kristy holland

W hat's not to love about a happy-hour date? Even the event's name conjures images of laid-back laughs and a mildly urgent effort to wine-and-dine within a set timeframe -- a perfect excuse to move somewhere more intimate after the appointed hour, or to cut things short if your date isn't as interesting as you'd hoped. But trying to wrangle a seat at Centro or squeeze into the bar at Happa isn't exactly an invitation to relax.

Don't worry. There is a way to combine an enchanting happy hour with an effort to impress a date -- you just have to step outside the box of obvious Pearl Street pubs. Here are three of my fave happy hours that are worthy of big crowds but aren't close enough to campus to draw hordes of students.

You may have read a mention of it before, but I stand behind one of my favorite happy-hours in town: at the 29th Street Mall's Laudisio Italian Restaurant (1710 29th St.; laudisio.com). Their short-but-delicious special menu of small plates (and $5 pizzas) is available in the bar from 3 p.m. until close everyday. That's makes for SEVEN potentially happy hours--everyday. The air is sophisticated and the clientele classier than the riff-raff you'll encounter at a college bar, but it's still casual and within walking distance of campus. Bonus: It's next to the movie theater.


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North Boulder's string of chic restaurants and coffee shops feels more than miles away from campus -- but there aren't a lot of destination-worthy happy hours. That's what sets Restaurant 4580 + Bar (4580 Broadway; restaurant4580.com) apart from the rest. This upscale Greek-inspired spot's happy-hour prices are worth a few minutes on the bus (or the hilly bike ride) uptown. Drafts are just $2.50 (including a gluten free choice!), well drinks run $4, and the menu specials include a 5-slider plate ($12) that's got a different flavor profile every week -- you might get a garlicky barbecue beef or a blackened chicken. Happy hour is from 4--6 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5-6 p.m. on weekends, and after 9 p.m. every night.

Tucked into a shopping plaza on 28th and Iris, the Italian-inspired Arugula is (2785 Iris Ave.; arugularistorante.com) about as upscale as Boulder's off-Pearl dining gets. But their daily happy hour (4:30--6 p.m.) serves up tastes of their regular Italian-inspired main menu for $3-6 a plate, so you can sample several items off the menu, like the tomato-fennel bisque or homemade pickles, or get a more substantial bite like the smoked trout bruschetta or balsamic chicken tenders. You may be the only college students at this place, but the intimate space will give you a chance to focus on each other -- and after a sip of a specialty cocktail (try the $6 Mas Tequila) -- I promise you won't notice anyone but your date.

Kristy Holland writes about dating once a week for the Colorado Daily. Tell her about your date-night ideas or strategies at boulderdatenight@gmail.com.