When I moved to Colorado 17 years ago, I explored the Front Range in the most memorable way possible: I joined a hiking club for moms. I’ll never forget the first time we met our group in Boulder up at Chautauqua, just 1.5 miles from downtown Boulder. With the Flatirons as a dramatic backdrop, 48 miles of hiking trails, a charming restaurant and the acoustically-renowned Chautauqua Auditorium, I knew this place was something special.
I have spent the past several years exploring the many things to do with kids in Boulder–from education programs to science field trips to shopping. With so many Colorado families turning to remote learning, pods and homeschooling, Boulder is a fantastic place for science, math, biology, geology, geography and, of course, PE field trips. Don’t want to venture out? That’s OK because you can do so many of Boulder’s field trips virtually. Here are our top picks.
- Chautauqua – Great for: History, science, nature
Turns out there is so much more to see at Chautauqua than just hiking trails–history runs deep here–it’s now a national historic landmark. And there is an excellent self-guided walking and phone tour that you and your kids can do together to learn all about it. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Chautauquas were highly regarded family retreats, focusing on culture, education, music, nature, activities and sometimes religion. Boulder was founded in 1898, and the Colorado Chautauqua instantly became one of the nation’s most beautiful vacation spots and made proximity to the outdoors a key value for the community. Stroll around the Chautauqua Auditorium, Chautauqua Dining Hall, general store, historic cottages, the Ranger Cottage (temporarily closed due to COVID) and the Chautauqua Park. Here’s another “study guide” to learn even more about Chautauquas.”
2. Museum of Boulder – Great for: History, science, art
Make Boulder’s past, present and future come to life at the Museum of Boulder’s Boulder Experience Gallery…and do it safely! The Museum of Boulder is offering private reservations for learning groups, pods or families (up to 10 per group). You’ll get a one-hour time slot to explore the Google Garage (a hands-on maker lab) or Playzeum (an immersive, interactive experimental studio for kids). Use this museum activity checklist and if your kiddos are sensory-sensitive, this preparatory narrative and sensory guide are excellent for knowing exactly what to expect.
Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks
Sure, we know that Boulder’s mountainous backdrop is one of the most stunning in the entire state but did you know there are 45,000 acres of land that has been preserved and protected in Boulder? Fun fact: The Flatirons were named from the pioneer women who thought the rocks looked like flat, metal irons used to iron their clothes. Don’t miss this Guide to the Flatirons and a geology guide. There is a wealth of worksheets and guides on the City of Boulder website and also check for free, naturalist-led hikes at naturehikes.org.
Here’s a deeper dive into a few of our favorite areas:
3. Settlers Park – Great for: Geology, history, nature
Settlers Park. Follow the relatively easy Red Rocks Trail up to a collection of otherworldly sandstone spires overlooking the city of Boulder. These are perfect scrambling rocks for kids. The trailhead also happens to be part of Boulder’s origin story — it’s where the first non-native residents settled in 1858. Learn more of the history and geology.
4. Spring Brook North Trail – Great for: Geology, nature
Spring Brook North Trail. Journey back 100 million years ago to an area that was a sandy beach that is now the exposed cliffs of preserved Dakota Sandstone. Hike Fowler and take a right on the Spring Book Loop North trail. Just as you begin uphill look for wavy looking rock surfaces on your right (west) side. Be sure to take this educational, self-guided trek resource put together by the City of Boulder.
5. Scott Carpenter Park – Great for: Aerospace, nature
Scott Carpenter Park. Scott Carpenter, a NASA astronaut, grew up in Boulder. This city park is named after him, with a playground featuring a rocket-shaped climbing structure. (Next summer, you can also visit the new Scott Carpenter Pool, which is amazing and features a space theme.) Learn a bit of park history and all about Scott Carpenter, the second American in orbit.
6. Valmont Bike Park – Great for: PE, physics
Valmont Bike Park. With 42 acres of cycling terrain and Flatirons views, this is one of the most raved-about bike parks in the country. Bring bikes (there’s even a toddler course) and make this a P.E. break, or work in a unit on the physics of bike jumps. The Physics of mountain biking is a fascinating read and it’s even more fun to put it into practice at Valmont!
7. Murals – Great for: Art, history, social justice, PE
Murals Around Town. The world needs more color and beauty right now and Boulder has seen an explosion of murals in the last two years with at least 90 popping up in that timeframe. The latest round of 38 in the Street Wise Boulder series all share a theme of social justice. Check out their mural page and look for the “family-friendly” notation to know which are most accessible for children. Take a simple downtown walking tour that takes you by some fun and memorable sculptures and murals.
8. Sunflower Farm – Great for: Agriculture, biology
Sunflower Farm. You’ll need to make a reservation online for Sunflower’s Farmfest Public Hours, which will grant you direct contact with your favorite farm animals: the goats, sheep, llama, cows and horse. Let the kids enjoy the extra-long swings, sit on a tractor and discover an old airplane, sandboxes, bicycles, hammocks and free-roaming chickens.
Growing Up Boulder has great maps to point you to tons more kid-friendly sites and activities in Boulder.
10. Kid-friendly to-go food.
You need to fuel all your fun educational learning in Boulder and there’s no better way to recharge than from these delicious restaurants.
- Rincon Argentino Baked-to-order empanadas.
- Flower Child Healthy yet yummy and kid-friendly.
- Organic Sandwich Simply the best sammies around.
- Lindsay’s Boulder Deli Sandwiches, soups and ice cream, too.
- Falafel King Overflowing plates of Mediterranean goodness.
- Illegal Pete’s Crowd-pleasing burritos, tacos and quesadillas.
- Fresh Thymes Eatery Gluten-free and vegan options galore.
- Mustard’s Last Stand A hot dog stand with vegetarian options, too.
- Curry n Kebob Delicious Indian fare that’s easy to take away.
- Motomaki Fresh wraps that are a cross between sushi and burritos.
- Pizza Colore Good old-fashioned big-as-your-head slices to go.
- Dish Gourmet sandwiches and salads.
And that’s not all! Learn the importance of biodiversity and community at Growing Gardens, pick-up a tasty picnic lunch at Boulder markets and explore a super fun antique farming exhibit. Also, find out where you can find 24 ponds between two preserves that are located a half-mile apart in northeast Boulder. Get additional information about these and more Boulder field trips here.