Animatronic dinosaurs, ancient Viking artifacts, professional soccer matches and the world stage premiere of Frozen – among many other highlights – await visitors to Denver this summer. Throughout the long days and warm evenings, it will be nearly impossible to turn the corner without finding a festival, new exhibit or free activity; and, combined with affordable hotel packages and excellent deals on the city’s cultural attractions, summer is a perfect time to plan a vacation in Denver.
“This summer is going to be an exceptional time to come to Denver,” says Richard Scharf, president and CEO of VISIT DENVER, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The Mile High City will host world class soccer events, exciting cultural exhibits and performances, fascinating displays of technology at our museums and zoo, unique festivals and plenty of outdoor recreation opportunities. There really will be something for everyone in the family in Denver this season.”
Below are just a few of the exciting things families can do during their visit to The Mile High City, including some of the blockbuster events and exhibitions, outdoor recreation and free (or nearly free) activities. For a full list of events, things to do and hotel packages, please go to the VISIT DENVER website.
Blockbuster Events & Exhibitions
LUZIA by Cirque du Soleil, June 1 – July 9
Freely inspired by Mexico, LUZIA is a poetic and acrobatic ode to the rich, vibrant culture of a country whose wealth stems from an extraordinary mix of influences and creative collisions – a land that inspires awe with its breathtaking landscapes and architectural wonders, buoyed by the indomitable spirit of its people.
Nature’s Amazing Machines, June 16, 2017 – January 1, 2018
Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s upcoming exhibition, Nature’s Amazing Machines, uses real objects, scientific models and hands-on elements to showcase the marvels of natural engineering. Discover how a giraffe’s heart pumps blood up its long neck, how a toucan stays cool in the jungle and how it might feel to fly. You’ll also see modern designs inspired by natural adaptations, like Velcro, wind turbines and chainsaws.
DINOS! Live, July 1 – October 31
Denver Zoo will take visitors back in time with DINOS! Live, an exhibit through which 18 animatronic dinosaurs will come to life around the park. Guests will see Mesozoic marvels, from a Tyrannosaurus rex to a Stegosaurus, and be able to compare them to animals that live at the Zoo and in the wild today.
Frozen Premiere, August 17 – October 1
The beloved Disney tale of two sisters torn apart and their journey to find themselves comes to life on the stage in August. Premiering at the Buell Theatre in Denver first – before it reaches Broadway in New York – the highly anticipated new musical will open to the world in The Mile High City.
Vikings: Beyond the Legend, through August 13
In what is the largest collection of Viking artifacts to visit North America, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Vikings: Beyond the Legend contradicts the one-dimensional stereotype of bearded barbarians with horned helmets and showcases a culture of surprising refinement, complexity and achievement. Fresh insights revealed through new archaeological discoveries and more than 500 treasures, many never before seen outside of Scandinavia, show why the Vikings will always capture peoples’ imaginations.
The Western: An Epic in Art and Film, through September 10
The Western: An Epic in Art and Film is the first major exhibition to examine the Western genre and its evolution from the mid-1800s to the present through fine art, film and popular culture. Featuring 160 works, the exhibition explores gender roles, race relations and gun violence — offering a visual journey that is more than cowboys and American Indians, pursuits and duels or bandits and barroom brawls.
Calder: Monumental, through September 24
American artist Alexander Calder (1898-1976) is considered one of the most influential sculptors of the 20th century and is known for his bold, energetic sculptures. Calder: Monumental at Denver Botanic Gardens features these iconic works of bolted steel plate – which rise in sweeping curves or puncture space with geometric lines – revealing the artist's exploration of forms, volumes and voids. Using shapes that resonate with the natural world, Calder's large lively abstractions will interact with Denver Botanic Gardens’ vibrant landscape.
Backstory: Western Art in Context, through February 11, 2018
Artists of the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries captured the landscapes and people of a rapidly changing West – as events set in motion dynamics that still shape the region to this day. Backstory: Western Art in Context at History Colorado Center pairs nearly 50 masterpieces from the Denver Art Museum’s renowned collection with History Colorado’s wealth of artifacts to tell the stories beyond the art, including some of Albert Bierstadt’s magnificent landscapes, Frederic Remington’s exuberant bronzes and the Taos painters’ colorful scenes of the Southwest.
Sports, Outdoor Recreation & Attractions
FIFA World Cup Qualifier – US Men’s National Team vs. Trinidad & Tobago, June 8
In conjunction with U.S. Soccer, the Colorado Rapids Soccer Club announced that Dick's Sporting Goods Park will host a FIFA World Cup qualifier between the United States Men's National Team and Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday, June 8.
CONCACAF Gold Cup, July 13
Denver will host a 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup group C stage double header at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, featuring matches between the Mexican national soccer team and the Jamaican national team, and El Salvador against Curacao.
The Edge at Denver Zoo
Located on almost a full acre on the southeastern edge of the facility, Denver Zoo’s brand new exhibit, The Edge, will bring guests closer than ever to the Zoo’s Amur tigers, one of the world’s most endangered species. The expansive, open space will also offer several unique ways to safely connect with these magnificent creatures and to see them from multiple perspectives in yards that mimic their native habitat.
Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park
Located in the heart of downtown Denver, Elitch Gardens is America’s only downtown theme and water park. All weekend – and all summer – long, kids of all ages can experience more than 50 rides and attractions, including the brand new Star Flyer thrill ride (which opened earlier this year), 14 pint-sized adventures, exhilarating roller coasters, cool water slides, Dive-In Movies, free concerts and more.
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Located in downtown Denver, the recently renovated Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus features hands-on, interactive exhibits for children as young as newborns. There are also daily activities, year-round special events and always something to learn.
The Downtown Aquarium showcases more than a million gallons of underwater exhibits that highlight fascinating ecosystems from around the world. The complex houses more than 500 species of animals, the interactive Stingray Reef touch tank, the Aquarium Restaurant, Dive Lounge, shopping and amusements for the entire family.
Located just north of downtown, Water World features more than 45 water adventures on 64 acres of land – the largest variety of water attractions in the U.S. Families can enjoy 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, Colorado Rapids and Denver Outlaws
Denver is home to seven professional sports teams, including Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids and Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws. Schedules for all teams can be found online.
The Rapids play on the Fourth of July, and fans can stay late to watch the fireworks display over the field after the game. The Outlaws will have fireworks after their July 4th game against the Atlanta Blaze as well.
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.
Cultural Events and Festivals
Denver Chalk Art Festival, June 3-4
More than 200 professional, amateur and student artists will show off their incredible talents in what has become one of Denver’s most treasured events. Over the course of two days, the artists will take to the streets armed with vivid pastel chalks and spend hours recreating major masterpieces or sharing original works of art. Spectators will watch as the intricate chalk paintings come to life and spread out to adorn four downtown blocks in and around Larimer Square. Visitors will enjoy live music, food and beverages while also having the rare opportunity to interact with the artists as they work.
Denver PrideFest, June 17-18
Denver PrideFest in Civic Center Park is recognized as one of the top ten pride events in the country. It is a two-day celebration of community, heritage, family and culture produced by the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Colorado (The Center); and this year, PrideFest will highlight the national ¡Viva la Vida! theme. Saturday features activities and entertainment for kids, adults and pets – including a petting zoo, games and races, free concerts, art projects and more. On Sunday, the annual Coors Light PrideFest Parade makes its way from Cheesman Park down Colfax Avenue to Civic Center Park, ending in a full-day of festivities, from live music and performances to interactive activities and more.
Buskerfest, June 23-24
Featuring an international lineup of artists, Buskerfest aspires to cultivate a tradition of live street art and performance in The Mile-High City. Conceived by award-winning preservationist Dana Crawford, the Buskerfest will enliven Union Station's open-air public plaza and introduce Denver audiences of all ages to skilled performers specializing in the living traditions of busking and street theatre. Fire performers, musicians, face painters, hula-hoopers, jugglers and others will provide entertainment. This event is free and open to the public. Proceeds from select Union Station vendors will benefit Arts Street, an organization which encourages high-risk youth to channel their artistic talents into positive activity.
Denver Comic Con, June 30 – July 2
This three-day fan convention at the Colorado Convention Center features the best in comics, sci-fi and fantasy television shows, movies, Japanese animation, cosplay, toys, gaming and celebrities. Announced guest speakers include: Nathan Fillion, best known for his roles on “Castle” and “Firefly”; Wallace Shawn from “The Princess Bride” and “Toy Story”; Lou Ferrigno from “The Incredible Hulk”; Garret Wang, who played Harry Kim on “Star Trek: Voyager”; and Bonnie Bright, who played Ginny Weasley in all eight “Harry Potter” series films.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival, July 1-3
Cherry Creek Arts Festival is a world-class and award-winning celebration of the visual, culinary and performing arts, and enjoys an attendance of more than 350,000 visitors over three days. The Cherry Creek North event features Artivity Avenue, a full block of interactive, family-friendly activities, from a collaborative mural to an art playground and more.
Independence Eve Fireworks, July 3
The annual Independence Eve Celebration in Civic Center Park will feature a free patriotic concert, an innovative light show on the Denver City and County Building and a stunning fireworks finale. Lawn seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and lawn chairs, blankets and picnics are welcome. Concessions will also be present on-site.
Free and Discounted Activities
Mile High Culture Pass
VISIT DENVER offers the Mile High Culture Pass, which allows admission to many of the city’s top museums for the bargain “Mile High” price of $52.80 for a five-day pass, or $30 for a three-day pass. Visit the website for additional details on the attractions included and how to purchase one.
First Friday Art Walks (First Friday of every month) – Explore Denver's creative neighborhoods on the First Friday of every month when galleries, studios and cultural attractions stay open late for a mind-expanding night of art, food, drink and fun. Find the pulse of Denver's vibrant creative community year-round on the first Friday of each month in The Mile High City's seven neighborhood art districts. This year, RiNo (River North) Art District and the new Drink RiNo group will sponsor a free shuttle every First Friday from 5pm-12am (and Saturdays 2-10pm) that will have multiple stops at galleries, studios, breweries and eateries throughout RiNo.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre and Dinosaur Ridge
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, 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; and nearby Dinosaur Ridge is also free and features trails with real dinosaur fossils. The free Visitor Center at Red Rocks features interactive educational displays and a short film on the geologic and musical history of Red Rocks. The park is open daily; and Summer Concert Series, Film on the Rocks and event schedules can be found online.
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 many 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 and more), there is no shortage of space to enjoy for free or very low cost.
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 time 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 under 18 visit for free. The museum is home to everything from world-class traveling exhibits 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.