The Pearl Street Mall. Photo by Flickr user Pedro Szekely

Things To Do In Boulder When Your Family Visits


It’s easy to take a place for granted when you live in it every day. But take a moment to remember the magic that drew you to Boulder to begin with. Now, share that.

Whether you’re a University of Colorado student or Boulderite (or one of the rare, endangered Boulder natives), it’s inevitable your family will want to come visit. Boulder’s tourism continues to boom, and for good reason. The mountains are stunning, the people are friendly and the weather is perfect.

The next time the in-laws, grandparents, ‘rents or cousins come to stay, we’ve got your back. Here are the best things to do in Boulder when your family visits.

The Pearl Street Mall. Photo by Flickr user Pedro Szekely
The Pearl Street Mall. Photo by Flickr user Pedro Szekely

Things To Do

The obvious starting point is downtown, wandering the Pearl Street Mall. Pop into the many locally owned downtown businesses, from the most fashionable shops that you know and love to some of the newer stores you might not have visited yet.

If you have young visitors, there’s a ton of kid-friendly fun in downtown. In warmer weather, kids love to splash in the pop-jet fountain on the mall. When it’s colder, look for a free kiddie train with a holiday angle (and Santa is known to hang out on the mall).

But the family fun is not limited to downtown. There are exciting activities inside (like the Fiske Planetarium, Boulder Public Library and several high-caliber museums, like the new Museum of Boulder) and outside (like great parks, festivals, pools, bike paths and family-friendly hiking trails). Check out the Ultimate Guide to Family Fun in Boulder and pick the activities that best suit your visitors’ interests and abilities.

If your family members are older or have limited mobility, Boulder is still a blast. Although Boulder has a reputation for being an athletic mecca, the community cares about being inclusive and makes an effort to have handicap-accessible trails, overlooks, patios, rooftop decks, restaurants, hotels, you name it. Here are some of our favorite things to do with people who are handicapped or have mobility limitations. Our top pick: taking in the jaw-dropping views from Panorama Point.

A view of Boulder from the the Gregory Canyon trail. Photo by Flickr user Rob Lee
A view of Boulder from the the Gregory Canyon trail. Photo by Flickr user Rob Lee

In fact, if views are what your guests are after, serve them up big. We’ve compiled a list of where to go for the best views in Boulder, from the expected (Flagstaff Mountain) to some lesser-known gems (the rooftop of a specific parking garage in downtown). For a different kind of tour with unforgettable views, consider experiencing Boulder from the sky in a hot air balloon, airplane, helicopter or glider.

A bridge on the CU campus. Photo by Flickr user Max and Dee Bernt
A bridge on the CU campus. Photo by Flickr user Max and Dee Bernt

CU students will want to tour campus with their family. Here’s a closer look at the campus and the best things to do there. University Hill is an extension of that; browse our guide to The Hill and pick your favorite way to spend an afternoon.

For more ideas on what to do with your family in Boulder, browse our Ultimate Guide of Things to Do in Boulder. It covers everything, from beer to some creative day trips nearby.  

Think you’ve seen and done it all? Think again. We bet you haven’t done all of these unique and unusual things to do in and around Boulder.

Where to Eat 

Food at Bartaco. Courtesy photo

After working up an appetite shopping in downtown, grab lunch or dinner at one of the best Pearl Street restaurants. Boulder is truly a foodie paradise, with restaurants for every kind of budget and every kind of taste buds.

Traveling with your parents? Here’s where you should take them out to eat.

Got kids at your table? Here are the best family-friendly restaurants in Boulder.

If your goal is to impress your relatives, reserve a table at the fancy Flagstaff House, where the fine dining is as amazing as the views overlooking Boulder.

Red, red wine. Courtesy photo

Not to mention Flagstaff House is known for its impressive wine selection. Not saying everyone who’s hanging out with family necessarily needs a glass of wine to survive, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt. On that note, peep our guide on the many different ways to enjoy wine in Boulder County.

Where to Stay

The Bradley Boulder Inn. Courtesy photo

Where you stay depends on what you need. If it’s a modern hotel with a pool, the new Embassy Suites by Hilton near the Twenty Ninth Street Mall is convenient. If it’s a cozier, intimate B&B, you’ll love the Boulder Bradley Inn.

If you are traveling with kids, consider one of the more family-friendly hotels in the area (the Bradley is adults only). There’s even a nearby hotel with a water slide.

The quintessential Boulder experience is to stay in the historic Hotel Boulderado, right in downtown. If your fam loves history, opt for one of the Victorian-style rooms in the older wing of the hotel.

Inside the Missions House Lodge at the Colorado Chautauqua. Photo courtesy pf the Colorado Chautauqua Association

In warmer months, we recommend renting a cabin (or block, depending on how many visitors you have) at the historic Colorado Chautauqua. These historical buildings are right at the base of the Flatirons, with easy access to some of Boulder’s best trails, a restaurant, convenience store, auditorium with entertainment, a ranger cottage staffed by outdoor experts and more. Plus, it’s nice to have your own private cabin to retreat to at the end of the day, and then gather back together with family in the common spaces in the morning, when the next adventure awaits.

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