Family-Friendly Fun in Boulder, CO

Family-friendly things to do in Boulder

Boulder is continuously ranked as a best place to live in America. Additionally, it is the fittest city with the lowest obesity rates in the country. The one thing keeping people away is the steep housing market with the average home price at $1 million, arguably due to high demand and little to no new development.

Boulder is known for its active people, microbreweries, start-up companies, progressive views, and of course, its beautiful scenery right at the base of the foothills. The culture fosters a genuine focus on work/life balance. In nearly every job interview I’ve had or been a part of, a key question is, “What do you do for fun?”  

Boulder’s ridiculously fit people, wealth, and idealistic views can extreme, even intimidating enough to discourage people from pursuing their outdoor adventures here. However, there are plenty of family-friendly activities for children and adults alike. You certainly don’t have to be a professional rock climber or ultra-marathoner to enjoy Boulder-although, there are plenty. Most people are very friendly with an all-inclusive attitude. Just leave your Make America Great Again hat at home, and all will be fine.   

I would also argue that summer is the best time of year in Colorado. Of course, Colorado is known for its skiing which is fun too, but summertime is idyllic. The weather is just about perfect. There’s no humidity, hardly any bugs, little to no rain, warm days, and cool nights. Plus you can experience the outdoors without knowing how to ski and without all the winter gear. 

After living in the area for 14 years, I’ve adopted this place as my home. I feel fortunate to raise my kids here, and I want them to soak up everything this area has to offer. These are a few of my favorite spots to experience in Boulder with my kids in the summertime.

Pearl Street

Pearl Street is one of Boulder’s most well-known attractions with its unique shops, restaurants, views, and interesting people. This is always a fun family outing. Sometimes when we have no plans, we just come here to take a stroll and see where the day takes us.

I love taking the kids to the Boulder Book Store, and the Rocket Fizz candy store. Peppercorn always has free coffee samples, in addition to great home-goods. There are play areas throughout for the little ones. We usually don’t leave without a stop for ice-cream or gelato at Gelato Boy, Ben and Jerry’s or Lindsay’s Boulder Deli. The parents like to grab a beer at Mountain Sun Pub, Oskar Blues and West Flanders Brewing Company.

If you go at a busy time, the street performers will also keep you entertained. There is the guy that knows where every zip code is located in the U.S., the guy that folds himself in a small box, a fire thrower, musicians, and many other entertaining performers.  

Boulder Reservoir

Kid-friendly things to do in Boulder, CO
We rented a Pontoon boat on Boulder Reservoir with some friends.

Being from Florida, I love spending time on the water. The Boulder Reservoir has a sandy beach which sort of makes me feel like I’m at the ocean. Families can have a beach day right here in Boulder! Lay out some towels, bring the sand toys, and relax by the water. Rent a pontoon boat, SUP or kayak for a fun day. If you would like to host a gathering or just have a reserved area, picnic tables are available for rent with a designated sand volleyball court. Plan on an entrance fee of $7 for adults and $4 for kids.

Boulder County Farmer’s Market

The Boulder County Farmer’s Market is now open for the season. It’s held every Wednesday and Saturday until the fall. Local farmers have their produce for sale. Other merchants include bakeries, wineries, distilleries, arts and crafts, butchers and more! Plenty of food trucks are available so you won’t go hungry. Stay for live music which is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekly.

Boulder Creek

Kid-friendly things to do in Boulder, CO
Enjoying a fun family day on Boulder Creek

Boulder Creek has so many options for everyone! There is a paved path for a walk or bike ride. The Eben G. Fine Park contains a playground and a large grassy area for picnics and playtime. The Boulder Canyon Trail is along Boulder Creek for a hike.

And tubing! Rent tubes from one of these locations found here. Be prepared for cold water. The strength of the creek depends on the snow runoff and can sometimes be too dangerous. But in times when it is safe, it’s tons of fun. I would only recommend this for strong swimmers as the creek is just too unpredictable.

Valmont Bike Park

Things to do in Boulder
Views from Valmont Bike Park

This is one of our go to spots as a family. With 42 acres of trails, the VBP offers trails of varying difficulty. They even have a paved tot track as well as a tot pump track for little ones. When the younger kids get tired of riding, there is a playground onsite. This trail map shows everything the park has to offer with the greens being less difficult, blues being more difficult, and the orange represents the terrain park. I’ve seen everything from toddlers on Striders to people doing crazy tricks.  

Pavilions can be rented for birthday parties or events. There are restrooms and vending machines, but no concessions. If you are visiting from out of town, there are no rentals available at the bike park, but check in with any local bike shop. Rain and snow cause the park to close, so be sure to check out their Facebook page or Twitter after a storm.  

Biking itself is a very “Boulder activity”. So bring the whole family, bike, and picnic with gorgeous views of the Flatirons.

Chautauqua

Family things to do in Boulder, CO
Newborn hiking at Chautauqua in 2016

Speaking of the Flatirons, the scenery doesn’t get better than Chautauqua. Weddings and family photo-shoots are common sites for obvious reasons. Most people think of this as a great hiking spot, and it is, but it has so much more. An open field makes a great play area and picnic spot for kids. The Auditorium and Community House feature films, concerts and theater productions. Stay for happy hour or dinner at the Dining Hall, and even stay overnight in the lodge or one of the 58 cottages.

And of course the hiking is some of the best. My favorite and the most popular is the Royal Arch Trail. It’s moderately difficult with some steep climbs and three miles out and back. If that’s too much for your kiddos there are plenty of others to try.

As you can imagine, the popularity of Chautauqua brings lots of crowds and it’s difficult to find parking. Be sure to plan extra time to stay and enjoy.

Sunflower Farm

Sunflower Farm circa 2015

Longmont is in Boulder County where Sunflower Farm is located, so I’m including it, because everyone should check it out. From May until December, guests can visit to see and feed the farm animals like the goats, sheep, and llamas. Wondering about, are chickens, turkeys, and peacocks. Various play areas include a sand box and a John Deere Tractor.

Beyond the public visiting hours, the farm hosts summer camps, a preschool, and a school-age farm program. Of course, birthday parties can be held here as well. During public hours, be sure to book a reservation due to capacity restraints. Also, no food is served, but you can bring in your own lunch for a farm picnic.

All in all, Boulder, CO is a pretty great place to explore the outdoors whether you are a professional athlete, Joe Schmoe, or a child. Now the tough decision is where to go first? Let’s get outside and enjoy this beautiful place that I am lucky enough to call home.

Extreme Zip Lining Adventure in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

zip lining in Puerto Vallarta
Weee!

On our recent trip to Puerto Vallarta with my husband’s company, we were offered a sunset cruise and a zip lining tour. Very nonchalantly, I said, “Sure, sign us up!”

And that was that.

I didn’t google it or look into any details. I just knew we had to meet in the lobby at 8:00 a.m. and that we’d be back around 3 p.m.

Vallarta Adventures

At the Vallarta Adventures office, we all had to be weighed…

On vacation!

All the women were having a bit of panic after a couple days of margaritas and tacos. Then they gave us a wrist band with our weight on it! Thankfully it was in kilograms so I really didn’t know the conversion, and I told myself I wouldn’t look it up. We were on vacation after all. This must done, because if you are too light, you need sandbags to get you through one of the zip lines. If you are over 260 pounds, you cannot go on the zip lining portion.

We were ushered in a van for the hour drive to the Mexican jungle. This was the scariest part of the whole trip. Our driver kept trying to pass other cars on a two lane street without properly checking to make sure that another car wasn’t going to hit us head on. What is it with taxi drivers being hell bent on ending all of our lives?! No one needs to get anywhere that fast.

We made it safely to the location. At this point we were told there would be no bathrooms and we couldn’t bring anything with us. No water, snacks, sunscreen, etc. They did offer some filtered water and bananas throughout, but if you have low blood sugar, you might want to sneak a snack or ask in you can bring something extra. So we lathered up on sunscreen and bug spray, and put all of our belongings in a locker. From there we got fitted for our harnesses and had a little lesson about how to position our bodies while zip lining.

zip lining Mexico
Getting ready to go.

Extreme Zip Lining Adventure

Next we started the tour with a couple of small zip lines to get all used to it. The tour guides do a set of seven safety checks before each person is off. They communicate on each side to let you know when to go and if you need to try and brake yourself. This tour has two cords on each zip line providing a safer experience. They pride themselves on their safety measures, and I truly felt very safe the whole time.

zip lining
Off I go

Now to the part that I wasn’t expecting. This was a full day of all sorts of activities-not just zip lining. After a few zip lines, we got to the top of a tree where we just jumped off backwards. There was a few seconds of free fall before the line caught us, and we were lowered down. Some people were a little hesitant, and the guides would just push them off.

They called this “helping”.

Ropes Course and Tarzan Swing

zip lining Mexico
Just climbing up 65 feet. No big deal.

Next was a ropes course. We climbed a 65 foot net, walked across a rope at this height, then walked across a bridge made up of unstable poles. Again, I wasn’t expecting this piece and a number of people did opt out of this portion.

At this point, my legs are shaking, and I’m freaking out a little. Of course things are just ramping up.

We found ourselves at the top of a tree and had the option to do a Tarzan swing or a zip line. It is exactly like it sounds. You just jump off the tree and swing back and forth until you get to the ground. I thought, “When in Puerto Vallarta” and did the Tarzan swing.

zip lining Mexico
Tarzan Swing

ATV’s

I needed a break. I had to sit down for a minute to make my body stop shaking from all the nerves. Thankfully this is where we hopped into ATV’s.

Phew. A rest.

I was pretty nervous about this, because everyone kept talking about going over a suspension bridge. I hate all kinds of bridges, even very stable ones so this sounded really terrifying. It was actually pretty stable and not that far off the ground. The ATV course wasn’t all that crazy, and it really felt like a much needed break from the constant adrenaline.    

Superman

zip lining Mexico
Superman! That’s a GoPro attached to my helmet.

From here we took a fifteen minute hike through the forest to the Superman.

What is the Superman you ask?

You get into a special harness. The harness hooks up to the zip line on your back, and you catapult head first for about a mile going 60 mph.

It looks absolutely insane.

However, I hadn’t gone to the restroom all day, and the first bathroom on the tour was at the other end. My need to pee overcame my fear, and I was one of the first to volunteer.

I got in position and was off.

Flying through the Mexican jungle, I was trying to take it all in, and just like that it was over in about a minute. It felt so safe that it wasn’t that scary, and was just a cool experience.

Alas, the first restroom of the day!

Indoor Flight

As our tour guide would say, “Next activity!” Now we were onto the indoor flight experience. By now, I was ready for a cold beer and some lunch, and just generally ready this adventure to be over. Not that I wasn’t having fun, I was just hungry, borderline hangry.

We all suited up into our “flight suit” and received some instruction on the optimal flying position. Each person went one by one and stayed in the simulator for 60 seconds. A person was inside helping guide us and a person outside correcting our position. I wasn’t expecting much from this part, but it was really fun. I was just laughing and smiling the whole time. In the simulator, I could feel myself getting really high and feeling like the flying tunnel scene from Willy Wanka that I just kind of crumpled my body to get lower.

I would totally do this again.

zip lining Mexico
Flying!

Water Slide

The last part of the adventure day was a water slide to the bottom. I’ve never been on such a fast water slide. We even had to wear a helmet for this part, and I can see why. My head was whipped back at one of the turns, and I banged it pretty hard. Just like that the adventure day was over.

Base Camp

Back at the base camp, we all did a Mexican cheer and had a tequila shot to wrap up the day. This is where we looked at the pictures and had lunch before heading back to town.

Remember how I said, we weren’t allowed to bring anything with us?

This means all the pictures taken were by Vallarta Adventures, and if we wanted any of them, we had to pay for them.

I know, eye roll.

But the pictures of us zip lining through the Mexican jungle were really good, and I wanted to savory this memory for $99.

All in all, I felt very safe, had a ton fun, and experienced something new. Is this something you would try?

¡Salud!

The Helpful Hiker

My Outdoor Family: When three-nagers meet intentional parenting

Article originally posted on Outdoor Families Magazine in May 2018.

adventure family

In 2005, my husband and I moved to Colorado from Florida. We moved across the country for a change, a sense of adventure, and the Rocky Mountains. Our 480-foot studio apartment was only $500 a month. Our jobs were not serious, and with limited responsibilities, we explored this great state together. We hiked over 12 hours to summit and descent Long’s Peak. As fit and competitive people, we ran the Bolder Boulder, competed in multiple triathlons, and finished, albeit slowly, a century bike ride (100 miles). Additionally, we came to appreciate the outdoor music scene Colorado has to offer be attending shows at Red Rocks, Mishawaka, Planet Bluegrass in Lyons, and Jazz in the Park in Denver. Camping, mountain biking, snowboarding, four wheeling, rafting-you name it-we did it. Basically, we soaked up everything Colorado has to offer.

Our marriage was built on this framework of adventure and the outdoors. Now in 2018, we have two little boys, a dog, a house and careers. It sure would be easy to get caught up in the rat race, and say we’ve checked those items off our bucket list. After all, there is laundry to be done and a house to be cleaned. But, what kind of childhood memories would we be creating staying indoors and just watching movies? Sure, we all love a lazy day, but where is the sense of adventure? Some of my best childhood memories are running barefoot in the rain and riding my bike to the ice-cream store. I want that for my kids too.

As brand new parents we were in survival mode, but now we are establishing more of a groove and are finding time to get outside. Last year, we bought a pop-up camper. On our first camping trip as a family of four, our youngest was five months old and our oldest was three. There were challenges and fears. Our three-nager was going through a tantrum phase over the traumatic event of having a baby brother. I kept worrying the youngest would be too cold in his pack ‘n play. Also, packing for a trip with a baby and a toddler is no joke. How can people so small require so many things? We dealt with cleaning bottles and managing sleep schedules. But, we got outside together. Our kids know what a s’more tastes like and have seen the Milky Way in all its glory. They have been on hikes to waterfalls and fished in ponds with Dad. The awe they experience when they see a deer or even a frog is worth the effort to get outside.

Overall, we feel we are being intentional in our efforts to spend time together as family and instill values of appreciating experiences more than things. Of course, our kids will be their own people, but we hope they have a zest for life, and a love of nature. We want to experience things as a family and make memories together.

As a family, we have been on eight camping trips and have four more planned this summer. When we are not camping, we play outside and ride bikes around the neighborhood. We still watch tv and occasionally play video games, but we think there is more to childhood and life than screen-time. Our house could always cleaner and laundry is an infinite problem. It is not always easy, but we choose to go outside, spend time together and make lasting memories together.