October 16, 2017

Top 10 Stops to Make in Denver with Kids

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Colorado is a great place to explore with kids. There’s great skiing in the winter, fantastic hiking in the summer. It’s a real nature lover’s paradise.

I’ve been all over the state, from Grand Junction to Estes Park to Colorado Springs. Over the summer, my kids and I spent a few days in Denver and we can’t recommend the Mile High City more highly. Here’s a look at 10 of our favorite things to do in Denver. Have fun. 🙂

1. Ride All the Rides at Elitch Gardens. The closest theme parks to our home in Northern Virginia are at least one hour away, but Elitch Gardens is right there in Denver, literally minutes from city center. Even better, Elitch Gardens has a water park too. Sweet.

Elitch Gardens has loads of super-fun rides to keep your kids busy all day. We love traditional rides, like the Tea Cups and Tilt-A-Whirl, as well as the colorful Big Wheel, a giant 100-foot tall Ferris wheel. Make sure to ride the new Star Flyer. It’s like the swings only higher and faster.

2. Hike at Red Rocks Park. Not only is Red Rocks Park home to an incredible music venue, it’s a fantastic place to go hiking. There are hikes of varying lengths, be but we opted for the scenic Trading Post Trail. It’s a short 1.4 loop hike and is perfect for kids.

The trail takes you in a circle around the amphitheater and various red rock formations at Red Rocks Park. There’s also a six-mile Red Rocks Trail. Make a stop at the Colorado Music Hall of Fame toward the end of the Trading Post Trail.

3. Take a Selfie at the Denver Zoo. Sure, there’s a zoo in just about every town, but my kids still love to go to the zoo. It’s a nice break after exploring historic sites, national parks and museums (also known as “things I want to see and do”).

The Denver Zoo is a great place to visit with kids. There are lots of animals to see, of course, but there are also loads of feedings and shows, like penguin feedings and zookeeper chats to learn more about sea lions, llamas and elephants. We had a great day at the Denver Zoo. 

4. Take a Guided Bike Tour. On another visit to Denver (sans children), I took time out for a guided bike tour around town with Mile High Bike Tours. I had actually opted for the three-hour Bike and Brew Tour, but since it was just me and another couple who signed up for a no-beer tour we set off on the tour operator’s Denver City and Public Arts Tour.

The bike tour was great. I learned a lot about Denver and we biked along a variety of bike trails and riverside paths. The highlight was biking around the RiNo part of town, which is home to loads of interesting and colorful murals. It’s a must to check out when in Denver.

5. See the Big Blue Bear. One of the highlights of a visit to Denver is visiting the Big Blue Bear sculpture. You’ll find this 40-foot sculpture just outside the Colorado Convention Center where he’s been peering into the center’s lobby since 2005.

The sculpture is technically named “I See What You Mean,” but most everyone in the Mile High City calls it simply the Big Blue Bear. It’s an iconic symbol of Denver you won’t want to miss. Even better, it’s easy to take the free 16th Street MallRide bus to get there from city center.

6. See How Money is Made at the U.S. Mint. If you’ve ever told your kids that money doesn’t grow on trees, you can show them how it really is made at the U.S. Mint in Denver. This facility manufacturers coins and offers free tours Monday through Saturday.

Make a reservation as soon as you can given the limited number of available tours. You and your kids will learn about the various stages of the minting process, from creating the original designs to the actual striking of the coins, as well as the history of the U.S. Mint.

7. Take a Tour of Sports Authority Field. Whether you’re a Denver Broncos fan or not, it’s a fun experience to take a guided tour of a real-life professional football stadium, like Sports Authority Field in downtown Denver.

Guided tours are offered year-round and last 75-90 minutes. The tour starts at the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum and winds its way through the stadium, making stops at the Visiting Team Locker Room, Thunder’s Stall, Team Field Entrance Tunnel and more.

8. See How Dinosaurs Lived at Dinosaur Ridge. Head just southwest of Denver to Morrison, Colorado to spend time exploring how dinosaurs lived and learning about important dinosaur discoveries made in the late 1800s at Dinosaur Ridge.

Sign up for a 45-minute tour by bus or explore on your own by way of a self-guided tour along the paved 1.1 mile Dinosaur Ridge Trail where you’ll see dinosaur tracks and bones, as well as 15 fossil and geological sites. Make stops along the way at Crocodile Creek and Ripple Marks.

9. Visit the Colorado State Capitol Building. The golden-domed Colorado State Capitol is notable in the Denver skyline and is just a few minutes from city center on foot. The building is open to the public on weekdays and offers guided tours that should be booked in advance.

We were in town on a weekend and it’s still worth visiting to check out the architecture from the outside. Also, you’ll want to take a photo of the 15th step up to the Colorado State Capitol, which reads “One Mile Above Sea Level.”

10. Explore One of Multiple Nature Centers. As I noted above, Denver is a fantastic place for nature lovers as is evidenced by the multiple nature centers and wildlife refuges all around the city. One to check out is Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City (close to the airport; just 10 minutes from downtown).

Set on nearly 17,000 acres, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the U.S. You’ll find wildlife, wetlands, woodlands and prairie grasslands. Check out a free backpack – “Let’s Go Outside” or “Refuge Explorer” – both of which include interactive nature games and activities for children.

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