If you want to take your children to one of the world’s best play areas, take them to Boulder. This city, designed by renowned architect Mother Nature, is carefully crafted to offer endless opportunities for exploration, adventure and action. From the hilltops to the swim beach, from the gardens to the go-karts, Boulder’s outdoor wonderland is built just for kids.
Here are 12 different ways to enjoy the outdoors with your kids in Boulder.
1. Go Swimming
Head to the 700-acre Boulder Reservoir to cool off. Older kids might enjoy exploring the water on a stand-up paddleboard or canoe, and everyone can enjoy the swim beach, open every day. It’s one of the state’s biggest, seasonally lifeguarded swim beaches, with a designated area for younger kids. Older kids can venture out farther if they can pass a swim test.
Looking for more adventure? The city of Boulder even offers sailing, water sports and windsurfing summer camps for kids.
2. Pick Raspberries
When berries are in season, take your kids to Hoot ‘n’ Howl Farm for raspberry picking. The farm also grows veggies without pesticides or fertilizers and has a honey bee hive.
Even if you miss picking, you can still snag a box of fresh berries at the honor stand in the farm’s driveway; it’s an incredible small-town experience that can be really special to visitors. You can also buy honey and fruit from Palisade. If you’re lucky, that means the famous Palisade peaches.
Check Hoot and Howl’s Facebook page for berry availability.
3. Explore Nature
There are so many different places and ways to explore nature in Boulder, but a great starting point is at Chautauqua Park. Visit the Ranger Cottage and pick up free nature discovery packs for kids, complete with binoculars, magnifying glasses, art gear, field guides and a scavenger hunt.
For a relaxing day, read a book or have a picnic on the grass. For an adventure, choose from the variety of trails. Ask the rangers for a suggestion based on your family, abilities and desires, as well as the status of the weather and trails. One fun path leads up to the Bluebell Shelter. Sometimes, you can catch live music being performed there.
4. Walk Along the Creek
You don’t have to head up the mountain to enjoy Boulder’s trails. The Boulder Creek is an excellent destination that you can access right from downtown. Follow the shady, paved creek path from the public library to Eben G. Fine Park, which has a great playground and even shallow waters in some areas, if you want to dip your toes. Be careful with little ones, though, because depending on the time of year, the creek can be swift.
The Boulder Creek path connects with various other paths along the way for a diversion to visit a pond, garden, the ball fields or other attractions.
5. Play Games, Ride Go-Karts
While Boulder’s outdoor spotlight is on nature, there are some fun man-made outdoor activities, too. The Gateway Fun Park features a substantial mini golf course, go-karts, a winding maze and batting cages. Inside, there’s an arcade where you can win tickets to redeem for prizes.
If you work up a hunger, Gateway has pizza and other snacks to refuel for the next outdoor adventure.
6. Be a Ninja
Brave, strong and adventurous kids will love the Warrior Playground in Longmont. This is one of Colorado’s few, authentic, American Ninja Warrior training courses. In fact, you never know if your teacher might be a real Ninja Warrior from the TV show.
This outdoor play area features a wide range of obstacle courses and challenges, from a rock wall to rope swings to balance beams. Many of the participants here are kids; set up a private event or sign up for a class and learn some new techniques and challenge yourself. Adults can play here, too.
7. Get Active at the Park
Boulder has so many kid-friendly parks. You could just pick one, go there and all but guarantee a good time. If you want a suggestion, though, try Scott Carpenter Park. This park is extraordinary, with a swimming pool, skate park, awesome playground, open field and diamond field. The playground is nature-inspired, with rock-like structures kids can climb on.
For a less structured park experience, another winner is Wonderland Lake Park in North Boulder. Wonderland has great trails that can lead you to the lake. Keep your eyes open. You might see wildlife.
8. Learn About Nature
For an educational afternoon in nature, head to the Thorne Nature Experience. This long-standing Boulder institute (since 1954) offers hands-on environmental education in fun experiences.
Look for field trips, school programs, festivals, community classes, birthday parties, bird banding programs and summer camps. The festivals at the Sombrero Marsh Environmental Educational Center are a great way for anyone in the community to get involved. Pack a lunch and blanket.
Thorne has served more than 200,000 people since opening.
9. Go Biking
Rent a bike at University Bikes or Full Cycle and then head to the Valmont Bike Park. Explore family-friendly trails or test your skills on harder tracks. Look for special events, such as Take Your Kid Mountain Biking Day, clinics, festivals and more. Younger kids can try the Tot Track, specially made for trikes and striders.
Then, hop off your two wheels and have a picnic on the picnic tables while watching other bikers take the course. Get any remaining energy out at the playground.
10. Go Fishing
The Evert Pierson’s Kids’ Fishing Pond, along the Boulder Creek Path is just for kids, 12 and younger.
This pond started as a gravel pit but was turned into a pond in the late ‘40s. It’s stocked with about 3,000 fish every year by volunteers of the Boulder Fish and Game Club. Kids are welcome to cast out a line but only get to claim three fish per child per day.
11. Try a Corn Maze
In the fall, many Boulder County farms turn into fall festivals with corn mazes, pumpkin patches and more. Anderson Farms in Erie, about 30 minutes east of Boulder, has an especially incredible fall festival, complete with a 30-acre corn maze, wagon ride, playground, goats, a train, pedal karts and a pumpkin patch with more than 70 types of pumpkins (and gourds and squash).
Things get creepier after dark. Send the younger kids to bed and invite the brave to face the zombie paintball hunt and scary corn maze.
12. Plant a Garden
The nonprofit, Growing Gardens, runs four community gardens in Boulder, including the Children’s Peace Garden. Kids ages 3 through 11 can sign up for the various youth programs, for hands-on activities and lessons on gardening, biodiversity, food and more.
The Children’s Peace Garden has summer camps, an after-school club and various field trips throughout the year, or kids can book their own special event there for a private time with the plants.