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10 Fun Things to Do in Colorado with kids on a Colorado Family Vacation

10 Fun Things to Do in Colorado with kids on a Colorado Family Vacation

The Centennial State is so rich in natural beauty and diversity that it just begs for you to get outdoors and explore all it has to offer. No matter what season of the year you visit, you are sure to find amazingly fun things to do in Colorado with kids. 

The best places to visit in Colorado are ones that combine the state’s beauty and heritage. When planning what to do in Colorado, look no further! This top list of things to do in Colorado with kids is your go-to guide.

 Things to Do in Colorado with Kids on a Family Vacation

1. Experience Extreme Thrills on Your Colorado Family Vacation

Hot air balloons give families the chance to see the state's fourteeners
Colorful hot-air ballons take to the skies near Colorado Springs| Photo by Denise Chambers-miles & Colorado Toursim

Parents, take a deep breath. Thrill-seeking families will love all the extreme sports and activities available in Colorado. The most “Colorado” adventure is to hike or climb your way up one of Colorado’s 54 “fourteeners,” mountains peaking out at over 14,000 feet!

There are hikes of various lengths and difficulty. Here are some of the easiest hikes to the top of these high peaks.

You can drive your way to the top of Mt. Evans, whose peak is at 14,264 feet. The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is the highest paved road in North America.

You can also drive to the summit of 14,115-foot Pikes Peak, outside of Colorado Springs. This is a popular trip because the views of the surrounding peaks and lakes are wonderful.

Take to the heights in a hot air balloon, or paraglide out over the landscape below. Rent a jeep and take on the rugged terrain with all four wheels driving.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park’s giant canyon swing launches daring riders 1300 feet out and over the Colorado River trailing below! The park’s wild cave tour, alpine coaster slide, and zip line are a must!

The largest zip line course in the world, Soaring Treetop Adventures, is in Durango. It is accessible to kids and adults from age five and up!

Related: At nearby Glenwood Springs, don’t miss a stop by the famous Hanging Lake.

2. Follow Ancient Footprints Back in Time

One of the best places to visit in Colorado is Mesa Verde National Park, home to ancient cliff dwellings
Visitors take a tour of cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park | Photo by Matthew Inden-Miles & Colorado Tourism

Mesa Verde National Park is in the southwest corner of Colorado. It is home to the remains of Colorado’s oldest inhabitants, the Pueblos. The park offers easy, short hikes to ancient ruins.

There are also longer guided tours to some amazing must-see cliff dwellings from 1500 years ago! Active families can climb ladders, crawl through tunnels, and physically get into the cliff palaces.

Be sure to check out our full guide on all the best things to do in Mesa Verde National Park with kids. 

Nearby, visit Hovenweep National Monument to explore six ruins during a 1 ½ hour, peaceful and easy walking tour for all ages and stages.

The Canyons of the Ancients, which boast the largest density of known archaeological finds in the nation, is easily accessed from the Anasazi Heritage Center, a federal museum and ruins site (and a good spot to use restrooms and enjoy the picnic grounds!)

3. Hit the Water

whitewater rafting is a must do when visiting Colorado
Whitewater rafting the Colorado River through Glenwood Canyon | Photo by Matt Inden-Miles Colorado Tourism

In late spring and summer, the Rocky Mountain snow melts creating a whitewater river-rafting paradise.

The Arkansas River is America’s most rafted river. Outfitters offers trips varying from family-friendly class II waters all the way to extreme class V rapids for experienced riders. Rest assured, you can enjoy a variety of types of boats for experiences from lazy to crazy.

The Colorado River near Glenwood Springs, Animas River near Durango, Cache la Poudre near Estes Park, and Yampa River near the Utah border and Dinosaur National Monument, are all popular spots for family-friendly river rafting as well.

Fishing picks up when the waters begin to tame, so be sure to take advantage of the plentiful rivers of Colorado. Fly fishing is quite popular and there are tons of outfitters that will provide all the gear and instruction your family needs.

Related: Find family-friendly rafting trips in Colorado | across the US

4. Tour Natural Beauty in Old-Fashioned Style

taking advantage of a perfect photo opportunity aboard the durango railroad
Taking advantage of a perfect photo opportunity aboard the Durango Railroad | Photo by Matt Inden-Miles & Colorado Tourism

Enjoy Colorado’s scenic beauty without the stress and frustration of driving. Start your enthusiasm for trains by visiting the Colorado Railroad Museum, designed as an 1880’s train depot with replica trains and an awesome array of hands-on activities for the little ones.

When you are ready to journey for yourself, ride one of the state’s numerous train rides boasting open-air cars, incredible scenery, and impressive bridges.

The Royal Gorge travels first-class along the Arkansas River and has numerous dining options available, even fine dining for a special occasion. The Cog Railway in Colorado Springs travels to the top of Pike’s Peak (14,000 feet).

The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad operates year-round through the San Juan National Forest and includes entrance into their freight museum with ticket purchase.

Related: Check out eight Scenic Railways across Colorado to explore.

5. See Wildlife

Pronghorns scamper across the northeast plains of Colorado
Pronghorns scamper across the northeast plains of Colorado | Photo by Matt Inden-Miles & Colorado Tourism

Colorado has your animal fix covered! The Denver Zoo is lauded as the most popular cultural attraction in all of Colorado. Free summer programs are the highlight for many visitors; kids ones will love the petting zoo and getting a sneak peak at the park’s nearly 1000 species of animals.

More animal encounters can be found at the nearby Butterfly Pavilion and Downtown Aquarium (which also features mermaids!!).

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, in scenic Colorado Springs, sits at an altitude of 6,800 feet and boasts over 200 animal species. For a change of pace, ride the historic carousel or take the Mountaineer Sky Ride to the top of the zoo to play on the kid-friendly playground. 

See which nearby Colorado resort made our list of the best hotel pools in the USA!

If you’re looking for buffalo, head about 20 miles west of Denver to Genesee Park’s Buffalo Preserve where you can get up close & personal with a herd of about 40 wild buffalo, for free!

6. Make your Home on the Range

Working dude ranches are a fun way to experience the best of Colorado for families
One of the many working ranches found along the Highway of Legends Scenic and Historic Byway | Photo by Anna Zoromski-Miles & Colorado Tourism

The iconic scenery, big sky, and beautiful weather make Colorado a rancher’s dream. If you can splurge for an all-inclusive resort, try your hand as a cowboy at a dude ranch.

Family programs, camp-outs, cattle drives, entertainment, and exceptional dining will draw your family together with a lifetime of cherished memories. Lost Valley Ranch in Sedalia, Colorado is one of our favorites. 

If a day trip is more likely to fit the bill, check out one of Colorado’s numerous ranches and farms open for tours, horseback riding, and chuckwagon dinners.

Explore the Best Dude Ranch Vacations for Families

7. Experience Education

Fossils are the big draw at Dinosaur National Monument, one of the best places to visit in Colorado
Fossils are the big draw at Dinosaur National Monument | Photo by Matt Indent-Miles & Colorado Tourism

At the Children’s Museum of Denver, educational hands-on activities take place in such clever and creative ways that your kids might not even know they are learning.

Giant dinosaurs, a planetarium, and a space odyssey are must-sees at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which consistently receives rave reviews from parents.

Speaking of dinosaurs, don’t miss Dinosaur National Monument. Kids can explore dinosaur fossils found in the state. The educational experiences are a must for every budding paleontologist. 

If you have a free afternoon, venture to The Wildlife Experience. It is just south of Denver. This museum focuses on learning about wildlife habitats through hands-on-displays and films best geared to school-age kids and up. 

Related: Check out the top ten best children’s museums across the US.

8. Explore the Mile High City

Don't miss Denver while exploring the fun things to do in Colorado with kids
The Denver Public Library and Denver Art Musuem are located just steps from each other | Photo by Matt Inden-Miles & Colorado Tourism

Sitting at an altitude of 5,280 feet, Denver was founded by miners less than 150 years ago and is still full of youth and excitement.

Downtown, take the free US Mint tour. There you can watch the amazing transformation of money and learn about minting history.

Denver Botanic Gardens is set in the beautiful tree-lined Cherry Creek area and has its very own three-acre children’s garden just perfect for exploring and observation.

The Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater hosts year-round concerts set in front of stunning red rock mountains. Families can come on an off day and tour the beautiful red rocks. After, stop at the nearby Dinosaur Ridge where you can touch dinosaur bones and walk in their footprints!

If your little ones need to get some energy out, head to Westlands Park in Greenwood Village. More than just the typical play structures, the park also has water fountains, tree houses, climbing walls, music makers, a skate park, and plenty of picnic space. This park has been voted the “Top Playground” of the Rockies. 

We’re just scratching the surface: Check out the Top 10 Things to do in Denver for more family fun in the Mile High City.

9. Glide through the Powder at Colorado’s Ski Resorts

Ready to take the first plunge of the day while skiing Copper Mountain
Ready to take the first plunge of the day while skiing Copper Mountain | Photo by Matt Inden-Miles & Colorado Tourism

With the impressive and vast terrain of the Rocky Mountains, plus nearly 465 inches a year of snow, Colorado is a skiing and snowboarding wonderland. The state has 26 ski resorts. Many of these resorts feature kid’s clubs, ski schools, awesome packages for families.

The winter season in the mountain towns like Keystone, Aspen, and Vail can extend well into spring. Skiers have the chance to enjoy an impressively long season. Ski resorts are plentiful and chock full of amenities.

If, like me, the idea of your kids (or self) flailing head-over-heals in a cartoonish avalanche of snow scares you away, never fear. The soft mountains of snow are also just right for good, old-fashioned (and not so terrifying) cross-country skiing, sledding, making snowmen and snowball fights.

Check out our Ultimate Ski & Snowboarding Guide for Families

10. Discover Diverse National and State Parks

Rife Falls State Park is just one of the top things to do in Colorado with kids
Rifle Falls State Park waterfalls | by Denise Chambers & Colorado Tourism

Colorado’s land is incredibly diverse and the park systems reflect a unique display of natural beauty. From prairies, lakes, and plains to stunning mountaintops and forests, Colorado’s parks cannot be beaten.

At Great Sand Dunes National Park, the highest sand dunes in North America, your climb is rewarded with a  year-round, non-dependent-on-weather “sand” board or sled down the hills. 

Rocky Mountain National Park offers abundant animal life, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of family hiking trails and campgrounds. The Rocky Mountains can easily be accessed from Estes Park.

Families can explore hundreds of hiking trails, horseback ride, and mountain bike trails. As a matter of fact, we have a great guide to the best hiking trails in Rocky Mountain National Park for families. Many of Colorado’s world-famous hot springs can be easily accessed from the Rocky Mountains. 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is best explored by older kids as the cliffs and drop-offs are quite extreme. Still, the dramatic views can be enjoyed by all ages. 

As we mentioned above, Mesa Verde National Park is an amazing place to visit with kids. Here is a great guide to visiting all four Colorado National Parks with kids.

Just outside Denver, Roxborough State Park offers a unique juxtaposition of swaying prairies and jutting red rock formations.

In the northwest, experience the closest thing you can get to a jungle at Rifle Falls State Park. Take the short five-minute hike in the morning to the falls for a sweet, sunlit view of three majestic waterfalls surrounded by lush foliage.

Garden of the Gods, a National Natural Landmark, is a must-see in the Colorado Springs area. It is a red rock wonderland filled with places for kids to climb and is a great backdrop for family photos.

Be sure to visit each park’s visitor’s centers to snag Junior Ranger workbooks. 

All-in-One Resource: Explore the Best National Parks with Kids

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