With amazing mountain trails, ghost towns, hands-on museum exhibits and interactive art spaces, river rafting and some of the country's best family-friendly skiing and cycling, traveling families are spoiled for options in Colorado. The endless blue skies, fresh air, archaeological ruins and wild country do wonders to detach kids from their tablets, cell phones and iPods.
Best Regions for Kids
- Front Range
Museums and amusement parks are the main kid-friendly attractions in the Front Range. Numerous city parks and day-trips to the mountains make for fun family outings.
- Central Colorado
Ski resorts bring family fun year-round in Central Colorado – from snowboarding and outdoor adventure parks to bike trails and white-water rafting.
- Northern Colorado
It's all about the great outdoors in Northern Colorado – moose and elk herds at Rocky Mountain National Park and T rex bones at Dinosaur National Monument. There's a great ski school at Steamboat, too.
- Southwest Colorado
Explore cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park and take the whole fam mountain biking in Fruita.
- Southeast Colorado
A mix of city and outdoors options makes the Southeast an easy go-to for family travel: camp at the Great Sand Dunes National Park, feed giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo or stroll through the Garden of the Gods.
Colorado for Kids
In Colorado’s main cities, junior travelers should head for the many hands-on science museums, playgrounds, theme parks and family-fun centers, as well as the main attraction of wide-open spaces.
Denver, despite being the state capital, sets the tone as a truly outdoorsy city, with miles of cycling and walking trails, riverside parks and gardens and outdoor events and theme parks. Beyond the capital there are historic railroads to ride, canyons and peaks to climb and old Western towns to explore.
Most national and state parks have some kid-oriented exhibits, trails and programs. Join organized wildlife-spotting tours in the parks and reserves, or hook a trout in a tumbling mountain river. Tubing and rafting on some of these rivers is as exhilarating for kids as it is for parents, and camping and hiking opportunities abound.
The family-friendly icon is used in our listings to denote places that cater to families.
Festivals & Events
- Boulder Creek Hometown Festival (Boulder) Pie-eating contests, the Great Zucchini Race and a kid-friendly 5K race.
- Cherry Creek Arts Festival (Denver) Three days of food, fun and arts.
- Great Fruitcake Toss (Colorado Springs) The cake that flies the furthest wins!
- Hot Air Balloon Festival & Art in the Park (Steamboat Springs) Dozens of colorful balloons fly high above as an arts-and-crafts show unfolds below.
- International Snow Sculpture Championship (Breckenridge) Watch snow art being made and vote for the best in show.
- Lights of December (Boulder) A classic Christmas parade.
- Ouray Ice Festival (Ouray) Four days of climbing competitions, plus an awesome ice-climbing wall for kids to scramble on.
- Strawberry Days (Glenwood Springs) A fun, long-running, community festival.
- Buell Children’s Museum (Pueblo) Classic cars, bridges, jellyfish, fairy lands and more…
- Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave (Golden) For the young cowboys and cowgirls.
- CU Wizards (Boulder) Monthly science shows at Boulder’s university.
- Children’s Museum (Denver) Engaging exhibits and activities, including cooking classes.
- Denver Art Museum (Denver) Hands-on exhibits highlight world-class art.
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science (Denver) The IMAX Theater and Planetarium are always a hit.
- Fiske Planetarium (Boulder) Spectacular shows on a 65ft-diameter dome ceiling.
- Manitou Penny Arcade (Manitou Springs) Introduce the next generation to the last generation’s games.
- Morrison Natural History Museum (Morrison) Guided tours of spectacular dinosaur bones, most found nearby.
- Overdrive Raceway (Colorado Springs) Two-story indoor race track delights kids (and big kids) alike.
- Royal Gorge Dinosaur Experience (Cañon City) Handle Jurassic-period fossils and life-size fossil casts. Play on the multistory ropes course afterwards.
- Woodward Barn (Copper Mountain) Practice snowboard, BMX and skate-park tricks.
- Drowsy Water Ranch (Granby) Horseback riding and home cooking, with accommodations in Western-themed cabins.
- Echo Basin Ranch (Mancos) Basic, affordable and offers the whole gamut of ranch experiences.
- Beaver Meadows Resort Ranch (Red Feather Lakes) Horseback riding, rafting, fishing and hiking activities.
- Vista Verde Guest Ranch (Steamboat Springs) The most luxurious dude-ranch experience in Colorado.
- Yellow Pine Guest Ranch (Cuchara) Terrific accommodations in deluxe log cabins.
Burly mountains (and altitude!) can be a challenge to little legs. Families with smaller children might want to stick to hikes under 3 miles. Some of our favorites:
- Chautauqua Park (Boulder) Lots of fun rock scrambling.
- Eldorado Canyon State Park (Boulder) Combine hikes with visits to the public pool.
- Fish Creek Falls (Steamboat Springs) An easy hike with views of a spectacular 283ft waterfall.
- Maroon Bells (Aspen) An iconic mountain setting with trails for all levels of hikers.
- Mesa Verde National Park Check out ancient rock carvings on the 2.8-mile Petroglyph Loop.
- Quandary Peak (Breckenridge) Colorado's 'easiest' fourteener: the summit is 3 miles from the trailhead.
- Rocky Mountain National Park Try Wild Basin to Calypso Falls, or Lumpy Ridge for good family-friendly hikes.
- St Mary’s Glacier (Idaho Springs) Bring a sled for some summertime play in the snow!
Perhaps the most difficult part of a family trip is avoiding the temptation to squeeze in too much. Distances are deceptive, and any single corner of Colorado could easily fill a two-week family vacation.
Choose a few primary destinations and connect them with a flexible driving plan with potential stops. Book rooms at the major destinations and make advance reservations for horseback rides, rafting trips, scenic train rides and educational programs or camps (particularly in peak season), but allow time between bookings to follow your fancy.
Don't forget about the small mountain towns. Their festivals, rodeos and state fairs can be excellent family entertainment.
For all-round information and advice, check out Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
Discounts for Kids
Child concessions often apply for tours, admission fees and transportation, with discounts as high as 50% off the adult rate. The definition of 'child' ranges from under 12 to under 16 years. Most sights also give free admission to children under two.
- Colorado Parent (www.coloradoparent.com)
- Family Travel Colorado (www.familytravelcolorado.com)
- Mile High Mamas (www.milehighmamas.com)
What to Pack
Temperatures can vary widely throughout the day, especially in the mountains. Remember to bring layers and a warm hat, even in the summer.
Infant- and toddler-specific items like disposable diapers (nappies), wipes and formula are easy to come by, even in the smallest of towns. Prices tend to be lower in bigger towns, though; if you're driving, consider stocking up in the first city you hit.