Treating the family to a vacation can be as stressful as it is rewarding. Finding fun to please the kids, while ensuring that mom and dad can make the most of the trip, is no easy feat, but Denver is perfectly suited to deliver. Rich history, a bustling arts scene, theme parks and world-renowned attractions, a candy factory, and even real-life dinosaur tracks all mean there are plenty of options for family fun that parents can enjoy as much as the kids. Here's the lowdown on how to plan a family trip that will go down in history as a favorite!
This incredibly vast sanctuary offers a unique experience for visitors to see over 460 rescued animals. The sanctuary also contains the world's longest elevated footbridge, which allows visitors to safely walk above the animals and see them move freely on the 9,793-acre property. Located near the city of Keenesburg, Colorado, one hour northeast of Denver, this beautiful sanctuary’s mission isn’t only to rescue and care for the animals, but to educate the public about wildlife, and care for the rescued animals as well. Additionally, this one-of-a-kind facility also represents the largest carnivore sanctuary in the world! If you are ever in Denver or the surrounding area, this sanctuary is a definite must-see.
This invertebrate-oriented zoo, located north of Denver just 15 minutes from downtown, is home to thousands of critters from all over the world. The Pavillion is home to butterflies, tarantulas, beetles, and many other animals. Spiders and beetles not your thing? Enter the Butterfly Pavillion to commune with over 1,600 free-flying butterflies. This zoo truly offers the chance of a lifetime for visitors of every age to learn about these special creatures and tap into their inner scientist. Whether you're into learning about each species or simply want to be in a beautiful environment, the tropical Butterfly Pavilion is a colorful place you're sure to love exploring.
Ever wonder how your favorite sweets and treats are made? Wonder no more, dear friends! Hammond's Candy Factory offers the chance to watch in awe as delectable treats are made right before your eyes... you know, without the risk of falling into a chocolate river or getting turned into a blueberry. Located near downtown Denver, this once small, family-owned business has now grown into an iconic brand that is sold internationally. Now over 100 years old, this factory has roots firmly planted in the Denver area, and it's apparent it isn't going to leave any time soon. No time for a tour? That's a-okay! Feel free to also pop into the factory to grab some candy, perfect for any special occasion (or the ride home). Tours typically last up to 30 minutes and can be scheduled ahead of time.
If you happen to wander into the heart of Denver and would love to see amazing aquatic species of all kinds, the Downtown Aquarium is the place to be. Denver's Downtown Aquarium is home to nearly 500 species of animals, contains an interactive stingray touch exhibit, and has a fully functioning restaurant that houses a 50,000-gallon centerpiece tank, floor to ceiling. In addition to the wonderful animals on display, the aquarium restaurant also serves fresh fish, other seafood and steaks. If you are also looking for a great family experience, the aquarium also offers the chance for your children to meet “real-life” mermaids that also teach about the importance of taking care of our ever-changing environment. This must-see attraction certainly has many great deals to offer.
Looking for a place to spend the day cooling off or experiencing out-of-this-world rides of all kinds? Look no more. The Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park is a unique hybrid park that contains thrill rides, family rides, kids' rides, and we can't forget their famous water rides. Located across from the Downtown Aquarium and near Mile High Stadium, this park is nestled right in the heart of Denver, and is rich in history. Since its opening in 1890 by John and Mary Elitch, the park has always been for everyone to enjoy. Now over 125 years old, this park offers thrilling and exhilarating rides. When in the area, bringing your family or friends here is a must.
While Denver’s many parks are unique, this particular park has even more to offer. The premier regional park also houses Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, IMAX, two lakes, historical monuments, picnic areas, and two playgrounds. Take your pick of things to do, whether it's seeing the Sumatran orangutans at the zoo, playing pick up baseball with your friends, educating yourself on the fascinating natural science of the Rocky Mountain region at the museum, taking pictures of the legendary historical monuments, or letting the kids play at one of the two amazing playgrounds. This massively action-packed park can be topped by no other in the area; there is always something to do with your friends, family, or even on your own.
Located at the former Lowry Air Force Base, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is now Colorado's official air and space museum. This unique museum is housed within a 182,000-square-foot hangar that contains iconic aircraft, vehicles used in space, aviation artifacts, and even military uniforms. Located adjacent to the Lowry Sports Complex Park, this aviation history museum offers displays of many aircraft, various space and rocketry exhibits, and a simulator experience for those who think they need to try flying for themselves. And if your kids are pop culture buffs, there's a Star Wars™ X-Wing Starfighter on display, too!
One of Denver's many important cultural landmarks, Denver Botanic Gardens strives to connect visitors with plants, fungi, and insects from the Rocky Mountain region through living collections. In addition to the flora, the Gardens interprets the natural history of its collections, displays art, and even contains library collections. Denver Botanic Gardens is located just south of Denver City Park and next to Congress Park, in an area that seems like it always has something happening. Definitely don't miss the performances and sculptures that add to the experience. Take your pick between listening to crystal clear music from some of the world's most sought-after artists during the summer concert series, or viewing amazing plants and sculptures on display throughout the gardens. And the kids will love exploring the Mordecai Children's Garden; as they explore the various sections (including the Mystery Forest and Marmot Mountain), they'll be learning about ecosystems and learning to love the diversity and importance of plants. Denver Botanic Gardens seems to always have something thrilling to offer.
Since its inception in 1993, the History Colorado Center has been a hub for learning and entertainment. This magnificent building is located just south of Civic Center Park and offers tons of interactive and engaging exhibits on the natural and cultural history of Colorado. Displays on Rocky Mountain National Park, the Living West, vintage postcards, baseball, even LEGO® displays of some of the state's iconic settings will keep kids and adults alike entertained as they learn. The 100 Items exhibit and the A to Z exhibit offer an in-depth and creative look at the history... plus, where else can you explore a mine and experience the Dust Bowl?!
Want to go back in time, but your flux capacitor is acting wonky? Stress no more. Dinosaur Ridge offers the opportunity to visit an era and place when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Established in 1937, Dinosaur Ridge has more than 15 fossil and geologic sites, and hosts nearly 200,000 visitors per year, just 30 minutes from downtown Denver. The 1.1-mile paved section of trail is open for visitors to come and see world-famous dinosaur tracks, bones, and other unique geological features. Upon arriving, many visitors walk or cycle around the marked areas, so wear your exercising shoes for the one- to two-hour action-packed trek.
Whether you're a kiddo or a giant kiddo trapped in an adult body, Colorado was made for you. The learning never stops, but neither does the fun, and there's always something new to discover around every corner for any kind of family. With its rich history and outdoor-inspired passion, the state truly is its own family, one that welcomes you any time of year with open arms.
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Denver, Colorado is an outdoor city offering urban adventures for all ages. Experience live music at Red Rocks, explore diverse neighborhoods and discover The Mile High City’s creative side in arts & culture, cuisine and craft beer. Or take a Rocky Mountain day trip within easy reach of the city.