In Field Trip Ideas, PE, Thrifty Living

The Solution

This year, I decided that we were going to unplug and reconnect as a family. I decided to find as many free or nearly free fun summer kids activities in Northern Colorado that can be done without much planning.

Each of the places I recommend are places that my family has enjoyed.

The Problem

At the beginning of summer break, our family is often worn out by all the activities that took place at the end of the school year. Yes, even homeschooling families can get caught having excessively full schedules.

It’s so easy to allow endless access to TV and mobile devices. In my experience, the devices quickly take over and become part of our routine. The kids want to little else and even crave it. Their behavior goes down the tubes, too.

We’ve been there, done that.

In the past, I let this happen because it was easy. Before I knew it, it was August again. After sharing their summer adventures, people asked us what we did for fun all summer. Telling people that all we did was stay home watching TV and playing video games was embarrassing.


Sunrise over Lake Loveland Copyright Becky Gardner 2017

Lake Loveland: Free


Lake Loveland is a private lake, except for the swim beach, which is leased to the City of Loveland and open to the public as long as a life guard is on duty.
Hours of Operation: the lake is generally open 10 AM to 5 PM daily Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are times when the weather doesn’t cooperate or their staff isn’t available. Some exceptions include setting up for Fireworks July 3 and 4. You can call ahead at (970) 962-2727

Safety: The water is tested for E.coli weekly. When the levels are too high, the beach will close until it is safe. During a closure, the water is tested frequently.

Children under 6 years old must be within arm’s reach of a responsible adult while in the water.

Dogs are not allowed on the beach or in the water.

Swim only within the buoys, otherwise you’re trespassing and putting your life at risk. The lake owners have the right to use their boats and other vessels outside the buoys.

If you’re bringing a large group of children, particularly day care children, you must call ahead to (970) 962-2445.

Amenities: There are public bathrooms. Usually, there are food vendors there. Of course, I always bring my own food and my essential oil based hand sanitizer.

The beach is generally clean and the sandy floor is mostly sand, unlike some lakes that have rocks and other safety concerns.


Windsor Lake: Free

Location: Boardwalk Park, 100 N. 5th Street, Windsor, CO

This is a great place to swim, boat (motorized and unmotorized), and open to the public. Swimming is free while boating is not.

Hours of Operation: Daylight hours.

Safety: Swim at your own risk. There is NO lifeguard on duty.

Children under 9 must be supervised by a responsible adult 16 and older. Swim diapers are requested for children not potty trained.

Swim only in the buoys. Dogs must be on a leash and may not swim at the swim beach. There is a separate swim area for dogs at the Windsor Lake Dog Park.

The water is tested for E.coli weekly. The test results are available here.

Amenities: Public restrooms and a snack shop are available. When we were there, Kona Ice had a truck there, too. You can rent paddle boats, aqua trikes, kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards when you get there. All other boating is by permit and reservation. You can also go fishing for free with license.
The beach and swim areas were both less crowded and larger than Lake Loveland swim beach when we’ve gone.

Cooling off at the Park

If you are looking for something that takes less planning than swimming, but still want to enjoy water features, you’re in luck. All the places I’ll tell you about have playgrounds with nearby water features, pavilions with picnic benches (some can be reserved while others are designated for drop in use only at each location), and have bathroom facilities.

Fairgrounds Park & Sprayground: Free

700 S. Railroad Avenue – Loveland, CO (the old Larimer County Fairground)
This park has a lot of features. Our favorite is the sprayground with the adjacent playground and drop in pavilion. The Big Thompson River flows near the playground and I’ve often seen people fishing and wading there, as well. I definitely recommend keeping an eye on kids near the river as it is not cordoned off.

Park hours: Memorial Day through Labor Day 9 AM to 7 PM daily.

Loveland Sports Park & Sprayground: Free

950 N Boyd Lake Avenue – Loveland, CO

This is another park with a lot of features. Of course, our favorite are the sprayground and playground.

Hours of Operation: It’s important to note that this park is generally closed during the winter to prevent damage to the fields, especially during snowy and icy weather. The sprayground is open 9 AM through 7 PM Memorial Day through Labor Day, except when the equipment maintenance is taking place.

When you arrive, if you notice the sprayground is not spraying water, please go to the retaining wall. There is a yellow and red sensor that will activate the water features with the wave of a hand.

Mehaffey Park Water Feature Draining Loveland Colorado- Copyright Becky Gardner 2017

Mehaffey Park: Free

3285 W. 22nd Street – Loveland, CO 80538

This is a huge 64 acre park with 2 entrances. The address I provided is the south entrance, which will take you directly to the park with the waterfall, which cycles on for 20 minutes and cycles off for 10 minutes. This is my kids’ favorite park along with Dwayne Webster Park (doesn’t have a water feature).

The playground equipment is great for the whole family. They have a 4 person see-saw (“we-saw”) that adults can use with their kids. There are other swings and equipment that can be used by teenagers and adults comfortably.

Those are our favorite recreational sites in Northern Colorado. In the next post, I’ll share with you some of my other more “academic” artsy places to go.

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One of our kids’ favorite toys for the lake is a raft

A classic game: marshmallow wars with homemade marshmallow guns. Get your kit here

We like to take water play a little further by adding squirt guns

Do you have a favorite place to take the kids to beat the heat in Northern Colorado? Please share in the comments below. I’d love to hear what your family likes to do!

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Showing 4 comments
  • Hailey

    Hey there

    Thanks for the great information!
    Its currently school holidays here in Australia and I know how hard it it to entertain kids! They can’t wait to finish school but the minute they do its Im bored!

    Although I have no plans of bringing them to Colorado in the near future, you have given me some great ideas for the summer holidays so I can start looking and planning things to do!

    Thanks for the read!


    • Becky

      Hi Hailey,

      You’re welcome! Though you’re not visiting Colorado or even the USA, perhaps you’ll find some places that are similar in your area to keep your kids occupied in the hottest weather.

      My kids pull the, “I’m bored,” card, too. I often give kids the options to use their imaginations or do chores when they are bored. I don’t believe in scheduling things all the time. I believe feeling bored is ok. I like to sprinkle in the fun activities.

      Enjoy your holidays! I often wonder what Aussies do during their winter breaks because our winter break coincides with Christmas and New Years.


  • Paul

    Hi, Becky. Hope you’re having a relaxing summer. Homeschooling must be an enormous challenge. Finding activities for a bunch of overactive, energetic youngsters must be quite a task.

    Which age group is the most challenging to accommodate? I see that you spend a lot of time involved with swimming. What activities do you turn to when water quality is poor?

    Have you considered hiking and camping?
    What is the average size of your group?


    • Becky

      Hi Paul,

      Thank you for dropping by. There are times when homeschooling can be challenging. My kids aren’t immune to wanting to watch TV and play video games, so it’s important that I make the effort to get them away from those devices.

      We actually don’t spend a lot of time swimming. We do a variety of activities to keep the kids excited and enjoying their time. As a parent, I like to change thing up a bit. That’s why my next blog posts will be about visiting sculpture parks, free museums and hiking. I also have other adventures up my sleeve to share.

      When it comes to the average size of my group, it varies. Sometimes I make it just a family activity, other times we meet up with friends or family.

       All of the age groups are fun to work with and meet their needs at the places I go to. I allow my older kids to explore as they’re old enough to do so. I keep my younger kids closer so I can keep an eye on them.


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