The Tebo Train on Pearl Street Mal
The Tebo Train on Pearl Street Mall. Photo by Ann Duncan

Experience Downtown Boulder With Your Kids


Downtown Boulder is made for families. Here are eight the best ways to experience it with your little ones. Pick one destination or combine your favorites to fill your summer with family-friendly fun.

Pearl Street Mall
A play sculpture on the mall. Photo by Jim Heckel

Boulder’s Ultimate Guide to Family Fun

This article is part of a larger series. To see all the articles in this Ultimate Guide, click here.

1. Get Active

When your kids’ energy seems to be ricocheting off the ceiling, bring them outside, where there is no ceiling. Downtown Boulder is a great place to get the wiggles out, because it’s already hoppin’ (so no one will scold your child for giggling too loudly), it has play structures (including educational maps built into the bricks) for kids to climb on but, unlike a park, it’s also just steps away from food, drinks and bathrooms (three factors that can light the time bomb fuse of a toddler).

Along the mall on different blocks, you will find rocks and funny statues set up just for kids.

And when hunger strikes, quickly pop into Pizza Colóre for an immediate slice that you can eat on the courthouse lawn. No table manners required.

Pearl Street busker
A busker dog on the Pearl Street Mall. Photo by Jim Heckel

2. Watch Free Entertainment

You never know what entertainment you will discover on the Pearl Street Mall. Every day is a different roll of the dice. You may see fire-breathers, a man who plays the piano upside-down, a contortionist, guitar players, steampunk bands — this is just the beginning. There are sometimes Tin Man-style statue people, a person dressed up like a huge shaggy dog or dancers. They all perform for free on the mall, although if you want to stop and enjoy the show, it’s polite to leave a tip. Kids especially love the balloon artist who stations outside of Peppercorn, 1235 Pearl St.

Pearl Street Fountain
A girl plays in the Pearl Street fountain. Photo by Aimee Heckel

3. Find the Water

Arguably the most popular downtown hotspot for kids is the pop jet fountain in front of the courthouse. It’s a series of spurting mini geysers shooting water up from the ground that kids can play in June through September. Parents can grab a comfy spot on the nearby lawn and watch without getting wet.

Boulder Creek is also a short walk from downtown. In warmer weather, if the run-off isn’t too high, you can drift down the creek on a tube or splash on the banks in the shallower sections. If you don’t want to get wet, rent a bike from Full Cycle or University Bicycles and ride it along the creek pathway. End the day by relaxing in the grass while listening to the water bubble by.

4. Have Fun With Words

The Boulder Public Library, whose main branch is located next to the Boulder Creek, is so much more than shelves of books. Teens can hang out in the special teen area on the second floor, with music, iPads, games, coffee, tea, crafts and more.

The library also holds regular family-friendly activities, like storytimes and a Family Play Festival every fall. During the fest, the library is lined with different stations for kids to read, write, sing and get creative, while possibly winning some prizes along the way.

Another cozy place to read a book is the three-level Boulder Book Store, which carries more than 100,000 books and often holds book readings and signings with well-known authors.

Pasta Jay's
Pasta Jay’s on Pearl Street is great for families. Photo by Jim Heckel

5. Taste Boulder

Downtown Boulder has some delicious, family-friendly restaurants, including rich, garlicky (you can smell it a block away) Pasta Jay’s, 1001 Pearl St. This rustic, red-and-white-checkered-tablecloth Italian restaurant has a few tables on a narrow, outside patio, which are the best for families.

Another way to get a taste of Boulder is at the Farmers Market, which has been named the best one in the country. Visit Saturday morning or Wednesday afternoon, enjoy some free samples and get a dish to eat at the nearby Central Park, while listening to free live music. This is ideal for picky kids or groups that can’t decide on one type of food to eat. Everyone can get what they want.

4. Go For a Ride

Hop aboard the Tebo Train in warmer months. This free kiddie train (OK, parents can ride, too) chugs up and down Pearl Street between 10-11:15 a.m. Mondays through Thursdays. It’s a fun way to check out the shops on the mall and ideal to rest tiny legs if they’re getting weary and need a break.

Hitch a lift outside the Wells Fargo building, 1242 Pearl St.

For another kind of ride, older kids may enjoy renting a bike from B-cycle. These red bikes are easy to rent 24/7 at docking stations throughout town. Grab a bike, ride until you’re done and return it at the closest station.

Into the Wind
Into the Wind on the Pearl Street Mall. Photo by Jim Heckel

6. Go Fly a Kite

One of the best shops on Pearl Street happens to be a kite store, Into The Wind. Here, you can find some crazy, amazing kites that you can buy and then take to the nearby open lawn near the Boulder Creek to test. Of course, if the weather is cooperating.

Downtown Boulder has a handful of excellent parks: Central Park, Barker Park and the Evert Pierson Kids’ Fishing Pond, for starters. Many are too tree-packed for kite-flying, although their shade is a welcome relief after an active day in the heat of summer.

7. Treat Your Sweet Tooth

If you want a sugar buzz, downtown is your place. It’s lined with ice cream shops, including Ben & Jerry’s, Fior di Latte, Häagen-Dazs Ice Cream Shop and, for a healthier option, Smooch Frozen Yogurt and Mochi.

Peace, Love and Chocolate
The beautiful exterior of Peace, Love and Chocolate in Boulder. Photo by Jim Heckel

Piece Love and Chocolate and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory both specialize in (you guessed it) chocolates. They can cure a chocoholic fix, as well as make great gifts for just about anyone.

Many coffee shops also carry sweets, pies and cookies, but a local favorite is Spruce Confections, where you can find cakes, cupcakes and artisan coffee to wash it down.

Rocket Fizz
A Spiderman outside of Rocket Fizz. Photo by Aimee Heckel

Or if you want to go straight for the candy, Rocket Fizz (in the 1400 block of Pearl) is a  kiddie favorite. This is an old-fashioned candy store, with thousands of types of candy, plus a wide assortment of bottled sodas. And not just Coke. Oh, no. We’re talking bacon soda with chocolate, ranch dressing soda, PBJ soda, pumpkin pie soda, gourmet chocolate and banana soda, birthday cake soda and dozens more that you would barely believe exist.

8. Chill Under the Stars

A unique way to experience downtown is a movie under the sky. Every Saturday in July and August, the Boulder Outdoor Cinema shows movies in a space behind the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art on 14th Street. Food trucks line up and the show starts with an opening band. Bring a blanket or chair and enjoy this family-friendly activity that’s been a Boulder tradition since 1995. See the film line-up online at

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