Are you looking for ways to entertain children in the Mile High City? Denver has plenty of family-friendly options for tourists and locals alike. From the Denver Zoo to the Mordecai Children's Garden in the Denver Botanic Gardens, the city's attractions strike a balance, providing both entertainment and education. For families on a budget, free playgrounds and free programs at the Denver Public Library can help mom and dad take a break without breaking the bank.
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The Denver Zoo is not jut a fun outing, but also an educational one for children of all ages. Curious what's new at the zoo? In 2017, the Denver Zoo welcomed the birth of two red panda cubs and a rare okapi.The outdoor zoo may be too large to take in all at once for younger children, so plan for more than one trip to see the entire zoo. Daily events such as feeding the sea lions also teach children about the animals, while the carousel and train provide entertainment options. During the holidays, Zoo Lights is a local favorite, with the the zoo lit up. Snack bars offer kid-friendly favorites, but parents can also bring food as well. Diapers can also be purchased at the gift shop if supplies of that critical item run low.
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Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus welcomes children of all ages, and has a special area on the first floor geared toward babies and toddlers. The museum also has a restaurant, as well as outdoor tables for parents who want to bring lunch. Older children will enjoy the exhibits on the second floor, and the museum features story time every day for all ages.
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The Denver Museum of Nature & Science features dioramas and other exhibits about the natural world that children can enjoy. The Discovery Zone on Level 2 of the museum is aimed toward children ages 3 - 5 with toys, hands-on learning and scheduled story times. The Discovery Zone is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The museum also is home to an IMAX theater, planetarium and kid-friendly snack bar.
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Cherry Creek Mall Indoor Playground - Free
The indoor playground features dinosaurs that children can climb on while parents watch from the sidelines. The playground is free, and can get crowded on the weekends. Toddlers and younger children abound during the weekdays, while it's a mix of toddlers and older children on the weekends. Strollers must be parked outside the boundaries of the playground, and children have to remove their shoes.Continue to 5 of 10 below.
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Denver Public Library - FreeThe Denver Public Library offers free story times for children, as well as arts and crafts programs, at most locations. "Book Babies" is geared for newborns through two-year-olds, while "Preschool Storytime" is aimed at two-year-olds to five-year-olds. Check with your local branch for times. The programs are usually held in meeting rooms separated from regular library-goers.
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The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colo., showcases tropical butterflies in a rainforest habitat. Creepy crawly creatures on display also include a tarantula and inhabitants of tide pools such as horseshoe crabs. Children ages 3 and up can hold Rosie the Tarantula. Children can learn about insects in the order Lepidoptera, which is the scientific name for butterflies. There are also nature trails and picnic tables outside, but no food is sold on the premises.
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Mordecai Children's GardenThe Mordecai Children's Garden grows atop the parking garage of the Denver Botanic Gardens. The rooftop garden allows children to dig in the dirt and splash in a man-made creek during the summer. Designed with young gardeners in mind, the children's garden also features a pint-sized store with plastic fruit and vegetables. During weekday mornings, the Mordecai Children's Garden also holds story time and hands-on activities at the Exploration Station.
08 of 10The Denver Art Museum features inventive play areas for children, but younger children may still find a challenge go through the museum without trying to touch the artwork. The bridge between the North Building and new Frederic C. Hamilton Building features tables for parents who want to bring lunch, as there is not a snack bar geared toward children. The museum's Palettes restaurant is a fine-dining establishment and not suitable for most young children.Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10The Downtown Aquarium provides a refreshing look at underwater creatures in a rare opportunity for a landlocked state. Children can marvel at the glow-in-the-dark jellyfish or learn about native freshwater species in Colorado. Hand-on exhibits include petting stingrays. The seafood restaurant onsite is a fine-dining establishment rather than one that caters to children.
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Volunteer Fire Fighters Park - Free
Children can enjoy several top-notch playgrounds in the Denver metro area, including the Volunteer Fire Fighters Park in Arvada, Colo. The park features playground equipment designed to resemble fire trucks, complete with bells to ring. The only damper to the fun at the 11.5-acre park located at 8351 Club Crest Dr. There are no restroom facilities in the park.
Nina Snyder is the author of "Good Day, Broncos," a children's e-book, and "ABCs of Balls," a children's picture book. Visit her website at ninasnyder.com.