Colorado is full of little mountain towns that bring surprise and wonder to those who are fortunate enough to stumble upon them. One of my favorite towns we found off the beaten path is Nederland, Colorado.
We had some help finding this town. Friends of ours moved to it years ago. If I remember their story correctly, they were driving their van across the country from the east coast. They were on a mountain road just west of Boulder, and they parked on the side of the road, at the top of their climb. It was dark, and they wanted to rest. When they awoke, they were parked by Barker Reservoir in Nederland, Colorado. The view was beautiful, the mountains reflecting in the water, and the town was quaint. They made this town their home.
Nederland, Colorado has grown over the years, but it remains a quiet and eclectic town. It is well worth visiting when in Colorado, at any time during the year.
How to get there
We like to enjoy a pleasant mountain drive into town, driving up from Boulder on Boulder Canyon Drive. It is a winding road with plenty of places to pull over if the locals are aggravated with your slow driving. (That’s not me ever!) You know you have arrived almost into town when you approach Barker Reservoir. It is a gorgeous view.
We often park in the main parking lot in front of the grocery store, the B&F Mountain Market. It is a small downtown area, so you can walk everywhere. By the way, the grocery store has clean restrooms and great snacks if you are going on a hike later in the day.
The Carousel of Happiness
Our biggest draw to Nederland is the Carousel of Happiness. Yes, a carousel. Believe it or not, we stumbled across the carousel BEFORE children, and it is so much fun! The Carousel of Happiness costs only $1 to ride, so it is a budget friendly activity for families in Colorado. Volunteers run most of the operations.
There is something pretty amazing and magical about riding a carousel as an adult, especially with your child next to you laughing along!
The Carousel of Happiness is located in the middle of town, the building next to the train car.
The Carousel of Happiness started with a veteran, Scott Harrison, who discovered the base to an old carousel while in Utah. Another buyer had purchased the animals that had been on the base, so the base was left with no home. Mr. Harrison was a resident of Nederland, and he brought the base home with him. Over twenty-six years, he hand-carved all the animals that are now on it. The animals on the carousel are truly unique. Our favorites are the mermaid, the rooster and the cheetah!
With the fundraising help of the community, the building that houses the carousel was built. The building and the carousel have accommodations for everyone, including a wheelchair ramp and benches. You will have to wear your seatbelt, adults included! The ride is a respectable length of time and well worth the $1 admission price.
Carousel of Happiness 20 Lakeview Drive Nederland, CO 80466
Nederland, Colorado used to have very limited restaurants. Over time, the place has grown significantly. My favorite family-friendly restaurants are listed below:
Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse
We enjoy the pizza place just across the road from the Carousel of Happiness, Crosscut Pizzeria & Taphouse. Their Greek salad is fantastic, and they can customize any pizza for picky little eaters. If you are up for something unique, try their rosemary ham on a pizza. It is delightful and interesting. There are also plenty of delicious Colorado beers to choose from while enjoying your pizza. They have outdoor seating for a sunny day or if you have the family dog with you.
The Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt Company
After you finish riding the carousel and have lunch, I highly suggest going next door to The Train Cars Coffee and Yogurt Company. The atmosphere is unique, inside of a real train car. They also serve lunch items if you are looking for a one stop shop.
My recommendation is to order the mini-donuts topped with all the ice cream sundae toppings. It will not disappoint! They also have coffee, tea, shakes and smoothies.
The Mountain People’s Co-op Grocery Store
This store has soup, sandwiches and homemade baked goods, in addition to other essential grocery items. It is a little gem found on 1st Street, also walking distance from the center of town if you park at the B&F grocery store lot.
The Deli at 8236
This deli is located on 1st street in Nederland. It has the best Italian sub sandwich. They also have soups and salads that are quite popular. This is an affordable option, and the sandwiches are great for hikes and picnics.
This reservoir supplies water to the city of Boulder. However, it is just on the edge of the town of Nederland. There is a playground located here, so it is a fantastic spot to have a picnic with the kiddos when passing through. Also nearby is the skate park. Dogs are not allowed at the skatepark, but they are allowed at the park around the reservoir.
Eldora Mountain Ski Resort
If you are skiing in Colorado, you may want to try out Eldora Mountain Ski Resort, which is just outside of Nederland.
Frozen Dead Guy Days
If you are in Nederland in March, you may want to check out Frozen Dead Guy Days. It is a party. It may not be 100% young child friendly. Frozen Dead Guy Days started as a tribute to Grandpa Bredo Morstoel. His body is cryogenically frozen in a Tuff Shed. Apparently, he was hoping science would catch up and cure him of the heart disease that killed him. There are coffin races, polar plunges, music, food, and beer.
This is a large music and arts festival held in Nederland every year during the last weekend in August. It is a three day outdoor event with a variety of musical genres.
Take your family to one of Colorado’s cutest little mountain towns and at the very least, ride The Carousel of Happiness! You can spend the entire day in Nederland, Colorado, or you can stop and enjoy lunch and a quick ride on the carousel while passing through. It is a fun, eclectic mountain town showcasing fun finds off the beaten path in Colorado the whole family can enjoy.