Denver Summer Family Fun
School’s out! For parents, however, this doesn’t mean three months of rest and relaxation. Rather, it means three months of trying to keep your kids occupied and entertained – no easy feat!
Here are some summer activities that your kids will love, whether you're a Mile High City local, or planning a Denver getaway vacation.
Denver is home to two world-class water parks, each on perfect for cooling your kids off on a hot summer day. Every summer, thousands of Colorado residents flock to Water World (1800 W. 89th St.), looking to beat the heat, relax in the park's beautifully landscaped 64 acres - and ride some wet and wild waterslides. Family-friendly rides include Captain Jack's Wave Pool, featuring gentle waves in a 500,000-gallon pool; The Fun House, with hundreds of water gags and activities; and Wally World, which offers that special fun that only a 4-year-old can enjoy, with tot-sized water slides, geysers, waterfalls, and tire swings, all in a setting of very shallow water.
Island Kingdom, meanwhile, is part of the famed Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park (1000 Elitch Cir.), located in downtown Denver. One admission price will get you into the Elitch's, where you can ride dozens of wild roller coasters, and then cool off by going for a swim. Family-friendly rides at Island Kingdom include Castaway Creek, a relaxing lazy river with a floating current, geysers, water bubbles and waterfalls; Commotion Ocean, a giant wave pool perfect for body surfing or just relaxing; and Hook's Lagoon, a five-story water tree house that offers 150 water gadgets, lagoon playgrounds and a giant barrel overhead that drenches everyone below.
Lions, tigers, bears - and so much more! Set aside several hours for exploration in the Denver Zoo (2300 Steele St.), an eye-opening experience for all ages. The fourth most popular zoo in the nation has 4,000 animals representing more than 750 species. Kids will love the Pioneer Train, (the first natural gas zoo train in America), which will take them on a relaxing trip around Pachyderm Park, passing by hippos, rhinos and more. And don't miss the new, amazing Toyota Elephant Passage, the largest bull elephant habitat in the world.
Located in nearby Parker, The Wildlife Experience (10035 S. Peoria St., Parker) 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 immersive exhibits such as Discovery Den and Cubs Corner where kids can make their own wildlife masterpieces.
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 (6252 W. 104th Ave., 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 towards families with kids ages 2 to 12 years old, but people of all ages will embrace the beauty and wonder of the tropical conservatory filled with 1,200 free-flying butterflies imported from around the globe.
The Downtown Aquarium (700 Water St.) 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. 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.
Kids love dinosaurs -- it's a fact. At Dinosaur Ridge (16831 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison), near Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 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.
The world-renowned Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy.) offers a Just for Fun Family Center complete with games, creative, make-it-yourself craft areas and dress-up costumes. On weekends, kids can pick up a family backpack, a portable bag brimming with all sorts of artsy, educational activities. Penny pinchers take note: The Denver Art Museum is always free for children age six and younger, and FREE on the first Saturday of each month.
At the intriguing Children's Museum of Denver (2121 Children's Museum Dr.), infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers can spend hours roaming through educational playscapes, including a miniature "Community Market," which allows kids to take on the roles of shopper, cashier and shopkeeper. Families will find several more thematic play areas that run the gamut from woodworking and scientific laboratories to animal exhibits and a fire station (pictured right) that teaches safety precautions. On the first Tuesday of every month, the Children's Museum hosts FREE guided story hours and playtimes, from 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (2001 Colorado Blvd.) a spectacular interactive museum that explores fossils and dinosaurs, the mysteries of space at Gates Planetarium (it's out of this world!), Egyptian mummies, the riddles of the human body, and a slew of other exhibits, and an IMAX theater. Kids will love the newly expanded Discovery Zone, with dozens of interactive activities.
The Mile High City is a pro sports paradise, with no less than eight pro teams calling Denver home - and during the summer, your family's options for athletic action are plentiful. Check out the Colorado Rockies at the magnificent Coors Field (2000 Blake St.) in LoDo (lower downtown). Get an unbeatable deal with ROCKPILE seats, which cost just $4 for adults and $1 for kids age 12 and under. Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids play at the sprawling, high-tech Dick's Sporting Goods Park (6000 Victory Way, Commerce City). Kids will love the fast-paced Rapids games. Also don't miss the increasingly popular Denver Outlaws, The Mile High City's own Major League Lacrosse team, who play at Sports Authority Field at Mile High (1701 Bryant St.).
Parks & Lakes
Denver may not be anywhere near a beach, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of places to kick back by a shimmering body of water.
Confluence Park, located within walking distance of downtown, offers sandy shores for sunbathing, a kayak practice route, bike paths and a Thursday evening concert series throughout the summer.
Up in the Highlands neighborhood, you'll find the sprawling Sloan's Lake Park (1700 S. Sheridan Blvd), an urban oasis, with the enormous Sloan's Lake taking center stage. In the summer be sure to keep an eye out for water skiers zooming across the lake, framed by a stunning view of the Denver skyline.
Another urban oasis perfect for a hot summer afternoon is the Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York St.) a lush green space that's fun for all ages. The attraction offers spectacular plant displays, unlimited opportunities for lifelong learning and research that help preserve Colorado's precious natural resources. Spend a few hours exploring this leafy, shady paradise. Kids will especially love the Mordecai Children's Garden.
Head for the Hills
As you head into the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front Range, just a short drive from downtown Denver, you'll notice that the air is crisper, the temperature is cooler and the views are positively breathtaking. During the summer months, Denverites literally head for the hills for unbeatable hiking, biking, rock-climbing and more.
Denver's unique Mountain Parks system offers 14,000 acres of parks in the nearby foothills of the Rocky Mountains - an immense mountain park system that covers an area almost the size of Manhattan. Don't miss the 14-mile Mount Evans Scenic Byway, which leads to the 14,264-foot high summit of Mount Evans. This is the highest paved road in North America, 154 feet higher than Pikes Peak. Drive to the top and your car will be higher than any other automobile on the continent.
Red Rock Amphitheatre and Park (18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison) is always a popular destination, with its massive red sandstone rock formations, and trails that wind their way around the amphitheatre.
The awe-inspiring natural beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the top outdoor attractions in the world, is just an hour-and-a-half drive away, with hiking, wildlife, scenic drives and more.