25 under $25: Boulder, Colorado
Monday, 19 October 2015
Boulder is one of the more inspiring cities in the country to visit.
Just 40 minutes outside of Denver, it's accessible and offers a small-town feel with tiny boutiques along leafy streets. Since it's at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and offers unlimited adventure opportunities, outdoorsy types are in heaven here.
If you're headed to Boulder for vacation, take note of the following activities. All will cost you less than $25 per person.
1. Stroll down the Pearl
The Pearl Street Mall is the main dining and shopping thoroughfare in downtown Boulder. The historic district has some of the oldest buildings in Boulder, and the pedestrian street makes strolling easy. Visit some of the locally-owned businesses, listen to street performers, or admire the public art. Your family can spend many hours here without spending a dollar.
2. Experience the American Frontier
The area has a lot of history, and the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art dives deep into that history with exhibits about what life was like back in the frontier days. The beautiful sculpture garden is a must-see if you're visiting Boulder. Admission is free.
3. Picnic among beautiful flowers
Check out the Andrews Arboretum, a green space in the middle of Boulder that was once used as an outdoor classroom by a high school botany teacher. Pack a picnic lunch and relax under a tree while looking out at the picturesque landscape. The arboretum is free to the public.
4. Tour a tea factory
If you've ever wondered how tea is made, now is your chance to find out. Celestial Seasonings is based in Boulder and offers free tours of their factory. Learn how tea is blended from raw ingredients and packaged for the public. And be sure to visit the teashop on your way out for some fun souvenirs for your family back home.
5. Hike Flagstaff
Adventure-seeking vacationers are smart to strap on their hiking boots, hats, and of course, sunscreen, and head up to Flagstaff Nature Center. There are a few trail options at Flagstaff Trailhead, from the strenuous Flagstaff trail at 1.5 miles, to the easy Plains Overlook at a mere 60 feet. This experience is cheap–only $5 for parking.
6. Taste some mussels
The North End at 4580, a hip restaurant on Broadway, allows kids under 10 years old to eat for free on Tuesdays and Wednesdays as long as the family is seated by 6 p.m. This quite a deal for such a nice eatery–don't leave without trying the beef tenderloin tips ($11), coconut curry mussels ($12), blackened catfish ($20), and deconstructed Caesar salad ($8). You may want to make this a midweek tradition every time you're in Boulder.
7. Bike around town
If you're tired of walking, go to a Boulder BCycle station and rent a bike. The city's bike-sharing program has stations all over Boulder where you can simply pick up a bike and drop it off at another location. Unlimited 30-minute trips will only cost you $8 for a day and $20 for seven days.
8. Learn about the atmosphere
The National Center for Atmospheric Research is a massively cool place to learn about atmospheric science. The Mesa Laboratory and Visitor Center is open 363 days a year and offers tours–including audio and tablet tours–to anyone interested in learning about weather and climate. The best part? Tours are free of charge.
9. Learn about art
The Dairy Center for the Arts is a gem in Boulder that offers a cinema, live performance space, art classes, and an art gallery–all under one roof. Check the website for events, but if you're just passing through town, make sure to visit the three galleries of the Dairy. Showcasing work from more than 80 artists, the space is increasingly popular in Colorado and is free to the public, though they will happily accept a $2 donation per person.
10. Bone up on Colorado history
The Boulder History Museum is a great place to learn about the area's Native American history. Their current exhibition is the award-winning and popular display about the legendary Chief Niwot, who sought peace until he was wounded at the Sand Creek Massacre in 1864. The exhibit runs through the end of 2015, and admission is just $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, and $3 for children. Students and kids under 5 years old are free.
11. Eat some tacos
The soulful Mexican food options at Centro Latin Kitchen & Refreshment Palace are endless in its creativity. Try the beer and chile braised chicken tacos ($5), the BBQ rabbit tacos ($15), or the mussels and clams ($19). The Pearl Street restaurant welcomes kids ages 10 and under to eat for free every Sunday night after 5 p.m., though this deal only applies with the purchase of an adult entrée.
12. Cook with local produce
If you enjoy cooking, the Boulder County Farmers Markets are awesome places to check out, especially if you have a kitchen where you're staying. Instead of going out to eat, you can stay in and cook fresh goods from local vendors–straight from the farm to your table. The Boulder Farmers Market and the Longmont Farmers Market are open on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
13. Look at the stars
The Fiske Planetarium, located at the University of Colorado, is the perfect spot for stargazers. View the calendar for a show like "Back to the Moon for Good," which costs $10 for the public and $7 for students, children, and seniors.
14. Go rock climbing
Rock climbing is a popular pastime in Boulder, so why not do as the locals do and give it a try? The Spot Bouldering Gym is a great place for this. A day pass will run you $17 for adults and $13 for students and kids, and be sure to dress in loose-fitting exercise clothes so you can move freely while scaling the indoor rock walls.
15. Expand your mind with modern art
The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art is an awesome place to challenge your ideas of traditional art. Opened in 1972 by local artists, BMoCA has an "ambitious" schedule of exhibitions that explores and engages modern art in all mediums. Check out the programs for youth and teens before you go. Tickets are just $1 per person, so everyone can enjoy beautiful, challenging works for almost nothing.
16. Learn about the land
The Agricultural Heritage Center looks at what life was like for farmers in the area between 1900 and 1925. Of note is the circa-1909 farmhouse that showcases furniture from those days. Animal-loving kids will be thrilled to see chicken, pigs, horses, and sheep on the farm between April and October. Summer hours run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Admission is free and guided tours are available at 11 a.m.
17. View a huge public art collection
The CU Art Museum has an impressive permanent collection of over 8,000 pieces covering almost all of art history. From Ancient Greek ceramics to 19th-century photography, and Renaissance paintings to African sculptures, it's the largest university art collection in Colorado. Make sure to check out the Asian Art section, which includes ancient Iranian pottery and Southeast Asian pottery from the 16th-19th centuries. Admission is free, but a $5 donation per person is appreciated.
18. Dive into a new book
If you're looking for new books to read on vacation, the Boulder Public Library is a beautiful space for it. It also has the Canyon Gallery, which showcases work from local artists, and free concert series at Canyon Theater. There are other events for the public, including story hour for kids and family game nights. It's free to visit the library.
19. Schedule an afternoon tea
The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse is a gem in the city and offers a fun tradition of afternoon tea that dates back to the late 1700s. Families are welcome and advance reservations are recommended. Relaxing, elegant, and luxurious, the experience will cost adults $22 per person and $10.95 for kids under 9 years old.
20. Hit the Fowler Trail
Eldorado Canyon State Park is a gorgeous place to have a picnic, and you can also bring your hiking boots to walk the trails. Families with little kids should try the Fowler Trail, which is just shy of a mile in one direction. Bring your camera, as this trail offers excellent views of climbers on cliffs, and don't forget your hat and sunscreen, too. The entrance fee is $8 per vehicle.
21. Educate yourself on natural history
If you've always been interested in learning about fossils, check out the Paleontology Hall at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. "Steps in Stone, Walking Through Time" is an excellent exhibit that showcases never-before-seen fossils with interactive components that's perfect for kids. The museum is free to the public, though donations of $3 for adults and $1 for kids are appreciated.
22. Walk along the Bobolink
The Bobolink Trail is a flat, easy, and fun hiking trail for families. Park your car near the corner of Cherryvale and Baseline Roads, then enjoy the 1.5-mile creekside trail. If you go from mid-May through the end of summer, you may see bobolinks and other nesting birds. Remember to bring a water bottle.
23. Use a telescope
Right behind Fiske Planetarium, the Sommers-Bausch Observatory at the University of Colorado offers free public tours at 9 p.m. on Friday evenings in the spring, summer, and fall. You can even use the observatory's telescope while you're there–it's an opportunity to look into deep space with your own eyes.
24. Have a picnic in Central Park
Boulder has its own Central Park, located downtown next to the Boulder County Farmers' market. Grab a sandwich at a local deli, bring a Frisbee, and enjoy a few hours on the beautiful lawn, free of charge. You can even dip your toes in Boulder Creek.
25. Enjoy the best meal "under the sun"
Under the Sun Eatery and Taphouse offers great pizzas and a daily menu of craft beers. Don't leave without trying the pork sliders on brioche buns and "The Local" pizza, which is topped with pesto, balsamic tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella. The best part? Kids are allowed to eat free after up until 6 p.m. on Thursdays.
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