Colorado has more than its share of stunning natural attractions, but sometimes the kids are eager for a little more than mountain vistas and scenic drives. We’re happy to oblige with attractions for the whole family in every region of the state. Here are a few suggestions for kids 10 and under — from children’s museums and zoos to hot-springs pools, tubing hills and wildlife experiences.
Denver Metro Region
• Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park: Ride scream-inducing roller coasters, little-kid-friendly rides and slippery water slides. (Check website for seasonal hours.)
• Children’s Museum of Denver: Learn about the world in the museum’s child-sized grocery market, fire station and construction workshop.
• Denver Zoo: See the more than 3,500 animals that call the 80-acre zoo home. Monkey Island and the big cats exhibits are among the top crowd pleasers.
• Downtown Aquarium, Denver: Feed a slippery stingray and gaze at hypnotically moving jellyfish, stealthy sharks and frisky fish of every color.
• Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, Broomfield: Walk through a tropical rainforest habitat filled with free-flying butterflies. Sniff exotic plants, pet a sea star and hold a tarantula.
• Denver Museum of Nature & Science: Watch an out-of-this-world show at the planetarium and IMAX theater. Tour exhibits about space, gems and minerals, dinosaurs and the human body.
• Wildlife Experience Museum, Parker: Travel around the globe in a 3-D exhibit that features animal animatronics, special visual and sound effects, and eight different habitats.
• Denver Art Museum: Explore, learn and play. Get creative with hands-on activities for all ages, relax in one of the family fun areas and discover world-class art.
Front Range Region
• Pottery painting: Pick a piece of pottery at Color Me Mine in Boulder and Dynamik Ceramix in Fort Collins. Make it your very own with paints and stencils.
• Fun Parks: Keep busy all day with rides, mini-golf, go-karts, arcade games, batting cages and giant slides at Gateway Park Fun Center in Boulder, Fort Fun in Fort Collins, and Ride-A-Kart & Cascade Creek Mini-Golf in Estes Park. (Check websites for seasonal hours.)
• Bee Family Centennial Farm Museum, Fort Collins: Experience farm life with activities such as washing clothes on a washboard, milking cows, pulling a horse-drawn plow and grinding corn for chickens at this working farm. (Open Friday and Saturday, May to October.)
• Greeley Freight Station Museum: Examine intricate model railroad layouts, a wooden caboose from the Colorado and Southern Railroad and more than 1,000 railroad artifacts. See actual trains come and go on nearby tracks.
• Trout Haven Ranch Trout Pond, Estes Park: Cast your line in Trout Haven’s stocked pond — a perfect first-time fishing experience. (Check website for seasonal hours.)
• Ski schools: Learn to ski or snowboard in kid-focused programs at one of 12 ski areas and resorts in the Northwest region. (October to April.)
• Hot-springs pools: Splash around and soak up the mineral waters year-round at Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs, Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Strawberry Hot Springs in Steamboat Springs and Hot Sulphur Springs Resort & Spa.
• Summer fun parks: Sample the activities at mountain-top parks with alpine slides, mini-golf, bungee rides, climbing walls and more in Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Steamboat Springs, Vail and Winter Park. There’s also Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park in Glenwood Springs and Bananas Fun Park in Grand Junction.
• Ice rinks: Skate around with beautiful mountains as your backdrop in many resort towns, including Copper Mountain, Winter Park, Beaver Creek, Keystone, Vail and Breckenridge. (Winter only.)
• Tubing hills: Float down a hill on a bouncy tube, then ride the lift to the top to do it again and again in Fraser, Keystone, Vail, Copper Mountain and Beaver Creek. (Winter only.)
• Mountain Top Children’s Museum, Breckenridge: Become a fireman in the costume studio, create a masterpiece at the Creation Station and make wildlife tracks in the wildlife exhibit.
• Rocky Mountain Wildlife Park, Pagosa Springs: Peer into habitats of animals native to the area, including black bears, wolves, elk, mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes.
• Ski schools: Learn to ski or snowboard in kid-focused programs at one of six southwest Colorado ski areas. (October to April.)
• Crested Butte Mountain Resort Adventure Park: Take on the climbing wall, bungee trampolines and an 18-hole mini golf course in summer. In winter, soar around the ice-skating rink and down the lift-served tubing hill.
• The Trailhead Discovery Museum and Arts Center, Crested Butte: Explore the play park, art and science activities, a puppet theater and a Dig Pit, with trucks, funnels and shovels.
• Durango Mountain Resort’s Purgatory Village: Spend a day on the village’s alpine slide, mini-golf course and bungee tramp; take a horseback riding lesson. (Summer only.)
• Trimble Hot Springs in Durango and Ouray Hot Springs Pool in Ouray: Swim year-round in natural hot springs. Ouray’s pool also features a playground, horseshoe pit, softball diamond, barbecue grills and picnic tables.
South Central Region
• Cave of the Winds, Manitou Springs: Travel through more than two miles of underground limestone passageways on well-lit, easy tours into the cave’s twists and turns.
• Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Colorado Springs: See nearly 800 animals — from endangered Amur tigers to moose and mountain lions — in a mountain setting that makes this one of the most unique zoos you’ll encounter.
• North Pole Home of Santa’s Workshop, Cascade: Never lose that holiday feeling with special visits from Santa, magic shows, the Candy Cane coaster and more than 20 other rides. (Open mid-May–December 24).
• Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, Calhan (outside Colorado Springs): Take a guided tour of the center, home to more than 120 lions, tigers, cougars, leopards and other big cats.
• More than 20 other family favorite attractions in the Pikes Peak region.
Colorado’s Eastern Plains (Northeast and Southeast regions)
• Buell Children’s Museum, Pueblo: Play in the colorful hands-on exhibits, arts-and-crafts studio and a baby-barn-animal-themed space for kids under four.
• Pueblo Zoo in City Park: Meet red kangaroos, white-handed gibbons and zebras, and visit an eco-center with exotic birds, penguins and reptiles.
• Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, near La Junta: Enter a living museum, where costume-clad guides lead you through a trading outpost once frequented by legendry Kit Carson.
• The Nature & Raptor Center, Pueblo: Stroll dozens of miles of trails that are home to hundreds of birds of prey along the Arkansas River.
• Family Aquatic Center, Trinidad: Ride down the slide and splash into the water, wade in the kiddie pool and have a picnic. (Summer only.)
• Old Fire House No. 1 Children’s Museum, Trinidad: Sound the alarm, climb atop an old fire truck and play dress up in this converted firehouse.
• Kit Carson County Carousel, Burlington: Take a spin on the nostalgic carousel. Built in 1905, the wooden animals are all original and hand painted.
• Burlington’s Old Town Museum, Burlington: See what life was like 100 years ago in this re-created prairie town with an old-timey soda fountain, horse-drawn carriage rides and more.
• Overland Trail Museum, Sterling: Hear tales of Colorado’s earliest settlers in the period village’s blacksmith and barber shops, one-room schoolhouse and general store.
Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo/Dave Parsons.