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Denver with Kids: 10 Top-Rated Things to Do

Written by Carri Wilbanks

Sitting at exactly one mile high, Denver is a city filled with fun statistics to keep kids entertained, as well as plenty of natural and manmade attractions. Whether you are explaining what it means to be 5,280 feet above sea level to the kids on the step of the gold-domed state capital bearing this marker or checking out the nearby aquarium or children's museum, Denver is full of family-friendly places to visit. Kids will especially love frolicking in the expansive greenness of City Park, which is home to playgrounds, more than one lake for water activities, and a fun summer concert series where many local families come with picnic dinners. And at the park's eastern edge, you'll find the Denver Zoo, which is home to more than 4,300 animals. Adjacent to the zoo is another kid-friendly attraction, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Honestly, it's hard to run out of family-focused things to do in this vibrant city, which has been rocking since the late 1800s. Plan your sightseeing adventures with our list of the top things to do in Denver with kids.

1. Denver Firefighters Museum

Denver Firefighters Museum

Denver Firefighters Museum, Craig Talbert / photo modified

If your children are always trying to put out fires, then you will want to take them to the Denver Firefighter Museum. It's located downtown in the historic Denver Fire Station No 1, which served as a working fire station until 1974. Here, you will learn about fire safety and prevention, as well as the history of the Denver Fire Department through a mix of hands-on activity stations, educational programs, and exhibits.

After exploring the museum, it is easy to stroll five blocks east along Colfax Avenue, through the green expanse of Civic Center Park, to the Colorado State Capitol, where you can take the kids up to the 15th step, which sits exactly one mile above the sea.

Address: 1326 Tremont Pl, Denver Colorado

www.denverfirefightersmuseum.org

2. The Denver Zoo

A cheetah at the Denver Zoo

A cheetah at the Denver Zoo

Located at the eastern edge of City Park, the Denver Zoo is the city's most popular kid-friendly attraction. It hosts more than 4,300 animals from some 650 species whose lineage spans the globe - you'll see Asian elephants, Komodo dragons, African lions, and orangutans. Kids can have up-close animal experiences via numerous feedings and shows, as well as interactive exhibits and special seasonal events.

While in this area, you'll also want to explore City Park. The expansive grassy area is home to the zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, as well as two playgrounds, horseshoes, tennis courts, two lakes, and picnic sites. On Sunday evenings in summer there is also live jazz that attracts many local families for a picnic in the grass.

Address: 2300 Steel Street, Denver Colorado

www.denverzoo.org

3. Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Right next to the Denver Zoo in the City Park area, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a great place to bring your little one who is interested in fossils and dinosaurs as it hosts a Discovery Zone with dozens of hands-on activities for children of all ages, including archeological sand pits. Exhibits feature everything from Egyptian mummies to a T-Rex and gems and minerals, as well as rotating shows. There are also larger-than-life films to watch in the Phipps IMAX 3D Theater on-site or mysteries of the stars to discover at the equally intriguing Gates Planetarium.

Address: 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, Colorado

www.dmns.org

4. Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Children's Museum of Denver

Children's Museum of Denver, Charles Roderick / photo modified

The Children's Museum of Denver at Marisco Campus offers one-of-a-kind exhibits, which are created to help young minds create, explore, and discover on their own - basically kid-powered learning. Here, children can climb to the top of a 3-1/2-story mountain, make eight-foot-tall bubbles, or pretend to be a foraging squirrel. Basically, whatever they can imagine is possible here.

When you are finished exploring the museum, head to Confluence Park on the South Platte River in the same neighborhood. It is one of downtown's most popular parks and home to the kayak chutes. Your children will love watching aquatic athletes paddle through the white water from the shore. Even if no one is in the park, you can run off some extra energy on the walking and biking trail along the river. Or head over to the flagship REI store, which comes complete with an indoor climbing wall and bouldering space.

Address: 2121 Children's Museum Drive, Denver, Colorado

www.mychildsmuseum.org

5. Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park

Roller coaster at the Elitch Gardens Theme Park, Denver

Roller coaster at the Elitch Gardens Theme Park, Denver

If you're traveling with older kids, they'll love Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, which has been in operation in the heart of the city for more than 125 years and is the only still operating amusement park of its kind in the U.S. The park features more than 50 different rides, including some exhilarating roller coasters and the Star Flyer swing, which is 17 stories high. There is also a section devoted to little kids with some 14 different pint-sized family rides and a 10-acre swimming space complete with crashing wave pools, lazy rivers, and waterslides.

Address: 2000 Elitch Cir, Denver, Colorado

www.elitchgardens.com

6. Denver Trolley

Confluence Park, departure point of the Denver Trolley

Confluence Park, departure point of the Denver Trolley

Kids love riding the old-fashioned Denver Trolley, which is modeled after the open-air streetcar featured on the Mr Rogers Neighborhood TV Show. It runs 30-minute trips along the South Platte River, which start at Confluence Park behind REI and offer an intriguing narrated historical account of the Mile High City from its Gold Rush beginnings, including the days of the Denver "breezer" streetcar (you'll learn what that is) to present times.

Address: 1416 Platte Street, Denver, Colorado

www.denvertrolley.org

7. Downtown Aquarium

Downtown Aquarium in Denver

Downtown Aquarium in Denver

Also in the downtown area near the Platte River, the Downtown Aquarium is a favorite family-friendly Denver destination offering kids activities like swimming with the sharks, feeding stingrays, panning for gold, watching a mermaid show, becoming a marine biologist for a day, and even an opportunity to spend a night in the aquarium. There are also one million gallons of awesome fishy exhibits and a restaurant inside a 150,000-gallon aquarium, which is another cool perk of a visit to this attraction.

Address: 700 Water Street, Denver, Colorado

www.downtownaquarium.com

8. Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum

Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum

Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Vincent Lape / photo modified

If your child is fascinated with flying, be it an airplane or a spaceship, then you'll want to head to the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, located in the Lowry neighborhood southeast of downtown but still in the city limits. It hosts more than 50 planes and fascinating space-oriented exhibits in a sprawling space that sits on the grounds of the former Lowry Air Force Base. Families can get up close to fighter jets, vintage bombers, and other antique planes, as well as a Vietnam-era Huey chopper. Try to visit on the second Saturday of the month, when children have the exhilarating opportunity to climb into the cockpits of many of the planes on display. There are also options for trying out a flight simulator and an educational aviation enrichment program.

Address: 7711 East Academy Blvd, Hanger 1, Denver, Colorado

http://wingsmuseum.org

9. History Colorado Center

History Colorado Center

History Colorado Center, Jeffrey Beall / photo modified

The relatively new History Colorado Center is in the Golden Triangle Museum District near downtown and an award-winning learning and entertainment experience for kids and adults. The museum has both core and traveling exhibits and puts on events, educational programs, and other public programs throughout the year. It also features restaurants and shops on-site. For children there are interactive exhibits, which tell the stories of the different cultures that have contributed to shaping the history of Colorado. Kids will love being able to walk across a 60-foot map of the state in a "time machine" or soaring off a re-creation of one of the first ski jumps on the planet, originally located in Steamboat Springs.

Address: 1200 Broadway, Denver, Colorado

www.historycolorado.org

10. Denver U.S. Mint

Denver U.S. Mint

Denver U.S. Mint, Alex Ristea / photo modified

Kids will dig a trip to the Denver U.S. Mint, where they can see firsthand where currency is created. The facility offers free, 45-minute tours, which are run by informative guides. For middle and high school-aged children, these offer a fascinating glimpse into the history of pocket change in America as they watch it stream right off the production line. Tours are popular, so line up early - the tour info window opens at 7am Monday through Friday, with tours running between 8am and 3:30pm and no advance tickets are available.

Address: 320 W. Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado

www.usmint.gov/mint_tours/?action=startreservation

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