WILD DENVER: WHERE TO SEE THE AMAZING ANIMALS WHO CALL DENVER HOME
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
2300 Steele St., Denver
Lions, tigers, bears – and so much more! Set aside several hours for exploration in the Denver Zoo, an eye-opening experience for all ages. The fourth most popular zoo in the nation has 4,000 animals representing more than 750 species. The Zoo’s 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 elephants, rhinos and more.
The Wildlife Experience Museum
10035 Peoria St., Parker
Located in nearby Parker, The Wildlife Experience 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. Also be sure to catch an innovative film in Max Brown's Adventure Theater.
Family Tip: Kids will love learning about Colorado’ 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.
Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center
6252 W. 104th Ave. (off U.S. Hwy. 36), Westminster
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 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.
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!
Buffalo Herd Nature Preserve
20 Miles west of Denver at I-70, Exit 250
Bison (or buffalos) 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. 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 some 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.
700 Water St., Denver
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 Sumtran tigers who love to swim. And if you’re left with the urge to get a little wet yourself, you’re in luck: the Under the Sea exhibit lets you swim alongside a 250 lb. Queensland Grouper, Moray Eels, Guitar Fish, red drums 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.
16831 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Museum of Nature & Science
2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver
While you’re not going to come across any living, breathing dinosaurs while you’re here 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 in 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.
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. These free days run from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. During that time, 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.