Denver has seen a lot of development in the last few years, adding an impressive list of restaurants, breweries, and hotels to several existing options. Many of the city’s attractions and eateries are also kid-friendly, making it a good destination for travelers of any age.
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Last spring a rail line opened connecting the Denver International Airport to the recently renovated Union Station downtown, making it easy for visitors to get to the city. Union Station’s overhaul included a hip retro-modern Great Hall with stylish seating areas and a collection of local shops and restaurants. Kids can grab a treat at Milkbox Ice Creamery or browse for train-related books at the Tattered Cover bookstore. The historic building also hosts seasonal family-friendly events like a farmer’s market with local chef demos and complimentary pictures with Santa.
Hit the Museum
Go on an Elf Hunt
At the Denver Museum of Nature and Science’s kid-focused Discovery Zone kids can play with oversized Lite-Brite-like pegs or dig for dinosaur bones. One good way to explore the museum is on an elf scavenger hunt. Artist Kent Pendleton hid tiny elves in some of the murals painted on the walls of different exhibits, and a few additional elves have been added to the museum over the years. Pick up a map of elf locations from the information desk when you enter the museum.
Paint a Bison Statue
The Children’s Museum of Denver completed a big expansion project in 2015. Kids can take cooking classes, paint statues of bison, or scale an indoor climbing structure that reaches over three stories. The expansion also included the addition of Joy Park-–a 30,000 square foot outdoor component of the museum with a stream and zip line for kids. The museum also has crawling and nursing areas for the museum’s youngest visitors.
Interact with Art
The modern, angular building that houses the Denver Art Museum offers a variety of art collections and free admission for kids. Visitors can explore the museum with family backpacks filled with art-related activities and the Just for Fun Family Center often has kid art activities to accompany visiting exhibits. In the fall of 2016, a Star Wars costume exhibit will open.
Wander in a Garden
Denver has plenty of sunshine throughout the year, making the Denver Botanic Gardens’ York Street location a good spot to visit. The main gardens allow plenty of space for little ones to roam, and kids have a space designed just for them at the Mordecai Children’s Garden. The Children’s Garden includes seasonal Colorado ecosystems, a stream for wading, and a natural stone hiking path for little ones to climb up to a higher view.
Feed the Giraffes
Kids can get a chance to feed giraffes or lorikeets at The Denver Zoo, which houses over 4000 animal species. The zoo has indoor and outdoor animal exhibits and play areas and picnic spots located throughout it. This summer a new train that runs a small loop within the zoo replaced an older one, and a new tiger exhibit is scheduled to open in 2016.
WHERE TO EAT
Brider is a modern counter-service option that’s open all day. Adults can try gourmet sandwiches like the wagyu French dip or rotisserie chicken banh mi and the kids’ menu has options like meatballs with polenta.
Many of Denver’s brew pubs are also family-friendly. One good choice is Vine Street Pub, which offers burgers, board games, and an outside area with cornhole to help entertain the kids. Parents can select from a rotating selection of craft beers and food specials.
Other dinner options include Tony P’s in the Highland neighborhood, where kids can build their own pizzas; and Ace Eat Serve, a restaurant with a ping-pong hall, Asian food, and kids’ meals that include a bao bun sandwich option.
For dessert, head to The Inventing Room–-a Willy Wonka-inspired dessert shop where kids can watch their order created in a cloud of liquid nitrogen. The shop uses molecular gastronomy techniques to create a variety of specialty treats like maple nitro popcorn and peanut butter mousse with grape jelly cotton candy.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor's Denver Guide