A Screen-Free Family Vacation in Boulder
Too much screentime got your eyes all googly? No judgment here — the pull of devices is hard for any of us to resist. If your family could use a break from the digital world or a full-on tech cleanse, come lift your gaze to Boulder's horizon with these hands-on ideas sure to make it irresistibly fun for the whole crew to spend some quality time IRL.
Look Up, Look Out
A short drive up hair-pin Flagstaff Road will take you to Panorama Point, a scenic overlook with sweeping views of all of Boulder Valley and even the highway into Denver.
Picnic at Artist Point
Farther up Flagstaff Road from Panorama Point is the Flagstaff Summit and signs you can follow to Artist Point. This hidden picnic area is ringed by flowers in summertime and has access to captivating views year-round. Unpack your picnic and bring notebooks and markers for everyone to draw what they see.
Let them stay up late to catch a star show. Pack a thermos of hot cocoa and head to these stargazing spots after dark. Weather not cooperating? Try a dome show at Fiske Planetarium on the CU Campus. It has one of the most sophisticated projectors in the country.
Reconnect with Nature
Walden Ponds and Sawhill Ponds
There are some 24 ponds between Walden Ponds and Sawhill Ponds preserves, which are located a half-mile apart in northeast Boulder, and they are teaming with birds. Sawhill Ponds even has strategically located bird blinds for viewers. And near the Walden Ponds parking area, a walkway at Cottonwood Marsh gives visitors an inside look at tree swallows in nest boxes. Use this Walden Ponds Nature Detectives Map to keep the kids engaged.
Please note: Sawhill Ponds, as well as the west side of Walden Ponds, will be closed starting October 2023 for a multi-year utility project through March 2024. Learn more.
See how many different bird species you can each count. The person who spots a new species first gets to count it as their own. Here’s a bird list for Walden Ponds.
Take a Guided Naturalist Walk
Look for traces of bears, go on a fishing excursion, see the world from a bird’s eye view, go stargazing and more on one of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks' free guided hikes, which happen regularly and are listed on naturehikes.org.
Visit the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Catch one of Boulder's rare rainy days but still want to connect with the natural world? Head up to NCAR, perched on a scenic hillside above the city, to learn all about climate, weather and the environment. Ever touched a cloud? Created a tornado? You and the family can do both at NCAR’s visitor center.
Stop by the Ranger Cottage at Chautauqua to pick up Ranger Paula’s Passport to Wild Adventures. Complete the passport and earn a free sew-on patch. You can also check out a backpack filled with binoculars, guidebooks, bug boxes, art supplies, family activities and more.
Try the Sensory Trail
Try walking in someone else’s shoes on Boulder's Sensory Trail, designed for people with vision impairment and to give others the experience of sightless hiking. You can take turns closing your eyes, with one of you acting as a guide. You'll be prompted to smell a fragrant ponderosa pine, listen for and identify distinctive bird calls, and sit in silence to "rest and remember family and friends."
Run around a field, get your hands dirty and see where Boulder’s food comes from. On Boulder’s visitor-friendly farms, you can pet goats, climb trees, go on a hay ride or climb on a tractor. Find farm ideas for families.
If you grow up in Boulder, you grow up hiking, so many of our trails are kid-friendly. The paths around Chautauqua Trailhead are a good place to start, or read about these 5 hikes suitable for families.
Indoor Rock Climbing
Exert some energy at ABC Kids Climbing Gym and pretend you’re in a Dr. Seuss story as you scramble over the colorful rock walls. You can also try ice climbing at one of the only indoor ice climbing gyms in the country, the Ice Coop. Or head to The Spot, with two freestanding boulders and four additional bouldering walls.
Valmont Bike Park
The 42-acre Valmont Bike Park is a marvel that's garnered worldwide attention — and it has options for all ages. There’s a toddler course, with small bumps and jumps, pump courses, hardcore cyclo-cross trails and plenty of workarounds for the less adventurous.
Go to the podium at Valmont Bike Park. Take turns standing on the first-place tier and try to make the rest of your family laugh with a ridiculous pose. Whoever makes someone laugh the fastest wins.
Make a day of it at the Boulder Reservoir for beach time and water recreation galore while you admire the views of the Flatirons. Or take advantage of the super-convenient SUP paddleboard rentals on site for unforgettable photo ops.
Ski at Eldora
If you’re relatively new to skiing, Eldora is the Goldilocks of ski resorts for your family: not too easy, not too hard...just right. With lessons for everyone, you’ll be schussing down the slopes in no time.
At Color Me Mine, you create a masterpiece and create a keepsake to take home. Come back in about a week to pick up your fired creations or have them mailed to you.
Escape Room Challenge
Teamwork, logic, adventure and bonding are sure to happen during an escape room adventure, in which you try to solve a puzzle to unlock your family from a fun, themed room. Check out Boulder Escape Room.
Museum of Boulder
The Museum of Boulder always has something going on for families, with exhibits on themes ranging from dinos to wolves, special events and a maker studio called the Google Garage. The little ones will surely be entertained while also learning a thing or two in an engaging atmosphere.
This STEM-focused adventure playground, Junkyard Social, is open two to three times a week for drop-in play for kids and coffee for their grownups. Kids will enjoy climbing over play structures repurposed from all matter of materials — VW bugs, bike parts, shipping containers and more. Also look for special science events for families.