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Photo courtesy Colorado Renaissance Festival

2016 Family Favorites – Family Fun

Blame it on the mountains, but if there’s one thing that unites Colorado families it’s a mutual propensity for soaking up the fun. With so many parks, trails, world-famous attractions, events and museums, it’s hard not to have a great time in Colorad

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5 Fabulous Family Freebies

1. Littleton Museum

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2. Cherry Creek Shopping Center Dinosaur Gulch Play Area

3. City Park

4. Denver Public Libraries

5. Hammond’s Candies Factory Tour

5 Favorite Hike or Bike Trails for Families

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1. High Line Canal Trail

2. Cherry Creek State Park

3. Lair o” the Bear Park

4. Mount Falcon Park

5. South Platte River Trail

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5 Must Visit Colorado Parks

1. Centennial Center Park

2. City Park

3. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

4. Washington Park

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5. Westlands Park

Children’s Theater Productions

Top Five

Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

Colorado Children’s Theatre

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Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Denver Children’s Theatre at Mizel Arts and Culture Center

Inside the Orchestra

The Winner

Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

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6901 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada

720-898-7200 | arvadacenter.org

This award-winning organization is one of America’s largest multidisciplinary arts centers, offering top-notch drama for adults, and productions just for kids, too. With outstanding performances of favorites like Charlotte’s Web and last year’s Junie B. Jones: The Musical, kids get a delightful introduction to the world of theater. Acting classes are also available for children 3 and up, and the Arvada Center Theater Academy offers talented youth ages 13 to 18 a chance to expand their skills.

Family Fair or Festival

Top Five

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A Taste of Colorado

Cherry Creek Arts Festival

Colorado Renaissance Festival

Denver Chalk Art Festival

Parker Days Festival

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The Winner

Colorado Renaissance Festival

650 W. Perry Park Ave., Larkspur

303-688-6010 | coloradorenaissance.com

Thousands of lords and ladies flock to Larkspur for jousting competitions, fire blowing, acrobatics and an internationally renowned mime among many other offerings. A special 40th anniversary installment of this summertime festival is set to the tune of live music, and boasts games, shopping and food fit for a king — all held over nine weekends, June 11 to August 7.

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Get ye tickets online, where you”ll find details on themed weekends.

Indoor Playspace

Top Five

Apex Center

Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

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Gymboree Play & Learn

Jumpstreet Indoor Trampoline Park

Little Monkey Bizness

The Winner

Jumpstreet Indoor Trampoline Park

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Three metro locations | gotjump.com

With a handful of trampoline courts, bouncy dodge ball and basketball games, a foam pit, arcade games and a special “Earthquake Kids Zone” for younger jumpers ages 7 and under, this reasonably priced indoor trampoline gym is suitable for everyone. Oh, and did we mention there’s a mechanical bull

Mommy- or Daddy-and-Me Activity

Top Five

Baby and Me Swim Classes at Ocean First Swim School

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Dance with Me at the Colorado Conservatory of Dance

Gymboree Play & Learn Music Classes

Music Together Classes at Twinkle Together

Rocky Mountain Aardvarks

The Winner

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Rocky Mountain Aardvarks

Seven metro locations

720-515-VARK | rockymtnaardvarks.com

Music for Aardvarks isn’t your typical parent-child music class. The songs are original, the vibe is funky and the mood is pure fun, as caregivers and kiddos ages 3 months and up rock out together. Participants try a variety of musical instruments, and are called on to participate in interactive musical numbers — and breakout dance sessions. Big kid drop-off classes are offered for ages 3 to 5.

Museum for Families

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Top Five

Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

History Colorado Center

National Ballpark Museum

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WOW! Children’s Museum

The Winner

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver

303-370-6000 | dmns.org

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From its first floor outer space station – complete with a dress-up room for wee astronauts – to its animal dioramas, Egyptian mummies and T. Rex skeleton cast, this museum is jam-packed with hands-on offerings suitable for all ages. Younger children love exploring the second floor Discovery Room, boasting a dinosaur dig and wet-and-wild water playspace. Don’t forget to catch a show at the planetarium or IMAX.

Nature Center

Top Five

Butterfly Pavilion

Lookout Mountain Nature Center

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Majestic View Nature Center

Star K Ranch Open Space

The Wildlife Experience

The Winner

Butterfly Pavilion

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6252 W. 104th Ave., Westminster

303-469-5441 | butterflies.org

In the Pavilion’s balmy tropical rainforest you”ll discover 1,600 butterflies from around the world as you watch guides release herds of butterflies into their habitat — and, that’s only the beginning. This site houses 5,000 animals, including Rosie the tarantula. You”ll find an array of sea critters at the Water’s Edge exhibit, and an outdoor nature trail hosts more creatures.

Place for an Animal Encounter

Top Five

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Butterfly Pavilion

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Denver Zoo

The Urban Farm at Stapleton

Wild Animal Sanctuary

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The Winner

Denver Zoo

2300 Steele St., Denver

720-337-1400 | denverzoo.org

With more than 3,500 animals, live feedings and unique shows, this 80-acre Denver mainstay offers nonstop excitement. Get nose-to-whisker with a prairie dog or touch an alligator at the Wild Encounters Amphitheatre; later, watch a lion trainer work behind the scenes. Can’t fit everything into one visit? Consider enrolling your children in summer camp at the Denver Zoo.

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Playdate Spot

Top Five

Belleview Park

Big Time Trampoline Fun Center

Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

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Little Monkey Bizness

WOW! Children’s Museum

The Winner

WOW! Children’s Museum

110 N. Harrison Ave., Lafayette

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303-604-2424 | wowchildrensmuseum.org

Busy hands stay occupied at this Lafayette gem geared toward children 11 and under. An interactive art room stocks collage materials, recycled containers and creative craft supplies for mixed-media exploration, and traveling featured exhibits are designed to engage and educate. Monthly “Discovery Days” showcase rotating science exhibits, and “Sensory Friendly Playtime” days accommodate special needs families.

Special Family Event

Top Five

Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo

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National Western Stock Show

Noon Year’s Eve at the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Nutcracker Tea by the Colorado Conservatory of Dance

Parade of Lights

The Winner

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Nutcracker Tea by the Colorado Conservatory of Dance

1055 S. 112th St., Lafayette

303-466-5685 | ccdance.org/nutcrackertea/

This holiday tea party enchants with teatime treats served with locally crafted Celestial Seasonings teas, as partygoers learn, firsthand, about old English traditions. The Sugarplum Fairy provides entertainment, telling the story of The Nutcracker while the Conservatory’s dancers perform excerpts from the classic ballet. Afterwards, kids are invited onstage for a dance session. Tickets for the November event go on sale in October.

Value for Entertaining the Whole Family

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Top Five

Concerts or Movies in the Park

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Denver Zoo

Elvis Cinemas

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WOW! Children’s Museum

The Winner

Elvis Cinemas

Three metro locations | elviscinemas.com

Each Elvis Cinemas theater features second run films – i.e. movies that have recently come out of main theaters – for $3 or $4 per person, depending on whether you catch a flick before or after 6 p.m. You”ll have eight or more movies to choose from, along with all of your favorite concession staples. Psst: Group packages are available for cost-effective birthday parties.

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Water Park or Swim Center

Top Five

Apex Center

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

Pirates Cove Water Park

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SafeSplash Swim School

Water World

The Winner

Water World

8801 N. Pecos St., Federal Heights

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303-427-7873 | waterworldcolorado.com

Water World boasts more family tube rides than any other water park in America, and offers several twisty slides named for local rivers like the Rio Grande, Eagle and our Ragin” Colorado. Twenty-five of the 49 attractions are considered family-friendly. Bring a picnic lunch, or nosh on park food — it’s free all-you-can-eat for guests under 40-inches. Mid-day admissions pricing and season passes are available.

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