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This past weekend we took a little road trip to Boulder. It’s only about a 40-minute drive, but there is always something fun to do there. This time, we explored some of the fun kid-friendly and FREE things to do in Boulder. Because who doesn’t love free?
Even if you don’t have kids, many of these activities are fun for just adults. Explore museums, take a scenic walk, or find out how things are made without opening your wallet.
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1. Pearl Street Mall
The Pearl Street Mall has everything you could ever want and then some. Restaurants, coffee shops, toy stores, and so much more. You could easily spend a good part of the day walking the mall and watching the street performers. Last weekend we came upon a knife juggler, a mime on stacked chairs, and a bagpipe player. But Dub’s favorite thing to do here, aside from the splash pad, is to play in this play area of, you guessed it, fake boulders. They look pretty convincing, don’t they?
*Note: Bring change. While the mall is free, you do have to pay to park, even on the street. The meter cost is 25 cents per 15 minutes. The meters also take debit and credit cards.
2. Boulder Creek Path
Situated in the heart of Boulder is a 5.5 mile-long path along the Boulder Creek. I’m sure you weren’t expecting that little spoiler, were you? It goes from 55th Street to Boulder Canyon and it is the perfect place for a walk or bike ride with the family. You also won’t be starving for views along this path.
3. Splash Pad
One thing I’ve noticed since moving to Colorado is that there aren’t a lot of places to cool off aside from public pools. The splash pad in the Pearl Street Mall is one of our favorite places for a quick cool down. If you bring a bathing suit, there is a bathroom nearby where your kids can change back into their street clothes.
4. Boulder Bookstore
Not that I can ever leave a bookstore without spending money, but if you’re more disciplined than I am (or not), the Boulder Bookstore is a fun place to browse. Also located in the Pearl Street Mall, it is one of my top three favorite bookstores of all time. They have an enormous selection on two floors as well as a fantastic children’s section. They even have some gently used books mixed in on the shelves, so keep an eye out for a bargain.
5. Flagstaff Mountain and Nature Center
There is a $5.00 parking fee, but other than that, a visit to Flagstaff Mountain and Nature Center is free. There are a number of paths you can choose when hiking Flagstaff Mountain from challenging to a hike that’s more family-friendly.
Located at the top of Flagstaff Mountain, the Flagstaff Nature Center is usually open from 10:30 am – 4 pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May through September. At the Nature Center, your kids will have a hands-on learning experience. They will learn about wildlife, plants, and the history of the park.
6. University of Colorado Boulder Museum of Natural History
I have always been a sucker for a natural history museum. I love them all! The one on the CU Boulder campus is small, but very well put together. It’s the perfect starter natural history museum for kids. They don’t have any dinosaurs like the bigger museums, but they do have fun exhibits aimed at kids and there is surprisingly a lot to see in such a small, free museum. It’s definitely worth a look if you’re in town.
7. Chautauqua Park
On your way in or out of Boulder, stop in at Chautauqua Park. Go for a hike, have a picnic, or toss a frisbee with the kids. The Boulder Flatirons are the backdrop for this beautiful park so be sure to soak in the scenery while you’re there.
8. Boulder Flatirons
When you drive into Boulder on US-36 you can’t help but be impressed by the Boulder Flatirons. The top is one of several perfect spots to see the whole city of Boulder as well as go for a nice, fairly easy hike. Of course, there are some challenging places to hike, but if you park at the NOAA building like we did, the hike into the Flatirons is pretty level. A perfect hike when you have little ones with you.
9. Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art
My family was surprised and impressed by this little museum. You get a lot of bang for your non-buck! Outside the museum is a sculpture garden with statues of Native Americans, cowboys, horses, and more. Your kids can’t climb on most of the sculptures, of course, but there are two that they allow you to sit on. Perfect for a fun little photo op.
Inside the museum is filled with Western art paintings and smaller sculptures. There are also two gift shops; one is a standard shop and the other is a Christmas shop. Even Dub, who is six, enjoyed this museum. You can see more of this museum and sculpture garden on my Instagram.
10. Scott Carpenter Park
Of all of the times we’ve been to Boulder, we didn’t know this wonderful park existed until now. Located on 30th Street and Arapahoe Avenue, Scott Carpenter Park has sprawling green spaces, trees, and a gorgeous mountain view. Whether you want to visit the unique space-themed playground, swim in the pool, have a picnic, or visit the skate park, this park is sure to keep the whole family entertained all day.
11. Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory
This was the biggest surprise of the trip. I heard about the free tastings and tours, but since I’m not much of a tea drinker, I never thought to stop in. This time we did and I’m so glad! As soon as you enter the property and drive toward the Celestial Seasonings Tea factory, you can start to smell the tea. First, we went into the tasting room and they had at least eight flavors, both hot and cold, available for tasting. I even discovered a flavor that I loved and bought some in the gift shop on the way out.
Bonus: Mork and Mindy House
Are you old enough to remember the Mork & Mindy TV show? In addition to the free things to do in Boulder that I mentioned here, you can also take a ride to 1619 Pine Street to see the house that was used for the exterior shots of Mork and Mindy’s house in the ’70s TV show of the same name. Whatever you’re in the mood for, there is always something to do in Boulder that won’t break the bank.