People always tell me I’m good at getting my kids out of the house and taking them places. And I’m guessing they don’t realize when they say this that, really, it’s a supreme form of laziness on my part. When the kids are home, they mess with my stuff. They spill things and fight over video controllers and want to be on devices with screens and whine about being bored and the walls close in on me and — ahhhhhhhh! Yeah. Mom of the Year. Thank you.
So I’d rather get them out. Don’t get me wrong — they still bicker and make messes. But somehow it isn’t as loud or grating in the open air as it is in our house, and often everyone behaves better when we change up the environment.
Since we try to get out of the house often, and since I have four kids to pay for, I have to be conscious of the cost. So I’ve rounded up twelve free places to take kids around Denver (actually, the first is a list of free days for lots of places…so really there are a lot more ideas here!).
-SCFD Free Days — This is one of my absolute favorite resources ever. A lot of Colorado attractions offer free days throughout the year — cool attractions like the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Botanic Gardens at Chatfield. A few things to note — the Denver Art Museum is free for adults the first Saturday of every month and free for kids under 18 every day. Pick up a Family Backpack on the first floor with puzzles, games, and activities kids can do throughout the museum. Also, I go through at the beginning of the year and mark every free day I’m interested in on the calendar for the year so I can plan ahead. I’ve even been known to take kids out of school for a day at the museum instead.
-Littleton Museum — The indoor museum includes a kids’ area where they can pretend to cook, put together a newspaper, and dress up…but kids really love the two living history farms with animals to visit, barns and houses to explore, and often people working in the blacksmith shop or schoolhouse to give visitors a sense of what life was really like in the 1800s.
-Hiwan Homestead Museum — A small museum at Hiwan Heritage Park in Evergreen. The kids can tour the main house and see how it evolved from a one-room cabin in 1893. See the vintage kitchen (we got a recipe there for johnny cake, which we made at home the next day), and be sure to visit the building with the game room — kids can see games that would have been played more than 100 years ago, and challenge each other to a round of checkers. If the weather is nice, stop at Kittridge Park on the way back down the mountain to play for a bit.
-Lookout Mountain Nature Center — Located off I-70 in Golden, Lookout Mountain Nature Center is one of the best visitor centers I’ve ever seen. Kids can check out the dioramas with life-sized animals they might find in the area (including mountain lions, deer, and bears), use headphones and binoculars in one room to get a better view of the park, investigate antlers and other natural findings under magnifying glasses, or curl up with a good book about wildlife. If the weather is good, there’s a hike that makes a one-mile loop around the area that even the smallest kids can manage.
-Downtown Denver Public Library — Often when we’re getting stir-crazy, we’ll head to the Denver Public Library for a bit. The kids love to marvel at how huge the library is, and the childrens’ area has large checkers and chess tables (with rules for checkers-based games you’ve probably never played!), a play area for younger kids, and comfy kid-sized chairs for lounging and reading a bit. Be sure to follow the library on facebook to be alerted about the cool events they plan for kids as well.
-Red Rocks Park & Ampitheater — This park in Morrison is a great place to run off some energy. I can’t explain it, but my kids love running the stairs…so I just sit at the top and let them go. There are also short hiking trails that families can manage, and great free exhibits at both the Visitor Center at the top of the stairs, and at the Trading Post gift shop.
-Hammond’s Candy Factory Tour — See how Hammond’s candy is pulled, twisted, and shaped by hand…just like it has been since 1920. The tour weaves in a bit of Colorado history, as well as the science of candy-making. And while the tour is free, you may want to bring a little cash for the gift shop. Ahem.
– U.S. Mint — The U.S. Mint downtown has a free tour (sorry, no souvenirs), but it does need to be booked well in advance. The tours are recommended for kids 7 and up. Be sure to check their website for information on making reservations, what items are allowed on the tour, and what days tours are available.
-Celestial Seasonings Tea Tour — to be fair, this isn’t exactly Denver…it’s Boulder. The 45 minute tour takes you into the tea manufacturing facility, where you can see what happens to make one of Boulder’s most famous exports. Only children 5 and up are allowed on the factory tour. Be sure to check the website for other restrictions and information.
-Tattered Cover Events — the three Denver-area Tattered Cover bookstores often host free events for kids and teens including storytimes, book clubs, and author meet-and-greets. We’ve got a Family Friday Night coming up at our local Aspen Grove store, where kids can wear jammies, hear a story, and do a fun activity.
-Barnes & Noble Events — Barnes and Noble bookstores also host many free kids’ events. Check your local store (from the link here) to see when storytimes and other fun activities are scheduled.
-Home Depot Kids’ Workshops — Home Depot offers free kids’ workshops — kids get a free object of some sort, and help building it. They also get a kid-sized Home Depot apron (trust me — you’ll die, they’re so adorable), and a pin for each project they complete. Check the link for details on when and where your next workshop is scheduled.
Do you have any free places you like to take kids? We’d love to expand our list! Happy exploring!