As a parent, don’t think of wintertime as something you have to survive. Think of it as different adventures waiting to happen.
When the weather gets cold, it can be trickier to entertain your kiddos. You can’t just bring them to a playground and let them run their wiggles out for the whole afternoon, at least not without having to extract at least one tongue from a metal pole.
Luckily, Boulder is packed with indoor and outdoor entertainment all winter long.
Here are a few of our favorite family-friendly winter activities in Boulder.
1. Go Skiing at Eldora
While the city of Boulder doesn’t have its own ski area, Eldora is a short half-hour drive away. Because it’s closer (less traffic), more laid back and not as packed as other ski destinations, it’s great for families. All levels can go skiing, cross-country skiing, boarding and snowshoeing here. Learn all about planning an Eldora getaway here.
Snow-shoeing is also great for families on a budget. You still get out in nature. You still get to explore. Just at a slower pace. You can snow-shoe at Eldora or Eldorado Canyon State Park, to name a few places.
The cost of renting snowshoes depends on where you get them. Expect to pay about $12 a day. The real savings come from the fact that you don’t have to buy a lift ticket. You can snowshoe on any trails or even through the park.
2. Go Ice Skating
Right in the heart of downtown Boulder is one of the best places to go ice skating. Across from Central Park you’ll find a small ice rink. Rent skates here and skate all day, even late into the night. The rink is open until 10 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Winter Skate runs annually through mid-February.
3. See “The Nutcracker”
“The Nutcracker” ballet is a wintertime tradition for many people, and Boulder has its own version, produced by the Boulder Ballet. This professional dance company bands together with a full live orchestra for an impressive show every winter. See the show either with the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra or the Longmont Symphony on different days and at different locations in Boulder and Longmont.
4. Go Hiking
Yes, even in the winter, hiking in big in Boulder. Many trails stay open year-round and remain maintained (so you won’t even need showshoes) and safe to walk on. It’s always best to ask a ranger to help you pick a trail that’s best for you, and one that isn’t too muddy or icy. Better yet, sign up for a free guided hike offered through the city and learn about the nature that surrounds Boulder. You might follow animal tracks in the snow or learn about the trees and plant life in the area.
Here are some of our favorite winter hikes to try.
Marshall Mesa is an easy loop that’s appropriate for families, including your fur babies. Dogs on leash are welcome here.
5. Visit the Planetarium
Fiske Planetarium is a family-friendly fave year-round, but on those days when Jack Frost is a little too nippy, head to this magical, otherworldly dome where you can watch fun science and nature shows. Fiske offers everything from laser shows (maybe not for all kids) and shows about the stars, art, music and more.
6. Gaze at Holiday Lights
In the winter, the Pearl Street Mall comes to life with twinkling holiday lights. It’s fun to walk down the mall, pop into stores, grab a hot chocolate at Amante and play on the bricks under the canopy of party lights. On the mountains in the distance, see if you can spot the giant star made out of lights. It’s a Boulder tradition.
Stroll your way over to Central Park, where more than 220,000 lights transform the park into a colorful winter wonderland. The lights flip on every day at 4 p.m.
7. Go Sledding
It’s not winter in Colorado without hopping on a sled and flying down The Hill. Several of Boulder’s public parks also have great sledding hills when they’re covered in snow. Tantra Park and Scott Carpenter Park are among the most exciting.
8. Play Games
Pinball is huge in Boulder County. Lyons Classic Pinball is one of the state leaders in the revamping of this classic hobby. There’s also the fun year-round arcade at the Gateway Park Fun Center. Press Play is a bar where you can play pinball, arcades, air hockey, pool and more, if you’re craving a brew with your game.
9. Indulge in a Sweet Treat
Warm up with a sweet treat like handmade chocolate at Piece, Love and Chocolate or truffles from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory right on the Pearl Street Mall. Boulder County is actually home to a handful of local chocolatiers and shops, including big-names Chocolove, Lift Chocolate, Coco-Licious (which claims to have healthy chocolate) and Robin Chocolates. We’ve yet to meet a kid who didn’t want to visit a real-life Willy Wonka and taste his treats.
10. Play at the Museum
Here’s another for those days when you can’t play outside but your kids need to run around. Head to Lafayette’s World of Wonder Museum, where education meets entertainment. Kids can play dress-up on the stage, pretend to run a grocery store, do science experiments, make arts and crafts, play musical instruments and play in giant bubbles.
11. Cozy up at the Library
Boulder’s public library is so much cooler than an ordinary library. First, its children’s wing is cozy and fun and offers storytime reading all week long. Second, the library also often organizes special events and it even has a theater, healthy restaurant and art gallery inside. The main branch is right on Boulder Creek, too, so you could stay here all day.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these seven great indoor activities for families in Boulder County.