With museums and parks aplenty, and oodles of outdoor adventure to be found in the nearby mountains, Denver makes for a fantastic destination for families.
Dating back to the Old West era, the Colorado capital is one of America’s original metropolises. But far from harking back to its bygone eras, the city has got with the times in a big way, and now offers a smorgasbord of contemporary culture and entertainment. If you’re coming to Denver with kids and want to put an itinerary together that will give them the most memorable experience possible, we’ve compiled a list of 20 great family-friendly things to see and do in and around the city.
Visit a family-friendly museum
An ideal attraction for one of Denver’s (thankfully infrequent) rainy days, the Children’s Museum of Denver offers an imagination-stirring adventure for kids 10 and under. The museum features an assortment of interactive exhibits, daily activities, and year-round events. Among the most popular exhibits are role play-based, with children invited to dress up and play at performing grown up jobs in a fire department, an assembly plant for building, and a veterinary clinic.
Marsico Campus, 2121 Children’s Museum Drive / Mon-Sun 9am-4pm
Art museums don’t always get kids’ pulses racing, but the Clyfford Still Museum is certainly among the exceptions. Showcasing large-scale paintings of Abstract Expressionism, the museum offers a wide variety of child-friendly offerings and is free to enter for visitors aged 17 or under. Interactive highlights include The Making Space, a hands-on creation studio where youngsters can deepen their appreciation of the art on view through directed activities, or simply experiment with a variety of art materials to try something new. There are also regular tours and concerts, as well as a free Family Activity Book available at the information desk to help spark your imagination as you traverse the museum.
1250 Bannock Street / Weds-Sun 10am-5pm Closed Mon-Tues
Aviation enthusiasts visiting Denver are in for a treat thanks to the presence of the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Situated in a 1930s former Air Force hangar, the museum features an incredible collection of aircraft and space vehicles, including such rarely seen gems as a B-18A Bolo and a Star Wars X-Wing fighter. There’s also a range of interactive gadgets and instruments that are great for teaching kids about the magical world of aviation. Friendly and knowledgeable museum staff are on hand to answer any questions.
7711 East Academy Boulevard, Denver / Mon-Sat 10am-5pm Sun 12pm-5pm
Attend a fun-packed festival
A free-to-enter annual festival featuring more than 150 Colorado-based and national artists, the Denver Arts Festival is a major event on the state’s arts calendar. Held in the large expanse of Conservatory Green every year since 1999, it places a strong focus on supporting local artists while also showcasing a select group from further afield. As for the works on display, visitors will find a huge array of eclectic fine arts and crafts to peruse (and purchase) at their leisure.
Conservatory Green, Central Park, Denver / September each year
Those keen to get in the festive spirit are invited to come and experience an Old World Christmas at the annual Denver Christkindlmarket. An annual holiday tradition, the market brings German and European flare to downtown Denver through live music, dancing, and local and European craft vendors ensconced in cosy wooden huts, each decorated for the season. Bavarian-style beers, pretzels and homemade Goulasch are available to warm the cockles and there’s also a skating rink located just outside the market. Expanding into new parts of Civic Center Park, new to the Christkindlmarket this year will be special areas, days and activities for families and kids, including a Kinder Wunderland featuring s’more-making stations, games and activities.
Civic Center Park, Denver / November-December each year
Take a tour of the State Capitol
Perched at the eastern end of Denver’s Civic Center Park, the golden-domed Colorado State Capitol is one of the city’s most eye-catching landmarks. The imposing Neoclassical building is a goldmine of historical information and treasures, and attracts huge numbers of visitors every year as well as being a popular gathering point for activists taking part in passionate protests. Free historical tours of the building are offered on weekdays, with walk-ins welcome.
200 East Colfax Avenue / Mon-Fri 10am-3pm Closed Sat-Sun
Marvel at exotic wildlife
City zoos are always a popular choice for a family day out – particularly if you’ve been dragging the kids around historic landmarks for days on end. Home to more than 3,000 animals spanning 450 species, Denver Zoo is one of the most visited cultural attractions anywhere in Colorado. As well as its on-site exhibits, the zoo also has a strong philanthropic focus, dedicating millions to programmes aimed at protecting animals within their natural habitats around the world.
2300 Steele Street, Denver / Mon-Sun 10am-5pm
Hike the legendary Rockies
If you’re in Denver with older kids, a trip to the Rocky Mountains makes for a
memorable excursion. One of the best ways to explore the famous mountain range is
as part of an organised Rockies hiking tour. Including round-trip transportation from Denver, you and your small group of intrepid travellers will embark on a 2-4 hour hiking trail, taking in the area’s sublime natural beauty, spotting wildlife, learning about wildflowers and trees, and stopping for plenty of snack and water breaks.
You can book entry tickets for the above tour at Viator. Participants meet at Huckleberry Roasters in Denver and carpool from there to the trailhead.
Let the kids loose at a theme park
Located in the heart of Denver, Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, Colorado’s only theme and water park, is a sure-fire winner with kids. Featuring over 50 thrilling rides, attractions, and activities for all ages, the historic park also offers scenic views of Denver and the Rocky Mountains from the observation tower or the Tower of Doom. Of course, for little ones it’s the adrenaline-pumping rides that are the real draw, with perennial favourites including roller coasters like the Mind Eraser, the Twister II, and the award-winning Tube Top Slide.
2000 Elitch Circle / Fri 6am-10pm Sat 12pm–10pm Sun 12pm-9pm Closed Mon & Tues. You can book entry tickets for Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park at GetYourGuide. Tickets are valid throughout the day.
Discove Denver’s spooky underbelly on a walking tour
Every city has a dark and mysterious side and Denver’s can be explored on a creepily-themed but family-friendly ghost walking tour. Over the course of 1.5 hours, you’ll be immersed in the city’s haunted history, visiting what are said to be its most ghoul-riddled homes, mansions and manors, all scattered around historic Capitol Hill. As you’re taken around these places of eerie interest, you’ll learn frightening but fascinating stories that have become steeped in Denver folklore.
You can book tickets for the above ghost walking tour at GetYouGuide. Tours take place most days at either 8pm or 9pm.
Catch a baseball game
For many American kids, attending a baseball game is a veritable rite of passage, and happily it’s one that non-natives can experience too. In Denver, Coors Field is the home field of the Colorado Rockies, the city’s Major League Baseball franchise, and a mecca for baseball fans who come to watch top-notch sporting action against the spectacular backdrop of the Rocky Mountains. The arena is family-friendly, and in case your sprogs get a bit fidgety during the action there are plenty of amenities to keep them entertained. If you don’t manage to catch a game, the stadium also runs tours offering a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the ballpark.
2001 Blake Street
Take in a magnificent light show
Taking place at Denver’s International Church of Cannabis, the captivating BEYOND Light Show & Meditation invites visitors to immerse themselves in an intoxicating world of laser-driven illumination. During the one-hour show, you’ll be treated to a mesmerising display of visual pyrotechnics, accompanied by a guided meditation session against the backdrop of calming music. Afterwards, there’s also the chance to check out an arcade and media room.
You can book tickets for the above show at Viator. Each showing runs for around one hour.
Relive your childhood at a retro gaming centre
Keen to prove to your kids that computer games aren’t just a modern phenomenon? Then drag them along to the Channel 3 Retro Gaming Center. Situated in Denver’s western suburbs, the venue is home to dozens of the best arcade games of the 1980s and 90s, including Ninja Turtles, The Simpsons, Marvel vs. Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros., and many more. Visitors who pay for a pass gain unlimited all-day gaming privileges, including access to a console library complete with Nintendos and Playstation 4s.
You can book passes for the Channel 3 Retro Gaming Center at Groupon. Once purchased, you gain all-day access.
Practice your putting at a mini golf course
Located a 30-minute drive southwest of central Denver, Putter’s Pride Mini Golf Courses has been entertaining families and friends for well over two decades. Waterfalls, flower beds, and miniature towns line the edges of the venue’s three 18-hole mini golf courses, with holes featuring windmills, dragons, and rocky outcrops. The courses are designed to be playable for all ages and abilities, and also offer plenty of shade for those sweltering summer days.
You can book passes for the Channel 3 Retro Gaming Center at Groupon. Unlimited golf for 2, 4 or 6 people are available.
See dazzling marine life at an aquarium
Part of an entertainment and dining complex, Downtown Aquarium boasts more than a million gallons of underwater exhibits that serve to highlight ecosystems around the world. Situated beside the South Platte River in Denver, its spectacular variety of aquatic life and habitats help to make it one of the city’s most enduringly popular family attractions. There’s also a restaurant where you can dine around the aquarium, and a bar with views of fish swimming by.
700 Water Street, Denver / Mon-Thurs 10am-8.30pm Fri-Sat 10am-10pm Sun 10am-8pm
Escape the city at a scenic oasis
If your offspring are outdoorsy types, it’s definitely worth considering making the 35-minute drive southeast of central Denver to the delights of Cherry Creek Reservoir. A veritable oasis set against a backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the huge 4,000-acre park offers an array of fun-packed activities, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, boating, jet skiing, paddle boarding, swimming, and fishing. What’s more, it’s also a great spot for spotting birds and other wildlife.
Hunt for fossils from the Jurassic era
There isn’t much more guaranteed to set a child’s eyes alight than the prospect of finding their own authentic dinosaur fossils. And at Dinosaur Ridge, a National Natural Landmark located an easy drive west of Denver, that prospect is very real indeed. A number of important dinosaur discoveries were made here in the late 1800 and in the years since it has grown to become a popular attraction for families who flock here in the hope of spotting their own Stegosaurus bones, Iguanodon tracks, and other exciting finds, as well as learning how you can help protect such prehistoric treasures.
16831 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison / Mon-Sun 9am-5pm
Ride a heritage streetcar
A replica of a 1903 streetcar, the Denver Trolley preserves the legacy of a bygone era when residents would traverse the city via some 250 miles of city tracks and 40 miles of high-speed interurbans. Long since abandoned as a means of mass transport due to the rise of the automobile, the trolley can still be enjoyed on a scenic, open-air heritage ride along the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. During the ride, you’ll pass some of Denver’s most notable landmarks while listening to a narration about the city’s long history.
Look around a historic farm
First opened back in 1911 by a family of entrepreneurial Swedish emigrants, Anderson Farms has grown to become a popular spot for families thanks to its wide choice of kid-friendly activities. Among the most popular are a wagon ride that takes you to a pumpkin patch, a rainbow maze and huge corn maze, pedal karts, farm animals to interact with, children’s forts, a pumpkin cannon, mine cars, a barrel train, escape rooms, and plenty more to keep your kids occupied.
6728 County Road, Erie / Mon & Weds 10am-6pm Thurs 10am-10pm Fri 10am-11pm Sat 9am-11pm Sun 9am-10pm Closed Tues
What better way to reward the kids after a hard day’s sightseeing than a trip to a candy store? But Hammond’s Candies isn’t just any candy store – it’s a family business that dates back to 1920, meaning its sugar-coated treats can be considered as much of Denver’s history as its myriad of other long-standing gems. As well as a retail shop, it’s also a working factory where visitors can see how the candy is pulled, twisted, shaped, and packaged by hand the same way since it first opened.
5735 Washington Street / Mon-Sat 9am-4pm Closed Sun