If you’re planning a trip to Colorado in the summer, there are endless outdoor opportunities for fun. Most Colorado trips start in Denver and I’m thrilled to have Diana from Traveling in Heels and Elaine from Carpe Travel sharing the best things to do in Denver with kids.
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This article is a combination of two guest posts because I mistakenly published two articles about things to do in Denver with kids. I’ve decided to put them together for one awesome post. Thanks to Elaine and Diana for their contributions!
Kids Friendly Things to do in Denver
Denver, Colorado is a year-round, family vacation destination that about guarantees blue skies for your vacation. The Mile High City (due to its 5,280 feet above sea level) celebrates its strong Western heritage at Denver International Airport with a “howdy” from cowboy-hat wearing ambassadors, but Denver is no Cowtown. Its high-tech economy blends with an upscale, trendy feel while accenting its Western roots and love for the outdoors. You’ll find more to do in here than you have time, but start with these best things to do in Denver for kids of all ages.
1. Take a Hike
Denver is literally the gateway to the Rockies so why not take advantage of it? Head west for about 20-30 minutes to cool off in the foothills and enjoy an easy hike with the family. There are a variety of kid friendly hikes near Denver that offer nature tours, rivers, lakes and historical sites to see along the way.
2. Visit 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver
You’ll be surprised how fun downtown Denver is for families. A good place to start exploring is on the 16th Street Mall, Denver’s mile-long, pedestrian walkway spanning several city blocks. Hop on and hop off the free electric shuttle buses that travel up and down the Mall, stopping on every corner.
People watch, browse dozens of shops, restaurants, cafes and entertainment venues. And go ahead, sit down and play one of the 10 brightly painted pianos. On display each year from May to September, the pianos repainted each year by local artists of all ages including students from Denver public schools.
3. Head to the Colorado State Capitol
Don’t miss the opportunity to learn about the state’s history at gold-domed Colorado State Capitol. Take the stairs to the “One Mile Above Sea Level” step. From beautiful stained glass windows to Presidential portraits, a free guided tour takes family on an historic journey from early statehood to today. Visitors are welcome to watch legislative proceedings from the public galleries on the 3rd floor.
4. Hammonds Candy Factory
You’re not going to find any Oompa Loompas at the Hammond’s Candy Factory in Denver, instead you’ll see 150 busy candy makers handcrafting 5,000 pounds of candy a day. It is quite the production.
The Hammond’s Candies Factory Tour is FREE. It begins with a short video about the factory’s history; how particular candies were invented and the family who built the iconic Denver business. Then you’re led down a short hall to an open area where there is plenty of room for everyone to watch the candy makers – behind a glass wall.
Kids will see people bustling around in red aprons, stirring confections, slicing and twisting Hammond’s iconic candy canes. Your kids – and possibly yourself – will walk away with an entirely new appreciation for the art of candy making.
5. Denver Zoo
Located just 5 minutes from downtown on 80 acres within Denver’s historic City Park, the Denver Zoo is one of the most popular zoos in America. The zoo is home to more than 4,000 animal residents, representing more than 685 species, including 188 of the world’s most exotic animals including Asian elephants, African lions, Komodo dragons and Western lowland gorillas.
See how the animals live in the wild with the Denver Zoo’s natural habitats, including the Toyota Elephant Passage, Giraffe Encounter, Predator Ridge, Northern Shores, Tropical Discovery, Primate Panorama, and more.
6. Take a lunch break at City Park
After a morning at the Denver Zoo, take a picnic break for lunch at City Park. Pick up a lunch at the Denver Zoo’s many restaurants, or pack a cooler before heading out for your family adventure.
Denver’s City Park offers dozens of trees for shades, perfect for your family picnic with the added features of biking paths and playgrounds. You can even enjoy a leisurely paddle boat ride on the lake.
7. Denver Mint
Ever wonder how a coin in made? There’s a lot more to it than you might think. Denver is home to one of the six United States Mint facilities and is only one of two that offers tours.
The free, 45-minute guided tour explains the history of the United States Mint, how coins are produced, the craftsmanship required from the original designs and sculptures to the actual creation of the coins.
8. Denver Museum of Nature & Science
One of my family’s favorite cultural experiences is at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, located in City Park. The interactive museum is built for curious kids and includes popular permanent exhibits: Discovery Zone, Expedition Health, Gems and Minerals, Prehistoric Journey, and Space Odyssey.
Older children will love the 3D IMAX films, planetarium, Space Odyssey and wildlife exhibits. There is a restaurant on-site, so it is possible to spend the day at the museum and never get bored or hungry.
9. Watch a Colorado Rockies baseball game
One of our favorite things to do is take the family out to the ball game to cheer on the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The 76-acre, nostalgic-designed Coors Field stands at 20th and Blake Streets in Denver’s lower downtown/Ballpark Neighborhood.
There’s more to baseball than the game. Be sure to arrive early to enjoy the Interactive Area, located behind Section 120. There’s a video batting cage, pitching video game, speed gun to test your arm speed, and a home-run derby for a fee. Little ones can hit one out of the ballpark for free in a T-ball cage.
And the best news is that Rockies baseball tickets are surprisingly affordable. The Rockpile behind center field has cheap bleacher seats for families.
10. Washington Park
Denver has more than 20,000 acres of parkland. Summer is the time to really take advantage of all that greenspace. Our favorite park is Washington Park, which has been designated as one of the “Great Public Spaces in America” by the American Planning Association.
Besides strolling through the flower gardens at Wash Park, there are SOOO MANY things to do. With 10 tennis courts, a lawn bowling/croquet field, two playgrounds, 2.6 mile jogging/biking path, two lakes (fishing, boating) you can easily stay entertained for the day – or more.
If you don’t have a bike, don’t fret. You can rent bikes and/or a single or double bike surrey. The surreys are great fun for families with little ones who are just along for the ride. During the summer kayaks and paddle boards are available to rent. When play time is over, take a stroll through one of the many gardens. Washington Park is known for the largest flower garden in Denver.
11. Dinosaur Ridge
A 15-minute drive from downtown Denver Young paleontologists can explore more than 300 dinosaur footprints and dozens of other fossils Dinosaur Ridge.
In addition to the Trek Through Time indoor interactive exhibit hall families can do a self-guided hike up Dinosaur Ridge Trail, home to hundreds of dinosaur tracks and the Dinosaur Ridge Bone Quarry where the world’s first Stegosaurus was found. There is also a paid guided tour which includes a ride along the trail with stops along the way to admire the fossils.
12. Explore the beaches near Denver
Yes, there are beaches in Colorado. If you’re in Denver the the swim beach at Cherry Creek Reservoir is a great place to cool off. Looking for more ideas of things to do in Denver with kids? Don’t miss these Denver day trips.
About the authors: Denver-based freelance writer Diana Rowe has explored many local and international destinations with her multigenerational family. But home is where the heart is, and Denver is forever etched as one of Diana’s favorite destinations.
Elaine N. Schoch is a freelance travel and wine writer based in Denver and mother of two. She shares her adventures, travel advice and tips on CarpeTravel.com.