Colorado Family Vacation: Kid-Friendly Activities

When planning a family vacation that’s enjoyable for everyone, it is of course important to consider the kids. Fortunately, Colorado has tons of fun-filled attractions that are sure to entertain the young (and young-at-heart), regardless of the season.

Carousel of Happiness

Located in the quaint mountain town of Nederland along the gorgeous Peak-to-Peak Highway, the indoor Carousel of Happiness is a lovingly restored, 107-year-old merry-go-round whose hand-carved animals twirl to the uplifting oom-pah of a Wurlitzer organ. The $1 rides go to a non-profit dedicated to keeping this history alive—and keeping the little ones grinning.

Children’s Museum of Denver

Recommended for kids up to eight years old, the recently-expanded Children’s Museum of Denver is entirely devoted to letting kids do what they do best—explore—but with a Colorado twist. The 9-acre campus is filled with pint-sized adventures, from the “big backyard” where kids see the world through the lenses of their favorite insect, to ziplining through the joy park or dashing through a waterfall in a miniature box canyon.

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

Colorado’s flagship amusement park, Elitch Gardens is filled with thrills for the entire family. Conveniently located in downtown Denver and open from May through October, the park has everything from mini trucks and a family coaster to stomach-churning rides like the “Mind Eraser.” Elitch also has a water park, though this is open only in summer.

canyon swing at Glenwood Caverns
Older kids will enjoy the thrill rides on offer at Glenwood Caverns and Colorado’s other adventure parks. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

Accessed by gondola and featuring spectacular views, Glenwood Caverns is America’s only mountain-top theme park. The western-themed attraction is built around several caves that you can tour to see the dripping stalactites, stalagmites, and more. There are also plenty of thrill rides, including the state’s longest alpine coaster, a 4-D ride theater, and a giant swing that swerves out over the rim of 1,300-foot-deep Glenwood Canyon.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

In the shadow of the towering, snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountain range, Great Sand Dunes National Park is home to North America’s largest sand dunes. This perennial family favorite offers sandboarding, sand sledding, horseback riding, 4×4 adventures, nighttime stargazing, and more.

mountains and dunes in Colorado
Head to Great Sand Dunes National Park for outdoors fun and fantastic views. Photo © Sean Xu/iStock.

Hammond’s Candies

For a sweet treat, stop by Hammond’s, Denver’s historic candy factory, to see how the confectioner’s swirling lollipops, hand-twisted candy canes, and other sweets are made. After watching the process from start to finish through glass windows, kids can select their own favorite confection in the flavorful gift shop.

Kidtopia Snow Fort

Colorado’s most kid-centric ski area, Keystone Resort ups the fun each winter by building the world’s largest snow fort. Located near the top of the gondola and open from mid-December through March, the Kidtopia Snow Fort is filled with slides, mazes, fun photo ops, and more than a few snowball fights. A lift ticket or scenic gondola ride ticket is needed to access the fort.

alligator basking in sunshine
Head to the Colorado Gators Reptile Park for an unusual hands-on experience. Photo courtesy of Colorado Gators Reptile Park.

Colorado Gators Reptile Park

Not far from the Great Sand Dunes, the Colorado Gators Reptile Park is an unusual wildlife sanctuary filled with full-sized alligators and other exotic animals, many of which were abandoned by their previous owners. The park has a series of educational programs, including a kids’ Reptile Handling class, and—for brave adults—a Gator Wrestling Class, which (if you survive) earns you an official “Certificate of Insanity.”

Dog Sledding at YMCA Snow Mountain Ranch

Kids who love furry creatures will clamor to try dog sledding at the YMCA’s Snow Mountain Ranch. After an indoor educational program, you and your little one can board a wooden sled pulled by a line of excitedly yapping Alaskan huskies. Since it’s driven by a professional musher, all you need to do is hold on and drink in the gorgeous mountain views. The year-round facility offers many additional family-oriented activities, including snowshoeing, archery, fishing, and a creative arts studio.

oddities at UFO garden in Colorado
Visit Colorado’s UFO Watchtower for an alien experience. Photo © Terri Cook and Lon Abbott.

UFO Watchtower

For an out-of-this-world experience, stop by Colorado’s UFO Watchtower, purportedly one of the best sites on the planet to view Unidentified Flying Objects. Although there are no facilities, you can camp overnight to take advantage of the prime viewing hours or simply stop by to leave a trinket in the “Healing Garden” and enjoy the fabulous views.

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