Known as the Mile High City, Denver itself is relatively flat, as it is exactly one mile above sea level. However, the Rocky Mountains and High Plains are a picturesque presence that can be seen from most parts of the city. The area is known for hiking in summer and skiing in winter, but don't discount the educational and cultural activities Denver has available. There are also plenty of opportunities for the family to just have fun and create memories that will stay with your kids for a lifetime.
The Denver Art Museum is home to amazing artworks and programs that will spark your children's imagination. The First Light Family Space is open daily and has hands-on activities for kids to create their own art, while gallery games are fun ways to help families look closely at the gallery's pieces. The Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is another cultural destination that welcomes kids. There's free admission to anyone under 18 and the site hosts the Bubble Garden, a space designed by artists to engage kids creatively.
Rocky Mountain National Park is 90 minutes outside of Denver, but it's worth the drive. There are plenty of trails that suit all ages and levels of fitness, and some paths that are wheelchair accessible. The parks have kid-specific activities, such as the Junior Ranger program. Kids who complete the activities earn an official badge and round of applause from the park rangers. In winter, Hidden Valley is the place to be. Bring a sled or tube and go sliding down the gentle slope.
Budding paleontologists can dig up dinosaur bones at Dinosaur Ridge. This outdoor museum also allows kids to touch Stegosaurus bones and see Iguanodon footsteps that have been preserved in the sandstone. There's a self-guided tour for families who want to explore at their own pace or a bus tour for those who prefer a guided experience. Kids who discover fossils in the Seaway Box can take one home, along with a bag and ID card.
Denver Skatepark is a good place for kids to burn energy. The park has 60,000 square feet of concrete terrain to skate around and challenges all levels of boarders, bikers, and bladers. There are bowls on the north side and a street course to explore at the southern end. Entry is free, and there are bathroom and water fountains on the site. Keep in mind that kids under 10 must be accompanied by an adult. There are no rentals on the skatepark, so make sure to bring your own equipment.
Denver Botanic Gardens is home to the Mordecai Children's Garden, a 3-acre space designed to help kids learn about the natural world. There are six ecosystems represented that showcase the plants that thrive in Colorado's climate. Hands-on experiences that include building a beaver dam lets kids have fun and get dirty. Once they're tired, enjoy a picnic lunch and explore the other gardens on display. Mordecai Children's Garden is only open during the warmer months.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a must-see when you're in the Denver area. The park is 738 acres where kids can see deer, dinosaurs and spectacular vistas. Red Rocks is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world and attracts many big names in music, from rock legends to symphony orchestras. Explore the park during the day and catch a concert or movie in the amphitheater at night while sitting under the stars.
If your kids are sports fans, then treat them to a day watching the pros play. Coors Field is home to the Colorado Rockies and is known as a home-run friendly park. The Coors Field Interactive Area lets kids test their skills with a speed pitch, tee-ball area, and home run challenge. If you're not around in baseball season, you can still see professional sports with football, hockey, soccer and lacrosse teams based in Denver.
The Children's Museum of Denver is designed for kid-powered learning. Aimed at children up to 8 years old, the museum's exhibits are all interactive, letting kids touch and play to their heart's content. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is a more traditional museum, but it has a kid's zone with hands-on exhibits and a scavenger hunt to help you see all corners of the building. Other museums that may pique your kid's interest include the Denver Firefighters Museum and the Colorado Railroad Museum.
Parks are a great kid-friendly destination, and Denver has plenty to choose from. City Park has playgrounds, picnic areas, paddling lakes, and is adjacent to museums and the zoo. Confluence Park is on the Platte River and home to kayak chutes, where kids can watch thrill-seekers brave the rushing waters; the park also has biking and walking trails. Washington Park is one of the largest parks in Denver and a favorite of locals. There are recreational opportunities and plenty of space to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine.
The Denver Trolley is a piece of history that kids can experience for themselves. The trolley is all that's left of the city's once extensive electric rail system. The old-fashioned open trolley car looks like the one from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and makes kids feel like they're in another century. The narrated tour shares the history of the places you pass, and families can get off at stops to explore sites such as Broncos Stadium and Downtown Denver.