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5 Spots Colorado Kids Love

Dioramas and sleepy tour guides are a thing of the past. The Front Range is packed with some of the best museums and attractions around for hands-on fun and learning.

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Editor’s note, 3/2/20: This article has been updated with 2020 dates and information.

Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Featuring a 500-foot-long aerial climbing course that opened in June 2019, the Children’s Museum of Denver is now even more overflowing with variety. Its slew of permanent exhibits includes a workshop with real tools for school-age kids; bubble-making (and bursting) bazaar; a real fire truck complete with pint-size firefighter uniforms; and a beautiful play grocery market. Kids of any age easily achieve best-day-ever status here.

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Inclusive Programing:
Low-sensory mornings are offered six times per year, and most signage and the bimonthly newsletter are translated to Spanish.
Free Days:
First Tuesday of every month, 4 to 8 p.m. The Joy Park is free rain or shine from 4 to 8 p.m. on the third Friday of each month from May through September. Other than restrooms, the remainder of the museum is closed on Joy Park free nights.
Insider Info:
 Wednesday evenings are quieter, and parking is always free. Bring a change of clothes or swimwear if your child will play in the Joy Park’s water features.
Best Selfie Spot:
Take your photo with a poem that speaks to you. The interior walls of the Adventure Forest are full of thought-provoking words, found objects, and dioramas—and offer panoramic views.

Denver Art Museum

Kids get in free at the DAM, so the pressure’s off if your kids go through the museum at warp speed—but chances are they won’t, thanks to eye-popping installations and exhibition-related art-making activities. While an art museum usually means look but don’t touch, kids can climb on or in some pieces, and school-age visitors can avail of gallery games like scavenger hunts that encourage closer looking at the museum’s varied works.

Programs for Homeschoolers:
Group field trips are available for homeschoolers and their teachers.
Inclusive Programing:
 Customizable tours; quarterly low-sensory events; tactile tables for blind or low-vision visitors the second Friday and Saturday every other month; S.P.A.R.K. (Sensory Processing and Autism Resource Kit) Explorer Packs that include a wiggle seat, noise-reducing headphones, fidget key chains, a bright fan, a visor, and an art-themed Seek & Find Weighted Lap Pad; large print, braille, and Spanish-language materials are available for select exhibitions, as are captioning and audio transcripts for select exhibition videos.
Free/Discount Days:
 Age 18 and under are free every day at the DAM. Free general-admission days are the first Saturday of every month; Dia del Nino (April); and during the Annual Friendship Powwow and American Indian Cultural Celebration (September).
Upcoming Exhibits:
Natural Forces: Winslow Homer and Frederic Remington opens March 15.
Insider Info:
 Visit from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays or later on Fridays until 8 p.m.
Best Selfie Spot:
Snag a shot in front of Corridor #2 by Lucas Samaras.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Hailed for its attention to all age groups, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science features the Discovery Zone for little ones—think addictive water play and “digging” for “fossils”—and in addition to a rotating cast of temporary installations, well-loved permanent offerings like Expedition Health, Space Odyssey, and Prehistoric Journey. For an additional fee, there are also daily IMAX and planetarium shows.

Programs for Homeschoolers:
 Twice a year in the fall and the spring. These days feature exhibits, IMAX and planetarium shows, themed programing, and special pricing for homeschool families and groups. Admission is always free for organized youth groups, which includes homeschool groups.
Inclusive Programing:
Low-sensory mornings offered monthly in the Discovery Zone exhibit. For guests on the autism spectrum or others with sensory sensitivities, the museum has free wiggle cushions and noise-reducing headphones at the information desk.
Current Exhibits:
The Science Behind Pixar runs through April 5; Extreme Sports runs through April 12.
Insider Info:
Visit after 2 p.m. on weekdays or before 10:30 a.m. on weekends to avoid crowds. For an added layer of adventure, the museum has several self-led scavenger hunts.
Best Selfie Spot:
 See how your little ones measure up against an enormous sauropod in the Prehistoric Journey exhibit.

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

Families who land at Wings museum can take part in open-cockpit days once a month, as well as enjoy a renovated Kid Zone: Go mining on Mars; call the shots in an air-traffic control tower; climb into a real airplane; and watch videos of astronauts reading children’s books from the International Space Station.

Current Exhibits:
Drones: Is the Sky the Limit runs through May 3. Monthly Little Wings pre-K activities occur on the third Tuesday of each month, where kids listen to a STEM-focused story and participate in a hands-on activity.
Insider Info:
The museum is less crowded on weekdays, and don’t forget to peruse the edges of the museum for exhibits on Lowry Air Force Base, Colorado airports, and stories from Colorado skies.
Best Selfie Spot:
Find your perfect filter on the second level on the mezzanine, overlooking the hangar floor, or get in the frame with an X-Wing fighter, on long-term loan to the museum from Lucas Films.

Butterfly Pavilion

Home to more than 5,000 animals, butterflies are just the start of the creatures you can peep at this awe-inspiring invertebrate zoo. The show-stopping Wings of the Tropics rainforest boasts about 200 tropical plant species and 1,600 free-flying butterflies at any given time. Stare down your arachnophobia in the Crawl-A-See-Em exhibit and hold Rosie, the locally famous tarantula who turns 24 this year. Touch live ocean invertebrates like starfish at Water’s Edge. After you’ve made the rounds, head outside to its tranquil gardens and nature trails.

Programs for Homeschoolers:
Homeschool Day held March 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Inclusive Programing:
 Low-sensory mornings are February 2, April 5, July 23, September 20, and December 13 from 8 to 9 a.m. $6-$10 adult, $4-$6 child. Kids under 2 are always free.
Free/Discount Days:
 $2 admission for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) cardholders for up to 10 people. Additional discounts may be listed on the website.
Current Exhibits:
 The newest interactive exhibit, Colorado Backyard, features indoor play structures, live animals, and interactive technology showcasing the diversity of Colorado’s creatures. The Pollinator Wall showcases the zoo’s bee-fencing conservation work in Nepal.
Insider Info:
 The zoo is calmer from 9 to 10:30 a.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. (Last entry is 4:15 p.m.) Stunning native plants and pollinators are on view at the pavilion’s outdoor gardens and nature trails. Milkweed blooms toward the end of June, attracting scores of monarch and Painted Lady butterflies.
Best Selfie Spot:
Keep your shutter finger ready in the 7,200-square-foot Wings of the Tropics exhibit. A butterfly might land on you or your kiddo!

Fort Collins Museum of Discovery

A unique mash-up of science and history, the FCMoD offers hands-on learning about regional history, wildlife, the universe, and scientific concepts. While older brother makes like a session musician in the Music & Sound Lab and explores the physics of sound, his younger sib can roam free in the Tot Spot. Tie on an apron and let little ones play in the impressive water features, and don’t miss the crawl-through tree!

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Programs for Homeschoolers:
Field trip experiences for homeschool groups of 15 or more, tailored to the interest and ages of students, can include a hands-on lab and an immersive educational film in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater.
Current Exhibits:
The exhibit Game Changers explores the past and future of gaming. Discover how innovation has shaped the video game industry, from Pong to the photorealistic, immersive games of today.
Insider Info:
The museum’s Family Plus membership level has reciprocity with the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Best Selfie Spot:
The Funky Forest’s immersive colors and lights make a great snapshot, or opt for the rooftop observation deck, which is free to access even if you don’t go to the museum. It offers incredible views of the foothills.

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