Denver is a mecca for both outdoor and indoor activities. Whether you like hiking, biking, jumping, eating, drinking, or exploring history, Denver has unique adventures perfect for every family. I’ve lived here for ten years but never truly experienced all the city has to offer until I saw it through my toddler’s eyes!
1/Children's Museum of Denver
2121 Children's Museum Dr.
Fire truck, kitchen, dentist’s office, and an art studio. Those are just some of the hands-on exhibits awaiting your kid at the newly-expanded Children’s Museum. Located close to downtown, the museum has exhibits geared toward all ages, including a separate baby-only area. But not all the fun is inside. Head outdoors for the 30,000-square-foot Joy Park, where kids can build forts, explore water, pick apples, and dig in the sand. Cost: $13.
2/Sky Zone Trampoline Park
9851 S. Parker Rd., Parker
Feel like a kid while bouncing on indoor trampolines at Sky Zone Trampoline Park. There are several trampoline courts where you can bounce for hours - a great activity if the Colorado weather is not cooperating with your outdoor plans. Have a toddler? SkyZone offers special toddler times, where little ones can bounce on their own dedicated court for 1-1/2 hours. Parents are able to go out with them but can’t bounce. Cost: M-Th $12 for 2 hours; F-Su $8-$18 depending on how long you want to jump.
Looking to climb instead of bounce? Denver and the surrounding areas have dozens of indoor climbing gyms, offering everything from open climbing to classes for tots and teens.
700 Water St.
This underwater adventure is sure to amaze kids of all ages. Discover fish and reptiles from around the world housed in more than a million gallons of water. Admission to the Downtown Aquarium is a bit pricey, so be sure to plan a long visit to get your money’s worth. You can upgrade your ticket to include face painting, stingray fish feeding, and the 4-D movie experience or pay for these extras à la carte. There’s also an aquatic carousel and train. Be sure to check out the events calendar for specials like Tiger Tuesdays and Wild Dreams Overnight, where kids can sleep next to sharks! And bring your appetite. You can dine next to the fish at the aquarium restaurant; it keeps my kid entertained long enough for me to eat a full meal! Be sure to make a reservation to avoid a long wait. Cost: Youth (3-11) $13.50; Adult $26.50.
KidTripster Tip: Check out Underwater Storytime every Wednesday. It lasts about 30 minutes, takes place before the aquarium opens and costs a few extra dollars. Staff members read a book focusing on a different sea creature each week, and if you’re lucky, they’ll even bring that creature for a quick show-and-tell.
Once you discover all the underwater creatures, head outside to the Denver Zoo (2300 Steele St.) to learn about all the land animals. Young kids will enjoy the carousel and the small train ride (extra fee), while older kids will love close-up encounters with gorillas and penguins ($45-$60). You can also feed the giraffes, but be sure to get in line early. Cost: Youth (3-11) $12; Adult $17.
16831 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison
Located about 20 minutes west of Denver, Dinosaur Ridge brings these prehistoric creatures to life. You can touch real dinosaur bones and footprints along a paved route with breathtaking views of Denver and beyond. The road is closed to the public, so you can either hike up or take a guided bus tour for a nominal fee. Back at the base, the hands-on museum encourages kids to pick up dinosaur claws and teeth, dig for fossils in the sand box, or pan for gold at the Rooney Gulch Mine. (Just buy sluice bags inside the gift shop.) Check out the website for a list of free events like Dinosaur Discovery Days (a monthly event with different themes) or TriceraTOTS, a book reading and craft time aimed at kids (ages 2-5). Cost: $6 for guided shuttle; $2 for indoor exhibits.
KidTripster Tip: You can get snacks and water here, but pack a lunch, if you’re going to stay for a few hours. Or you can make the short drive into the nearby town of Morrison for some small-town eats.
5/Denver Art Museum
100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy.
Think an art museum is no place for kids? Think again! The Denver Art Museum’s numerous interactive exhibits bring art to life. Kids can scour different exhibits while playing Bingo, play dress up or build a fort at the Just For Fun Family Center. My daughter loves the design lab, where she can play with cross-stitch and tapestry. During the summer, the museum also offers backpacks stuffed with puzzles and activities to play with throughout the seven floors of exhibits. Plus, everyone under 18 gets in free, so it’s an affordable family outing. Cost: Youth (under 18) free; Adult $13.
6/Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
7711 E. Academy Blvd. #1
Housed in a 40,000-square-foot hanger on the former Lowry Air Force Base, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum showcases military and general aviation aircraft, including fighters and bombers, as well as rockets and other space aircraft. The museum offers weekly storytime for all age groups and sometimes even lets kids climb into the cockpits! Cost: Youth (4-16) $6; Adult $12.50.
7/Lair O' the Bear Park
22600 State Hwy. 74, Idledale
No matter what your hiking ability, Lair O’ the Bear Park is sure to please everyone. Take your curious toddler down the flat walk alongside the creek to a beautiful castle. My daughter loves seeing the wild deer drinking from the water. For the more adventurous members of the family, hike or mountain bike one of the many trails heading uphill. Everyone can meet down by the river for a picnic lunch and use one of the charcoal grills located at the base of the trailhead. Located just 30 minutes west of Denver, Lair O’ the Bear is a great escape from the city without draining your gas tank.
If hiking and biking don’t wear you out, head about five miles down the street to the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheater. Hike up to the unique concert venue and then act like a local by running the stairs. Spend some time at the top to relish in your accomplishment and take in the breathtaking views of Denver and unrivaled rock formations.
320 W. Colfax Ave.
There are only four mints in the U.S., so a trip to Denver wouldn’t be complete without going on this rare tour. Located in the heart of Downtown Denver, the Denver Mint offers a free, 45-minute guided tour on Monday through Thursday. These tours fill up quickly, so make a reservation in advance. (You won’t be admitted without a confirmation number.) On the tour, you’ll learn about American coin history and even see some in production. Cost: Free.
KidTripster Tip: If you’re up for it, take a 15-minute walk to the Colorado State Capitol Building and look for the step marked “One Mile Above Sea Level.” This spot makes for a great family photo op!
9/Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York St.
The 24-acre Denver Botanic Gardens are a beautiful place to take a stroll and learn about plants and flowers from around the world. But if you have young ones, head across the street to the Mordecai Children’s Garden, an area geared toward kids (ages 1-8) (Admission is included in your ticket.). It’s a great place for kids to discover ecosystems in a hands-on way, complete with a shallow stream, mystery forest, and rooftop alpine garden. Bring a change of clothes, because if your kid is anything like mine, he or she will get dirty! Cost: Youth (3-15) $9; Adult $12.50.
6252 W 104th Ave., Westminster
Get ready to hold the friendliest tarantula around - Rosie! The Butterfly Pavillon is a good 20-minute drive west of Denver, but it’s worth the effort. It’s home to more than 5,000 animals, including insects, turtles, birds, and fish, and of course, Rosie. Head into the Wings of the Tropics exhibit, where countless butterflies fly around and may even land on you. As you wind your way through the 7,200-square-foot exhibit, you’ll also discover more than 200 plant species, as well as turtles and fish. My toddler was amazed when the staff released new butterflies into the exhibit! Cost: Youth (2-12) $6; Adult $11.
KidTripster Tip: Do a quick online search before your trip, as the Butterfly Pavillon occasionally offers $5 admission days.