Denver is a welcoming place for kids of all ages. And it’s no wonder – with outdoors recreation of all sorts, family-friendly museums and activities, plus sunshine 300 days a year, the city seems made for kids and families.
While the city is becoming increasingly expensive, many places offer reduced or free admission for young people. Using a CityPASS, a prepaid ticket package, is also a money-saving option. A visit to the Mile High City is tough to resist. Here are the best things to do there when you're traveling with kids.
Transportation and altitude: things to know about being in Denver with kids
Traffic and parking can be a beast in Denver, especially downtown. Fortunately, public transportation reaches almost every corner of the city; fares are discounted for anyone 19 and under (plus youngsters 5 and under ride free). Scooter and bike shares are a fun alternative for kids who can navigate wheels on city streets. And car shares like Uber and Lyft easily fill in any gaps.
Perhaps the toughest thing to contend with in Denver is the 5280ft elevation (it’s not called the Mile High City for nothing). If you or your kiddos start feeling sick, headach-ey or just unusually tired, it may well be altitude sickness. Take it easy and stay hydrated – it often takes a few days to acclimate to the elevation.
The kids will love visiting the museum in City Park and nearby zoo
City Park is the largest of Denver’s many open spaces, a 330-acre leafy park with lakes for fishing and paddle boating. Sprawling playgrounds and a splash pad keep the young entertained while free summer jazz concerts beckon listeners of all ages. On the north side of the park, Denver Museum of Nature & Science makes science fun through exhibits incorporating everything from traditional dioramas to state-of-the art technology (onsite genetics lab anyone?); shows at the IMAX theater and planetarium make for a welcome break, especially on a hot day.
Next door, the Denver Zoo has expansive habitats and up-close views of animals from around the world, even tigers and elephants passing on overhead bridges. Be sure to catch an animal feeding; staffers often share interesting facts and answer audience questions too.
There are interactive exhibits at History Colorado Center
Learn all about the Centennial State’s people and places, from ancient to modern times, at History Colorado Center. Thoughtfully presented exhibits are ever-changing, many of them interactive to keep kids engaged. The Family Itinerary has narrowed down five of the museum's family favorites. Story times for young children and Lego-building workshops are occasionally offered too. If time permits, fold in some of the museum’s excellent programming into your visit – a city walking tour, archaeological dig, a lecture and more.
Spark your imagination at the Children’s Museum Denver Marsico Campus
Happy children can be found in every corner of the indoor-outdoor Children’s Museum Denver Marsico Campus. With engaging exhibits and loads of activities, it’s tough not to have fun. Hands-on exhibits range from a kids’ kitchen to craft spaces, water play to aerial adventures. Dress-up and imaginative play also are woven throughout with make-believe dentist and vet offices, a grocery store and more. Infants and toddlers have a special area designed just for them too.
Have an underwater adventure at the Downtown Aquarium
Next door to the Children's Museum, the Downtown Aquarium appeals to a wider crowd showcasing creatures from mountain rivers, coral reefs and rainforests in over one million gallons of water. See nurse sharks, sea turtles and barracuda in the Under the Sea tank. Insider tip – you can eat lunch in the Aquarium restaurant without paying admission to the entire aquarium. You can't see all the exhibits, but sitting next to the giant tank filled with sharks and other sea creatures is fantastic for curious tots. A morning at the Children's Museum and lunch at the Aquarium has the makings of the perfect family day out.
Explore Denver Botanic Gardens
A 24-acre oasis in the middle of town, Denver Botanic Gardens is a beautiful and soothing place for families to wander and explore. It has a spectacularly diverse collection of gardens with plants from around the world, water features and large-scale art of all sorts. Outdoor summer concerts and an annual holiday light extravaganza are especially popular. Younger kids also will enjoy the Mordecai Children's Garden where hands-on play, including splashing and wading in Pipsqueak Pond, is encouraged.
Enjoy the interactive and creative sections at Denver Art Museum
The crown jewel of Denver’s art scene, Denver Art Museum houses Old Master paintings, modern contemporary works and one of the richest collections of Native American art in the world. Special exhibits keep the museum humming year-round. A delight to explore, the museum works hard to welcome children. Free admission for anyone under 18 is a biggie, but even better are the creative games, activities and art stations that are integrated into many of the exhibits.
Go to Confluence Park for bike riding and water play
Confluence Park in downtown Denver is a hopping spot for families, especially in the summer. Located at the meeting of Cherry Creek and South Platte River, come here to romp in the water and play on the small beach; a short white-water park is popular for kayaking and tubing too. Families on bikes also can jump on the Cherry Creek Trail here, cycling their way through Denver-metro’s urban landscapes and green spaces. Just north of the park, skaters shouldn’t miss the mammoth Denver Skate Park. For a treat, head across the river for a scoop at Little Man Ice Cream – just look for the 28-ft dairy jug.
Catch some of Denver's best spectator sports as a family
With 81 home games between April and September, catching a Colorado Rockies baseball game is easy to do. And it doesn’t have to break the bank. On-the-day tickets for the outfield – the Rockpile – start from just $4 and can be bought from the Rockpile Ticket Office located near Gate A. Not a bad deal, especially if you have a family in tow. Theme nights mean freebies like t-shirts, posters and commemorative cups too. And if baseball isn’t your thing, other professional sports teams – the Broncos, Nuggets and Avalanche plus a lacrosse (Mammoth) and soccer (Rapids) team – make it easy to watch professional athletes do their thing.
Wander the easy trails at Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge
On the outskirts of Denver, Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge offers over 10 miles of easy hiking trails – perfect for little legs and strollers. Passing through wetlands, grasslands and forest, visitors are treated to views of wildlife such as bison, mule deer and bald eagles; several lakes have boardwalks and viewing towers too. At the Visitor Center, learn tons about the refuge in the interactive exhibit hall and don’t miss the Discovery Room with hands-on displays and wildlife activities. Free family-friendly tours and programs are offered too.