Denver and many of its top attractions have reopened with measures in place that allow visitors to safely and enjoyably experience everything The Mile High City has become known for. As a result of that – and Denver’s position as a top outdoor city with plenty of urban and mountain adventure – the city is an excellent resource for parents, teachers and students who may be hungry for hands-on, outside-the-“classroom” educational experiences. Like everything else this year, field trips may look a little different – but Denver is home to some perfect opportunities to apply what students are learning to real-life.
From hands-on history to in-person art classes to recess reimagined, below are just a few ideas to get students and their families out of the house for a while and safely exploring what The Mile High City has to offer for their education, whether they are schooling at home or in the classroom. For more ideas and a downloadable Field Trip Denver guide, go to the VISIT DENVER website.
Full details about Denver’s mandates, recommendations and resources can be found on the City & County of Denver’s website, with even more information on VISIT DENVER’s Clean & Safe Resource Guide. Guests are encouraged to check directly with any businesses, venues, events or activities for specific, up-to-date details before visiting, as information changes regularly.
Nature & Science IRL
Very few subjects have more tangible applications than nature and science, especially in a city known for its proximity to the geographic wonders of the Rocky Mountains and a bevy of interactive museums and attractions. Young naturalists can learn about Colorado’s diverse plant life at Denver Botanic Gardens; discover delicate ecosystems and more than 1,600 flitting creatures at the Butterfly Pavilion; or have a chance to see direct descendants of the last wild buffalo herd in America at the Buffalo Herd Overlook.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science is home to fossils, a planetarium, an Egyptian mummy exhibit and more; and, this fall, visitors can experience two special traveling exhibitions. In The Art of the Brick (through January 24, 2021), visitors will discover how classic LEGO® bricks can be transformed into to artistic marvels like Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the Venus de Milo. And at Dogs! A Science Tail (through January 3, 2021), guests can explore the extraordinary ways dogs see, hear and smell their surroundings and why humans and dogs are best friends.
Denver Zoo – spanning more than 80 acres and home to more than 4,000 animals including rare Amur leopards, okapi, black rhinoceros, elephants, vampire bats, orangutans and Komodo dragons – is another ideal place to apply biology lessons. This fall throughout the park, guests can also find larger-than-life plant and animal sculptures made entirely of LEGO® bricks as part of the exhibition, Nature Connects®, Art with LEGO® Bricks (through November 1).
Denver has been home to some of history’s most colorful characters – including the Titanic’s “unsinkable” Molly Brown, Buffalo Bill Cody and more; and Colorado boasts a rich western history that comes alive at some of the city’s niche museums.
Visitors can explore the actual home of Margaret “Molly” Brown and discover her penchant for world travel, art and charitable work as well as what life was like in early 1900s Colorado; and celebrate women’s contributions to the state at the Center for Colorado Women’s History at Byers-Evans House Museum. One of the more comprehensive ways to experience Denver’s history is through the Denver Story Trek – a self-guided car or bike tour through several neighborhoods, which visits these museums and more.
History Colorado Center also puts the “story” in “history” with fun, interactive exhibits, like a simulation of the world’s first ski jump or a realistic descent into a mine. The museum’s latest exhibit, Hecho in Colorado (through Jan 10, 2021), tells the story of Colorado’s Chicano/Mexican American community through art, textiles and writings.
Art may be an especially difficult class to do virtually, so experiencing Denver’s vast collection of art up-close – from indigenous to traditional to contemporary – will help get the creativity flowing. A day’s field trip to the Golden Triangle Creative District would allow ample time to explore several of the city’s top museums – many of which are free for kids under 18.
At Denver Art Museum, visitors can explore galleries, children’s exhibits and renowned traveling exhibitions – including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Mexican Modernism (opening October 25). This latest exhibition will feature more than 150 artworks by internationally celebrated artists Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Lola Alvarez Bravo, Gunther Gerzso, María Izquierdo, Carlos Mérida and others who were integral to developing a cultural identity following the Mexican Revolution.
Latin American art and culture is also on full display at Museo de las Americas, the premier Latin American art museum in the Rocky Mountain region. This fall, visitors can engage with Rhythm and Ritual: Music of the Ancient Americas (through October 17), a hybrid of in-person museum experiences and digital opportunities that explore the musical traditions of the Olmec, Andean and Maya peoples. Also on display is La Misión: Hecho de Tierra y Espíritu (through October 23), which explores the narrative of the peoples living in the Rio Grande River Valley from the 17th Century to the present.
In addition to its renowned arts and cultural facilities, Denver has also recently become known as the “Street Art Capital of the Country.” Murals and works of public art can be found throughout the city, from the Art District on Santa Fe to RiNo Art District and more. Also in RiNo Art Distirct is CRUSH WALLS – an annual, international street art festival (September 14-20). This year’s in-person activations will include artist panels, mural tours and youth activities, as well as fresh murals on dozens of walls and storefronts throughout the neighborhood; and there will also be some digital activities to continue the festivities at home.
Home to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, a vast jazz legacy and several past and present superstars, Denver has always been an iconic music destination. Many people do not know that Earth, Wind & Fire, The Lumineers, The Fray and Nathaniel Rateliff all hail from Denver; or that jazz greats like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald once played The Mile High City’s best stages. Exploring the history of music in The Mile High City will help inspire the next generation of musicians and performers.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a world-famous outdoor venue and the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. It is recognized for its star-studded concert roster and ambience, as well as its awe-inspiring hiking and biking trails. The free Visitor Center features the Colorado Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, interactive educational displays and a short film on the geologic and musical history of the venue.
In downtown Denver, music lovers can find a concentration of Denver’s historic jazz scene. Five Points – known as the “Harlem of the West” – is a historic neighborhood that was once a hotspot for jazz music, perfect for aspiring aficionados to explore.
Everyone’s Favorite – Recess!
Everyone needs a break – and Denver has plenty of options. From skill-building fun at escape rooms and board game lounges to releasing some steam through axe throwing or smash rooms, there is a new kind of recess for everyone. Of course, exploring Colorado’s finest asset – the great outdoors – is one of the best kinds of recess around.
The Mile High City boasts more than 4,000 acres of traditional parks and parkways and an additional 14,000 acres of spectacular mountain parks, plus many miles of paved, off-street bike trails. Whether families create a picnic feast or select their favorite recreation activity (kayaking, paddle boating, running and more), there is no shortage of outdoor, distanced space to enjoy for free or very low cost.
Denver also serves as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains; and it is a perfect base camp for a day trip. Nearby Rocky Mountain National Park is open to visitors on a reservation basis and features 400 square miles of scenic beauty, including Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the world – crossing the Continental Divide at over two miles above sea level. The wilderness area includes 359 miles of hiking trails, 150 lakes, 60 mountains taller than 12,000 feet, and the opportunity to see elk, bighorn sheep, and moose.
Denver’s popular food halls and marketplaces elevate the idea of a traditional cafeteria. Local chefs and artisans create delicious food to appeal to all palates, and the adults of the group can head to the “parents’ lounge” for a local beer or craft cocktail. The Source Hotel & Marketplace – Denver’s first market hall – has taken their experience outdoors. What was the parking lot is now an outdoor dining and lounge area with geodesic domes, patio chairs, umbrellas and menu offerings from one of the artisan marketplace’s six restaurants, cafés and bars – including barbeque and sandwiches. Denver Central Market showcases 11 of Denver’s top chefs and culinary artisans. Located in RiNo Art District, the marketplace has extended its outdoor dining options to the adjacent parking lot, with tents and picnic tables for people to enjoy the myriad of offerings it boasts, from salads and pizza to an ice cream shop and a chocolatier. The parking lot is surrounded by murals created during CRUSH WALLS, and some of the local artists have even adorned the tables with their work.