Colorado is a fantastic vacation destination for families with children, especially Denver with kids. Most people come for the skiing, hiking, and camping. There is also lots to do in Colorado’s capital and largest city, Denver.
The high altitude and dry climate of the Mile High City make for a pleasant location for enjoying different types of activities. In addition to taking in a Rockies game, there is a great selection of kid-friendly activities throughout the Front Range.
Here are some of the sites my family enjoyed as we road tripped via Durango across Southwest Colorado.
Our Picks Around Denver with Kids
Hammond’s Candies in Denver
I am so glad I saw the Hammond’s Candies Factory flyer in our hotel’s brochure stand. My husband and I love factory tours.
The only tour our kids have been to is the Jelly Belly Visitor Center in Pleasant Prairie, WI. They offer a warehouse tour and have a candy store.
We were very happy that on Hammond’s Candies factory tour we would actually be able to see the employees make the candy on-site. My kids were excited there was candy involved!
Just imagine, a free tour of a candy factory that includes free samples. I can’t imagine it getting better than that. Their hand pulled lollipops, ribbon candy, and candy canes are second to none.
Tours are approximately 30 minutes, and everyone gets to wear a paper hat. They begin with a short video of their history and explain the types of candy they make.
It was interesting to learn their candy is handmade and hand-packaged from beginning to end. We had a very friendly tour guide. It was empty when we were there; just our family of four and three other people went on the tour.
We were able to ask all the questions we wanted and see the factory up-close through the glass.
Our favorite part was seeing the employees handle the huge candy they made. Their candies are pulled, twisted, and shaped by hand, just like when the company was started, in 1920.
When the tour was over, our guide gave each of us a candy cane. We couldn’t believe all the flavors: cotton candy, cherry, cinnamon, strawberry, and more. They were fantastic! In addition to their world famous candy canes, ribbon candy, and lollipops, Hammond’s Candies also offers gourmet chocolate bars, taffy, marshmallow creams, and much more.
The tour is a fun and educational experience for everyone and covers a subject everyone understands. It was interesting to see a company who still does so much of their work by hand, instead of 100% machines.
And it was really nice to see a company who still offers an actual factory tour. Following the tour is the candy store, which is beautiful and well-stocked. There were hundreds of choices. We bought more than we needed of course, and some we bought as gifts.
What a souvenir! It was wonderfully nostalgic to be able to actually “buy local.” We ate some of our treats at their little tables in their cafe.
There is no need to make a reservation for the tour, so if your family is like mine and incorporates some down days to just see what happens, this is the perfect place.
Just stop in Monday through Saturday before 3 p.m. And remember to plan for time to linger in the candy store.
There really are a lot of tempting choices. Hammond’s Candies is located north of downtown Denver on Washington Street just off Interstate 25.
The Rock in Castle Rock
Just 20 minutes south of Denver on Interstate 25 is the town of Castle Rock, famous for its famous outcropping.
A small park surrounds the rock that was used as a landmark for native Indians and early settlers alike.
A pleasant, short path leads to the top of the hill. You can also climb to the top of the rock itself for views of the Front Range and Pike’s Peak.
Although the hike can be completed up and back within an hour, allow yourself plenty of time to stop and look around. Be sure to take along water for hydrating.
Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison
When we visited Dinosaur Ridge, we didn’t quite know what to expect. We were happy to experience this was the real thing, not gimmicky at all.
We learned this is the site where the first ever stegosaurus was discovered. There are many ways to enjoy Dinosaur Ridge. We chose the Guided Shuttle Tour.
Guided Shuttle Tour
We enjoyed a 45-minute tour with a very knowledgeable and informative tour guide. It was $5 per person, 3 years and under free.
There were three stops, the Dinosaur Bone Site, the Brontosaur Bulges, and the Dinosaur Tracksite. We had enough time at each stop to look around.
It was nice to have the guide there to explain what we were looking at and to answer our questions. We also liked that we were able to touch the fossils.
This is a great way to get some exercise. Both of these trails are free.
You go at your own pace but definitely expect to take at least an hour. Depending on your ability level, who is with you, and what you want to see, you may choose to do both. Our family loved the guided tour, but when our children are older, we will be back to walk these trails on our own.
We saw people walking right along where our bus took us. While we stopped at three sites with the tour bus (which was “enough” for our kids), there are more than 15 interpretive sites on Dinosaur Ridge. The footprints here are approximately 100 million years old. The tracks we saw were “positive tracks,” meaning the imprint was pushed into the earth, like how we would leave an impression walking in mud.
This trail is also free to walk and includes six interpretive sites along a 1.5 mile trail. We learned the tracks at Triceratops Trail are “negative tracks,” and actually stick out of the walls. Tracks here are approximately 68 million years old. We were told there are some difficult spots along this trail (not able to use a stroller or wheelchair) which is why we did not choose to explore it.
There is also an Exhibit Hall with lots of information and interactive displays. It is $2 per person.
With some advance planning for out-of-towners or for locals, there are a lot of special events and classes at Dinosaur Ridge as well. Our kids enjoyed the gift shop and picked out some rocks and minerals as souvenirs.
Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison
While Red Rocks Amphitheater attracts the biggest names in entertainment, you don’t need to see a concert there to enjoy it.
It is worth a trip and absolutely astounding to behold. The Amphitheater and Visitor Center are open for everyone to enjoy as long as they aren’t preparing for a performance.
Check in advance. On concert days, they close in the afternoon to prepare. It is all free to explore. We saw a lot of fitness enthusiasts running up and down the stairs. (At 6,400 feet, we were winded just walking around!)
There are trails to enjoy as well. Teenage children may be interested in the performers who have appeared here.
Smaller children will think it is a fun place and enjoy looking at the rock formations.
As beautiful as it was outside, we really enjoyed the visitors’ center as well.
My kids were happy to get their flat penny here too.
We stayed about an hour walking around and enjoying the views, but really, you can stay as long as you’d like. Especially if you pack a picnic and enjoy lunch which we plan on doing next time.
Money Museum in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs is about a 90 minute drive from downtown Denver.
Once you are in the Springs, a great place to visit with kids is the Money Museum. Our kids love coins and collect them so we knew they would love it.
It was very interesting, educational, and fun for all of us. The Money Museum is run by the American Numismatic Association and located on the campus of Colorado College.
It is set in a really quaint area; I wish we had planned time to walk around the neighborhood.
The Money Museum is beautifully set on two floors. There are different sections with displays teaching the history of currency.
They have on exhibit an enormous collection of very rare coins and paper money as well as early currency from the centuries ago across the world.
It is self-guided. We spent almost two hours there but easily could have stayed longer.
We were there on a Saturday, and it was surprisingly empty.
When we entered, the staff member told us that downstairs they were doing a Mini-Mint demonstration.
We enjoyed it, and our kids enjoyed getting one as a souvenir. This area was right next to the Kids Zone.
It was small but had lots to do and was very hands-on. Downstairs there were also a lot of display cases and currency from the United States as well.
There was lots to learn and lots of currency to look at. The Harry W. Bass Jr. Collection was in an entire section and was amazing.
There was his huge collection on display. We were shocked to learn that there was a lot more to his collection that wasn’t housed here.
There is a small but extensive gift shop. Our kids enjoyed getting their flat pennies and looking around.
The absolute highlight of the visit for our children was being able to choose a rare coin from the treasure box at the end. Each child could choose one for free.
Additional ones were $2 each. There were at least one hundred to choose from, and they were from the around the globe. They sifted through them for over 10 minutes, and would have stayed longer if we let them.
They each chose coins from different countries from the 1920s. Even when we were states away, our kids were begging to go back to get another coin from the treasure box.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. It is $5 per person.
There are discounts for military and retirees. Their website, especially under the Scouts section, is full of information about coins, collecting them, storing them, etc.
Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs
This is another place to enjoy the natural beauty that is so characteristic of Colorado. A registered National Natural Landmark, the park and Visitor’s Center are free.
There are 15 miles of trails in the park, ranging from moderate to more challenging. We enjoyed driving our car through and getting out at the various stops, without really “hiking” any of the trails.
There was only one section that was questionable, and my husband stayed with the car to safe-keep our things. This is free to enter, so at certain times, you might have people just “hanging out.”
Be street smart. Lock your car doors, and keep valuables out of sight. All was well; my kids and I climbed some rocks, enjoyed the views, walked around a bit, and we drove to the next section.
Located west of Interstate 25, the park can be approached from either the interstate or Highway 24.
The park is great for kids because it can be driven through or hiked and enjoyed as much as you and your kids desire. In total, we enjoyed this park for about two hours.
Denver Mint in Denver
One last thing to mention, as this was on my list of things to do while we were in the Front Range. You know how much my kids love money.
I had this idea that we would also go the Denver Mint. Little did I know this books up months in advance. It is free, but you must register your time on the internet.
I mistakenly looked it up online just weeks before our trip, and it was too late. We will plan this better for our next trip.
Day trip in the Mountains outside of Denver
When you are on the road with your kids, the journey is often more important than the destination. I have found a section of Colorado that is great for exploring with children of all ages. Close to Denver is the Evergreen area, southwest of the big city.
It is about 35 miles from downtown, but gets you into the clean, mountain air and away from the distractions and traffic of the Front Range. In addition, there is more than one way to approach the Evergreen area, so you can go one way and return another.
You also have options if road conditions or the weather deteriorate. Heading out I70, you can catch State Highway 74 in the Genesee area and head south. An alternative is to avoid I-70 and catch 74 out of Morrison. Whichever way you choose, the Evergreen area is ripe with lots of outdoor activities to choose from.
Evergreen, Colorado – Mountain Town
We love it in Evergreen, Colorado. At 7,200 feet, even higher in some locations, the topography is beautiful. It is awe-inspiring to be so close to the rock formations. Wildlife abounds. On our day trips from Denver, we often see deer and elk.
This is one of our favorite places to go. It is great to go with younger children particularly because of it’s size. While there is lots to do, it isn’t every big, and the parking lot is close by should you need to leave.
As my kids get older, I become more willing and able to take them on longer hikes. But this trail is still perfect for us and remains our families’ top pick. There is something for everyone at Evergreen Lake, and it is beautiful.
Sitting slightly above the town of Evergreen, the lake is open for activities all year.
It is very scenic and a wonderful place to spend the day. My family makes it a point to walk the trail around the lake, 1.3 miles, each season.
We are able to enjoy other activities too, and often pack a lunch to enjoy at one of the picnic tables or in the grass.
Depending on the season, there is always something to do.
Walking the 1.3 Mile Trail
Part of the lake borders peoples’ backyards and homes.
Another portion of the lake trail is a very lovely boardwalk, which is fun and easy to walk on for kids of all ages. Dogs on leash are welcome on the trail as long as the owners act responsibly and pick up after them.
The lake is stocked with rainbow trout. You can fish year round at Evergreen Lake with a state license. It is also very affordable to rent a fishing boat for the day.
Depending on the conditions and the season, boating is available. There are kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, and even trikes available to rent by the half hour.
Our kids have had an exceptional time in these. You can also rent sailboats and fishing boats.
You can even bring your own for a small fee. We have seen paddle boarders here too.
You can pay to ice skate or play ice hockey on the 8.5 acres of ice in the winter months, depending on the conditions.
Call their hotline before driving out there to be sure it is safe. The Lake House has skates to rent as well.
With hockey rinks and a large public skating rink, the last time we were there skating we learned that Evergreen Lake is the world’s largest Zamboni-groomed outdoor ice rink.
We usually go at off times and avoid the special events as they get VERY crowded.
No swimming but…
Though there isn’t a designated swimming area, and we have been told it is prohibited, we have seen children wading in the water where the waterfall runs off.
When we were there in late July, our children joined others and worked together to build dams out of rocks. Industrious and fun!
Alderfer Three Sisters Park in Evergreen
This park is all about the hiking.
Located just to the west of the town of Evergreen, it is reached via Buffalo Park Road off County Road 73.
When the kids want to “climb rocks,” we head to Alderfer. There are rock outcroppings which are easy for the younger ones to enjoy as well.
With 770 acres, the park has about 15 miles of hiking trails. The trails are doable, but there will probably be some huffing and puffing unless you and your family are well-toned athletes.
With close to 18 trails of varying distances and difficulty levels, you and your kids can design a course that matches your skills and energy levels.
We have been here five times. The majority of the times, my sons lead the way, find a fun spot to climb and to look for interesting rocks, and we spend our time there.
Depending on how long we will be there, we bring snacks or lunch. Once we spent the time just exploring the trails. We’ve seen deer at Adlerfer twice.
There is parking at the east trailhead, and about a half-mile west, the west trailhead has a larger parking lot. Pets are welcome on leash and with responsible owners who pick up after them.
We usually see athletes on their bikes here, so be mindful of them, and remind your kids to stay to the right on the trails.
Other fun things to do near Evergreen Colorado
Staunton State Park in Pine
Continuing in a southwesterly direction is Staunton State Park.
It can be reached by heading south on 73 out of Evergreen and turning west on 285 or catching 285 just south of Morrison.
At 8,100 feet, this park is a little higher than those in the Evergreen area are, so be aware of possible colder and wetter conditions.
This is a little bit longer drive from Denver, so an early start is necessary in order to be at the park for a day of activity.
The appeal of the park to me is a fascination for the pioneers who settled the land.
Most of the park is made up of former ranches and some of the buildings are still standing. This is a newer state park which opened in May 2013. It does get crowded in the summer, especially on the weekends.
While we have only hiked, there is biking, fishing, rock climbing, and horseback riding. It is $7 per vehicle to enter. Colorado has 42 state parks. Purchasing an annual pass is $70 and allows you to enjoy all of them.
After our first year living in Denver, we decided to buy the pass because now we make it a point to seek out different state parks. It also encourages us to go even when we only have an hour to enjoy it.
Driving down the South Platte River from Conifer to Deckers
This is a lovely road for a leisurely drive with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the scenery and the river.
We made this trip one time. I was glad my husband drove as I enjoyed looking at all the scenery. We got out at a few spots that we thought we could get close to the water.
Just south of Conifer, Foxton Road, Road 97, follows the meandering river through Pike National Forest down to the fly-fishing mecca of Deckers. Bring your fishing gear or stop along the way to cool off by the water.
There is also two sites where the railroad used to run. It is worth getting out to read about this tragedy. Funds were raised to create a memorial site.
A word of caution: during the spring melt, the river may be running swiftly. This road is used by cars, motorcycles and bicycles, so be alert to sharing the road as you enjoy the glorious beauty of southern Colorado.
Not all of the road is paved, large section is unimproved but very passable even in our mini-van. It took us hours to go the length of it because of our many stops.
It was fun but once was enough for us given all the other things we enjoy more in the area. We saw a gorgeous rainbow on the way back to our hotel outside the restaurant in Pine called Zoka’s.
Have less time? You might want to enjoying summer in Keystone, Colorado.
Staying overnight in Evergreen to extend the fun
Want to extend your stay to more than just a day?
We were able to enjoy some activities in Evergreen, Conifer, and Pine, and then stayed longer to visit Dinosaur Ridge and the Red Rock Amphitheater in Morrison.
There is so much to do in the entire area, whether you make a day of it or a vacation. There is something for everyone to enjoy.
My family has found that there is never enough time to do all that we want during our vacations to the Front Range.
That reason, along with the comfortable weather and the unbeatable scenery, keeps us returning for one vacation after the other to enjoy the area surrounding Denver with kids.