If you’re looking for a great family vacation destination with plenty of kid-friendly activities, look no further than Denver, Colorado. The Mile High City is chock full of things to do with kids year-round. Here are 15 reasons you should put Denver on your family vacation bucket list stat.
1. Children’s Museum of Denver
Ask any parent—local or visitor—and Children's Museum of Denver in Downtown Denver is high up on their must-visit list. Expect tons of engaging, hands-on play areas like the fire station, box canyon and altitude where your kiddo will scale three stories to a glass-capped peak with 360 degree views of the city.
2. Downtown Aquarium
Ever seen a mermaid in real life? Now’s your chance at Denver’s Downtown Aquarium. Watch as mermaids swim amongst their sea life friends, while they teach kids the importance of caring for the environment. Beyond the enchanting mermaid shows, the Aquarium boasts numerous aquatic exhibits and a restaurant that’s surrounded by a floor-to-ceiling 50,000 gallon aquarium.
3. Union Station
Union Station is so much more than just a train station. The historic building is home to a variety of dining and shopping. Check out the weekly farmer’s market and then head over to the Tattered Covered bookstore to pick up a new bedtime book.
4. Stay at the Marriott
All of this exploring means you’ll want a relaxing and welcoming place to stay. Turn to one of the Marriott International locations throughout Denver for every creature comfort your family needs. With over 15 locations in the Denver metro area, you can stay close to your favorite attractions. Click here to learn more and save up to 20% on your next getaway.
5. The U.S. Mint
After a free, guided tour of the U.S. Mint, your kids will be able to make heads and tails of where money actually is made. Denver’s U.S. Mint produces billions of coins each year. Find out how at this tour, which is best suited for kids seven years old and up. Same-day tickets for tours are released at 7 a.m. each morning, Mon.-Thur. until tickets are “sold out.”
6. The 16th Street Mall
For a leisurely stroller-friendly walk, head to the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long, pedestrian-friendly mall in downtown Denver. Window shop, grab a bite at one of the 42 outdoor cafes, or check out the street performers, musicians and face painters. Need a lift? Hop on the free shuttle buses that stop at every corner along the Mall.
7. Denver Zoo
Located on 80 acres right in the middle of Denver’s City Park, the Denver Zoo will get your animal-loving kiddo up close and personal with elephants, penguins and tigers (oh my!). Must visits: the Edge where your family will get as close as 12 feet to Amur tigers, the train that winds its way through the Zoo, and the Elephant Passage, which boasts two miles of passages with elephants, rhinos and tapirs rotating throughout.
8. Forney Museum of Transportation
For an outing that’ll please visitors of all ages, head to Forney Museum of Transportation where you’ll find over 600 artifacts related to transportation (think old cars, stage coaches, trains, water vehicles, planes, bicycles and more!). Ring the real bell from an old train and climb on an old model T for a photo opp. Don’t forget to stop at the map where your kids can place a pin to show where they live.
9. Hammond’s Candy Factory Tour
A free candy factory tour that welcomes kids and stroller?! Sign us up! A tour of Hammond’s Candy Factory is both educational and fun—don’t worry, you’ll leave with plenty of samples at the end. The tour lasts approximately 30 minutes (read: the perfect time for short attention spans) and will show your kids that candy doesn’t just come from the grocery store shelves. Be sure to sign up in advance to reserve your spot.
10. Denver Botanic Garden
Get lost in Denver Botanic Garden located right next to the Denver Zoo. Spanning 24 acres, the Garden is home to diverse plants from all over the world. Whether you find your zen in the Japanese Gardens or tap into your inner Monet in the Water Gardens, there’s something for everyone.
11. Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Introduce your kids to the performing arts with a family-friendly show at Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Check out the full line-up of shows here.
12. Denver Skatepark
Break out the wheels and head Downtown to Denver Skatepark. The park spans 60,000 square feet and overlooks the Denver skyline. Open seven days a week, admission to the park is totally free. Scooters or skateboards, all gear—and all ages of kids—are welcome here.
13. Little Man Ice Cream
Get a scoop with a side of nostalgia at the ever-popular Little Man Ice Cream. Choose from more unusual flavors like Earl Grey Tea & Cookies and Salted Caramel PB Cup. Or, if you’re more of a traditionalist Little Man carries flavors ranging from Vanilla Bean to Mint Chocolate Chip. If you’re going dairy-free, they even have vegan options to boot. Enjoy your cone (or cup) outside on their patio.
14. Butterfly Pavilion
Located 15 minutes from Downtown Denver, the Butterfly Pavilion houses 1,600 free-flying butterflies in their indoor tropical conservatory. But, butterflies aren’t the Pavilion’s only creatures. Check out Rosie, the famous tarantula and other critters like sea stars, bees and spiders.
15. Dinosaur Ridge
About 20 minutes west of Denver, travel back to prehistoric times to get your dinosaur fix. At Dinosaur Ridge take in a simulated dinosaur dig, touch fossils, explore geologic sites and hike where dinosaurs used to roam. Explore independently or take a guided tour. During summer months a snack shack is open or pack a picnic to enjoy in the shade near the main visitor’s center.
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The writer would like to thank Elizabeth Silva, Laura Capes and many more friends who contributed to this story.
featured photo courtesy of Mark Byzewski via flickr