Boulder with Tweens: A Perfect Family Day

by Cathleen Shaffer, an AOL Travel ContributorPosted Oct 11th 2010 05:21 AM

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Boulder with Tweens: A Family Vacation

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Boulder, Colo., is located about 30 miles northwest of Denver. Named for the large boulders in the area, it is known as a uniquely march-to-your-own-drummer kind of town. The town melds students, high-tech types, the artsy crowd, intellectuals, and anything in-between quite well. A visit to Boulder with tweens can be a great adventure. This is a very eco-conscious, green and open space city, and everyone who lives and works here appears to thrive in the outdoors, especially with the popular sport and mode of transportation - bicycling. Our family with tweens (ages 10 and 12) decided to join the Boulder crowd for a family vacation day. We highly recommend the following tried and true activities in Boulder with tweens.


Morning


Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse

The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was a gift from Boulder's sister city, Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The Persian teahouse was actually sent to Boulder in crates in 1990 and erected in its present location on 13th Street with help from Tajik artists. It is totally authentic, complete with ornate hand carvings and painted decoration, just as it would be sitting in Tajikistan. We had heard about the teahouse and its 70 kinds of tea, among other specialties. We thought it sounded like the perfect way to start our Boulder family travel, so we headed there first thing in the morning.

Although busy, it has a very relaxing vibe. There is a huge fountain that is mesmerizing and breakfast items beyond the norm abound. We had pan-seared salmon, eggs Benedict, orange foccacia French toast, and homemade granola with yogurt and fruit. All our choices were terrific (a little higher price than we are used to paying for breakfast, but heck, we were on vacation). They are open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, 1770 13th St, Boulder, Colo., 303-442-4993; Sun-Thu 8AM-9PM, Fri-Sat 8AM-9PM

Boulder Creek Path

We brought our bikes along and headed over to the Boulder Creek Path, an unbelievable 16-mile nature path that goes through the city, complete with bridges and underpasses so you don't have to cross any streets. This is one of the best things to do in Boulder with tweens. The path goes through the Colorado University campus and through city parks that include sites such as the Boulder Creek Stream Observatory where you can feed trout with food from a vending machine.

Along the route are fishing ponds (where kids under 12 can fish for free), Central Park, where you can see a restored steam locomotive, and Elephant Buttresses, where you can watch rock climbers. This Boulder family vacation idea offers even more things to do depending on time constraints. The path starts at 55th Street and Pearl Parkway and all activities on the path are free.

Boulder Creek Path, 55th St and Pearl Pkwy, Boulder, Colo., 303-413-7200


Afternoon


Banjo Billy's Bus Tour

We don't usually do the "touristy" thing, but the kids kept seeing this tour bus/cabin looking vehicle around town and were dying to see what it was all about. Turns out it was Banjo Billy's Bus Tour, a rather unusual mode of transportation, and one of the best family vacation ideas in Boulder with tweens. It's a bus that looks like a log cabin with easy chairs, disco balls and some saddles, along with other weird stuff hanging inside. We took the 90-minute tour that, with great humor, explains some of Boulder's history and lore. Tours leave from the Boulderado Hotel at the corner of 13th and Spruce, and you can call for tour times and reservations. Ticket prices range from $10-$20.

Banjo Billy's Bus Tour, 4525 Martin Dr, Boulder, CO 80305; 720-938-8885

National Center for Atmospheric Research

The National Center for Atmospheric Research is a lot more interesting than it sounds. You need to set aside about two hours to see it all, but it is a really engaging family vacation idea. This large pink building sits on top of Table Mesa in the southwest foothills. You can see the city of Boulder from the commanding view at the top. Scientists at the Center study atmospheric conditions such as wind shears and the greenhouse effect, utilizing weather balloons, computer monitors, satellites, and robots.

There are many interactive weather exhibits and you and your tweens can take a guided tour or a self-guided tour. There is an outside interpretive trail, along with a gift shop and theater. Admission is free.

National Center for Atmospheric Research, 3090 Center Green Dr, Boulder, CO 80301; 303-497-1000


Evening


Pearl Street Mall

Pearl Street Mall is, more-or-less, the downtown area of Boulder. This four-block pedestrian mall is a hit with tweens in Boulder, as it is far more interesting than your typical mall. Besides the usual stores, there are a lot of unusual privately owned shops that cater to the college and tourist crowd.

You will see street entertainment in the form of mimes and musicians, and "people watching" is entertainment in itself. The area is lined with trees, benches, coffee shops, food cart vendors, and restaurants. Many of the restaurants have outside seating and the food choices are endless. We all found some very weird tee shirts, and sat outside on a bench with lattes and fruit shakes to ponder dinner.

Downtown Boulder, 1942 Broadway, Ste 301, Boulder, CO 80302; 303-449-3774; Mon-Fri 8:30AM-5PM

Jax Fish House

We all love fish, so this was a no-brainer. Countless locals told us, "This is the place." Jax Fish House flies in fresh fish daily from the East and West coasts and you can eat inside, outside, or at the bar.

All I wanted was a plateful of raw oysters, but the decision was harder than I thought, as I never knew so many kinds of oysters existed. I ordered oysters with some hot sauce on the side and was set.

The place was hopping and we could see why. The Mississippi catfish was outstanding, the halibut superb, and my oysters were some of the best I have ever eaten.

Our stomachs were full and our family travel in Boulder with tweens was filled to the max. It was a perfect day.

Jax Fish House, 928 Pearl St, Boulder, Colo., 303-444-1811; Dinner nightly at 4PM
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