Best Museums in Boulder

Boulder's Best Museums Offer History, Art and Family Fun

With so many outdoor opportunities for adventure in Colorado, it can be easy to overlook its cultural opportunities. Boulder, a Front Range epicenter for the arts, history, entertainment, and family experiences, offers a variety of museums for science fanatics, history buffs, art lovers, and Old-West fanatics. 

For families the WOW! Children's Museum of Lafayette, Colorado is little but mighty. This adorable, cozy, and fun museum offers the perfect atmosphere for families with small children. Hands-on exhibits, a play area in the shape of a pirate ship, and a dress-up corner for pretend are the perfect ways to entertain the kiddos in a safe environment. 

For history enthusiasts, The Boulder History Museum offers opportunities to learn about the area's unique past, while the CU Heritage Center offers exhibits on the university's past and successful alumni. For lovers of art and the Old-West the Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art encourages learning through viewing dramatic sculptures. 

If science is the name of your game the Denver Nature and Science Museum provides dinosaurs, mummies, and a Discovery Zone for children. While in Colorado's capitol, you can also venture to the Denver Art Museum to experience exhibits like Matisse and Cartier diamonds. 

No matter what museum you choose, you're sure to find a unique and enriching experience. 


Longterm exhibits include the Longs Peak room with sweeping views of the mountains and a variety of activities for children along with Front Range Rising, which serves to educate about westward expansion and the settling of one of Colorado's most thriving areas. Discovery Days, hosted Wednesday-Friday, give families the opportunity to learn, do crafts, and explore a variety of themes. Art exhibits, festivals, and events come to the Cultural Center year-round. For those interested in improving their art techniques, Art Studio Adventure is held on various Saturdays for children ages 6-12. With so much to do and see, the Longmont Museum Cultural Center is a feast for the mind and senses.

Recommended for Museums because: An awesome museum for families, the Longmont Museum and Cultural center offers amazing exhibits and cultural events throughout the year.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to check out Discovery Days where children and parents can learn and do crafts together.

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Learn about the exciting aspects of the history, geology, botany, zoology, and anthropology of the Southwest and the Rocky Mountains at this university museum. Colorado's heritage is explored in exhibits about fur trappers, Native Americans, buffalo hunters, pioneers, miners, prospectors, and cowboys. View dinosaur fossils, including a triceratops head, as well as a sea turtle shell and Anazazi pottery. The gift shop is a perfect place to bring home something special from Boulder and many of the items found there are made by local artisans and craft-markers, so you can feel good knowing that you're supporting local business on your travels. Current exhibits include Unearthed: Ancient Life in Boulder Valley and Fossils: Clues to the Past.

Recommended for Museums because: The Museum of Natural History is the perfect stop for history buffs and lovers of the American Old-West.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to bring your camera for a photo-op with the Triceratops head.

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This non-profit contemporary arts center exhibits a wide array of current works by local, national, and international artists. Artwork runs the gamut from landscape painting to conceptual installations and everything in between. The multidisciplinary center houses a local theater company and is a venue for avant-garde musical and dance performances. Furthermore, some exhibits have even included artistic food creations to be sampled by the public and numerous live performances by artists. Special activities and workshops for young artists are also offered and teachers leading field-trips are given a special, reduced rate.

Recommended for Museums because: The Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art features revolving, unique exhibits, that have included paintings from local artists and culinary works of art.

Hope's expert tip: Don't miss the museum's musical and dance performances.

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Originally, this century-old home was the summer residence of a New York merchant. Today, it houses the Boulder Historical Society's extensive collection of photographs and historical documents, as well as permanent and changing exhibits that include a pre-electric Victorian kitchen, 19th century pharmacy, agricultural, mining and ranching tools, and an antique safety bike designed to keep a lady's skirt and bloomers out of the spokes. Lectures, classes, and special events are scheduled throughout the year. Wanna get out and about? Take the Boulder Creek Path History Tour and be sure to bring your bike or pets. If the little ones are in tow, bring them to the Discovery Room for hands-on history fun. Currently open by appointment only. Look for their new building and location coming in 2017!

Recommended for Museums because: The Boulder History Museum complete with tours and hands-on exhibits, the history museum will excite children and intrigue adults.

Hope's expert tip: Keep an eye out for the antique safety bike and pre-electric Victorian kitchen. Look for their new location in 2015.

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This university museum is located in Old Main, one of the oldest buildings on the CU campus. Seven galleries house exhibits that display 19th century student life, athletic trophies and photos, and the "Space Room" that features the space suits and artifacts of astronauts that graduated from CU. Additional galleries honor the achievements of distinguished alumni and house architectural models and renderings.The Heritage center also hosts a Tree Walk, where you can visit campus and learn all about the various flora and take the opportunity to familiarize yourself with some of the university's impressive architecture. "Hit the Bricks" is a unique way to experience Boulder's campus life and architecture. The display of LEGOs features campus staples like Mackey Auditorium, Fiske Planetarium, and Boulder's college district "The Hill." This display is completely free and utterly adorable.

Recommended for Museums because: The CU Heritage Museum details the rich history of Boulder's beloved university and featured suits and artifacts from alumni astronauts.

Hope's expert tip: Stop by the "Space Room" to view space suits and other astronaut accoutrements.

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Nederland Mining Museum

Just 20 minutes from North Boulder in the quirky and quaint town of Nederland, Colorado you'll find the Nederland Mining Museum. This historical landmark is home to artifacts and various equipment used during Nederland's mining era. There are also photographs from yesteryear, mineral samples, and maps that were used for mining purposes. This self-paced museum tour is a treat for adults and older children alike who love history, machinery, and want to know more about how this funky mountain town came into being. Conveniently located within walking distance of local shops, breweries, and dining, the Mining Museum is a great stop on your visit to the mountains.

Recommended for Museums because: Located a short drive up Boulder Canyon, the quirky mountain town of Nederland boasts the Mining Museum, perfect for those interested in mining history.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to check out the mineral deposit displays.

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Visit Colorado's stunning capitol for a day trip to the Denver Art Museum. This cultural hub will inspire and educate with a variety of exhibits from the early master painters to modern sculptures. Current exhibits include beautiful jewelry from Cartier as well as Matisse and Friends featuring some of Matisse's most influential works along with some of his colleagues paintings. A gift shop complete with stunning items will make for a special souvenir. For families, the Just For Fun children's center offers coming with crafts, art games, pottery, and dress up. After your visit, hit downtown Denver and enjoy all of the nightlife of this exciting city. Current exhibitions include "Creative Crossroads" The Art of Tapestry and "Grand Gestures" Dance, Drama, and Masquerade.

Recommended for Museums because: The Denver Art Museum offers world-class exhibits from an eclectic mix of artists including Matisse, Ted Williams, and the sparkling diamonds of Cartier.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to remember that the Denver Art Museum is Closed on Mondays but open throughout the rest of the week.

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WOW! Children's Museum
Photo courtesy of WOW! Children's Museum

This unique and pint-sized museum is a perfect way to spend the early morning or afternoon with your rug rats. Interactive displays such a bubble hoop that completely surrounds the participant in one, soapy, bubble along with a dress-up area and stage allow children to experiment and play. This intimate museum is perfect for toddlers and younger children who might otherwise be overwhelmed by the larger, city, museums. Not to mention, the entire exploration area is contained, which means your kiddo can explore safely. A pretend pirate ship complete with educational displays can be played in and on, a model train display runs with just the push of a button and much to the delight of everyone, and friendly staff are on-hand to assist she you have need.

Recommended for Museums because: This is the ultimate interactive museum perfect for toddlers and elementary school aged children. WOW! boasts colorful displays, exciting play areas, and a helpful staff.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to go early before the crowds arrive and look on their website for a variety of craft classes throughout the week.

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Leanin' Tree offers a feast for the eyes with magnificent western sculptures by Ed Trumble, who has been renowned for his exquisite art featured on many greeting cards since 1949. Walk the beautiful grounds as you take a journey through the old-west featuring cowboys, Native-Americans, and other visions of western Americana. Free to the public, this is an affordable and educational way to spend your day. Visitors can also view paintings of sweeping landscapes, dramatic tableaus, and an enchanting garden. Pay a visit to the gift shop where you can pick up some of the famous greetings cards for use year-round.

Recommended for Museums because: The Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art features Ed Trumble's gorgeous pieces celebrating the American West in an interactive and beautiful setting.

Hope's expert tip: Admission is free so this is an affordable and unique way to spend the day with your whole family.

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Travel back in time with the Egyptian Mummies exhibit or discover new and exciting facts about our earth and universe in the Discovery Zone! Denver's Museum of Nature and Science is the perfect day trip for a family with children of all ages. However, adults will find that there's plenty to hold their attention, including everyone's favorite, the dinosaur exhibit. A food court allows for quick meals between explorations or a lunch can be packed and enjoyed outside on the lawn while overlooking Colorado's beautiful capitol. A variety of Wildlife and Space exhibits are sure to capture the imagination, which the Native American exhibit, along with its intricate artifacts and displays, is sure to educate. Come ready to learn and to be amazed. Current expeditions include Gems and Minerals, North American Indian Cultures, and Wildlife Exhibits.

Recommended for Museums because: The Denver Nature and Science Museum comes complete with dinosaurs, mummies, and amazing exhibits for adults and children alike.

Hope's expert tip: Be sure to check the museum's IMAX listings and take the family to see one of their educational and cinematically spectacular nature films.

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Meet Hope Gately

Hope Gately should have a bumper sticker proclaiming "Not a Native...But I Got Here as Fast as I Could!" A transplant from the Midwest, Hope has fallen in love with Colorado's mountains playing...  More About Hope