Denver is well known for its mountains and snow slopes, but sometimes those attractions are not suitable for younger travelers that happen to come along. This article is a handy guide to show you all the great family-friendly attractions that the city of Denver does have to offer. Attractions that have the adventure of Colorado, plenty of animals, and one of a kind food spots where anyone can participate, and be tuckered out by the end of the day!
1. Denver Zoo
Denver is home to two world class animal facilities, the first being the Denver Zoo. This 80 acre (32.3 hectare) facility was first opened in the late 1800s and was the first zoo in the United States to utilize more natural methods of enclosures instead of cages with bars.
The zoo’s inhabitants include different types of bears, apes, monkeys, lions, hyenas, african wild dogs, rhinos, hippos, elephants, zebras, giraffes, and almost 200 species of birds in its aviary.
Children can have not just a very entertaining and enriching day, but also a very educational experience at some of the zoo’s great conservation presentations. Denver Zoo holds various special events throughout the year, such as new exhibit openings and events that focus on a particular animal or habitat.
Therefore, it is a good idea to check the zoo’s calendar of events to see if there is something unique going on during the time of year you plan to visit Denver.
Here are a few more important pieces of information:
General admission tickets are only sold until 2 pm each day, but any general admissions tickets can be used until the 31st of the month they are purchased in.
Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a person of at least the age of 18 or older.
Address: 2300 Steele Street Denver, CO 80205-4899
Price: Children ages 3 to 11: 12 USD, Ages 12 to 64: 17 USD, Ages 65+: 14 USD (1 USD service charge added to the price of each ticket)
Opening Hours: 9 am to 5 pm. Closed on public holidays.
Contact: +1 (720) 337-1400
Website: Denver Zoo
2. Downtown Aquarium
The second great animal attraction in Denver is the Downtown Aquarium. This extensive facility has over 1.25 million gallons (473,176.5 L) of water combined in all its exhibits.
Of course the aquarium has plenty of fish, but it is also home to numerous sharks, sea turtles, and otters. The Downtown Aquarium is also home to its very own mermaids! The Mystic Mermaids, as they are referred to by the aquarium, are a fantastic show to behold for people of all ages, that emphasizes the importance of taking care of our environment.
The Aquarium also has a spectacular restaurant that is surrounded by the main 50,000 gallon (189,270.6 L) aquarium. Visible from the whole dining room, divers hold feeding shows two times daily, so it may be worth planning your meal times around these events.
It is important to note that the restaurant opens 1 hour later than the main aquarium, at 11 am. The aquarium also has a 4D theater with different features depending on the time of year. Admission to the theater is extra and tickets can be purchased separately from the aquarium exhibits or in a bundle along with the aquarium tickets for a slightly cheaper price in the Aquarium Exhibit Plus Pass.
Address: 700 Water Street Denver, CO 80211
Price: Aquarium and Plus Pass: Children 2 years and younger are Free, Aquarium only Children ages 3 to 11 14.50 USD, with Plus Pass: 19.50 USD; Aquarium only Adults ages 12 to 64: 20.50 USD, with Plus Pass: 25.50 USD; Aquarium only Seniors ages 65+ 19.50 USD, with Plus Pass 24.50 USD
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday: 10 am to 9 pm, Friday & Saturday: 10 am to 9:30 pm Closed on public holidays.
Contact: +1 (303) 561-4450
Website: Downtown Aquarium
3. Elitch Gardens
Elitch Gardens is the first amusement park on our list. Just across the South Palette River from the Downtown Aquarium, Elitch Gardens is a combination theme park and water park that operates from May to October of each year. The park has six roller coasters and two water rides.
Ticket prices are determined by age and height. Children under 3 years of age enjoy free admission. Tickets for seniors over the age of 62 are 34.99 USD. Adult tickets are for those over 48 inches (122 cm) in height. Online, an adult ticket is 35.99 USD and at the main gate the price is 49.99 USD. A child ticket is for those that are over the age of 3 and under 48 inches (122 cm) in height, and the price for a child’s ticket is 34.99 USD.
Address: 2000 Elitch Cir, Denver, CO 80204
Price: from 50 USD
Opening Hours: Vary from day to day but mostly 10:30 am to 9 pm. Closed on public holidays.
Contact: +1 (303) 595-4386
Website: Elitch Gardens
4. Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park is our next location. If you are willing and able to make the trek outside of Denver, this is a great location to explore the natural wonders of Colorado with your family. This park is located in Glenwood Springs, which is about a 3-hour car ride outside of Denver, but I included it because it has been praised for being an affordable and safe place for families to get some nature time, especially if you don’t have experience hiking trails or mountains.
The park itself is at 7,100 feet (2,164 m) in altitude, and is only accessible by an aerial gondola. There are three different cave tours available at the park: the Fairy Caves Tour, the King’s Row Tour, and the Wild Tour. The Fairy Caves is a quarter of a mile long and lasts for about forty minutes. The King’s Row Tour is a tour with lit walkways and handrails, making it a bit easier to maneuver. The Wild Tour is a bit more of an intense experience that lasts for approximately two hours. At some points, tour goers will be required to do some crawling on their stomachs, so if this makes you uncomfortable it may not be the option for you. The Wild Tour is also only available by reservation, while the other tours are not. There are some important things guests should take into consideration before booking a cave tour:
- The caves maintain a temperature around 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 degree Celsius), so guests should wear appropriate clothing according to their needs.
- No foods or drinks are allowed in the caves so please be well-fed and hydrated before beginning your tours.
- Backpacks and strollers are not allowed in the caves.
- Guests with health concerns should take note of the high altitude of the park, and determine if they should participate in a potentially exerting activity.
- Cameras are allowed but mono and tripods are not.
In addition to the cave tours, Glenwood also has several thrill rides. Some of the rides are closed during certain seasons, so depending on the time of year you plan to visit, the rides available may change. Here are some examples of rides you can find at Glenwood: the Alpine Coaster, a 3,400 feet (1,036 m) track down an alpine slope; the Glenwood Canyon Flyer, a swing carousel ride that spins whilst dangling you 1,300 feet (396 m) above the Colorado River; and finally the Giant Canyon Swing, a four-person pendulum ride that swings you out 1,300 feet (396 m) above the Colorado River at speeds reaching fifty miles an hour (80 kph).
Glenwood also has other attractions such as a small roller coaster, a 4D theater, laser tag, a climbing wall, and a small Ferris wheel. Some activities at Glenwood require the signature of a waiver, so it is recommended for guests to print, review, and sign the waiver before arriving in order to save time and get to the fun part!
Tickets to Glenwood depend on the types of activities you and your family will participate in as well as the time of year you are visiting. For example, Glenwood’s winter rates are included here. For adults (any guest over the age of 12) admission to the park is 15 USD, admission and a cave tour is 27 USD, and a Winter FunDay Pass (which grants access to admission, cave tours, and attractions) is 40 USD. For children (ages 3 to 12 years old) admission to the park is 10 USD, and admission plus a cave tour is 22 USD, and a Winter FunDay Pass is 35 USD. Prices in the summer moths are slightly more expensive.
Glenwood does offer discounts for Seniors ages 65 and older, AAA members, and the military.
Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
Address: 51000 Two Rivers Plaza Road, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601
Price: from 54 USD
Opening Hours: Monday- Friday 10 am to 5 pm, Saturday & Sunday 10 am to 6 pm. Closed on public holidays.
Access: Drive on I-70, or Amtrak Train from Denver.
Contact: +1 (970) 945-4228
Website: Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park
An unforgettable family adventure
Family vacations become some of the most cherished childhood memories for many people, giving them stories they will tell their friends and family for the rest of their lives. Denver, Colorado has plenty of places and ways to make your next family vacation truly something special.
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