Wild Denver - Zoos, Aquariums & More
From native Colorado species to exotic creatures from the other side of the globe, from delicate butterflies to lumbering elephants, The Mile High City is filled with amazing animals in state-of-the-art habitats.
Lions, tigers, bears — and so much more! Set aside several hours for exploration at the Denver Zoo, an eye-opening experience for all ages. The fourth most popular zoo in the nation has about 4,000 animals representing more than 750 species. The zoo's new Amur tiger habitat, The Edge, is presently under construction and will bring guests closer than ever to these magnificent felines. The Toyota Elephant Passage, meanwhile, will give you an up-close-and-personal experience with massive Asian elephants. Predator Ridge has a pride of lions, while polar bears frolic in nearby Northern Shores — check them out above ground or underwater thanks to a specially designed viewing window. You'll also love Primate Panorama, where fun-loving orangutans make their home.
FAMILY TIP: Catch a ride on the Pioneer Train (the first natural gas zoo train in America), which will take you on a relaxing trip around Pachyderm Park, where you'll see hippos, rhinos and more.
Click on the image below to take a virtual tour of the Denver Zoo via Google Street View.
Colorado may be landlocked, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't have plenty of marine life for you and your family to gawk at. The Downtown Aquarium features fascinating sea creatures, sharks and more. All in all there are more than 15,000 fish, mammals and plants, including an exhibit of Sumatran tigers who love to swim. And if you're left with the urge to get a little wet yourself, you're in luck: the Swin with the Fish and Dive with the Sharks programs let you swim alongside giant groupers, Moray eels, guitar fish, sand tiger sharks, green sea turtles and 400 of their closest friends.
FAMILY TIP: This family-friendly attraction has a restaurant where you can dine next to sharks and schools of colorful tropical fish. Also stroll the grounds around the aquarium for kid-focused activities, like petting zoos and educational programs.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Just south of the expansive City Park, you and your family will find the spectacular 23-acres that make up Denver Botanic Gardens. Trust us; you won't just be stopping to smell the roses. As you follow the winding paths through the grounds, you'll discover no less than 32,000 diverse and delightful plants from such faraway places as Australia, Africa and the Himalayas. There are dozens of gardens to enjoy, including the internationally recognized Japanese Garden.
FAMILY TIP: Explore the whimsical Mordecai Children's Garden, where kids can interact with plants and the natural world.
Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
One of the best ways for young kids to learn about the world around them is with hands-on activities. The Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus is filled to the brim with myriad exhibits, playscapes, and educational fun. Kids can shop in a makeshift grocery store and even play the part of the cashier, fiddle around with the computers, stocked with challenging games, brush up on their science quotient in the laboratories, or practice their wedges on the KidSlope, a mini ski mountain that's open year-round.
FAMILY TIP: Explore faraway lands, hear wacky tales and share some giggles at the Children's Museum's daily StoryTime, featuring stories and fun activities. StoryTime is held: Monday-Friday at 11:30 a.m., Saturdays & Sundays at noon.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary
Visit the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720-acre rescue and educational Facility located just 30 miles outside of Denver, where more than 300 large carnivores roam freely. The "Mile Into The Wild" elevated walkway spans acres of lion, tiger, bear and wolf habitat so that visitors can get a bird's-eye view of the animal residents without disturbing them.
FAMILY TIP: Make sure you visit Eddy the Black Leopard, a rare species of leopard, who has been featured on Animal Planet TV.
The Wildlife Experience
Located in nearby Parker, The Wildlife Experience — now part of CU South Denver — is an interactive and ever-changing institution that connects visitors with wildlife and habitats in a fun and educational environment. It's a perfect place for families, with hands-on exhibits such as Discovery Den where kids can enhance their knowledge of animals and the natural world through play. Be sure to take a stroll through the art gallery and catch a nature-inspired film (many in 3D) at the Extreme Screen Theater.
FAMILY TIP: Kids will love learning about Colorado's unique wildlife at Wild Colorado, an exhibit that covers four major habitats of our great state from the Great Plains to the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Wild Colorado is an immersive exhibit experience complete with animatronics, realistic exhibit displays, interactive touch screens and life-like environments.
One of the most unique "wild Denver" spots can be found just a few miles from downtown Denver at the 30,000-square-foot Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster. This amazing attraction combines science education with hands-on fun to teach visitors about invertebrates, science and conservation. The interactive exhibits are geared primarily toward families with kids ages two to 12 years old, but people of all ages will embrace the beauty and wonder of the tropical conservatory filled with 1,600 free-flying butterflies imported from around the globe.
FAMILY TIP: Don't miss the Crawl-A-See-‘Em, an exhibit that allows kids to get eye-to-eye with tarantulas, leaf insects, scorpions, beetles, giant millipedes and many more. You can even hold Rosie, a friendly Chilean Rose Hair tarantula!
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, one of the most fascinating ecological sites in the country, has made a remarkable transformation from a toxic piece of land into one of the premier urban national wildlife refuges in the United States. Since 1990, more than 383,000 visitors have explored this unique and beautiful area, which is home to more than 330 species of animals, including bison, black-footed ferrets, birds of prey, deer and fish. In additional to wildlife viewing, you can enjoy the more than 10 miles of hiking trails, interpretive programs and catch-and-release fishing.
FAMILY TIP: The Visitor Center is a perfect place for kids, with several hands-on learning opportunities.
Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve
Bison (or buffalo) are among the most iconic symbols of the American west — and you can get up close and personal with a herd of them just a short drive from downtown Denver at the Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve. The City of Denver maintains a herd of 40 buffalo in a natural setting. The buffalo are direct descendants of the last wild buffalo herd in America. Bring the camera for great photo opportunities!
FAMILY TIP: If you're headed out to see the herd, make sure to stop in at the fascinating Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave next door, where you can learn all about another Wild West icon, the colorful Buffalo Bill Cody.
Dinosaur Ridge and The Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Although you're not going to come across any living, breathing dinosaurs while you're in Denver — they're still extinct, the last we checked — you will have ample opportunity to learn about these long-gone Colorado residents. At Dinosaur Ridge you can touch the bones of Allosaurus and Stegosaurus at the site where important dinosaur discoveries were made in the late 1800s. See how Iguanadons walked by viewing real dinosaur footprints forever preserved in the sandstone. Meanwhile, over the Denver Museum of Nature & Science you and your family can stand in awe at the priceless collection of dinosaur skeletons, including those of T-Rex and Stegosaurus.
FAMILY TIP: Dinosaur Discovery Days give you an opportunity to view the tracks, bones and other spectacular examples of geology and paleontology along Dinosaur Ridge with volunteer guides and without the distraction of passing traffic. West Alameda Parkway over the Ridge will be closed to vehicular traffic and guides will give demonstrations and answer questions at many of the interpretive stops along the Ridge. No reservations are necessary.