Celestial Seasonings Tour Near Boulder

Celestial Seasonings is one of the largest tea makers in North America. It was merged (bought out) into the Hain Celestial Group in 2000. However, all the Celestial Seasonings teas are still made in the original factory near Boulder, Colorado.

celestial seasonings tourThere are free tours of Celestial Seasonings every day except major holidays. Tours leave on the hour and are first-come first serve. If you go during the week, you can usually just walk up and get on the next tour. On weekends, that may not be the case. The best way to avoid having to wait too long for your Celestial Seasonings tour is to show up near the half hour. That is, if you want to take the 11:00 am tour, show up before 10:30 am. Also, the people who missed the previous tour builds up as the day goes on, so if you get there early, you’ll be less likely to have to wait.

Go past the Tea Shop (gift shop) and straight to the tour desk to put your name down on the list. The tour ends in the Tea Shop, so don’t worry, you won’t miss it.

Celestial Seasonings Sampling

Once you have signed up for the tour, they will give you a cup and you can sample their teas. The tour desk is in the sampling room. There are five or six teas already sitting there ready for tasting (plus usually two around the other end of the counter that are iced teas). However, those aren’t the only teas you can sample. To sample other teas, you simply ask the workers behind the counter. They’ll pour some hot water into your tea cup and put in a bag. That way you can sample almost all of the Celestial Seasonings tea varieties.

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Free Celestial Seasonings Tour

They’ll announce the tour in the Celestial Seasoning taste test area. The tour starts with a 10 minute video about the company and a little of its history. Then, they pass out the hair nets. Since the tour goes through the actual production facility, all visitors have to follow health code rules including full hair nets. For super fun, and ridiculous pictures, visitors with beards have to wear beard nets as well.

The tour guides are generally pretty knowledgeable, so feel free to answer questions. The first stop is a look through the window into the Milling Room where they actually sift and chop the various ingredients that go into the tea.

Next up is a look at the large bins those ingredients are stored in. Then, there is a look into the Tea Room. As it turns out, the three most popular Celestial Seasonings teas have no tea in them at all. They are Sleepytime, Chamomile, and Peppermint. They are called Herbal Teas mostly because the public didn’t understand earlier names like “infusions.”

However, many of the varieties do contain actual tea. And tea, is absorptive. That means that if they left it out on the main floor with other ingredients it would absorb those flavors and smells. The fun part for tour takers is that the tea room smells wonderful since it is a closed room with no ventilation.

Mint, it turns out, is the opposite. Mint is invasive, giving off its flavor and smell to other things.As the tour guide says, if they left the mint out in the main area, they would have 80 varieties of mint tea. It seems that some people can handle strong mint smell, and others can’t. If you can, be sure to stand in the mint room. Your nasal passages will never be clearer. (Mint pulls water out of your body, so you’ll also be thirsty when you are done with the tour.)

Finally, the tour goes to the packaging area. It’s everything you would hope for in a modern manufacturing facility. Automated machines, robot arms, and conveyor belts rushing boxes of tea by.

The tour ends in the Tea Shop, which is a great little shop with tons of great little gifts in addition to most (if not all) Celestial Seasonings teas.

Celestial Seasonings Fast Lane

While you are in the Tea Shop look for the Fast Lane tea. Currently, it has a picture of three flying superhero types on the box. Fast Lane has more caffeine than a cup of coffee. The company claims that it is a smoother, more natural caffeine than others as well.

If you can’t remember ever seeing it on the shelf, you aren’t wrong. Fast Lane is sold on the CU Boulder Campus, in nearby Boulder, Colorado. According to the tour guide, they’ve canceled that variety a few times, and every time, they call up and beg them to bring it back. A¬†high-caffeine tea isn’t really what Celestial Seasonings is known for, so you can only get it on campus, or order it online. Of course, you can also get it straight from the manufacturer by buying it in the Tea Shop.

Getting There

The Celestial Seasonings manufacturing plant is just outside of Boulder, Colorado off of the Diagonal Highway (runs between Boulder and Longmont) and Jay Road. While you could theoretically get to there via public transportation, that would take a lot of time and effort. A cab ride from Denver (and maybe even Boulder) would be very expensive. So, this is a Denver day-trip that you’ll need a car to get to.

Don’t worry, there is plenty of free parking, and traffic is an non-issue unless it’s rush hour, or there is a major event like the Bolder Boulder or a CU football home game.

Estes Park Denver Day Trip

When most people think of Colorado, they think of mountains. The Rocky Mountains are visible from Downtown Denver and provide a handy navigational guide (they’re west). Although Denver sits along the front range and its weather is dominated by the mountains, the city isn’t really in the mountains. Many Denver visitors enjoy a trip into the mountains.

There are numerous choices for a mountain day trip. One popular and fund mountain day trip from Denver is Estes Park. Estes Park is a small community located right near Rocky Mountain National Park. Many park visitors use Estes, as it is known locally, as their base of operations when visiting RMNP, but it is a fun destination all on its own.

Getting to Estes Park from Denver

Estes Park is about an hour and a half drive from Denver. Of course, if you aren’t used to driving the winding, twisting mountain roads, it can take a little longer.

There are basically two ways to drive to Estes. The most common, and shortest, route is to to drive north on I-25 to the Boulder Turnpike (U.S. 36) and then up to Boulder, Colorado. Plenty of visitors enjoy a visit to Boulder, and its a good place to grab a bite to eat if you are hungry on the way up, or on the way down. Stay on Highway 36 (U.S. 36) through town and up to the north. Eventually, you’ll come to a T intersection. Head left through the town of Lyons.

Beware the speed limit in Lyons. Even though this part of town is little more than a single block wide spot in the road, they drop the speed limit on the highway down to 25 MPH and they mean it. There is little for the police here to do other than ticket speeders, so slow down, grit your teeth and remember that Lyons isn’t very big. Head right (north) through town and follow the winding road all the way into Estes Park.

If you prefer a more interstate heavy route, take I-25 all the way north to Loveland and then head west on Highway 34.

What To Do in Estes Park

There isn’t any particular thing you do in Estes Park. Remember, you come here for the beauty of the mountain area. That being said, Estes is a charming little mountain town. While there is a whole residential area on the eastern part of the town, most visitors will want to stick with quaint walking area on the western part of town.

Drive into town on Elkhorn Ave. and find a parking space anywhere. The larger public lots are city owned and free, with no time limit. If you make it up early in the day on the weekend or anytime during the week, you shouldn’t have too much trouble finding a spot. On busy weekend afternoons, you might have to circle a lot or tow and wait for someone to pull out, but it usually works out well.

The main attraction of Estes park is the line of shops along Elkhorn Avenue. This part of Estes sits on a mountain so that as soon as it ends, your heading up the side. Walking up is west, down is east.

There are plenty of tourist traps in here, along with the requisite “funny” T-shirt shops, but there are plenty of quaint little shops and interesting stores as well. What makes the walk so worthwhile is the eclectic mixture of shops ranging from clothing and rustic furniture and decorations to a handful of Christmas shops (open year round) and other specialty stores. Take your time and duck into any of the shops that pique your interest. Look for the Golden Leaf on the eastern (lower) end of town for a selection of nesting dolls bigger than any you’ve seen not in a place called “Little Russia.”

On your walk down (East) be sure to turn up Riverside Drive at the stop light and head toward the old movie theater. Right before you get there, look for a path that follows the river down the mountain. There are plenty of nice shops back along this way and a nice view of the river and mountainside across it as you go down. Work your way back up (if necessary) on the main Elkhorn road.

Eating in Estes Park

The other reason people loving going up to Estes is the food, but not necessarily the restaurants. Rather, Estes has more than its share of mom and pop sweets stores. You’ll find fresh saltwater taffy, homemade ice cream, multiple kinds of fudge, and more. A personal favorite, called Grandma’s near the west edge of town sells cookies (and more) made into sandwiches with a huge frosting middle. Get the snicker-doodle cookie sandwich.

You’re welcome.

Staying in Estes Park

There are more hotels and motels in Estes Park than you might imagine. Remember that there aren’t a lot of lodging options in Rocky Mountain National Park and you’ll know why there are plenty of lodging options here.

The most famous (and most expensive) hotel in Estes is the Stanley Hotel. The Stanley is famous for being the place where the Shining movie was filmed, the original one with Jack Nicholson, not the crappy remake. Of course, the hotel was only used for the exterior shots. The inside was filmed at a movie studio lot.

If there isn’t a major event or it isn’t too crowded, you can drive right up to the hotel and park in a visitor lot. Otherwise, you’ll have to hike up. Either way, head inside to the bar and grab a drink to enjoy out on the huge front patio. You’ll get a nice drink, a great view, and wonderful ambiance.

2011 Denver Zoo Lights

Don’t forget the Denver Zoo has its annual Zoo Lights event in December. The zoo lights up a large portion of its park with Christmas lights of all kinds and an array of animal light sculptures. If you are looking for places to take kids to see Christmas lights in Denver, Zoo Lights should be at the top of your list. You can find more information about Denver Zoo Lights 2011 on the Undefeated Daddy blog along with other useful dad parenting tips.

More Christmas events and attractions coming soon!

Boondocks Amusement Park and Arcade

Colorado is world famous for its natural beauty, and there are TONS of fun things to do in Denver that are artistic, scenic, or historic, but sometimes, what you’re really looking for is a big ball of man-made fun.

Boondocks in the northern Denver Metro area is a family amusement park with go carts, bumper boats, video games, and miniature golf all in one location. Unlike Denver’s indoor amusement park, Funtastic Fun, most of the good stuff at Boondocks is outside, but with 300 days of sunshine per year, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

There are some really great things to like about Boondocks, especially for families with children looking for a way to have a good time for the whole family, including Mom and Dad, and not just by watching the kiddos have fun either.

The first thing about Boondocks that makes it a fun place to go in the Denver area for families is that it has go-carts. Of course, lots of place have go karts. What makes Boondocks fun for family groups is that it has different types of go carts. There are little kiddie go carts that the kids can drive on their own. They go slower around a small track, but that is no downside to a four-year old who gets to drive their own go cart all by themselves!

Of course, slow moving go carts are only so much fun for children and their parents. What would be really fun would be if parents and kids could go on a go cart together around the regular full-speed track.

Can I get an amen?

Boondocks has two-seater go carts for adults and kids to ride together. They go out on the regular track with the regular go carts, so if you have one child who is old enough to drive a full-sized go cart by themselves, but another kid who isn’t big enough to steer a go kart on their own, they can still go out and race together with Mom or Dad in the driver’s seat.

If Go Carts aren’t your thing, there is other fun stuff to do at Boondocks. During the warmer summer months, they have two-person boats, perfect for parent with child, that not only motor around the little water lagoon, they also have water guns on the front that you can use to squirt other riders with.

Unfortunately, there is not a no-squirt zone, so you just have to get over it and get a little wet, or skip this ride.

One important boat ride squirt tip: Don’t just pick your favorite color boat. Watch the other riders and note which boats have a squirter that fires on a low trajectory. Nothing is worse that being squeezed up against another boat getting soaked while your water jet fires harmlessly over their head!

The miniature golf course at Boondocks gets a mixed review. While the two full-length 18-hole putt-putt golf courses give you plenty of play and plenty of length, they actually get pretty boring after a while. Its seems that Boondocks decided that windmills and waterfalls and all the things that make mini-golf great are best looked at instead of played on.

The windmill that you see from the I-25 highway is indeed part of the mini-golf course, but it doesn’t have anything to do with it. You don’t hit a ball past the spinning blades, or even bank a shot off of its sides. In fact, there are no tricks to Boondocks putt-putt course. It’s just AstroTurf with a spot to put your ball down and then a hole. Sometimes there is a curve or a little hill, sometimes not, but there isn’t ever anything unique or interactive.

If you remember the days of jumping your ball over water ramps, or a swinging cowboy arm going back and forth in front of the hole, save your money for a different miniature golf course. If you just want to putt the ball without any challenges or distractions, Boondocks mini-golf is for you.

Inside Boondocks is a decent collection of video games. They aren’t cheap and the cavernous room is really loud with the games turned up so you can hear them and the music turned open so you can hear it over the games. Don’t expect Grandma or Grandpa to hang out here and Mom and Dad probably won’t be huge fans either unless they find a fun game to play.

In all, Boondocks gets recommended for what it has outside.