Travel destinations sold out quickly this year—but never fear. Boulder County offers plenty of spontaneous outings for all ages.
By Janine Frank
If you weren’t one of the lucky ones who snagged a campsite or a mountain cabin this summer, you can still get outside and be active. Whether your crew enjoys animals, plants, exercise, education or all of the above, you can find endless engaging activities throughout Boulder County that require little to no planning. Even better? Many are free or inexpensive. Here are a few of our favorites.
Junkyard Social Club
Boulder’s most unique play space is part playground, part maker space, part coffee shop—something for everyone. The self-described “bodies-on” experience has immersive art displays, workshops and live entertainment. Drop-in play is on Tuesdays, Thursdays and some Saturdays. Read our profile on Junkyard Social Club
525 Frontier Ave, Unit A, Boulder junkyardsocialclub.org $10/child; $5/adult for drop-in play
St. Vrain River Tubing
There’s no better way to beat the summer heat than floating down a cool river in an inner tube. Grab your tube, sunscreen and safety gear and head to the St. Vrain River, which is easily accessed in Lyons or Longmont. A new half-mile float course with put-in and takeout points is available in Longmont just east of Main Street.
Bee Hugger Farm
This family-owned farm offers u-pick sunflowers and pumpkins (seasonal), pony rides, a petting/feeding zoo, fresh raw honey and other farm activities. Bring a picnic and enjoy life on the farm.
12590 Ute Highway, Longmont facebook.com/HoneyHarvestsHappiness Free admission, open seven days a week
Valmont Bike Park
From beginner terrain to expert technical features, this natural-surface bike park with 42 acres of trails is a hit for all ages. Valmont Bike Park is open every day from dawn to dusk unless the trails are too wet. Ages 12 and under should be accompanied by an adult.
3160 Airport Road, Boulder bouldercolorado.gov/locations/valmont-bike-park Free admission
Wild Bear Nature Center
Learn about mountain ecology at this year-round nature center that offers hands-on exhibits and plenty of events for everyone, including arts and crafts, fly-tying workshops, yoga in the woods, gardening, and more. You can also check out a Self-Guided Nature Adventure Kit and explore on your own.
20 Lakeview Drive, Unit 107, Nederland wildbear.org Free admission/fee for some workshops
My Nature Lab
Get up close and personal with amphibians and reptiles at this living classroom near downtown Louisville. Visit with snakes, bearded dragons, iguanas, turtles and more, Wednesdays through Sundays. This one’s indoors, so it’s a good rainy-day or beat-the-heat plan.
1100 Pine St., Unit B, Louisville mynaturelab.org $15 per person/free with membership
The Peoples’ Crossing Trailhead
Enjoy in-town convenience while taking in the beauty of rugged mountains at the mobility-friendly Peoples’ Crossing Trailhead. This location provides access to Boulder’s Red Rocks Trail network, which includes rock-scrambling opportunities. Dogs are allowed on leash, and a number of picnic tables are available.
101 Pearl St., Boulder bouldercolorado.gov/trailhead/peoples-crossing
A tried-and-true farm experience for the whole family, Sunflower Farm has been entertaining and educating visitors for 15 years. Interact with free-roaming animals, climb on farm equipment, scale a treehouse, swing with abandon and play in the huge sandbox. Picnicking is encouraged. Reservations are required for Farmfest public hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. most Saturdays and occasional Sundays. Check the website for details.
11150 Prospect Road, Longmont sunflowerfarminfo.com $17 per person
And here’s one more if you’re looking to get a little ways out of Boulder County.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary
Tigers, wolves, bears, leopards and prides of lions that have been rescued from illegal or abusive situations roam 789 acres of open natural habitats at this unique education center. Visitors can view the animals from a 1.5-mile-long elevated walkway, but the sanctuary is not a zoo. The sanctuary’s primary purpose is to rescue and rehabilitate the animals so they can live free from exploitation and abuse while educating people about the captive wildlife crisis.
2999 Co. Road 53, Keenesburg wildanimalsanctuary.org $50 for adults, $20 for seniors and children