There are no two words in the English language that evoke joy in the hearts of children like “school’s out.” Unfortunately, those same two words are also notorious for striking fear and dread in parents’ hearts. But if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in Boulder County this summer, there’s an arsenal of fun, free and cheap family-friendly activities at your fingertips. Here are a few of our favorites.
The Bay Aquatic Park
250 Spader Way, Broomfield
Admission: $5 for Broomfield residents, $7 for non-residents ages 4-17 and 60+, $9 for non-residents ages 18-59. Free for all children 3 and under with a paying adult.
Hours vary according to week; check website for details. broomfield.org/2651/The-Bay-Aquatic-Park
While the Bay is not in Boulder proper, it’s well worth taking a 15-minute drive outside the bubble when you need to cool off. The Bay has everything you’d expect from a much larger (and more expensive) water park — think body slide, tube slides and spray ground — without being overwhelming. Designed for children ages 1-12 years old, the ADA accessible facility also has a large pool, a pool just for tots and a picnic area.
Boulder Farmers Market
On 13th Street between Canyon and Arapahoe, Boulder
Saturdays 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Wednesdays 4-8 p.m., through Nov. 17.
Featuring fresh produce and baked goods from local farms and vendors as well as a plethora of food trucks, you and the kids have a buffet of flavors to explore, from salad fixings to fresh, local meat to plates of tacos and ice cream cones. Just beyond the market’s edge, you can relax on a blanket under the shade of one of Central Park’s mature trees, dip your feet and splash around in the creek or just people watch.
5565 N. 51st St., Boulder
Admission: $4 for ages 3-18, $7 for ages 19-59, $5 age 60+
Hours vary; check website for details. bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/boulder-reservoir
Just because we’re in a landlocked state doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the beach. The Boulder Reservoir offers a swim beach in addition to boat and stand-up paddleboard rentals all summer long; adventures of all sorts await. Amenities include bathrooms, showers and a full cafe serving more than standard boardwalk fare, featuring items like French toast, a Rueben and a grilled veggie and avocado salad, as well as kid-favorite hamburgers and ice cream.
Meadow Music with Jeff and Paige
Chautauqua Green on 9th Street and Baseline Road, Boulder
Mondays in June: 4, 11, 18, 25; July: 2, 9, 23, 30; and Aug.: 6, 13; Hikes at 5:30 p.m., concerts at 6 p.m.
Jeff Kagan and Paige Doughty are the couple behind Jeff and Paige, the award-winning duo whose Meadow Music series is entering its 14th season. Parents and kids alike will delight in songs that teach important lessons about ecology using engaging lyrics, catchy tunes, dancing, props and costumes. Meadow Music is best enjoyed with a picnic dinner. Arrive by 5:30 p.m. to head out for a group hike and get all the wiggles out before the concert begins at 6 p.m.
Nature Drop-in Programs at Boulder Public Library Main Branch
Creekside West, just west of the Boulder Main Library bridge, on the south side of the creek. Parking is available at Boulder Main Library: 1001 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder
June 4-Aug. 13: Mondays from 9-11 a.m. and Wednesdays from 1-3 p.m.
Sponsored by Boulder’s Open Space and Mountain Parks Department, the Nature Drop-in Program offers an opportunity for young explorers to discover nature in an unstructured setting, alongside their peers. A staff member will bring tools like magnifying glasses or bug nets and set up a teepee, but parental supervision is required.
Pearl Street Mall
Pearl Street, between 11th and 15th streets, Boulder
The splash pad is the perfect place to beat the heat for kids and kids at heart. On weekdays, younger children can ride the Tebo train, which leaves from the Wells Fargo Bank at 13th and Pearl. Those with allowance money burning a hole in their pocket will want to check out Into the Wind, Liberty Puzzles, Rocket Fizz, Boulder Book Store or Clothes Pony and Dandelion Toys. Don’t miss Wednesday evenings between June 6 and Aug. 8 when Bands on the Bricks features live music with a beer garden for the grown-ups.
Valmont Bike Park
3160 Airport Road, Boulder
This world-class public park boasts 42 acres of trails with varied, unpaved terrain. Designed jointly by the cycling community and Boulder’s Parks Department, it features miles of trails suitable for everyone from riders on training wheels to elite racers, as well as a playground, restrooms and drinking fountains. The only downside is its appeal — beware of weekend crowds.