DENVER (April 1, 2016) – The days are getting longer, summer is getting nearer, and Denver is ready for a summer to remember. Robots, outdoor movies, rollercoasters, Major League Baseball, comic book heroes and much more await families this spring and summer in The Mile High City; and with plenty of free activities and affordable hotel packages, now is the perfect time to plan a Denver getaway.
“Denver is a city full of urban adventures for all ages,” says Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Whether you are a family of thrill-seekers, outdoor explorers or culture lovers – or any combination of those and more – Denver has something for your family to enjoy.”
Below is a sample of the exciting things happening in Denver this spring and summer, including some of the city’s top attractions and family-friendly dining options. For a full list of events, things to do and hotel packages, go to the VISIT DENVER website.
Robot Revolution, through Aug. 7
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Explore and interact with a cutting-edge collection of robots from around the world in the new exhibition, Robot Revolution. Robots that have rarely been shown to the public – from soccer-playing ‘bots to impressive humanoids to all-terrain crawlers – demonstrate how these amazing machines can change the way humans live, work, and play for the better. The exhibition is supported by Google.org with additional major support from The Boeing Company
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre 75th Anniversary and Summer Concert Series
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is consistently named the top outdoor venue in the country and is on every music lover’s bucket list; it is also a family-friendly attraction day or night. Recently named to the National Historic Register and celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016, Red Rocks is a world-famous outdoor concert and recreation venue some 300 million years in the making. Families can enjoy free hiking, biking and exploring during the day – nearby Dinosaur Ridge is also free and features trails with real dinosaur fossils, then they can purchase evening tickets for a concert or a movie during the summer’s Film on the Rocks series. The free Visitor Center at Red Rocks also features interactive educational displays, a short film on the geologic and musical history of Red Rocks and delicious food at Ship Rock Grille. The park is open daily; and Summer Concert Series, Film on the Rocks and event schedules can be found online.
Denver Comic Con
Jun. 17-19, Colorado Convention Center
This three-day, family- and geek-friendly fan convention features the best in comics, sci-fi and fantasy television shows, movies, Japanese animation, cosplay, toys, gaming and celebrities in these genres. Announced lineups include: Carrie Fisher from "Star Wars;" Karl Urban of "Star Trek" and "Lord of the Rings" fame; Stan Lee, legendary Marvel Comics writer and producer known for "Iron Man" and much more; Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley from "The Vampire Diaries;" Ralph Macchio, William Zabka and Martin Kove, the stars of the 1984 blockbuster “The Karate Kid;” and C. Thomas Howell of 1983’s The Outsiders (which also featured Macchio as “Johnny Cade”).
Denver Gone Wild
Denver Zoo Welcomes New Tigers, Baby Gorilla, Black Rhinoceros
The Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,300 animals representing 650 species including Asian elephants, African lions, Komodo dragons and Western lowland gorillas; and it is the greenest zoo in the country. With numerous animal shows, feedings and meet and greets, along with new animals and interactive exhibits – this year featuring The Edge, an expansive new tiger exhibit; Whimsie Adepa (a baby western lowland gorilla); and Rudy (a baby black rhinoceros) – Denver Zoo is one of the city’s top cultural attractions. The Denver Zoo is open daily.
Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park – Opening Day, Apr. 30
Located in the heart of downtown Denver, Elitch Gardens is America’s only downtown theme and water park. Beginning on opening day – April 30 – kids of all ages can experience more than 50 rides and attractions, including 14 pint-sized adventures, thrilling roller coasters, cool water slides, Dive-In Movies, free concerts and more.
Wild Animal Sanctuary
In the pleasant, long days of the spring and summer, families can visit The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720-acre rescue and educational facility that is home to more than 300 large carnivores. Walk the “Mile Into The Wild” elevated path, which allows guests a bird’s-eye view of lion prides, tigers and other groups of rescued animals living in natural habitats. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is open daily from 9 a.m. to sunset.
Water World – Opening Day, May 28
Home to the first two water slides in the state of Colorado and located just north of downtown, Water World now features more than 45 water adventures on 64 acres of land – the largest variety of water attractions in the U.S. Families can cool off in one of America’s largest and best water parks – enjoying everything from a lazy river to speed slides; children’s play adventures to Colorado’s only magnetic water coaster, the Mile High Flyer. The park features kid-friendly food vendors, but picnics are also welcome and parking is free.
Professional Sports – Colorado Rockies and Colorado Rapids
For families who like to take in a professional sports game, Denver is home to seven professional sports teams, including Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies and Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids. Fans can catch the Rockies Home Opener on April 8, and there are plenty of games throughout the season. The Rapids kicked off their season in March, and tickets are available through the summer.
Extreme Sports Parks
The Mile High City loves sports, and extreme sports are no exception. Denver features a collection of extreme sports parks where visitors can bike, kayak, skate and more, all within the metro area. From year-round rugby at Infinity Park to BMX and mountain biking at Evolve Action Sports Park to whitewater kayaking in the center of downtown at Confluence Park, extreme sports are readily available all around Denver.
Rocky Mountain National Park – National Park Service 100th Anniversary
Estes Park/Grand Lake
Rocky Mountain National Park spans 415 square miles in north central Colorado. Just a 90-minute drive from Denver, it makes for a perfect day trip with plenty of opportunities for adventure, exploration, wildlife viewing and fun; and visiting families can help celebrate the National Park Service’s 100 th Anniversary with free or nearly-free ranger-led programs and activities. Rocky Mountain National Park is open daily.
For even more National Park fun, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science will premiere MacGillivray Freeman’s “National Parks Adventure,” the stunning film narrated by Robert Redford that captures the beauty of America’s national parks, on July 1.
Free Activities for Kids
City Parks & Denver Bike Trails
The Mile High City boasts more than 4,000 acres of traditional parks and parkways, which include 2,500 urban natural acres, more than 300 acres of designated rivers & trails and an additional 14,000 acres of spectacular mountain parks, plus 85 miles of paved, off-street bike trails. Whether families rent a bicycle through the Denver B-cycle program, create a picnic feast from their favorite food trucks or select their favorite recreation activity (kayaking, paddle boating, running, etc.), there is no shortage of space to enjoy.
Outdoor Movies in the Parks
Several Denver parks offer free or very affordable outdoor movies in the evenings, and they are an ideal way to spend the evening as a family. Many spots allow picnics or have food trucks, and restless young viewers have plenty of open space to expend some extra energy without disturbing a silent theater.
Denver Art Museum
Families are always welcome at the Denver Art Museum, and kids visit for free. The museum is home to everything from world-class traveling exhibits like Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection (Mar. 6 – Jun. 5) to daily activities such as coloring, costume creation and building in the Just for Fun Center, to weekend activities; there is something for every guest, every day. This summer the Denver Art Museum will also feature DANCE!, a season-long celebration of expression through movement with dance-focused exhibitions, programming, local artist collaborations and interactive installations.
After all the excitement of exploring everything Denver has to offer, families can get their fill of Denver cuisine at any number of delicious local restaurants. Some iconic options that have fun atmospheres and kid-friendly choices include the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant serving unique dishes in a genuine Old West setting (the kids menu even features elk and buffalo); and the Cherry Cricket, where they serve some of the best burgers in Denver with some of the most unique toppings (e.g., peanut butter, raspberry jam, green chili). Casa Bonita is a theme park inside an all-you-can-eat Mexican restaurant with attractions ranging from Old West gunfights to cliff divers to an arcade.
For families who need a quick, affordable bite in between adventures, the fast casual trend is a Denver staple, and the city is the birthplace of some of the country’s most popular spots. They can stop by the original Chipotle near the University of Denver, the first Quizno’s in the Capitol Hill neighborhood or try a new chef-driven concept like Avanti F&B – seven different affordable restaurants in one modern food hall, from Japanese to pizza; or Honor Society Handcrafted Eatery – where they can get high-quality, healthy, yet craveable dishes at an affordable price (like the gluten-free chia seed fried chicken or kids acai bowl with granola).
And, since it is a vacation, do not skip the dessert. Denver desserts have gotten really creative – ice cream flavors like Fluffernutter and Vegan Chocolate Salted Oreo at Little Man Ice Cream, or Honey Cornbread and Coffee + Doughnuts at Sweet Action. Families should also head to The Inventing Room, where the staff is inspired by Willy Wonka and concocts scientific creations like a root beer float with exploding whipped cream or maple syrup cotton candy.