A natural magnet for families, the Rocky Mountains just a quick drive away the Mile High City. However, the city’s museums, aquariums and zoos also appeal to families with the various children’s activities available to them. Kids can go on a palaeontology dig, try on costumes or even walk through a shipwreck exhibit, while older preteens and teens will enjoy some of the thrill rides and rollercoasters in Denver. Here are five family friendly attractions for the entire family to enjoy, whether they want to experience art, natural history, an underwater sea world or simply catch a ride or two.
What started as one man’s collection of Colorado fauna, crystalline gold specimens and butterflies in Breckenridge, Colo., more than a century ago has turned into one of the city’s most coveted museums. Families spend hours exploring the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s various exhibitions such as the Discovery Zone, where children are faced with hands-on experiences like the Dinosaur Gulch palaeontology dig experience. Expedition Health takes visitors on an exploration of the human body, in which they will be able to look at microscopic cells from their own bodies in a laboratory or even climb a rock wall.
The Denver Zoo is all about kids. It partnered with The Goddard School of Early Childhood Development to develop itineraries for families with children under the age of six years old who get to experience the zoo through play-based activities in six different areas. For instance, the Predator Ridge activity map encourages children to find the "gong rock" and see what kind of music it makes by drumming their own rhythms along with it. Of course, families can also opt to simply visit the animals. The monkeys are by far the most entertaining as they swing from rope to rope in their dedicated area.
The Denver Art Museum (DAM) offers several free activities for families with a general admission ticket. The Just for Fun center, for instance, encourages children to color, build and imagine by trying on costumes or playing with the DAM dollhouse. The museum also offers gallery games and art-making activities that rotate a couple times each year. The sculpture studio, for instance, allows families to experiment with different sculpture techniques. Another program, CelebrARTE, happens every third Sunday of the month when families can work on crafts that represent their individual cultures.
Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park is the perfect outing in the summertime for families with children of all ages. The older kids won’t want to miss the new Brain Drain ride, a 7-story thrill ride that loops riders forwards, backwards and upside-down before getting drenched. Those children under 48-inches tall might rather try the tea cup ride (similar to the one at Disneyland) or the Big Wheel Ferris wheel. At night, the whole family can enjoy the summer concert series or dive-in movies, in which movies like Finding Nemo can be watched from an inner tube or raft while sitting in the wave pool.
Denver’s Downtown Aquarium houses more than 500 species of animals for families to learn about. The museum takes visitors through different exhibits that represent different types of wildlife habitats. The rainforest exhibit, for instance, showcases animals that live in different types of rainforests or mangrove swamps. Or the shipwreck exhibit takes families into the world of a sunken ship with paintings that look like a shipwreck matched by fish swimming in the coral reef. And whether or not you believe they’re real, the Mystic Mermaid exhibit is sure to entertain the kids as the mermaids perform an underwater routine choreographed to music.