Take the kids on autumn adventures that will blow their little minds. From picking striped pumpkins to navigating a maze shaped like a
narwhal, we’ve got a dozen ideas to start the new season strong.
Up, Up & Away!
Hot-air balloons are mesmerizing. Bring the kids to one of these famous fests:
Labor Day Lift Off, Colorado Springs
On September 3 to 5, about 70 colorful hot-air balloons will fill the sky around the stunning landscape. If your kids are early birds, come at 7 a.m. each day to watch the balloons be inflated and take off. If they’re night owls, you’ll want to be there at 7:30 p.m. to watch the balloons turn on their burners and glow. Concerts, aerial acrobats, and doughnut-eating contests are also part of the fun.
Head to Loudy Simpson Park on August 6 to see magical balloons soaring above. A craft fair, classic car show, and music make the atmosphere even more festive.
Just 20 minutes west of Aspen, this 47th annual festival takes place from September 16 to 18. It includes three days of morning balloon launches and a Friday night balloon glow. While you’re there, check out the other fun activities in Snowmass Village, especially the Lost Forest zip line, rope course, and hiking trails.
Go to the State Fair!
Nothing says end-of-summer fun like a family outing to the state fair! The Colorado State Fair & Rodeo in Pueblo runs from August 26 to September 5. And it’s their 150th anniversary year. With a petting zoo, carnival rides and games, pony rides, and live family-friendly entertainment, your crew will be entertained for hours.
Create Your Own Seasonal Snack Tour
Hop in the car for a drive around the Denver area on a quest for mouthwatering fall snacks that appeal to the whole family. Here are your pit stops:
Pumpkin Ice Cream
Little Man Ice Cream in Denver rotates a trio of seasonal flavors—pumpkin pie, pumpkin chip, and pumpkin cheesecake. For every scoop purchased, the company donates a scoop of rice, beans, or other essentials to a community in need. Snap a pic in front of the 28-foot milk can before you leave.
Warm Roasted Chilies
Families snack on just-roasted chilies straight out of the bag at Heinie’s Market in Wheat Ridge. You can buy 15 varieties in peak season, but the Anaheim Sonora Hatch is the mildest pick for the kids.
Spooky Eyeball Truffles
Sweet Fun Favors at the Cherry Creek Farmers’ Market, open on Saturdays in Denver, sells candy balls filled with milk chocolate ganache and decorated to resemble a monster’s eyeball. Pick up the Pecan Pie candy truffle for yourself; it tastes like the classic Thanksgiving dessert!
Apple Cider Doughnuts
This New England favorite draws crowds at Ya Ya Farm & Orchard in Longmont. The cake-like doughnuts are flavored with apple cider and spices like cinnamon and then rolled in sugar. Double yum!
Get Pumped for Leaf Peeping
Leaves put on a colorful show in higher elevations as soon as the middle of September. Before you take a scenic drive, do two things: Keep tabs on the foliage report at smokymountains.com/fall-foliage-map and explain to kids why trees shed their leaves in fall. For kids ages three to six, pick up a copy of The Leaf Thief—a playful tale starring a squirrel who thinks someone is stealing leaves from his tree. Older kids will enjoy Acadia Files: Autumn Science, which has a chapter on why leaves change color. Here are three drive options:
This 55-mile route starting in Black Hawk and ending in Estes Park stuns with its shimmery gold leaves on Aspen trees. Stretch little legs at the Carousel of Happiness in Nederland.
Fort Collins to Walden
Travel mostly on State Highway 14 for about 100 miles to take in the fiery foliage and spy bighorn sheep, moose, and other wildlife. Explore the State Forest Park and stop at the Moose Visitor Center. You could even book one of the park’s 11 yurts and spend the night.
Highway of Legends Byway
Travel this 82-mile stretch of State Highway 12 that connects Walsenburg with Trinidad and passes through the San Isabel National Forest. Take a break to explore life in 19th-century Colorado at Fort Garland Museum & Cultural Center. Admission for adults is only $6 and kids’ admission is free every day.
Book a Staycation
If all that hoopla exhausted you, take your family on a relaxing weekend getaway.
With lakeside firepits, lawn games, and a playground, this resort knows how to deliver low-key family fun. Mountain village cabins with fireplaces give you plenty of space to spread out.
At this chic (yet cozy) retreat in Golden, request an in-room tent or sleeping bags for the kids. Check out the vintage trains at the nearby Colorado Railroad Museum or explore Dinosaur Ridge, the famous fossil site.
Bring the grandparents to this Steamboat Springs resort, which offers one- to four-bedroom villas. They can take the kids to burn off energy at the outdoor heated pool while you enjoy a spa treatment or a quiet dinner.
Use this family-friendly, 19-acre oasis (shown below) as your home base on a trip to Beaver Creek. The kids will love the outdoor saltwater pool. The family pooch is welcome here, too, so bring him along for the fall hikes.
Get a Jump on Pumpkin Picking
The early bird gets the best selection! Anderson Farms in Erie opens on September 21 and that’s when they’ll have 75 different varieties of pumpkins and gourds. “We buy basically every seed in the catalog,” says owner Brenda Anderson. “We’ll have pumpkins that are white, green, warty, striped, and all different sizes. They range from small enough to fit in a child’s hand to up to 50 pounds.” Families take a hayride over to the pumpkin patch, where the farmers have scattered around various varieties. “It’s like a treasure hunt,” says Anderson. After picking their perfect pumpkins, kids will adore the whimsical themes of this year’s corn mazes—they’ll be shaped like a sloth, a narwhal, and a unicorn. Plan on spending the day because with a playground, tires to climb, and goats to feed, the kids will never want to leave.
Check Out a Fall Carnival
Yes, a pumpkin balloon typhoon is a thing, and the Rocky Mountain Pumpkin Ranch in Longmont sets it up every weekend in October as part of their carnival. It’s a giant inflatable pumpkin filled with balloons that are flying around. We can hear the squeals of glee already. The carnival also includes a kiddie roller coaster and train ride, pony rides, sand art stations, a petting zoo, and face painting. Plus, the farm grows certified organic pumpkins and squash, including 15 heirloom varietal pumpkins that you can eat or decorate.