Family hiking at Bear Lake at Rocky Mountains National Park. (Photo: Margaret Wiktor, Shutterstock).

Over the past year, a lot of fun outings and events have been put on pause. But the pandemic has taught us how to adapt, and have fun in a safe, socially distanced fashion. Now, as summer approaches, the warmer weather and extended daylight makes it even easier to enjoy Colorado’s great outdoors, and to do so in a safe way. Also, with the widespread rollout of vaccines, events and attractions are making comebacks in summer 2021, while incorporating social distance protocols.

Here are nine fun, safe and socially distant ways to enjoy the greater Boulder County area this summer.

Go for a Camping Trip
An overnight stay amid the trees may be just what you need to relieve all that Zoom fatigue. Scheduling a family camping trip can be a great way to unplug and reconnect with nature. Thankfully, Colorado’s backyard has plenty of great campgrounds to pick from. Many park services have already opened up campsite reservations for summer 2021, so now is a good time to plan that trip given the rise in popularity of camping amid COVID-19.

For a glamping type of experience, head to Golden Gate Canyon State Park in Golden, where you can book cabins and yurts with a two-night stay minimum. The park also has tent sites, backcountry tent sites, and sites with electrical hook-ups that accommodate RVs and campers. The park is a favorite for wildlife photographers. Plus, there are several stocked fishing ponds, trails for mountain biking, and dog-friendly hiking trails to keep the whole family (Fido included) entertained.

Another great campsite to put on the bucket list is Pawnee Campground, which is just five miles west of Ward and has a total of 47 campsites for tents, campers, trailers or RVs. The campground is near Brainard Lake and campers here can enjoy the hiking trails that wind through the scenic Indian Peaks Wilderness.

For intrepid types who are up for a challenge, you can conquer a 14er (Longs Peak!) and then slumber at the base of it at Longs Peak Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. There are 26 tent-only sites in the small, forested campground.

Pro tip: Prep for your camping trip with a stop at Neptune Mountaineering, which has tents, down sleeping bags, and cookware for campfire cooking.

Make a Splash at Water World
Water World is one of the country’s largest family water parks, with 50 unique attractions spread out over 64 acres. The water slides, wave pool, lazy river and other attractions are reopening for summer 2021. Because the park will be operating at limited capacity, guests will be required to purchase tickets and select a visit date and scheduled arrival window in advance and online. Only a limited number of tickets will be available daily at the park ticket windows. The water park’s surf simulator will make you feel like you’re on a beach vacation.

Take a Hike
Open Space and Mountain Parks’ 155 miles of trails provides lots of opportunities for hiking in Boulder. A favorite are the network of trails in Chautauqua Park. With a variety of trails in the park that vary in distance and elevation gain, you can tailor a hike for your family. Afterwards, bring some yard games and enjoy a picnic in the park.

Enjoy a Backyard Movie Night
Grab some movie snacks and pop some popcorn and enjoy an outdoor movie night in your own backyard. If you want to make this a regular summer night ritual, you’ll need to do a little upfront investing by purchasing an outdoor projector. (Pro tip: Pay attention to the “throw distance” which is how far the projector needs to be from the screen). You’ll also want an outdoor projector screen (or other flat surface) that you can project films onto and an outdoor speaker system. Just add comfy seating and blankets.

Visit the Butterfly Pavilion
A vacation to the tropics may be out of the picture this summer. But, you can visit a tropical oasis in … Westminster. Here, you can walk among hundreds of monarch butterflies in the Butterfly Pavilion’s indoor tropical conservatory, Wings of the Tropics, hold the famous “Rosie the tarantula” and learn about the coral reef. The Butterfly Pavilion offers lots of kid-friendly programming as well.

Rocky Mountain National Park
Summer is a magnificent time to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. The wildflowers are blooming from late June to early August and the rivers and waterfalls are rushing with recent snow melt. The park has more than 355 miles of hiking trails. If you’re hoping to spot some wildlife, elk make appearances most frequently at dusk and dawn when they’re feeding. Bighorn sheep are commonly seen at Sheep Lakes from May through mid-August. And, moose frequent willow thickets along the Colorado River in the Kawuneeche Valley on the park’s west side.

The Shakespeare Festival
The beloved Shakespeare Festival will return in summer 2021 at the University of Colorado. Enjoy a performance under the stars at the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre. Festival organizers have adopted seating so that social distancing measures are in place. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will take place from June 18 to Aug. 15 and “The Odyssey” will take place from July 9 to Aug. 14. The limited two performances of “Pericles” is already sold out. Tickets are on sale at

Colorado Music Festival
Bring your family closer together through the experience of live music. The Colorado Music Festival offers a relaxed environment perfect for introducing your kids to the orchestra, with plenty of concerts to choose from that take place in the beautiful Chautauqua Auditorium. One of the particularly family-friendly shows, for instance, is a July 3 performance of “The Story of Babar,” which tells the tale of a little elephant’s rise from rags to riches and that includes a quirky Toy Symphony that includes noisemakers, kazoos and other toy instruments that are part of the orchestra. Some 2021 Festival highlights include the new Robert Mann Chamber Music Series, a week dedicated to orchestral music of the 21st century, world premiere music by Joan Tower, Joel Thompson, Hannah Lash, and Aaron Jay Kernis, seven live streamed concerts and more. Tickets for the 2021 season go on sale on April 20. Visit for more details.

The Denver Zoo
With more than 3,000 animals spanning 400-plus species, the Denver Zoo is worth a day trip (or many day trips!). New “up close look” experiences allow you to “buy out” a session for up to six people from your pod to enjoy an intimate experience with the zoo’s giraffes, llamas, sloths, porcupines, parrots, camels and more. Also, Stingray Cove is a new interactive experience that gives you the chance to touch and feed gentle stingrays as they swim, swoop and glide about in their 15,000-gallon habitat that they share with friendly bamboo and bonnet head sharks.

By Brittany Anas, Raised in the Rockies