Introducing guest blogger Sally from Little Hiccups
When most people think of Colorado they think of mountains, skiing and hiking. And it’s true – with more “Fourteeners” (mountains over 14,000 feet) than any other state in the USA, skiing and hiking are probably the most popular past times in Colorado. However, the state has so much more to offer if hiking and skiing are not your thing, especially in the capital city Denver.
Despite being located at an altitude of exactly one mile, Denver AKA the Mile High City is almost completely flat! That makes it a fantastic city for exploring – without the need for hiking boots! While Colorado may see its fair share of snow in the winter, Denver boasts an average of over 300 sunny days a year, making it the sunniest city in the USA. This means that even if it’s a chilly winter day, it’s still a good day to be out and about exploring Denver!
Let’s take a look at some of the top places to visit in Denver with kids.
This post is part of our Explore My City series – come and visit cities around the world through the eyes of locals
Who doesn’t love meeting some new furry, feathered or scaled friends? Denver Zoo is a great spot for a day out with kids. This beautifully landscaped zoo features a large array of animals including elephants, rhinos, giraffes, sea lions, kangaroos, sloths, lions, flamingos, and so much more.
The tree-lined walkways make the zoo the perfect place to visit at any time of year with plenty of shade in the Summer. Visitors can get up close to stingrays and sharks in the open-air Stingray Cove exhibit, watch the zoo’s medical staff provide care to the animals in the animal hospital, and hand-feed colorful birds in the Lorikeet Adventure exhibit. The zoo offers plenty of dining options as well as a carousel and a train ride. Seasonal events include the always popular Zoo Lights display each December.
Denver Zoo is located in City Park off E 23rd Street, Denver
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
This hands on museum located in City Park has been popular with Denver locals and visitors since it first opened in 1908. Since then the museum has gone through many transformations, but the focus on learning and exploration has remained the same.
Visitors will find many fascinating temporary exhibits as well as permanent exhibits including more than 90 realistic wildlife dioramas, an impressive collection of gems and minerals, a large prehistoric display featuring dinosaurs and megafauna, a hands-on space exhibit, an Egyptian hall featuring real mummies, an interactive health exhibit where visitors can learn how the human body works, and a discovery zone for the youngest visitors.
The museum is also home to a planetarium and an IMAX cinema. The Sky Terrace on level 4 offers visitors stunning views over City Park and Denver.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science is located in City Park at 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver.
Denver’s 320 acre City Park is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike to relax, eat a picnic with friends, play sports, take to the water, listen to live music, and have fun. City Park is home to both Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science as well as playgrounds, tennis courts, playing fields, picnic spots, lakeside trails and boat rentals for Ferril Lake which takes pride of place in the center of the park. City Park Pavilion, is home to the annual jazz festival and has been a popular location for live music since it was built in the 1880s.
City Park is located at 1700 N York Street, Denver.
Denver’s Downtown Aquarium is on the smaller side as far as aquariums go, but it’s a great place for animal lovers to spend a couple of hours exploring life under the sea and much more. Here you’ll find a variety of exhibits that are home to over 500 different species of animal. There are exhibits that focus on coral reefs, rainforests, tidepools, oceans, deserts, and so much more.
Popular exhibits include the walk-through tunnel which sees sharks and various fish swimming overhead, the tiger exhibit, and the Stingray Reef touch pool where visitors can pet stingrays as they glide past. Downtown Aquarium is centrally located alongside the South Platte River close to other popular attractions including Children’s Museum of Denver, Elitch Gardens, Broncos Stadium, and Confluence Park.
Downtown Aquarium is located at 700 Water Street, Denver
RiNo Art District
Denver’s River North neighborhood, or RiNo as it’s known, is THE destination for fans of colorful street art. While fantastic street art can be found all around Denver, the murals are quite concentrated in this neighborhood, partly in thanks to the annual Crush Walls street art festival held each September. Each year dozens of artists taking part in the festival painting the walls of RiNo’s businesses with colorful, fun, thought-provoking, and creative murals.
Throughout the year yet more murals are painted by mostly local artists, adding to the unique feel of the neighborhood. Off the walls, you’ll find a wealth of art studios and galleries in RiNo as well as stores selling goods made by local artisans. The Denver Central Market has got you covered when it comes to filling your belly, with an array of eateries and a large outdoor dining area.
Denver is home to many micro-neighborhoods, each with a distinct feel. Some of these are as small as just one block, but what they lack in size they make up for in good food, fun entertainment, street art, and culture. Denver’s Dairy Block is one such micro-neighborhood.
Located just a few blocks from Union Station, Dairy Block is home to Denver Milk Market, a culinary destination filled with a large variety of cuisines including pizza, crepes, Southern-style comfort food, baked goods, sandwiches, burgers, gelato, brunch, and a cocktail bar. Visitors can dine inside in the many public dining areas or head out to The Alleyway.
The Alleyway is the highlight of Dairy Block. With heat lamps, lots of sparkly overhead lighting, and a partially undercover section, this narrow alleyway is the perfect place to dine al fresco all year round. The walls of The Alleyway feature vibrant murals and seasonal floral displays and a large milk splash sculpture that decorates the far end is sure to be a hit with kids.
Along the alleyway, you’ll find musical churns with light up and play music when the handle is turned. These are sure to delight kids. Throughout the year you’ll find musical entertainment and Drag Queen Bingo Brunch on Sundays.
Dairy Block is located at 1800 Wazee Street, Denver.
Located where the South Platte River and Cherry Creek join, Confluence Park is a popular spot for cooling off on a hot day. When the weather warms up you’ll find plenty of people here taking a dip in the cool water, skipping stones, wading along the river’s edge, kayaking, tubing on the small rapids, and even fishing.
The park features plenty of lawn areas for picnicking and the many trails that lead through the park are popular with joggers, dog walkers, and families taking a stroll. Take a walk along the Cherry Creek trail and you’ll find many colorful murals decorating the walls that line the creek.
Located right in the heart of Denver, Elitch Gardens is an amusement park and water park in one. With death-defying rides for thrill-seekers, family-friendly rides, waterslides, plenty of yummy food, and gift stores, there’s something for everyone here. Elitch Gardens is open each year between Memorial Day and Labor Day and has long been a popular place for Colorado families to spend a day of Summer fun.
For those who like their rides on the scarier side, you’ll find rollercoasters that loop upside down at high speeds, a drop tower that plunges towards the ground, pendulum rides that spin super fast and so much more.
For the rest of us, there are more sedate rides like the Ferris while, carousels, the tilt-a-whirl, and a classic teacups ride. Likewise, the waterslides vary in intensity with options for your kids through to adults.
Elitch Gardens is located at 2000 Elitch Circle, Denver.
Children’s Museum of Denver
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus is an absolute treat for young children. With hands-on exhibits and play areas for babies through to eight years, there is something for every kid here. Indoor exhibits include plenty of opportunities for imaginative play, hands-on learning, and creative fun. You’ll find a fire station, a vet clinic, bubble and water play stations, an art studio to create with paint and clay, lightboxes, storytime, and much more.
Outdoor exhibits encourage climbing, exploring, water play, sand play, and adventure. The Adventure Forest is a highlight with its 500ft long aerial adventure course that sees visitors climbing through tunnels, crossing rope bridges, sliding down 70ft slides, and taking in views over Denver from the top.
Children’s Museum of Denver is located at 2121 Children’s Museum Drive, Denver.
Denver Botanic Gardens
A visit to a botanic garden is always a great way to relax and spend some time getting in touch with nature, and Denver’s Botanic Garden is no different. With 24 acres of plant life, there is so much to see here. You’ll find collections from across the South West and all around the world, with a Japanese tea garden, a tropical conservatory, a South African Plaza, rock alpine and steppe gardens, water gardens, and more.
Each year Denver Botanic Garden plays host to two incredible seasonal light displays which are always a treat to see. Glow at the Gardens sees Denver Botanic Gardens come to life with glowing pumpkins, spooky displays, and a galaxy of twinkling lights filling October nights with color in the lead-up to Halloween. In December the gardens sparkle again with the annual Blossoms of Light exhibition celebrating the holiday season.
Denver Botanic Gardens is located at 1007 York Street, Denver.
Denver Selfie Museum
For a museum of a different sort, make sure to check out Denver Selfie Museum. Ok, so this one is a museum in name only. It’s more of a fun photo studio filled with interactive displays and props. Just bring your own camera or phone along with your friends and family and have fun snapping some creative shots.
You’ll find all sorts of fun displays and props including murals, creative lighting displays, giant food, a ball pit room, illusions, a mirrored room with infinite reflections, and so much more. It’s a fun way to spend an hour and snap some fun memories.
Denver Selfie Museum is located at 1531 Stout Street, Denver
For another interactive art “museum” make sure to check out Earth Illuminated located in Denver Pavilions. Like Denver Selfie Museum, Earth Illuminated features fun and interactive photo opportunities. The exhibits at Earth Illuminated focus on nature and the way that we interact with the world around us. You’ll find giant insect and plant sculptures, murals, neon light displays, illuminations, floral wall panels, projections, and more. With 13,000 square feet of displays, there is plenty to see and snap a pic with.
Earth Illuminated is located in Denver Pavilions at 500 16th Street, Denver.
Denver Art Museum
With over 70,000 artworks in its collection, Denver Art Museum is one of the largest and most vibrant art museums between the West Coast and Chicago.
Denver Art Museum is located at 100 W 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver
Looking for some Denver day trip ideas? Why not try:
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
Located just a thirty-minute drive west of Denver, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Colorado. This stunning natural amphitheater of tall tall red rock structures is known as one of the most iconic music venues in the country. But it’s so much more than a music venue. When performances are not scheduled, the amphitheater is a popular spot for all sorts of activities. You’ll spot people exercising on the steep-stepped seating, families having picnics, friends catching up, and even yoga classes.
The rocky area surrounding the amphitheater features many popular hiking trails. While many of these trails are quite short in length, they can be quite steep in parts and the high altitude (6280 feet above sea level) can make them feel a little tougher than they otherwise would.
The Trading Post and Mt Vernon Creek trails are both good options for families. You’ll also find a visitors center, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and Red Rocks Hall of Fame within the park. If you get the chance to catch a performance at Red Rocks Amphitheater you definitely won’t want to miss it. It’s an experience like no other.
Red Rocks Amphitheater 18300 W Alameda Parkway, Morrison
Dinosaur fans will get a kick out of checking out Dinosaur Ridge! Just a short drive from Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Dinosaur Ridge features a small museum and visitor’s center dedicated to the fossil finds of the local area, but the biggest attractions can be found along Dinosaur Ridge Trail. This fully paved trail is approximately 2 miles return from the visitor’s center and is a treasure trove of fossil finds.
Along the trail, you’ll find ripple marks from when the area was a prehistoric ocean, bone beds where you can actually touch fossilized Jurassic era dinosaur bones embedded in the sandstone, bulges in the rocks left by brontosaurus tracks, and, the highlight, the world-famous dinosaur track site which features over 300 dinosaur footprints. Guided tours are available with advance booking, but the ample signage at each point of interest makes Dinosaur Ridge Trail easy to navigate self-guided.
Dinosaur Ridge is located at 16831 W Alameda Parkway, Morrison
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Located just northeast of Denver, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a popular spot for escaping the city to hike, picnic, and view local wildlife. Taking its name from its former life as a wartime manufacturing site, this 15,000-acre refuge is a conservation success story and home to a variety of habitats including prairie, wetlands, and woodlands.
Take a walk or a drive through the refuge and you just might spot bald eagles, mule deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, burrowing owls, black-footed ferrets, and bison. While most of the animals that call the refuge home roam free in the same areas that visitors enjoy, the bison graze in large fenced-off areas to keep everyone safe. Rocky Mountain Arsenal features more than 10 miles of easy to moderate hiking trails that take visitors through the prairie and around the various lakes. Catch and release fishing is allowed in the lakes with a permit.
For those who’d like to explore further, there is a self-guided, 11-mile wildlife drive that navigates through the bison pasture. Children are able to take part in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Junior Ranger program and earn themselves a badge while also learning about the history of the refuge and the animals that call it home.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is located at 6550 Gateway Drive, Commerce City.
About the Blogger
To catch up on Sally’s latest adventures, visit her blog, Little Hiccups.
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With thanks to Sally for her contribution to our guest series. You may also like to read about Colorado Springs, Colorado, or Omaha, Nebraska.
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One thought on “Navigating the Best of Denver with Family”
I’ve been living in Denver for more than 30 years now, and I swear to god the thing I’m most proud about is the fact that we have the largest number of sunny days among all USA cities. Talking about the places described in the article my children’s favorite one is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Maybe they are just nerds like their mommy is but we’ve been there a couple of times and every time kids find something new and interesting for them. The zoo is pretty good, too. All animals seem healthy and satisfied with their homes, and it’s very clean there!