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Kids are often tough to please — but they’ll be grinning from ear to ear whenever they’re in The Mile High City, thanks to Denver’s wide array of kid-friendly activities. Interactive museums, incredible zoos and aquariums, wide-open parks — they’re perfect ways to entertain your little travelers.

The City Park Area

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 sits the Denver Zoo, where education comes alive. More than 4,300 animals await at Denver's most popular cultural attraction. See elephants swim, orangutans swing and hear lions roar while enjoying up-close animal experiences that provide moving connections to wildlife.  

Just adjacent to the zoo is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, a spectacular museum that explores fossils and dinosaurs, the mysteries of space at Gates Planetarium, Egyptian mummies, larger-than life films at the Phipps IMAX 3D Theater, and a slew of interactive exhibits. The Discovery Zone has dozens of hands-on activities for kids of all ages, from archeological sand pits to moving water features.

Along the Platte River

The Platte River Valley, in the heart of the city and on the west side of Downtown, boasts a cornucopia of family-friendly attractions and entertainments. 

At the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus they believe in kid-powered learning. Their one-of-a-kind exhibits open doors for young minds to create, discover, explore — on their own terms. Whether painting or sculpting, pretending to be a foraging squirrel, climbing to the top of their 3 ½-story "mountain," or making 8-foot-tall bubbles, an adventure is ready for you.

Nearby, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park offers exhilarating adventures on 53 rides, including the new 17-story Star Flyer swing. There is also an area perfect for young kiddos, plenty of family rides and a 10-acre swimming area, with slippery slides, crashing waves and lazy rivers.

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, see a mermaid show, become a marine biologist for a day, or even spend the night in the aquarium.

While you're in the area, hop aboard the Denver Trolley, an open-air streetcar that resembles the trolley on the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood TV show. The narrated tours provide a fascinating historical account of Denver from its Gold Rush days to the present.

ART PROGRAMS FOR KIDS 

The world-class Denver Art Museum — free for those 18 and younger — is a great place to introduce kids to the wide and wonderful world of art. Every gallery on every floor of this expansive museum has something fun for families.

First, pick up a free family backpack on the first floor of the Hamilton Building. These backpacks are filled with arts, crafts and games. Stop by Creative Corners throughout the museum for activities like making a treasure chest, mixing and matching landscapes, piecing together portraits and more.

Pickup a Gallery Game, small activity boards that help kids learn about artwork through games similar to I spy, bingo and memory matching. In the lower level of DAM's North Building, you'll find the Just For Fun Family Center (JFFC), where touching, scribbling, building and playing is strongly encouraged. 

Nearby, check out the Kids Corner, where youngsters can create their own mini-masterpiece.

Smudge, squiggle and splatter at Create Playdates on the second Wednesday of the month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. (extended to 2 p.m. June-August). Drop in with your little ones (ages 3–5) to meet up with other tots and their grown-ups for artmaking in Duncan Pavilion, storytime throughout the museum and instructor-guided "close looking" to explore artwork. Create Playdates explore a new theme every other month.

Kids will also find joy in tracing and adorning costumes in the Costume Studio, located on level one of the Hamilton Building.

DAM also offers a wide array of art-centric classes and camps for kids every summer.

Contemporary art can be for kids, too! The Fox Family Idea Box at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is a dedicated space for families located on the top floor of the museum. Filled with art-making activities and comfortable seating, it is a place where kids and their adults can relax, make art or just hang-out. The museum worked with artist Paul Andersen to install an immersive art-making environment and provide opportunities for families to simply spend time together experiencing art.

HISTORY COLORADO CENTER

The History Colorado Center brings history to life with amazing interactive presentations. Traverse a 60-foot map of the state using a "time machine." Virtually zoom across the plains in a Model T Ford. And soar off of a re-creation of one of the world's first ski jumps in Steamboat Springs, Colo.

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.

DINOSAUR RIDGE 

At Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison (near Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre), an outdoor museum and visitor center, you can touch the bones of Allosaurus and Stegosaurus at the site where important dinosaur discoveries were made in the late 1800s. See how Iguanadons walked by viewing real dinosaur footprints preserved in the sandstone.

MORRISON NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Get a glimpse of early dinosaur discoveries from Colorado, including fossils from the first Stegosaurus and Apatosaurus ever found. Located 25 minutes west of Downtown Denver, the 3,000-square-foot Morrison Natural History Museum offers a relaxed environment that is perfect for kids of all ages to explore rocks and fossils. The exhibits and guides connect visitors with the ancient story of the Front Range. Local excavations yielded famous baby dinosaur footprints that were featured in Smithsonian magazine and worldwide press.

THE BUTTERFLY PAVILION 

Located in Westminster, a 15-minute drive from downtown Denver, the Butterfly Pavilion 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 — if you dare. The tropical conservatory is filled with lush greenery, trickling streams and more than 1,600 flitting butterflies, moths and skippers, shipped from farms as far away as Kenya and Ecuador. Also stop by the Water's Edge exhibit to be immersed in an underwater world full of sea creatures.

FREE AND CHEAP THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS

There's no shortage of fun-filled, free — and nearly free — family activities in Denver. 

On the first Tuesday of every month, families can play for free at the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus from 4 to 8 p. m.

The Denver Art Museum is free for youth ages 18 and younger every day, and free for all on the first Saturday of each month.

The Tattered Cover Book Store, 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. The 16th Street Mall location is one of its three locations in the metro area, plus one at the Denver International Airport. 

Denver is an undisputed sports paradise, and while tickets to the major sporting events don't come cheap, in-the-know baseball fanatics purchase Colorado Rockies baseball Rockpile seats, which start at just $4.