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Denver with Kids ~ Crazy Fun for Families in the Mile High City

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Denver with kids is a crazy good time! There’s plenty for families to love about a visit to the Mile High City including museums, a theme park, and an abundance of natural beauty. Family travel experts share their favorite attractions in Colorado’s capital city with this list of 16 fun things to do in Denver with kids.

Denver, Colorado a.k.a. Mile-High City

Denver, Colorado a.k.a. Mile-High City (Photo credit: welcomia, Depositphotos.com)

1. 16th Street Mall

This mile-long, pedestrian-only strip of stores and restaurants makes a fabulous starting point for your family’s Denver explorations. After strolling and shopping 16th Street Mall during the day, treat the kids to a horse-drawn carriage or pedicab ride in evenings here. For family-friendly eats, parents will appreciate a dozen craft beers on tap and adult milkshakes at 5280 Burger Bar. Meanwhile the kids will dig sundaes at 5280 Ice Cream parlor next door. Near the south end of the mall, look for Denver Pavilions, a shopping and entertainment complex with a 12-screen movie theater.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Denver's 16th Street Mall lit up for the holidays

Denver’s 16th Street Mall lit up for the holidays (Photo credit: urban_light, Depositphotos.com)

2. Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater

Renowned for being one of the world’s most impressive outdoor concert venues, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater must be seen (and heard!) to be believed. Located about 15 minutes outside the city, buy tickets in advance to experience a live performance or film at the amphitheater during your Denver family vacation. Even if you don’t score tickets, come here for beautiful views and outdoor exploration. Take the kids for a hike on Trading Post Trail or go hiking, mountain biking or horseback riding on Red Rocks Trail.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Red Rocks Amphitheater just outside Denver

Red Rocks Amphitheater just outside Denver (Photo credit: CaptureLight, Depositphotos.com)

3. Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park

Elitch Gardens serves up plenty of rides and water fun to vacationers and locals. Thrill seekers appreciate a dozen scream-inducing options with names like Brain Drain, Boomerang, and Mind Eraser. Grade schoolers enjoy the kid-sized Blazin’ Buckaroo kids’ roller coaster and the Goofy Gazebo, a play space with slides, nets and ball pits. Meanwhile, tots love rides just their size, like a mini train called the E.G. Express. Of course, there are plenty of carnival games to please all ages, too.

Kids with their Elitch Gardens carnival prizes

The Travel Mama’s kids with their Elitch Gardens carnival game prizes (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

The highlight for me was “Industrial Movement” — a high energy live performance à la “Stomp” with dancing and drum beating on trash can lids and the like. Live performances like this are almost hidden in the Trocadero Theater off the park’s main drag. Stop in for a fun show and a chance to get out of the heat or the cold, as the case may be.

The Elitch Water Park is typically open Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day each year. It boasts water rides, splash areas, a river and waterslides aplenty. The dry side of the theme park typically remains open on weekends only through the beginning of November.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Ferris wheel at Elitch Gardens

Ferris wheel at Elitch Gardens (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Denver Botanic Gardens

After the over stimulation of Elitch Gardens, your family may need some downtime in nature. Located just 10 minutes east of downtown, Denver Botanic Gardens features many peaceful paths to walk and plants to admire. While here, you must visit the 3-acre Mordecai Children’s Garden, where kids are encouraged to dig, explore and play. Also, be sure to look for the remarkable permanent Dale Chihuly glass sculpture entitled Colorado, which was formed from over 1,000 hand-blown pieces of glass.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens and a temporary Chihuly glass sculpture (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Denver Mint

Did you know Denver is home to one of America’s four active coin-producing mints? Yep! If you find a little “D” on the heads-side of your coin, then you know it was made in Denver. Interested families should sign up for a 45-minute guided tour before their Colorado vacation. You’ll learn about the history of the United State Mint and discover how coins are produced for the American public. The best part? You can save your coins because visits are free of charge!
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Denver Mint

Denver Mint (Photo credit: Visit Denver)

6. Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Located just minutes from the Denver International Airport, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is a hot spot for wild animal viewing. Plus, this wildlife refuge is free to the public. The highlight is the 11-mile wildlife drive loop that takes guests through the preserve to see bison, deer, hawks, coyotes, prairie dogs, and more. The Bison viewing area often yields incredible up-close encounters from the safety of the vehicle. The refuge also offers an interactive visitors center, miles of hiking trails, and fishing.
— Stephanie Taleghani, Consistently Curious
Bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (Photo credit: Visit Denver)

7. Children’s Museum of Denver

Designed for kids ages 4 to 8, the Children’s Museum of Denver is a great place to take kids of all ages. It is home to stellar versions of the standard children’s museum fare like water features and pretend play spaces including a make believe grocery store, firehouse and veterinary office. Meanwhile, young artists love the DIY Space and Art Studio, where they can create to their hearts’ content. Parents and children can even take real cooking workshops together in the Teaching Kitchen.

What makes this museum stand out, however, is its plethora of nature-focused exhibits, mirroring the extensive offerings of Denver itself. Joy Park is an outdoor space filled with dirt, rocks, straw bales, forts and other elements that your kids will never want to leave. The Big Backyard teaches kids about animals and their habitats through play. Kids also enjoy Altitude, where they can climb an impressive faux mountain. Children must be 40″+ to climb, but little ones should check out Box Canyon instead.

Plan for a whole day here! The Children’s Museum of Denver is located right on the edge of downtown.
— Shanna Schultz, There And Back Again Travel

Denver Children's Museum

Denver Children’s Museum (Photo credit: Visit Denver)

8. City Park

Denver’s City Park is a great place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life without actually leaving the city. The park was built in the late 1800s and is one of the oldest public spaces in Denver. It is known for being the home of both the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, but it offers so much more to families.

Kids love frolicking on the lush lawn, playing on the park’s playgrounds, and renting surrey bikes to traverse the park. Families also enjoy renting the swan-shaped pedal boats to explore and enjoy Ferril Lake. The lake features a fountain, which dazzles guests with its colorful light and water displays.

In summer, jazz music fills the air as bands play on a lakefront stage. Don’t forget to bring a picnic or visit a nearby food truck so you can dine while taking in views of the picturesque Colorado Rockies and city skyline.
— Sharlene Earnshaw, Trekaroo

Denver Skyline from City Park

View of the Denver skyline from City Park (Photo credit: Visit Denver)

9. Denver Museum of Nature & Science

The interactive Denver Museum of Nature & Science is built for curious kids. It includes popular permanent exhibits: Discovery Zone, Expedition Health, Gems and Minerals, Prehistoric Journey, and Space Odyssey. The museum also features a three-story-high IMAX theater with fascinating science-focused films and the Gates Planetarium for space exploration. No matter how many times we visit, my family discovers something new, as the museum features rotating exhibits. This museum is located in City Park near the Denver Zoo.
— Diana Rowe, Traveling In Heels

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Photo credit: Visit Denver)

10. Denver Zoo

This large zoo in City Park is filled with many favorite animals like elephants, lions, giraffes, hippos, bears, tigers, sea lions and more. Denver Zoo is similar to other big city zoos, which makes it a solid go-to activity for families in Denver. This zoo also features the miniature Denver Zoo Railroad and Conservation Carousel, perfect for a visit with kids.
— Allison Laypath, Tips for Family Trips

Feeding giraffes at the Denver Zoo

Feeding giraffes at the Denver Zoo (Photo credit: Visit Denver)

11. Downtown Aquarium

Animal lovers will also enjoy a visit to Denver’s Downtown Aquarium, home to sharks, octopuses, otters, and fish of all stripes. A 4-D theater, Aquatic Carousel, and Aquarium Express train add to the fun. Plan to eat at Downtown Aquarium’s Restaurant for a special dining experience, while seated around a 50,000 gallon, floor-to-ceiling aquarium, filled with over 100 species of colorful tropical fish.

Best of all? Mermaids! Kids will be fascinated by “real” mermaids swimming with, and teaching about, sea life and conservation at Downtown Aquarium.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Downtown Aquarium Restaurant

Downtown Aquarium Restaurant (Photo credit: Visit Denver)

12. Denver Art Museum

Filled with beautiful art and fun activities, look for hands-on activities and interactive art displays at the Denver Art Museum that will appeal to kids and adults alike. Rotating exhibits ensure that you’ll see something new every time you go. What’s more, kids under age 18 get free general admission every day! This museum is located downtown, just three blocks from the Colorado State Capital Building.
— Allison Laypath, Tips for Family Trips
Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum (Photo credit: Nyker, Depositphotos.com)

13. Denver Firefighters Museum

A visit to the Denver Firefighters Museum will please kids who love fire engines (and who doesn’t?!). Families learn fire safety and the history of the Denver Fire Department via educational displays and artifacts. Children can even slide down a fire pole, play on a fire truck, and pretend to put out fires. Be sure to stop by the museum’s fun gift shop for fire fighter-themed souvenirs and toys.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Denver Firefighters Museum

Denver Firefighters Museum (Photo credit: mikle15, Depositphotos.com)

14. Paco Sanchez Park

Just West of downtown Denver along the iconic Colfax Ave., you’ll find Paco Sanchez Park tucked away in a colorful neighborhood. Part of the “Re-Imagine Play” program, the theme at this park is music. The main attraction is a 1950’s style microphone that’s multiple stories tall and looks out over the Denver skyline and the Rocky Mountains.
You’ll find plenty of shade for parents looking to picnic and relax while kids play. A pulley system, super-fast slides, and a climbing area make this a fun park for both young families and those with teens. Plus, the views of the Broncos stadium and downtown Denver aren’t too shabby either. My family loves this park because we can play for hours without any complaints.
Paco Sanchez Park is growing, too. Phase Two of the park will feature a splash pad and community kiosk, complete with large modern letters spelling “Paco.” It’s sure to become one of Denver’s most Instagrammable spots.
— Christa Jiménez, Pura Vida Moms
Artist's rendering of Paco Sanchez Park

Artist’s rendering of Paco Sanchez Park (From Denvergov.org)

15. Colorado State Capitol

Families can visit the gold-domed Colorado State Capitol for free during their Denver vacation. Walk-ins are welcome Monday through Friday but parties larger than 10 should make reservations in advance. Mr. Brown’s Attic exhibit area offers information about Colorado’s history and the capital’s construction as well as a children’s play space.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

State Capitol of Colorado

State Capitol of Colorado (Photo credit: volgariver, Depositphotos.com)

16. Golden, Where the West Lives

If you’re looking for Colorado small town charm, then look no farther than Golden. Located in the foothills about 20 minutes west of downtown Denver, Golden welcomes families with a wide range of year-round activities. Think hiking, biking, tubing, cultural attractions, museums, and Old West history.

Explore the downtown with a free Golden Public Art Walking Tour, seeing 30+ bronze statues and murals. Then, take in a show at the family-friendly children’s matinee at Miners Alley Playhouse. Admission is free at the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, the second most visited university gem museum (after Harvard’s). Another fun thing to do in Golden is a road trip to the top of Lookout Mountain, where you’ll also discover the Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum, one of metro Denver’s most popular attractions.

Additionally, train fans shouldn’t miss a visit to Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden. It’s to fifty models of old trains. Kids can also ride a miniature the train around the museum. With over 200 locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses and more, your family could spend hours here.
— Diana Rowe, Traveling In Heels

Golden, Colorado with kids

Golden, Colorado (Photo credit: Diana Rowe)

Where to Stay in Colorado with Kids

Gaylord of the Rockies Resort

Located just a few miles from the Denver International Airport, Gaylord of the Rockies is the ultimate hotel for families with kids. It’s right on the light rail line to downtown Denver, and you don’t even need a car.
With both indoor and outdoor waterparks, sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, and gorgeous rooms, there’s plenty to love about this resort. Virtual scavenger hunt? Check. Mini golf, tennis, basketball courts and free bike rental? Check, check, check, check. Train car in the grand lobby? Of course! Families with young kids will love to run around the indoor lake, while parents of teens will appreciate the free Wi-Fi and coffee shop/bar in the main lobby.
— Christa Jiménez, Pura Vida Moms
Gaylord of the Rockies

Gaylord of the Rockies (Photo credit: Christa Jiménez)

Westin Westminster

Located between Boulder and downtown Denver, Westin Westminster makes a good choice for families looking to explore both cities. Book a mountain view room to take in the hotel’s lovely pond with fountain and the stunning Rocky Mountains in the distance. An indoor pool is sure to please the kiddies, no matter what time of year you visit.

At Westin Westminster you will find Kachina, a southwestern restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. There’s also a Starbucks on-site, as well as numerous dining and shopping options a short drive away.
— Colleen Lanin, Travel Mamas

Westin Westminster in Colorado

View from Westin Westminster (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Discover More to Explore in Colorado

Planning a Colorado family vacation? We’ve got more tips for you!

Discover which Colorado ski resorts cater to families in winter.

Colorado ski resorts aren’t just for snow play. Take a look at these Vail summer activities and what to do in Keystone in summer.

Adventurous families will especially love these amazing things to do in Canon City and Colorado Springs.

Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience ropes course

Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience in Canon City, Colorado (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Save these Denver with Kids Tips

For future reference, be sure to save these tips for planning a Denver family vacation. Simply pin the image below to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Things to Do in Denver with Kids

Which of these things to do in Denver with kids would appeal most to your family? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: As a member of the media, my family was hosted by Westin Westminster and we received complimentary Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park tickets during our Denver family vacation.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. You had me at a mixture of Las Vegas and Disneyland! This sounds a great place for a family stay. I think my kids would love it.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Sarah – My kids had a blast. A few months later, they still ask about going back to Casa Bonita!

  2. I didn’t know much about Denver to be honest except that is was close to the Rocky Mountains … good to know that it is a great place to take the kids!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Glad you found my Denver tips helpful, David! My family had a blast and can’t wait to go back sometime to explore more of the Mile Hight City.

  3. We visited Denver with our kids a few years ago, and it was a lot of fun! I didn’t realize how much there was to do there until we planned our trip.

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