KID-FRIENDLY DENVER ACTIVITIES & ATTRACTIONS
Denver is a year-round playground for families, with countless days of crystal-clear blue skies, a myriad of open spaces and public parks, an endless array of museums and cultural facilities, and a multitude of children’s programs. From catching a dose of Mile High air at a Colorado Rockies baseball game to slumbering overnight with a boon of nocturnal beasts at the Denver Zoo, Denver is the ideal city in which to experience an unforgettable family excursion.
City Park, Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Nature & Science
City Park is expansive greenway boasting tennis courts, picnicking areas, playgrounds, lakes for paddling and a spectacular summer concert series.
- At the eastern edge of the park, the vaunted Denver Zoothrills kids with its komodo dragon exhibit, crowd-pleasing primates and a magical carousel comprised of 48 hand-carved animals, all of which are endangered species. Throughout the summer months, families can explore the zoo grounds during adventurous overnight outings.
- Just adjacent to the zoo is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, 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 hands-on exhibits.
Platte River Valley, Children’s Museum of Denver
The Platte River Valley, in the heart of the city, boasts a cornucopia of family-friendly attractions and entertainments.
- At the intriguing Children’s Museum of Denver, infants, toddlers and pre-schoolers can spend hours roaming through scads of 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 that teaches safety precautions.
- Nearby, Elitch Gardens Theme Parkoffers exhilarating adventures galore with 48 rides, including the heart-pounding Mind Eraser, a twisted-steel rollercoaster that spins, dives, drops, rolls and races along the tracks. The Island Kingdom Water Park, a 10-acre swimming area, is a fun-filled splash fest with slippery slides, crashing waves and lazy rivers. If you have young children in tow, there are several pint-sized rides in the Looney Tunes MovieTown area.
- Just a short walk away is the Downtown Aquarium, a seaworthy spectacle of kaleidoscopic fish coupled with reptile, bird and tiger habitats. Here, amid the astounding marine life, kids can feed the stingrays, swim with the sharks, pan for gold, become a marine biologist for a day, or even spend the night in the aquarium.
- While you’re in the Platte River Valley, hop aboard the Platte River Trolley, an open-air streetcar that resembles the trolley on the Mister Rogers’ NeighborhoodTV show. The narrated tours provide a fascinating historical account of Denver from its Gold Rush days to the present.
- Be sure to plan a visit to the REI flagship store, where everyone from tykes to teens can test their climbing skills on the indoor rock wall.
Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum flaunts 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.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
At the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, more than 40 planes and riveting space-oriented displays occupy the sprawling space, an aviation wonderland that allows families to get up close and personal with giant bombers, fighter jets, antique planes and a search-and-rescue helicopter. The museum always has seasonal exhibits, and on the second Saturday of each month, kids can experience the electrifying buzz of climbing into the planes’ cockpits.
There’s no shortage of fun-filled, free – and nearly free – family activities in Denver.
- On the first Tuesday of every month, the Children’s Museum of Denver hosts complimentary guided story hours and playtimes, from 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
- The Denver Art Museum is always free for children age six and younger, and free for all Colorado residents the first Saturday of each month.
- The Tattered Cover Bookstore, arguably the top independent bookseller in the country, hosts hundreds of free children’s events throughout the year, including lectures, book release parties and author appearances.
- Denver is an undisputed sports Mecca, and while tickets to the major sporting events don’t come cheap, in-the-know baseball fanatics purchase Colorado Rockies baseball ROCKPILE seats, which cost just $4 for adults and $1 for kids age 12 and under.
Denver native Lori Midson is the restaurant critic and dining editor at Colorado AvidGolfer magazine, a frequent contributor to Sunset magazine, the Colorado-based book editor for the Zagat guides, and a contributing restaurant reviewer for the online ezine, Citysearch. Prior to joining Colorado AvidGolfer, Midson was the restaurant critic for Denver’s 5280 Magazine. When she’s not crossing her forks and dotting her knives, she’s furiously trying to finish an ethnic restaurant guide to Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.