Four Fun, Family-Friendly Day Trips From Denver

Best Summer Vacation Ideas: Giraffes, Hot Springs, and More

It's summer break. That means the kids are getting antsy for entertainment — and their brains need some stimulation, too. 

Colorado is the perfect place for family-friendly summer vacation, one that will be a total blast, bring your family closer together and make the most of your kids' summer time off. 

Here are our favorite family-friendly trips from Denver. Whether you live in Colorado and are looking for a day trip from Denver, or you will be flying into the Denver International Airport and wonder which way to go, here are our favorite routes. 

  • 01 of 04

    Explore Mesa Verde

    Mesa Verde National Park
    A kiva at Mesa Verde's Spruce Tree House. Getty Images/Adam Baker

    A six-and-a-half-hour drive will bring you from Denver to Mesa Verde National Park, where your kids can explore ancient ruins carved into the side of a mountain. Go on hikes, climb up mountainsides, crawl through tunnels, watch a historical movie and browse museum exhibits in this fascinating park. 

    If forcing your kids to sit through the lengthy drive to the mesa terrifies you, take the scenic route. Instead of taking I-25, cut through the Rio Grande National Forest, where you will be awed by some of the most breathtaking views in the state.

    Stop in Pagosa Springs along the way and take a dip in the warm spring water. Then head to Durango, where you can browse the downtown — including a candy shop that may or may not be useful for bribing good behavior.

    For convenience, stay at the Far View Lodge inside the national park. For more space and adventure, book in a yurt in Mancos or on a ranch near Cortez.

  • 02 of 04

    See giraffes in the Springs

    The Cripple Creek locomotive
    The Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railway. Richard Cummins/Getty Images

    If your kids hate being in the car, the drive to Colorado Springs is just over an hour, and this city south of Denver has no shortage of excitement for little ones. 

    Feed giraffes at the quirky Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, a zoo located at the base of a mountain. It claims to be America's only mountain zoo and features more than 800 types of animals. 

    Kids also love the Cripple Creek locomotive, which goes on a short journey through old mining towns. 

    Don't miss the Dinosaur Resource Center, where you can get up close to fossils of a T. Rex and other unbelievable ancient creatures.

  • 03 of 04

    Go on an adventure in Keystone

    Keystone Resort
    Keystone is great for families during the summer. Sean Boggs/Vail Resorts

    Keystone Resort is hoppin' in the winter, but it's also one of our favorite summer destinations for families. Best of all, it's only an hour and a half west of Denver, and if you head up I-70 during the off hours, the views are beautiful (otherwise, the traffic is torturous). 

    Keystone offers a cool Kidtopia program, with all kinds of free, daily activities and adventures, from kite-building workshops to Wild West nights to dodgeball games and nature hikes.

    Set up the Ultimate Family Adventure Package, a fully customizable vacation package that you can adjust to best meet your kids' interests.

  • 04 of 04

    Splash around in Glenwood

    Glenwood Springs
    The Glenwood Hot Springs. Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

    A two-and-a-half drive west from Denver will bring you to Glenwood Springs, home to the world's largest outdoor mineral hot springs. 

    Glenwood Springs is like Mother Nature's playground, with the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on top of a mountain and the magical Historic Fairy Caves Tour. 

    Don't miss the Iron Mountain Hot Springs. Older families may enjoy whitewater rafting. There's even a wave built into the river where people can surf in the summer.  

    Stay at the Hotel Glenwood Springs, close to the adventure park. Family suites are spaciously appointed, and the hotel has its own water park on site.

    The Splash Pool Family Fun Center is Glenwood's only indoor water park, and it takes "hotel pool" to a whole new level. It comes with multiple waterslides and pools, including a zero-depth pool for the littlest travelers. 

    Want to get outside? Go ziplining across the Colorado River or go on a bike ride along the Rio Grande Trail, along the Roaring Fork River.