Whether looking for family cultural activities or nature and historic experiences, Colorado has it all. From the many mountain towns of Colorado to the metropolitan areas, there’s sure to be something to entertain all members of your family. Here are the best Denver day trips for families.
Best Denver Day Trips for Families
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Colorado is a spectacular state. The capitol of Denver is a bustling cultural center, with easy access to the stunning Rocky Mountains. The mountains themselves have so much to offer from hiking and mountain biking to hot springs and ski slopes. We may be biased, but we don’t think there’s a better place to enjoy nature with your family. It really doesn’t take long to access all that Colorado has to offer.
Denver Day Trip to Boulder
Boulder is about 40 miles northwest of Denver. Back when I was in my 20s I would head from Denver to Boulder about once a week to hike Mount Sanitas with my dog. It is charming college town with lots of great hiking trails. Now that we have kids, Chautauqua Park with a network of easier hiking trails is our family favorite. The Ranger Cottage at Chautauqua is filled with animals native to the area, and information on local hikes.
Pearl Street Mall is also a colorful bevy of entertainment. Kids can play on climbable animal sculptures or splash in the spray pad. In addition, it is chock full of history. Signs scattered throughout the mall tell fascinating stories from the gold rush era.
Travel time from Denver to Boulder: 40 minutes (29.6 miles)
Denver Day Trip to Georgetown Loop Railroad
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is located about 50 miles west of Denver, a straight shot on I70. The Georgetown Loop Railroad was completed in 1884. This spectacular stretch of three-foot narrow gauge railroad was considered an engineering marvel for its time. Kids are sure to be enthralled with a ride on these track. But adults will also enjoy taking in the scenery and the history. Add on a mine tour for a little extra history. Or, take the family during the holidays for Santa’s North Pole Adventure.
After your train ride, you might take a drive along the Peak to Peak Highway, a scenic byway that tours popular Front Range towns like Estes Park and Nederland, through Central City and Black Hawk to see historic buildings from the Gold Rush days.
Travel time from Denver to Georgetown Loop Railroad: 54 minutes (46 miles)
Denver Day Trip to Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is about 70 miles from Denver. Here families will enjoy spectacular hikes, wildflowers, wildlife and starry nights. Drive Trail Ridge Road and the Old Fall River Road during the fall to take in the bright yellow aspens lining rivers. The park offers short, easy hiking trails such as Bear Loop and Coyote Valley that reward visitors with stunning views, as well as wildlife and wild flower sightings. If you have the time go fishing or take a horseback ride.
Travel time from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park: 1 hour 35 minutes (66 miles)
Denver Day Trips to Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs may be best known for Garden of the Gods and the Broadmoor, but there’s so much more for families to do. It will take more than one day trip to fit in all that Colorado Springs has to offer.
Visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo to feed giraffes, connect with over 750 animals and get hands on with zoo animals. Cave of the winds, an outdoor park loaded with adrenaline-packed fun, also offers an elevated cave show.
The North Pole — Santa’s Workshop is an enchanting outdoor park loaded with family fun year round.
At the Penny Arcade in Manitou find hundreds of arcade games, a few of which still cost a penny. Tour arcade game history with over 20 different pinball machines and 30 different racing games.
At the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center, just outside of Colorado Springs, visitors can take a tour to meet all of the resident animals, learn their histories and gain a better understanding of how they and their habitat are being threatened and what people can do to help.
Travel back in time at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, featuring fossils from North America’s Cretaceous Period including marine reptiles, pterosaurs and dinosaurs, located in Woodland Park, Colorado.
Travel time from Denver to Colorado Springs: 1 hour 15 minutes (68.8 miles)
Denver Day Trip to Evergreen
Nestled in the mountains just 30 miles west of Denver, Evergreen offers alpine meadows, cool forests and brilliant wildflowers creating the perfect environment for family hikes. In the summer boat and in the winter ice skate on Evergreen Lake. Check out Maxwell Falls, fish or stay and camp out. And, on the way home treat the entire family to the Famous Willy’s Wings in Morrison.
Travel time from Denver to Evergreen: 40 minutes (29 miles)
Denver Day Trip to Red Rocks Amphitheater
Red Rocks Amphitheater is about 20 miles west of downtown Denver. This is most certainly a Colorado landmark that everyone should experience. It is trickier for families to find a family-friendly performance. But it is possible. Even if you can’t find a concert that is a good fit for your family, it is still worth a visit just to check out the venue. And, you will find family-friendly hiking trails nearby.
Travel time from Denver to Red Rocks: 27 minutes (16.8 miles)
Overnight or Weekend Getaways
Don’t forget that the very best Colorado mountain destinations for families are just a little too far outside of Denver for a day trip. So, try to make an overnight or weekend of some of Colorado’s ski resorts and historic mountain towns. Some of our favorites include Glenwood Springs, Vail, Snowmass and Copper Mountain. Colorado’s National Parks, National Monuments and State Parks offer unique beauty that can’t be beat. It is well worth considering a visit to Great Sands National Monument, Colorado National Monument and Mesa Verde. Many of Colorado’s mountain towns also boast natural hot springs. Most of these are family-friendly and fun experiences. Some, such as the Glenwood Hot Springs, even have water rides.
As you can see there are plenty of options for day trips from Denver. Enjoy your time in Colorado, both on the Front Range and beyond!
About the author
Liana Moore lived overseas growing up with friends of different cultures. Liana believes those experiences helped develop empathy for others. She’s working to give her children similar cultural experiences, having fun along the way. Based in the mountains of Colorado, much of her time is spent exploring the mountain playground she calls home. When she’s not marketing traveling and writing, find her trying out new sports like BMX biking with her eleven-year-old daughter or debating with her seven-year-old son (and occasionally winning). Follow Liana’s adventures at Insider Families