Summer is The Mile High City’s time to shine. Its 300 days of sunshine are on full blast, and the warm days boast an abundance of family-friendly festivals, new amusement park rides at kid-friendly attractions, blockbuster exhibitions, exciting performances and plenty of urban adventures.
Below are just some of the things for families to do this summer in Denver. For more ideas, including hotel deals, go to the VISIT DENVER website.
Apollopalooza, July 13-20
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Denver, Colorado will be home to incredible activities, exhibits, seminars and more – all dedicated to celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing and showcasing the latest in space exploration and technology. The seven-day event will include an astronaut brunch, film screenings, educational STEM activities, world class speakers and exclusive industry access.
Our Senses: Creating Your Reality, through August 4
The senses get the scientific spotlight at Denver Museum of Nature & Science, an exhibition for the whole family that playfully reveals how and why what we perceive is not all, or exactly, what’s actually going on around us. In a series of interactive galleries, visitors will enjoy some "sensory overload" as they play with color, patterns, sound, scents and touch and discover how there is so much more to our senses than just the usual five.
Leonardo da Vinci: 500 Years of Genius, through August 25
Although Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519, his influence has endured. His extraordinary legacy as an inventor, artist, scientist, anatomist, engineer, architect, sculptor and philosopher comes to life at Denver Museum of Nature & Science in Leonardo da Vinci: 500 Years of Genius, the most comprehensive exhibition about da Vinci ever presented. Dozens of replicas of da Vinci’s machine inventions, built using his detailed codices, reveal how his fundamental scientific and artistic principles continue to impact the world today. In addition, the exhibition will feature the fascinating Secrets of the Mona Lisa exhibit, with super-magnified visual examinations and the only 360-degree replica ever made of the iconic painting.
Human | Nature: Figures from the Craig Ponzio Sculpture Collection, through September 15
Human | Nature: Figures from the Craig Ponzio Sculpture Collection presents sculptures that explore the human form in both classical and abstract styles, from the early 20th century to today at Denver Botanic Gardens. Featured artists hail from around the world and include Eric Fischl, Jacques Lipchitz, Sassona Norton, Beverly Pepper, Auguste Rodin and Manolo Valdés.From sculpture to selfies to dance, the power of the human figure conveys and conjures a range of emotions. Human | Nature shares the expressive capacity of the human form against the backdrop of the Gardens’ diverse botanical environments.
Wicked, May 8 – June 9
Presented by Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) and performed at the Buell Theatre, the Broadway sensation Wicked looks at what happened in the Land of Oz from a different angle. Long before Dorothy arrives, there is another young woman, born with emerald-green skin – smart, fiery, misunderstood and possessing an extraordinary talent. When she meets a bubbly blonde who is exceptionally popular, their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendships, until the world decides to call one, “good,” and the other one, “wicked.”
The Last Defender, May 28 – July 28
The best puzzle and game designers from Chicago have teamed up to create a wholly new experiment in immersive storytelling and stagecraft; it is part performance, part puzzle hunt and part live action game. The Last Defender, a DCPA Off-Center production performed beneath the Patagonia storefront in downtown Denver, draws on the political and social turmoil of the 80s, the golden age of arcades, and impending nuclear threats to give audiences a one-of-a-kind storytelling experience.
Fiddler on the Roof, June 11-16
Rich with musical hits including “Sunrise, Sunset,” “If I Were a Rich Man” and “Matchmaker, Matchmaker,” Fiddler on the Roof is the heartwarming story of fathers and daughters, husbands and wives, and life, love and laughter. Tony-winning director Bartlett Sher and the team behind South Pacific, The King and I and Oslo bring a fresh and authentic vision to this beloved masterpiece at Denver’s Buell Theatre. Presented by DCPA and featuring a talented cast, lavish orchestra and stunning movement and dance from Israeli choreographer Hofesh Shechter, based on the original staging by Jerome Robbins, Fiddler on the Roof will introduce a new generation to the uplifting celebration that raises its cup to joy.
RAIN – A Tribute to the Beatles, June 23
In celebration of the anniversary of Abbey Road, RAIN will bring the greatest hits of this epic recording to life, in addition to all the early Beatles favorites, presented by DCPA at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Audiences will go back in time as they watch the legendary foursome delivering a note-for-note theatrical event.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, July 9-28
The stage version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, presented by DCPA and performed at the Buell Theatre, will feature songs from the original film alongside a new score from the songwriters of Hairspray. Willy Wonka is opening his marvelous and mysterious chocolate factory to a lucky few. That includes Charlie Bucket, whose bland life is about to burst with color and confection beyond his wildest dreams. He and four other golden ticket winners will experience the wonders of Wonka like never before – Oompa-Loompas, incredible inventions, the great glass elevator and more – at this everlasting showstopper.
Chicago, August 1-25
Phamaly Theatre Company, which only casts actors with disabilities, is celebrating its 30th anniversary with a run of Broadway favorite, Chicago, at Studio Loft in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. Against the backdrop of Chicago's roaring 20s, celebrity hopeful Roxie Hart stands accused of murder. Imprisoned in Cook County Jail alongside her longtime idol Velma Kelly, there's little hope for acquittal, until she discovers the artful manipulation of justice by the best criminal lawyer in town – Billy Flynn.
Anastasia, August 7-18
Inspired by the beloved film, Anastasia transports audiences from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family. Presented by DCPA and performed at the Buell Theatre, Anastasia features a book by celebrated playwright Terrence McNally, a lush new score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens with direction by Tony Award-winner Darko Tresnjak.
Five Points Jazz Festival, May 18
This free festival takes place the third Saturday of May and celebrates the history of Denver's Five Points neighborhood. Once known as the Harlem of the West, Five Points was home to several jazz clubs which played host to many of jazz music's legends such as Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and many more. The festival features a diverse lineup of music – from Latin to blues to funk and many other styles of jazz.
Denver Day of Rock, May 25
Denver Day of Rock is a free event that features five stages of live music along Denver’s 16th Street Mall on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. Denver Day of Rock unites the community through music and family-friendly entertainment while also raising funds to support Amp the Cause, a Denver nonprofit that raises awareness about critical family issues and supports local charities. This year’s lineup includes headliners Eli Young Band, Barns Courtney and Austin Young Band, among many other local and national artists.
Denver Pop Culture Con, May 31 – June 2
Denver Pop Culture Con (formerly Denver Comic Con) is a three-day, family-friendly fan convention at the Colorado Convention Center featuring the best in comics, along with sci-fi and fantasy TV shows, movies, Japanese animation, cosplay, toys, gaming and celebrity panel presentations.
Denver Chalk Art Festival, June 1-2
Denver’s most historic block – Larimer Square – turns into a vibrant street museum thanks to the chalk art work of more than 150 professional and amateur artists. The temporary works of art will be accompanied by music, plus a kids’ corner where kids will have the chance to create chalk art of their own.
The Denver BBQ Festival, June 14-16
The 2nd annual Denver BBQ Festival returns to Broncos Stadium at Mile High on Father’s Day weekend. Some of the country's most award-winning BBQ chefs and pitmasters will be serving up a variety of meats amongst a background of live music and other festivities.
Denver PrideFest, June 15-16
Recognized as one of the top 10 pride events in the country, Denver PrideFest is a free, two-day festival that takes place in Denver’s Civic Center Park. The weekend features activities and entertainment for adults, kids and pets – from a Dogs in Drag Parade and the annual Gay Pride Parade to the Denver Pride5K and three stages of music and cultural entertainment. Headliners include Todrick Hall, Cynthia Lee Fontaine, DJ Joe Gauthreaux, Lady Bunny and more.
CONCACAF Gold Cup, June 19
In mid-2018, the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) announced that Broncos Stadium at Mile High will be one of the 15 venues in 13 U.S. metropolitan cities that will welcome the 2019 edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Taking place every two years, the CONCACAF Gold Cup features some of the Western Hemisphere’s best players. It is the official national team championship of the region, crowning the best national team in North and Central America and the Caribbean. The Group A doubleheader will feature the Mexico Men’s National team against Canada, as well as Cuba facing off against Martinique.
Cherry Blossom Festival, June 22-23
The 47th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival will celebrate Japanese heritage and culture through live entertainment, food and drink, a marketplace and informative exhibits and demonstrations at downtown Denver’s Sakura Square.
Independence Eve, July 3
Held in Denver’s Civic Center Park, the annual Independence Eve celebration features a free patriotic concert, an innovative light show on the Denver City & County Building and a stunning fireworks finale over the city.
Cherry Creek Arts Festival, July 5-7
Every Fourth of July Weekend, the Cherry Creek North neighborhood hosts the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, a world-class and award-winning display of visual, culinary and performing arts. More than five full blocks of the neighborhood feature the works of local and nationally known artisans, vendors and activities, including Artivity Avenue with interactive activities for the whole family. Throughout the weekend, there are also concerts, live entertainment and more.
Slow Food Nations, July 19-21
Slow Food Nations will return to Denver for its third year, gathering leaders, eaters, farmers, chefs, educators and families for a weekend of tastings, tours and talks in Larimer Square. Modeled after the renowned Terra Madre – the original Slow Food event in Turin, Italy – Slow Food Nations in Denver has become the center of the North American food world.
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, July 27-28
In the tradition of the Chinese Duanwu Festival, Denver’s two-day version centers around the dragon boat competition, with more than 50 teams of boaters racing colorful and intricate boats across Sloan’s Lake. Additionally, the festival features performing arts stages, an Asian marketplace, Taste of Asia food courts, Dragonland for the kids, a traditional lion dance and a partnership with Colorado Anime Fest.
Buskerfest, August 1-4
Wynkoop Plaza at Denver Union Station will be home to a Colorado Day celebration kicking off the fourth annual Buskerfest, named after buskers – or traveling street performers. Colorado will be turning 143 years young – and to wish the great state happy birthday – local artists and members of the international busking community will present their fun, zany acts to crowds. Families can check out larger than life puppets, face painting, stilt performers and more.
Colorado Classic, August 22-25
Professional bicycle racing returned to Colorado in 2017 with the Colorado Classic, a series of men’s and women’s races in three Colorado cities. New this year, race organizers announced that the 2019 Colorado Classic will be a women’s only race – the only UCI standalone women’s stage race in the Western hemisphere; raising the bar with quadrupled prize purse, team stipends, live streaming and longer, more challenging routes. Teams and routes are TBA.
A Taste of Colorado, August 31 – September 2
This festival, held in Denver’s Civic Center Park and on the surrounding streets, highlights some of Colorado’s favorite food establishments – from ethnic specialties to traditional favorites, diners can enjoy full-sized or sample portions of their favorites throughout the festival. The festival also features live music from more than 25 national and regional artists, family-friendly activities and more.
CRUSH Walls, September 2-8
For about a week each fall, CRUSH (Creative Rituals Under Social Harmony) organizes artists, in partnership with local businesses, to splash color and concepts across the RiNo (River North) Art District through the use of mural art. The event has become a platform for artists from around the world to gather, create and share ideas and techniques, all to the delight of some 20,000 spectators and visitors. Started in 2010 as a low-key gathering, CRUSH Walls is quickly becoming one of the largest street art festivals in the world, accumulating popular acclaim and formal accolades.
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. The Rapids play the New England Revolution 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 and the Rockies will have two nights of fireworks after competing against the Houston Astros.
Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,300 animals representing 650 species including Asian elephants, African lions, Komodo dragons and Western lowland gorillas; and it is the greenest zoo in the country. Open daily with numerous animal shows, feedings and meet and greets, along with new animals and interactive exhibits, Denver Zoo is one of the city’s top cultural attractions.
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 new Meow Wolf Kaleidoscape, 14 pint-sized adventures, exhilarating roller coasters, cool water slides, Dive-In Movies, free concerts and more.
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. Opening day is May 25.
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Located in downtown Denver, the 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 exhibits feature plenty of Colorado-themed activities, from climbing over “boulders” to trekking up “mountain” paths to ziplining and spelunking, all within a kid-friendly, creative and safe environment. New this year, Adventure Forest is a 500-foot long outdoor aerial course with a fully immersive art installation that kids can climb, scramble, soar and swing through.
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.
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.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
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. The free Visitor Center at Red Rocks features interactive educational displays and a short film on the geologic and musical history of the venue. The park is open daily; and Summer Concert Series, Film on the Rocks and event schedules can be found online.
Dinosaur Ridge is free and features more than 300 dinosaur tracks, making it the top tracksite in the nation according to paleontologists. The Dinosaur Ridge Trail is just over two-miles long and has more than 15 fossil and geologic sites; it can be accessed by foot, bike or guided bus tour. The Main Visitor Center at the complex offers interactive fossil experiences, educational exhibits, a gift shop and the Stegosaurus Snack Shack.
Outdoor Movies in Denver 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.
Free and Discounted Activities
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.
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.
Attraction Discount Passes
Mile High Culture Pass
VISIT DENVER offers the Mile High Culture Pass, a three-day pass which allows admission to many of the city’s top museums and cultural attractions for a great deal. Visit the website for additional details on the attractions included and how to purchase.
Visitors can save up to 31% on combined admission prices for up to five top attractions with Denver CityPass. Visit the website for additional details on the attractions included and how to purchase.