A family-friendly vacation doesn’t have to be all games and rides and people in animal costumes singing songs. It can have some depth to it, too — the kind of attractions that the adults can enjoy right alongside the kiddos.
Boulder is a totally artsy town that’s also full of scientists, so there’s no shortage of ways to indulge both the left and right sides of your brain. Here are our 10 favorite ways to enjoy the arts, culture and science in Boulder with your whole family.
1. Fiske Planetarium
Why see a movie when you can see the stars? The Fiske Planetarium on the University of Colorado campus features star shows, laser shows, live events and fun star talks.
Take a seat underneath the massive, 65-foot-diameter dome (one of the biggest in the nation) and experience one of the world’s most sophisticated projection systems. The sound and visuals are like nothing you’ve ever experienced before; they make an IMAX seem boring. At Fiske, you are completely surrounded. This immersive theater brings you deep into the universe with shocking detail. You’ll feel like you’re flying through space.
Don’t miss the star machine, which displays 20 million stars (although we haven’t tried to count them all to verify), and the trippy “Liquid Sky” laser show set to music. While feeling spacey, pop over to CU’s Sommers-Bausch Observatory for free telescope viewings on clear Friday evenings.
For something unique and great to refresh weary travelers, try Yoga in the Dome Sunday mornings. That’s just what it sounds like: A restorative yoga class set to the backdrop of a 360-degree, nature-filled video journey of Colorado.
Fiske has been a Boulder staple since the ‘70s.
2. Tinker Art Studio
Tinker, in north Boulder, specializes in kids’ art classes. Travelers will enjoy the drop-in Tinker Time classes between 10 a.m. and noon every Saturday. Kids can join a variety of different tables all set up with different art projects and crafts. Teachers will offer guidance, but kids are free to create whatever they desire at their own pace. It’s open to the public and kids of all ages.
Younger kids (5 and under) can drop into the younger art class 10 a.m. to noon every Wednesday.
Parents can drop off their kids (4 and older) for Tinker Time if they need a parental time-out, or they’re welcome to stay. No need to reserve in advance, but it’s highly recommended because of the limited space.
3. Color Me Mine
Still feeling artsy? Check out Color Me Mine on the Pearl Street Mall, a fun paint-your-own pottery ceramics studio. Families can all paint together. Bonus: The paints here are non-toxic, lead-free and they wash out of clothes, because, well, kids.
A fun activity for the youngest travelers is to bring your baby in to create hand and footprints. Or for kids ages 5 through 12, join in on the Kids Night out. Twice a month, Color Me Mine invites kids to come make a ceramic piece and eat pizza for three hours. Sign up in advance, because this can book up fast. The shop also offers various, ever-changing themed Kids Night Outs.
Local tip: “Keep an eye on our Facebook and website. We have daily and monthly promotions and events for all kinds of occasions. At Color Me Mine Boulder, we are all about creating a fun painting experience for the whole family.” – Lisa Fairlee, co-owner of Color Me Mine Boulder
4. Crackpots, the Firehouse and Samples
Crackpots, about 30 minutes east in Longmont, bills itself as a “creative playground.” Like Color Me Mine, this is a paint-your-own pottery studio that’s welcoming to families. Just walk in and pick out the piece that inspires you, or you can reserve a spot in a class or book Crackpots for a private party. In addition to pottery, you can also play with mosaics and glass fusing here.
It makes a fun destination located right on the busy Main Street of Longmont. After making your art, head to the Firehouse Art Center to see free exhibitions of locally made, contemporary art. This place is fun for kids because it’s actually an old firehouse that has been converted into a gallery. Note: The Firehouse also offers art classes.
Then head to the nearby Samples World Bistro, whose rooftop is one of the best in Boulder County. In warm weather, Samples shows movies on its rooftop. Its menu includes tapas and sharable plates ideal for families and groups.
5. World of Wonder (WOW) Children’s Museum
This children’s museum is well worth the 20-ish minute drive to downtown Lafayette. It’s all about kids here, and all of these interactive exhibits are also educational. Sit back and let your kids explore the massive pirate ship playhouse, the music room where they can mess around on the piano, a bubble hoop that surrounds your child in a massive bubble, an arts and crafts room, a stage (complete with tons of dress-up clothes) and various ways to experiment with science, math, business and more.
This museum is small enough to be low-stress; it’s easy to keep track of your kids and welcoming, even to younger and shy participants. It also always seems to be holding some kind of public special event or party to make the day feel extra special.
6. CU Museum of Natural History
The CU Museum of Natural History is a fun destination, in and of itself, but don’t miss the museum’s Discovery Corner. This is a hands-on exhibit room, located in the basement, just for families. It’s filled with puppets, books, art stations, discovery kits and other exhibits meant for touching and exploring. Kids can identify fossils, learn about animals (and touch bones and antlers), put on a puppet show and solve puzzles. Turns out, natural history can be quite fun.
7. Boulder Public Library
Boulder’s public library is so much more than shelves of books. Kids can enjoy free storytime every Saturday morning, a Spanish and English storytime, a sensory-friendly storytime for children with special needs, a mother-daughter book club and a club for kids and teens, where they can learn to play the ancient, Chinese board game called Go.
Every fall, the main library holds a Family Play Festival, with reading, writing, playing, singing and activity stations. The library caters to teens, too, with lots of special events, such as Teens, Trivia, and Tea, a trivia game with free tea and coffee.
Best of all, the vast majority of the youth events at the library are free. And the main branch is located right on Boulder Creek in downtown, so you can go for a walk along the water and cool off inside with a relaxing storytime or board game.
8. Meadow Music concerts
Meadow Music is an award-winning, environmentally focused music program for kids that takes place on the lawn of Chautauqua Park in warmer months. It’s free, open to the public and on most Mondays during the summer.
Kids meet at Chautauqua trailhead for a 30-minute, easy, kid-friendly hike up the mountain, while looking for different natural features. While hiking, participants sing songs and talk about the animal of the week.
Then, settle on the grass at the Chautauqua lawn for a free, family-friendly concert. Bring a blanket and picnic basket and enjoy food under the shadow of the Flatirons. All music is original and nature- and science-based. Meadow Music is always popular because it’s active, educational, fun and free. It’s a must-do if you’re visiting Boulder with little ones.
9. Colorado Music Festival and Center for the Musical Arts
Here’s another way to enjoy music with your kids in Boulder County. The Colorado Music Festival is a six-week summer concert series at the Chautauqua Auditorium. Well-behaved youth and orchestra fans will love the world-class music in a unique setting.
Then there’s the Center for Music Arts, which provides music education to more than 550 local kids every week. In addition to learning to play instruments, classes include movement and dance, music therapy, a ukulele social club and social singing. The Music Together program is a 45-minute music class for young children and their parents to experience together. You can attend a free demo class to see if it’s a good fit.
In addition, thousands of visitors attend concerts and events hosted by the center every year.
10. Boulder Dinner Theater
Catching a show at the Boulder Dinner Theater is an exciting way to experience theater with your family in Boulder. Start with the Kids Kabaret, which centers around kid-friendly shows, such as “Jack and the Beanstalk” this spring. The theater always seems to have a show that appeals to families, such as “Annie” and “The Little Mermaid.”
Your kids can also try their hand at being on the stage, in the theater’s drama camps for children. Children ages 5 through 12 can sign up for these creative, playful camps that end in a performance.