Dreaming of Denver: Five Kid-Worthy Pursuits in the Mile High City
From the enriching—a fantastic natural history museum—to the exhilarating—the only downtown amusement park in the U.S.—opportunities abound in Denver for young travelers to exercise their minds and bodies. After a trip to the Mile High City, kids will be loaded with tales of having watched metal fashioned into the pennies at the U.S. Mint, observing exotic animals from around the globe at the Denver Zoo, and dining while contemplating marine life—and even a mermaid or two—at the Downtown Aquarium.
Travel Through Time at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
From real ancient Egyptian mummies to dinosaur fossils that kids can see and touch, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, CO) brings bygone eras to life in ways that resonate with kids and adults alike. If you're visiting with children between the ages of 3 and 5, allot time to visit the Discovery Zone, an interactive area where young patrons can learn about the motion of water, engineering and other areas of science. When your feet need a break, take in a show in the Gates Planetarium. Admission to the museum costs $17 for adults and $12 for children between the ages of 3 and 18. Access to the planetarium requires an additional $5 for adults and $4 for children.
Get Your Money's Worth at the U.S. Mint
The kids won't look at a penny the same way again after visiting the Denver Mint (320 W. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO ), one of two mints in the country where you can witness the process by which metal is turned into billions of coins every year. Tours, which last approximately 45 minutes, are free; however, tickets are required. Pick yours up the same day of the tour at the Gift Shop entrance gate. Be there when the tickets are released at 7 a.m. to ensure your share. On the way out, stop by the gift shop to pick up a coin as a souvenir. If you have infants or toddlers in tow, note that strollers, purses and bags are not allowed on the tour and no storage is available.
Embrace Your Wild Side at the Denver Zoo
A visit to the Denver Zoo (2300 Steele St., Denver, CO) is an opportunity for kids to see creatures they are probably already intrigued by—giraffes, lions and elephants—as well as others they might not know of, such as blind cave fish and tapirs. Don't miss the Primate Panorama exhibit, home to gorillas, orangutans and adorable aye-ayes. Feedings and shows throughout the day allow visitors to learn more about specific species and how zookeepers care for them. Admission costs $17 for adults and $12 for children between the ages of 3 and 11. For $2 apiece, treat the kids to a ride on the zoo's carousel or miniature train.
Take the Plunge at the Downtown Aquarium
Even desert creatures have an exhibit at Denver's Downtown Aquarium (700 Water St., Denver, CO), where you can see fish in every color of the rainbow and dine in their company in a restaurant that surrounds a 50,000-gallon, floor-to-ceiling tank. Kids can also enjoy the Mystic Mermaid shows offered several times a day, riding a carousel, interacting with stingrays in a touch tank and watching 15-minute feature films in a 4-D theater. The film selection changes throughout the year. The most basic admission ticket, which includes only the animal exhibits, costs $21 for adults and $15 for children between the ages of 3 and 11. Kids 2 and under get in for free.
Make a Splash at Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park
Open during the late spring, summer and early fall, at Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park (2000 Elitch Cir., Denver, CO), every member of the family can find rides. While older kids and teenagers make a beeline for the roller coasters, younger tykes enjoy spinning tea cups, a carousel, a mini train and bumper cars. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, tickets also include admission to the Island Kingdom Water Park, where rides range in intensity from high-speed slides to a wave pool. Tickets can be purchased online or at the main gate. Children with a height less than 48 inches pay $34 dollars regardless. You can save considerably on the price of adult tickets by purchasing them online, however. When buying online, adults pay $36 on weekdays and $40 on weekends, respectively, as opposed to $50 and $55 at the main gate.
- Denver Museum of Nature and Science: Current Exhibitions
- Frommer's: U.S. Mint in Denver
- United States Mint: Visiting the Denver Mint
- Denver Zoo: Animals
- Denver Zoo: Hours & Admission
- Visit Denver: Things to Do in Denver with Kids
- Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park: Plan a Visit
- Aquarium Restaurants: Downtown Aquarium - Exhibits
- Frommer's: Elitch Gardens Theme Park
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.