street-level metered lots run from 8AM until 7PM and are free before and thereafter. And we recommend making sure that your meter doesn’t run out — Boulder is a small city and the parking enforcement is strict.
The City has plenty of bike racks for securing your own bike, and there are also multiple fleets of rent-a-bikes, which you can rent by the hour or the day. Of course, stellar bike shops Full Cycle (on the East Side) and University Bikes (on the West End) will rent you a bike as well.
Right off Pearl Street Mall on 14th, the big Boulder Transit Center is your hub for public transportation to and from the area—pretty much all city buses and regional buses going to different cities like Denver stop there, and the two circuits of the Hop bus take you right through and all around the Mall area. Plus there’s the Park 2 Park shuttle, a summer staple, that pops frequently back and forth from Pearl Street Mall to Chautauqua Park.
Is there a good map of Pearl Street Mall shopping destinations?
You bet. Hop on over to Downtown Boulder’s interactive Pearl Street Mall shopping map. Here, you can zoom in on stores by category (accessories, art, apparel) or even explore block by block.
What can I expect to find on the Pearl Street Mall?
Maybe a better question is what won’t you find? Pearl Street Mall is lined with everything from fine art galleries, museums, and jewelers to internationally-known retail storefronts like Patagonia, Prana, FreeBird, and Fjällräven. From shoes to hats and everything in between for house, home, and human, you won’t be at a loss whether you need a birthday card or new pair of running shoes. And when it comes to entertainment, Boulder’s nightlife is centered on the Pearl Street Mall. So what is there?
So many shops, so little time. All three sections of Pearl Street Mall (the main drag, the West End, and the East Side) boast shops of all stripes—it’s a shopping haven for everything you can think of.
Clothing wise, you’ve got everything from dressing up (like Weekends) to the best workout gear (Prana, and Full Cycle’s cycling gear), to top accessories (like FreeBird and Goorin Bros.), and the number of jewelry shops (some by top jewelers like Todd Reid) is something to experience. It’s got used clothing too: Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange are two stellar choices down on the East Side.
If you’re looking for gifts, Pearl Street is your Mall. Art Mart, the Boulder Coop, Boulder Bazaar, cute boutiques like Bliss and Violette, and the several art galleries that sell the artists’ work are all up and down the area. And if you’re looking for a gift for the chef in your life, beware entering Peppercorn—you just might not make it out again.
Two of the best bookstores in the city (even arguably, the state), are Boulder Bookstore, and Trident Bookshop and cafe. The former is famous for being the most inclusive and beautiful independent bookstore around, and it’s definitely one of the best browsing places on the whole mall. Trident specializes in used books, and is a wine bar as well as one of Boulder’s favorite coffee shops. If you’re on Pearl Street Mall, you can easily spend your entire afternoon just at Trident.
For coffee, I’ve already mentioned Trident. There’s also Ozo, one on either end of Pearl Street. Sure, there’s a Starbucks too, but why not stick to what makes Boulder unique?
As far as tea, Ku Cha tea house is right in the center of the pedestrian part of the mall, and they not only serve their delicious concoctions in their beautiful tearoom, but you can buy the tea and gorgeous tea-making gifts, to take home too. And the world-renowned Dushanbe Teahouse is within walking distance.
Most of Boulder’s best breweries are located on Pearl Street, including Mountain Sun, Oskar Blues, and Post. West End and Lazy Dog have several taps to choose from as well.
Cocktails, too, are easy to find—License #1, just off the mall under the historic Boulderado, is one of the best. Bramble & Hare and Bitter Bar are two of the best cocktail bars when it comes to artisan mixes, and The Attic and Press Play (as well as the classy lobby of St. Julien hotel) will give you good drinks and different slices of nightlife to go with them.
I can’t even list all the excellent restaurants down on Pearl Street Mall, but I will say this: famous chefs own restaurants there. Frasca, Salt, The Kitchen, Oak, and Jax are all high-end joints that are serving up the best of the best of contemporary cuisine.
Pizza? You’ve got Colore and Locale. Sushi? Zanmai (on Spruce) and Japango. Mexican? You can’t beat Centro, but there’s also the amazing Tahona tequila bistro. Ice cream? Kilwin’s, Ben & Jerry’s… And much much more…
Plus, even in cold weather, food trucks abound on the mall, even on the car-free blocks. Healthy bowls, gelato, soups, a classic hot dog cart, a kiosk that specializes in grilled cheese…Pearl Street has it all.
As of this writing, you can peruse the legal weed selections both on the West End (Helping Hands) and the East End (Trill) of Pearl Street. To purchase a piece of artistic glass out of which to smoke your choice? Mile High Pipe & Tobacco is right under the Haagen Dasz ice cream shop.
Just a hop, skip and a jump away from Pearl Street is the Farmers Market during Boulder’s warm months, both on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. Aligned with this is the ever-popular Wednesday Pearl Street standby: Bands on the Bricks.
There are so many festivals that take place outside on Pearl Street Mall when it’s warm, it’s hard to keep track of them all: the Creek Fest, Pearl Street Art Show, the big Sidewalk Sale, The World’s Shortest St Patty’s Day Parade, as well as various cultural events.
For the kids, you’ll find three parks right smack in the middle of the pedestrian area: one with bronze animals to climb on, one a water park with fountains splashing to cool the kids off, and a rock park that’s so venerable, your author played on them as a kid.
When it cools off, we Boulderites stay outside, and on Pearl there’s the Munchkin Masquerade and Mall Crawl (Halloween parades for the little ones and the adults, respectively); and the holiday parade of lights.
Boulder Theatre is one of the most beautiful and well known live music venues in the country, but there’s live music all over Pearl Street, including but not limited to:
- Laughing Goat
- Lazy Dog
- Bohemian Biergarten (which also has an excellent comedy night Sundays)
- Oskar Blues
- License #1
- Full Cycle (who also hosts Blue Dime Cabaret variety & burlesque group every other month)
- Mountain Sun
…let’s face it, pretty much everywhere you can buy a beer, you can see a live band. How cool is that?
Beyond all the live music down there every day, that is; there are multiple art galleries down on Pearl Street Mall, as mentioned above. But there are also two museums, only a couple steps away: The Museum of Boulder and Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (called BMoCA for short) always have mind-blowing exhibits up to expand your horizons and remind you how artistic and talented Boulder is.
…and that’s not even all of it. You’ll have to visit the Pearl Street Mall way more than once to experience everything it has to offer.
*** this article based on a 2013 piece by Erika Napoletano.