Families new to metro Denver will quickly learn that the mountains are an anchor for navigating the city. In fact, locals frequently give directions to “head west” (toward the mountains), east, north, or south. Never fear, the imposing Rockies are visible from above or around even the tallest buildings to guide you anywhere in town.
Much of the city is built around a grid of main streets running north-south (Broadway, University Boulevard, Wadsworth Boulevard) or east-west (Hampden Avenue, 6th Avenue, Colfax Avenue). Even the two main interstates, I-25 and I-70, running through metro Denver, divide the city roughly into quadrants. Here are a couple suggestions for things to do in each area of town.
A trip into the city offers families a collection of cultural experiences and opportunities. From the History Colorado Center and Downtown Aquarium, to the state capitol building and Union Station, there is something for every interest. Festival season revs up in the warmer months, meaning you can find something to celebrate and explore in downtown Denver almost every weekend spring through fall. In the winter, stroll the city streets filled with twinkling lights and find holiday festivities both indoors and out.
Heading south and west out of downtown brings you into the areas of Lakewood, Englewood, Littleton, and Highlands Ranch. Families in this area have the Lakewood Heritage Center, the free living history experience at Littleton Museum, and a wealth of trails and outdoor activities, including the South Platte River trail, Chatfield Reservoir State Park, Roxborough Park, Hudson Gardens, and Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms.
Head north and toward the foothills and you’ll reach Golden, Wheat Ridge, Arvada, and Westminster. This area is rich with history and science, in addition to fun, including Golden History Museum, Lakeside Amusement Park, Water World, and Butterfly Pavilion.
Drive through Thornton and Commerce City to find the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Heading south into the eastern neighborhoods of Denver, families find a pocket of favorite attractions, including the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver Botanic Gardens, Wings Over the Rockies, and Four Mile Historic Park.
Aurora, eastern Centennial, Parker, and Lone Tree to the east and south of Denver offer families more opportunities for outdoor excursions at Cherry Creek and Aurora Reservoirs. For performance-loving families, The Lone Tree Arts Center and Parker Arts Center host family-friendly on-stage performances, while CU South Denver offers nature exhibits and IMAX documentaries for all ages.