Denver, Colorado, ‘the Mile High city,” has a unique geography that places it between the Rocky Mountains to the west and the High Plains to the east, with hills and mountains to the city’s north, west, and south. If you can tear your eyes away from the gorgeous mountain views from your Denver hotel room, you’ll definitely want to get out and do some exploring. Denver has five big attractions all within the downtown area, so you don’t even have to go far to have some perfect days in Denver.
The Downtown Aquarium has more than 1 million gallons of extraordinary exhibits. You don’t have to have SCUBA experience to dive in the new Shark Tank, where a certified SCUBA diver takes participants through a 400,000-gallon shipwreck exhibit filled with Sand Tiger sharks, Sandbar sharks, Zebra sharks, Blacktip sharks, Bamboo sharks and hundreds of other fish. You can even dine in the Aquarium Restaurant, which features seats surrounding a 50,000-gallon aquarium that you can see from everywhere in the restaurant.
The Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals representing 615 species. Get up close encounters with tigers, jungle animals, or sea lions. Exhibits include a large enclosure (2 miles of trails over 10 acres) for elephants, rhinos, and tapirs. Throughout the year, different events such as sleepovers and gorgeous lighting for the holidays makes visiting the zoo extra special. There’s even a train and carousel.
Elitch Gardens Theme and Family Water Park
If you visit during the warm months, make sure to go to Elitch Gardens, with its water park. The water park is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day from 10:30am until 6pm, so this can truly take up an entire day, and most kids will not get sick of it. Enjoy thrill rides like water slides, and tamer family slides and shallower pools with lots of splashing. If you’re not prepared for a full day of water fun, you can rent beach towels and sunscreen and event rent your own private cabana. If you buy a ticket to the theme park with its carnival-style rides, you automatically get free admission into the water park.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Botanic Gardens has 24 acres of plants at the York Street location, showcasing plants from all over the world. The Chatfield Farms location is a 700-acre native plant refuge and working farm located along the banks of Deer Creek. At York Street there’s a children’s garden for hands-on learning about along with a Science Pyramid where children can study plants as a scientist would. The historic Chatfield Farm invites exploration at a restored 1918 dairy barn and silo, the 1874 Deer Creek Schoolhouse, 2.5 miles of nature trails, the Deer Creek Discovery children’s play area and numerous wildflower gardens. This is a great place to bring kids who are into birding. Visit the farm at certain times of the year for themed activities such as harvest time or Santa’s Workshop.
With all of that fun you’re having, you’re going to get hungry. While Denver has an amazing food scene, your family will love Casa Bonita, a fun Mexican restaurant with platform diving. What? A restaurant with diving? That’s right! This restaurant is so big inside it’s got a The waterfall designed to resemble the cliffs of Acapulco, which is 30 feet high splashing into a 14 feet deep pool. That’s just some of the fantastic features. The dome is covered with 22-karat gold leaf and features a statue of the last Aztec emperor Quahuatomec. There’s even puppet shows and an arcade. During show times, you can see platform diving, staged gunfights, and more. Plus, the food’s great too!
Tours of the Denver Capital Building
Free public tours of the Denver Capital Building are offered hourly, from 10am-3pm, Monday through Friday. Tours are limited to 30 people, so it might be a good idea to make a reservation if you want to make sure you can get a tour at a certain time.
NCAR in Boulder
It’s only about 40 minutes to get from Denver to Boulder, and in Boulder there’s a great free museum. It’s called NCAR, or the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and it offers museum access and hiking trails. The museum’s exhibits are both interactive and traditional and are designed to educate guests about the atmosphere, science, and the world around us.
Author Logan Brown enjoys exploring the area around his home in Denver. When he’s not out exploring he’s running his Denver junk removal business.