Denver is a captivating mix of old and new, and has plenty to entertain visitors of every age – including families on a budget.
A metropolis dating all the way back to the Old West era, the city of Denver – AKA the Mile High City – combines historic landmarks with modern skyscrapers and cultural venues, as well as being a popular jumping off point for skiing excursions in the nearby Rocky Mountains. If you’re travelling to Denver with kids and would like some activity ideas that won’t break the bank, below are 12 of the most affordable things to see and do as a family.
Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys
One of Denver’s most unique attractions is this magical museum that celebrates and preserves every type of miniature, toy and doll under the sun. With a collection of over 20,000 objects, the museum highlights the social and cultural history of how children have played down the years and the items that have captured their imagination. Among the most popular exhibits are an assortment of antique and modern dolls (including a Japanese Friendship Doll), artisan dollhouses, miniature planes and cars, and vintage Star Wars toys. The museum also has a strong community focus and puts great effort into engaging with children who would normally not have an opportunity to participate in arts education.
830 Kipling Street, Lakewood / Fri-Sat 10am-4.30pm Sun 1pm-4pm Closed Mon-Thurs
Downtown Denver Food Tour
Denver has a rich and diverse culinary scene and one of the best ways to discover it is by joining an organised food tour. Delicious Denver Food Tours are a highly regarded local company that run a wide range of themed and fully-guided foodie tours around the city. The most child-friendly of them is the downtown tour, which includes visits to some of the vibrant district’s award-winning local eateries where you can taste delicious dishes in warm and welcoming surroundings. The tour is on foot and as well as its foodie-focus also includes plenty of interesting stories about Denver’s history, street art and architecture. Pricing is $69 per person (including food but no drinks) and $55 for children.
Denver Firefighters Museum
There are few kids anywhere in the world who aren’t captivated by the evocative sights and sounds of a fire engine in action. Home to a vast collection of artifacts, photos and other documents, this museum offers families an entertaining – and affordable – insight into the long history of the Denver Fire Department and the brave firefighters who have saved so many lives down the years. Admission for adults is $9, and $7 for children aged 2-12.
1326 Tremont Place / Tues-Sat 10am-4pm Closed Sun-Mon
Loveland Ski Area
Whether you’re seasoned skiiers or beginners, Denver is superbly position for skiing adventures. Perched an hour’s drive west, Loveland is one the nearest ski areas to Denver – and also one of the most affordable It’s a superb resort with consistently good snow and a variety of terrains to suit all ages and abilities. To avoid the crowds, weekdays are always less busy and even cheaper still.
Dillon / Mon-Fri 9am-4pm Sat-Sun 8.30am-4pm
Denver Walking Tours
If your children are old enough to sustain some sightseeing on foot, then how about joining an organised city walking tour? Denver Walking Tours are an acclaimed local firm that host a number of themed tours around the city. Among them is a free guided walking tour that operates on a ‘pay-what-you-like’ tipping model and takes you on an immersive journey through the heart of downtown Denver. Along the way you’ll see some of the city’s most famous sights and landmarks and discover the stories and history behind them.
Situated in downtown Denver, this huge outdoor facility draws skateboarders of all skills and ages with its exceptional free-to-use facilities. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned skater, the venue’s 60,000 square feet of concrete terrain offers a welcoming environment for trying out new skills – or practice some old ones. Rentals are not available to it’s necessary to bring your own gear.
2205 19th Street / Mon-Sun 5am-11pm
Children’s Museum of Denver
A great place to head on one of Denver’s infrequent rainy days, this museum encourages your little ones to create, discover and explore in equal measure. It’s packed full of interactive exhibits and there are also daily programmed activities and events to ensure there’s always something new to enjoy. Highlights include a hands-on fire department, a building assembly plant, and a veterinary clinic. Entrance fee is $15, or $13 for children 2 and under, with kids under 1 going free.
2121 Children’s Museum Drive / Weds-Sun 9am-4pm Closed Mon-Tues
Colorado Railroad Museum
Nestled in the city of Golden, 16 miles west of central Denver, this museum takes visitors on an evocative journey through the history of the Colorado Railroad, which played such a major role in the growth of the state down the years. Exhibits and displays include over 100 engines, cabooses, coaches, and a garden railway. Special events including train rides on a vintage steam locomotive also take place throughout the year. Pricing is $10 for adults, and $5 for visitors aged 2-17.
17155 West 44th Avenue, Golden / Tues-Sun 9am-5pm Closed Mon
Hammond’s Candy Factory
This hugely popular family-owned candy factory was established back in 1920 and is still going strong today. Producers of a myriad of sugary treats including dips and pretzels, chocolate, puffs, lollipops, and ribbon candy, the factory runs free behind-the-scenes tours that allow you to see how such saliva-inducing delights are actually made – often by hand. Tours take place every half-an-hour and last about 30 minutes. In case your kids need any persuading, free samples are included.
5735 Washington Street / Mon-Sat 9am-4pm Closed Sun
If your small people are still dinosaur mad but have grown tired of the typical animatronic versions you often find at theme parks and zoos, this unique outdoor museum is sure to reignite their passion. Located in the town of Morrison, about 17 miles southwest of Denver city centre, the venue invites you to touch the actual bones of ancient dinosaurs such as the Allosaurus, Stegosaurus and Iguanadons, which were discovered here the late 1800s. The site can be explored on a self-guided tour and is free of charge.
Morrison Fossil Area National Natural Landmark
Denver U.S. Mint
It’s never a bad idea to try and teach yours kids about the value of money, and one excellent starting point could be to introduce them to how money is actually made in the flesh. This U.S. Mint facility offers free-of-charge, 45-minute tours run by expert guides who deliver fascinating insights into the history of coinage, the processes behind its production, and how it is distributed.
1450 Cherokee Street
Located 13 miles north of downtown Denver, this fabulous invertebrate zoo was set up to educate and inform about the need to protect threatened habitats globally. The venue is home to hundreds of insect species and comprises of several self-contained exhibits, each featuring live animals and a magical ‘touch’ experience, along with interpretation by knowledgeable staff and interactive technology that allows visitors to explore science and conservation topics at their leisure. Admission is $13 for adults and $9 for kids aged 2-12.
6252 West 104th Avenue, Westminster / Mon-Sun 9am-6pm
By Paul Joseph