Things to do for kids and children in denver

The Denver, Colorado area offers many kid-friendly activities.

Every parent or caregiver knows the importance of being prepared to entertain children. Whether on a family vacation, or knocking around the home town, and whether the children in question belong to you for the duration or just for the day, knowing the resources available to you can help circumvent boredom in your young charges. Denver has plenty of kid-focused entertainment beyond the customary bowling alleys, roller skating rinks, and movie theaters.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Located at 2001 Colorado Boulevard, in City Park, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science will take young minds on a vacation of the imagination. Visit the IMAX Theater or the Gates Planetarium Regular exhibits like the Hall of Life, Gems and Minerals, and the classic wildlife dioramas will provide entertainment that is so hands-on, kids forget that they're learning. The Prehistoric Journey leads children through time, from theories of the formation of the universe and the beginning of life to the present, guided along the way by computer simulations of plate tectonics, educational games, and fossils kids can really touch. The Space Odyssey is a space-age playground, giving kids a chance to fly a shuttle, dig in red "Mars" soil, and collect moon rocks. In exhibits like the Egyptian Mummies and the North American Indian Culture, kids get more than just a glimpse into another culture - they get to walk around in it for a while. Be sure to check the website for scheduled special exhibits.

Museum tickets can be acquired in a variety of affordable ways. For the family just passing through town, tickets can be bought at the gates: $10 for each adult, and $6 for "Juniors" (ages 3 to 18 years) and Seniors (65 and older). For local museum addicts, membership passes can be purchased: $75 for a family (2 adults and their children), and $100 for the Family Plus pass (up to 7 people). And who says you only get what you pay for? Throughout the year, the museum offers a half dozen or so free days for Colorado residents; check the website for specific dates.

Denver Zoo

Do lions, tigers, and bears thrill your child? Or does your child prefer the gentler creatures of the earth? The Denver Zoo, located at 2300 Steele Street, has exhibits to appeal to all varieties of animal lovers. Recently built habitats such as Tropical Discovery, Predator Ridge, and Primate Panorama embrace the animals in a home away from home - and you and your children are invited to step into their world for a visit! For those who have seen it all before, the zoo staff spices it up with daily feedings and demonstrations; see the website for scheduled times.

During the warm months, from April to September, admission purchased at the gates will cost $11 for ages 12 to 64, $9 for seniors 65 and older, and $7 for kids 3 to 11 years of age. (Children younger than three enter for free.) During the off months, October through March, tickets are all $2 less. Memberships cost $70 for a family, and $95 for a Family Plus membership, which includes one guest per visit. The Denver Zoo also offers free days throughout the year; check the website's "Visitor Information" for a schedule.

Children's Museum of Denver

What could be better for young children than a museum geared specifically to them? The Children's Museum, located at I-25 and 23rd Avenue, has all the hands-on learning of the Denver Museum, aimed at young children aged newborn through eight years. The museum offers exhibits to teach young children through play the everyday lessons we take for granted. My Market features a make-believe grocery store, in which children learn about related subjects, such as nutrition; the Center for the Young Child gives tots aged 0 through 4 the chance to explore their world; and Under my Feet & Over my Head teaches children 4 through 8 respect for all living things.



Although the Children's Museum does not offer any free days, the price is right for a little early education disguised as play. Admission for all persons aged 1 through 59 costs $7; seniors enter for only $5, and babies play for free. Memberships are available: $70 for a family (two adults and their children), plus an additional $25 for any other adult (such as a grandparent or nanny). Families can also purchase a special family membership called "My Child's Museum," which grants admission at more than 100 children's museums across the country; a list of participating museums can be found on the website. In addition, the museum offers memberships to licensed home day care providers.

Firefighters Museum

What young boy isn't enthralled with bright, shiny red fire engines and their wailing sirens? The Firefighters Museum provides an answer to your child's fascination, not to mention a break from the routine of "ordinary" museums. Located at 1326 Tremont Place, the museum is housed by an old fire station. The ground floor of the 1909 building is packed with examples of the different kinds of fire engines used over the years, including one that the kids can climb in and sit on. There are also firefighters' gear to try on, a pole to slide down, displays of old photographs, and a collection of firefighters' hats. Upstairs are lockers, the fire chief's personal quarters, and the larger rooms used to house the rest of the firefighters (now used to house birthday parties and games).

Admission is actually a membership, purchased in the form of a donation to the museum. The least expensive membership, called "Hook and Ladder," is $36, and earns free admission for the entire family. As this is actually a donation, the full amount is tax deductible. Additionally, the Firefighters Museum will host birthday parties for $6 per child and $2 per adult. The museum also offers several free days throughout the year, one of which falls on August 6th, Firefighters Appreciation Day; check the website for details.

Dinosaur Ridge

Does your child obsess over dinosaurs? Are you short on funds and looking for an expensive way to entertain your kids? Either way, Dinosaur Ridge is the perfect solution. Located near Red Rocks Amphitheatre west of Denver, Dinosaur Ridge is nothing more than a mountainside in which are embedded dinosaur fossils and footprints. Maps and driving directions can be accessed on the website. Does the thought of the passing traffic ruin the moment for you? Check the website for information on Dinosaur Discovery Days, offered several times a year, when West Alameda Parkway is closed to allow undisturbed fossil viewing. The events are free, although there is a $2 per person charge if you opt to take the shuttle instead of walking.

Six Flags Elitch Gardens

What would childhood be without amusement parks? Denver is proud to have merged Elitch Gardens, one of the original amusement parks in the area, with Six Flags. Elitch's is located right on the edge of downtown Denver at I-25 and Speer Boulevard, exit 212A. Elitch Gardens sports many fast and furious rides for thrill seekers everywhere, but the park still caters to families, too. Take the Big Wheel and get a great view of the city and the mountains; climb (or take the elevator) to the top of the gigantic Observation Tower overlooking the city; take a ride on the 74-year-old classic Carousel; cool off with a splash of water on Disaster Canyon or Shipwreck Falls. Other family-friendly rides include Tea Cups, Tilt-a-Whirl, Troika, and the Batwing. Looney Tunes Movietown features many rides especially for kids, and Island Kingdom Waterpark attracts all wanna-be tadpoles. Most of the big rides require a height of 40 or 42 inches, so Elitch Gardens may not be an idea venture for families with small children.

At the gate, tickets cost $37.99 for general admission, $21.99 little people under 48 inches, and $20.99 for seniors aged 55 through 69. (Strong-hearted seniors age 70 and older ride for free.) For the internet-savvy parent, tickets can be purchased at a discount on the website; discounted tickets are also often available at participating grocery stores. If you plan on visiting the park more than once a season, purchasing a season pass for $49.99 can save money. And don't forget about parking! Season parking passes can be purchased for $25, a clear savings over the normal $9 per visit. The park's popularity has also earned it the right to claim its own stop on the local Light Rail, enabling easy access via public transportation.

Lakeside

Denver's other major amusement park, Lakeside, is geared more toward families than thrill-seekers. Although Lakeside also sports rides - such as the roller coasters - that have height requirements, the park has a special Kiddies' Playland for children aged 1 through 6 and weighing less than 100 pounds. For a more relaxing and historic atmosphere, take one of the two steam trains that circle the lake - both trains are originally from the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair - or ride Lakeside's original Merry-Go-Round. The Cyclone roller coaster is also hailed as a classic.

Lakeside is not only more family-oriented, it is also more affordable. Admission at the gates costs only $2 per person, and tickets to purchase individual rides are 50 cents each. Unlimited rides passes can also be purchased for $12.75 during the week, and $17.75 on weekends and holidays. And parking is always free.

Water World

As a kid, the next best thing to an amusement park is a water park. Denver's Water World, located at 88th Avenue and Pecos Street, approximately 15 minutes from downtown, offers fun in the sun to all those kids you could swear are half fish. General admission (anyone 48 inches or taller) costs $28.95, while children's admission (47 inches and under) costs $23.95; children three and younger get in free. Water World also offers a "Splash Pass" for $79.95, if purchased before June 22nd; after June 22nd, season passes cost $89.95 each. Due to the dangers and inconveniences bad weather can cause pool-goers, Water World is only open in good weather; for current weather-related information, call (303) 427-SURF.

Community Events

Besides major attractions such as those already mentioned, many communities hold special events for children and adults alike, especially in the summer. These community events are often offered at little or no cost. Check community newspapers, school newsletters, and public library websites to find out what unknown treasures your community may offer. Remember, with all of the community resources and city attractions throughout the city, there is plenty to keep any child entertained in Denver!

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