Our Top 10 Favorite Things To Do In Denver
Looking for what to do in Denver this weekend with your kids? I've rounded up our top 10 favorite things to do in Denver since we moved here about 2.5 years ago. The best part is, most of them require minimal planning. You can wake up on the weekend and say, what can we do in Denver today? and pretty much any of these will work.
We know Colorado and Denver has so much more to offer, but we would readily recommend any of these activities if you need an idea on what to do in Denver with kids.
Top 10 Things To Do In Denver
This incredible park is mere minutes from our home, so I may be a little biased. But we’ve taken visitors and friends here and it never disappoints! I walk here a few times a week. I prefer to drive here over walking on some of the trails near my house. It’s a nice refuge away from traffic and people. I’ve seen deer, tons of ground hogs, moose, and even a coyote! There is a man-made lake where people boat, kayak, ice fish, swim, jet ski, etc. The edge of the lake is more like a beach with sand and rocks. Our kids never tire of walking along the water.
Sometimes I take Maggie with me. I don't think she likes it:
There is so much more that Cherry Creek Reservoir has to offer—we haven’t even tapped into the camp grounds, the shooting range, the dog parks, etc. We’ll continue exploring and I’ll report back with new discoveries!
This cool little town is located at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s a short drive from Denver and offers stunning views, quirky restaurants, and activities for kids (mini-golf, geo caching, go-carting, horseback riding).
We've taken many guests there for day trips and Joe and I have sneaked away for a weekend to ourselves. There are wineries, spas, and breweries and plenty of nice places to stay. Plus, it's home to the haunted Stanley Hotel (where Steven King's, The Shining was filmed. The views are spectacular (Joe and I went to the infamous bar for an over priced drink and to walk the grounds--worth the trip!)
Estes Park is a gem!
While we didn’t last but an hour and a half at the Royal Gorge (it was blazing hot), this is probably one of my favorite places to visit since we moved to Denver. The grand view down the gorge lives up to the hype. Crossing the longest suspension bridge in the United States was not exactly “fun” for any of us, but we lived to tell the tale.
The gondola ride over the gorge is epic and smooth, but they have more heart-pounding activities for those of you who like to get the adrenaline flowing! They have a zip line over the gorge (no thank you!). It’s the highest zip-line in North America! There is the Royal Rush Skycoaster--a suspended ride/swing thing that puts you over the middle of the gorge that our friends rode when we visited, but I was happy to hear how they lived to tell the tale ;)
This has to be my favorite zoo, ever. It’s better than DC’s National Zoo and San Diego’s Zoo. I think it has to do with the layout—it’s built on the side of a mountain and the animals/exhibits kind of zig zag their way up the mountain. It wasn’t crowded, the food from the food court was really good, and it felt much more personal than other larger zoos, yet with no less number of major attractions. We got up close and personal with lions, reptiles, and penguins! The kids didn’t want to leave. It was worth the drive and then some. We’ll definitely be going back.
Museums are a no-brainer, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a great one for kids. They offer several new exhibits throughout every year to keep things interesting, but we love going to the ol’ standbys like the Expedition Health Exhibit that is completely interactive. You scan a card associated with you throughout to track your heart rate, etc. at their different offerings. There is a lab to study your saliva through a microscope, a short interactive movie, a little kids play area. It’s my kids’ favorite exhibit in the museum.
We are "family members" and we have more than gotten our money’s worth. It’s great to get the membership because some days we last longer than others and I never hesitate to leave when someone’s not having “their best day” if you know what I mean and I think you do.
They also have incredible 3D films that are always fresh and new. Currently, they are showing a film on the national parks, Wild Africa, and an Engineering film. We saw the “under the ocean” film last year and it was so cool! The 3D films are a nice way to break up a visit. Plus, the museum butts up to Civic Center Park where the kids love to just run and be free. I know Civic Center Park has a lot to offer (paddle boats, playgrounds, horseshoe, etc), but we mainly just burn energy while there!
Oh, and did I mention the Planetarium?? The Black Hole exhibit is not to be missed, but the other films are cool, too.
6. Civic Center Eats in Downtown Denver 2017 (Gourmet food trucks and carts for a good cause!)
Civic Center Park is located in front of the State Capitol Building and the Denver Art Museum. From May until October, it also houses food trucks and live music on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. The vendors rotate out, so no day’s menu options are the same.
The kids and I drive and park on the 16th Street Mall and walk to the park. Joe meets us there. The weather in Denver rarely disappoints (and there is plenty of shade from nearby trees), so it’s a fun activity. Plus I don’t have to cook!
Bonus: proceeds benefit the Civic Center Park revitalization project!
Okay, so this isn’t really a “Denver thing to do,” but it was our first visit to a Great Wolf Lodge. They opened a new location in Colorado Springs which is less than an hour south of Denver. We only stayed about 24hours (you honestly don’t need more than that!!). It was a total blast and the kids were in heaven. Check out that view!
8. Chief Mountain Trail (AKA: Driving through clouds in the mountains)
Obviously, you don’t come to Denver and not go to the mountains in one way or another. We’ve done our fair share of driving up there, but my absolute favorite drive was when we were coming back from the Georgetown Loop Railroad and we took the “scenic route” home so that our company could really take in the views.
I believe we were driving along the Chief Mountain Trail. And we were driving through clouds. It BLEW THE KIDS’ MINDS. It was super cool and they still talk about it. Obviously, it’s not always going to be possible, but if you can swing it and you have younger kids, try to make it happen!
The Denver Children’s Museum is one of the first places the kids and I visited when we moved to Denver. We were living in Joe’s temporary apartment for two weeks before the kids and I moved into a hotel near their new school.
The museum is geared towards younger kids—mine are sadly probably a little too old for it now at 9 and 11! That said, it is a really cool museum for young kids. AND, they just expanded it and built a new outdoor area that includes “Joy Park” with a zip line!! They also added an exhibit called, “altitude” where kids climb more than three stories to enjoy incredible views.
Our kids skied once or twice in West Virginia when we lived in Vienna, Virginia, but now that we are so close to the mountains, it’s become more of a priority. Loveland has been the perfect ski resort to start the kids on here in Colorado. The resort offers lessons and plenty of variety for the new skiers out there.
There are two sides to the resort and the best part is it’s only about an hour away! The lessons are reasonably priced and the instructors have been AMAZING. (Especially while working with one of our kids who has sensory processing and auditory processing issues.) Obviously, there are fancier and larger ski resorts close by to Denver, but Loveland is just right for us right now.
Bonus: We always stop at Tommy Knocker Brewery in Idaho Springs. One of these days we’re going to do a day trip just in Idaho Springs. It’s the home of the Gold Rush and is quaint and historic and full of shops and restaurants. For now, we’re kind of in and out, but I plan to weave a day trip into our near future!
BONUS: one more in our top 10 things to do in Denver! This one is pretty obvious, but has to be in a list like this:
Some people feel that the 16th Street Mall has declined over the past two years due to “traveling tourists” and the homeless population. And, let's be real: POT. The kids and I don’t go that often (Joe works just one block off of 16th street), and we rarely go at night, but we haven’t noticed a big change.
Sure, they have fancy ‘port-a-potties’ now mainly to discourage homeless people from just doing "their business" on the sidewalk, but we still love walking down to Union Station and grabbing lunch and of course, stopping at It’s Sugar for candy and/or the latest Pusheen stuffed animal ;)
I still get excited for the people watching, live music, and food carts that show up on a typically gorgeous summer day in Denver!
So there you have it--we've lived in Denver for about two and a half years and looking back, I guess we have done some exploring! Sometimes I feel like we don't take advantage of what's around us, but we've done some things!
I'm hoping to do more of these "top things to do in Denver" posts as we explore more. It's easier to do that now that ski season is over.
Tell me what I'm missing from this list, Denverites!