Families will find no shortage of fun for all ages in Denver, with zoos, theme parks, interactive museums, dinosaurs, family-friendly festivals and much more. Below are just a few of the exciting things families can do during their visit to The Mile High City, including some of the attractions, outdoor recreation, free (or nearly free) activities and family-friendly dining options.
Located in Westminster, a 15-minute drive from downtown Denver, this stand-alone insect zoo is the perfect indoor refuge in which to interact with live invertebrates fluttering around a lush rainforest, or to hold Rosie, a Chilean Rose Hair tarantula, in the palm of your hand. The Wings of the Tropics conservatory is home to more than 1,600 flitting butterflies, moths and skippers, shipped from farms as far away as Kenya and Ecuador. Visitors can also explore the wonder of coral reefs and other ocean invertebrates in Water's Edge, and explore the unique and diverse invertebrate habitats that exist here in Colorado. butterflies.org
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. Visitors can also explore Adventure Forest, a 500-foot long outdoor aerial course with a fully immersive art installation that kids can climb, scramble, soar and swing through. Elements include the chimney climb, rope spring, log bridge, tippy tippy top lookout and several exhilarating 70-foot slides. cmdenver.org
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 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.
COLORADO RAILROAD MUSEUM
Lose track of time year-round at the Depot Museum and 15-acre railyard featuring more than 100 engines, cabooses and coaches and the garden railway, renowned library and roundhouse restoration facility with working turntable. Special events and train rides on a vintage steam locomotive happen throughout the year, and the museum has a fun gift store with souvenirs to delight train buffs of all ages. crrm.org
DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS
Art and science unite in Denver Botanic Gardens' spectacular 24-acre site, offering an unforgettable experience for the whole family, as well as a living laboratory for education and plant conservation programs. The Mordecai Children’s Garden offers a place to play, explore and discover. Young naturalists will have the opportunity to learn unique characteristics of plants living in the Rooftop Alpine Garden, discover how plants and animals live together on Marmot Mountain, race pinecones down Springmelt Stream, hunt for bugs in the Glorious Grasslands and observe aquatic life at Pipsqueak Pond. There are also two restaurants that serve some plants grown right at the Gardens. botanicgardens.org
DENVER FIREFIGHTERS MUSEUM
Located in historic Denver Fire Station No. 1, families will love the Denver Firefighters Museum. The building was erected in 1909 and served as a working fire station until 1974. Kids will enjoy the hands-on activities as well as the exhibits that provide information on fire safety and prevention. Be sure to have the camera ready as they try on equipment, slide down the pole, ride on a fire truck designed specifically for kids and pretend to put out fires. The museum also has a gift shop with toys, apparel, books and more. denverfirefightersmuseum.org
DENVER MUSEUM OF NATURE & SCIENCE
Exciting minds of all ages, Denver Museum of Nature & Science lets kids explore fossils and dinosaurs, the mysteries of space at Gates Planetarium, Egyptian mummies, the riddles of the human body at Expedition Health and a slew of other hands-on exhibits. The museum also hosts several renowned traveling exhibitions each year. dmns.org
Denver Zoo, located in City Park, spans over 80 acres and is home to more than 4,000 animals including rare amur leopards, okapi, black rhinoceros, elephants, vampire bats, orangutan, Komodo dragons and more. Children and families love the Zoo, thanks to special children’s workshops, summer camps, fun art exhibitions and the Bunk with the Beasts overnight adventure. The Toyota Elephant Passage transports visitors to Asia, where they can walk through exhibits featuring elephants, tapirs, rhinos and much more, while learning about conservation and sustainability efforts taking place around the world. The Edge, an Amur tiger exhibit, brings guests closer than ever to the majestic creatures. denverzoo.org
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. dinoridge.org
Oceanic inspiration comes in all guises at this visually stunning aquarium, but the main draw is the 500 species of fish and marine life swimming in more than one million gallons of water. The exhibits, which traverse through a coral lagoon, Indonesian rainforests, North American wilderness, Sumatran tiger habitats, shipwrecks and wharfs, are engaging and exotic. Kids can feed the stingrays, watch a live mermaid show, swim with the sharks, become a marine biologist for a day, or even spend the night in the aquarium. aquariumrestaurants.com/downtownaquariumdenver
ELITCH GARDENS THEME & WATER PARK
Located in the heart of downtown Denver, Elitch Gardens is America’s only downtown theme and water park. 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, plus a 10 acre Water Park. elitchgardens.com
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.
HISTORY COLORADO CENTER
The History Colorado Center is an experiential museum that makes history fun and interactive. Virtually soar off the world’s first ski jump in Steamboat Springs; don a headlamp and descend into a mine; or push a “Jules Verne-like Time Machine” over the Rockies. Whether you spend time with Chief Yellow Wolf, Kit Carson or Barney Ford, expect history like you’ve never seen, heard or experienced it before. historycolorado.org
Denver is home to seven professional sports teams, including the National Football League’s Denver Broncos, Major League Baseball’s Colorado Rockies, Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids, National Hockey League’s Colorado Avalanche, National Lacrosse League’s Colorado Mammoth, National Basketball Association’s Denver Nuggets, and Major League Lacrosse’s Denver Outlaws. Professional Sports in Denver
Located just north of downtown, Water World features more than 45 water adventures on 67 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 in the Family Fun Zone 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. waterworldcolorado.com
WINGS OVER THE ROCKIES AIR & SPACE MUSEUM
At the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, more than 50 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 Vietnam-era Huey 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.
After all the excitement of exploring everything Denver has to offer, families can get their fill of Denver cuisine at any number of delicious local restaurants. Some iconic options that have fun atmospheres and kid-friendly choices include the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant serving unique dishes in a genuine Old West setting (the kids menu even features elk and buffalo); and the Cherry Cricket, where they serve some of the best burgers in Denver with some of the most unique toppings (e.g., peanut butter, raspberry jam, green chili).
For families who need a quick, affordable bite in between adventures, the fast casual trend is a Denver staple, and the city is the birthplace of some of the country’s most popular spots. They can stop by the original Chipotle near the University of Denver, the first Quizno’s in the Capitol Hill neighborhood or try a chef-driven market hall like Avanti F&B or Denver Central Market – where they can get high-quality, healthy, yet craveable dishes at an affordable price.
And, since it is a vacation, do not skip the dessert. Denver desserts have gotten really creative – ice cream flavors like Fluffernutter and Vegan Chocolate Salted Oreo at Little Man Ice Cream, or Honey Cornbread and Coffee + Doughnuts at Sweet Action. Families should also head to The Inventing Room, where the staff is inspired by Willy Wonka and concocts scientific creations like a root beer float with exploding whipped cream or maple syrup cotton candy.