Family Vacations

Memories created on summer vacations can stick with you forever. Our 10Best list can help ensure that those memories are related to the fun things done and great places visited. Denver Zoo located in the City Park area is highly recommended by 10Best users, as a place to visit when in Denver with the family.

10 Denver Firefighters Museum
The Denver Firefighting Museum occupies historic Fire Station No. 1, which was originally constructed in 1909 and was in use until 1974. Exhibits of firefighting equipment dating back to the mid 1800s, plus photographs, newspaper clippings, and assorted other related items provide an interesting angle on Denver's history. But kids, especially, love this place, because they can slide down the pole, don some firefighting gear, clamber onto a fire engine, and put out that (imaginary) blaze! (303-892-1436, 888-623-7085)

9 Denver Museum of Nature and Science
This museum has the largest draw of any cultural exhibit in the region. Denver Museum of Natural History offers an exhilarating look at the history of life on planet earth and also provides an overview of the universe. Exhibits topics include insects, gems and minerals, wildlife of Colorado and the world, and North American Indian cultures. (303-370-6000, 800-925-2250)

8 Water World
Award-winning Water World is among the country's largest water parks with 64 acres of splashy fun. There are more than 20 rides — thrillingly steep slides, relaxing river tubing, and even a watery playground sized for preschoolers. If you plan to spend the entire day, consider reserving a cabana, which is furnished with a table, chairs and an ice chest (with ice). Life jackets are available (free, but requires a refundable deposit). (303-427-7873)

7 Coors Field
If you've got baseball in your blood, you have to make a pilgrimage to Coors Field. The baseball-only stadium came at a price tag of $215 million dollars, but locals say the cost was well worth it. The facility seats more than 50,000 fans and occupies 76 acres. Thanks to loyal fans, the famous ballpark sees a lot of in-season action. By the way, if you're in row 20 of the upper deck, you'll find yourself in a purple seat, indicating that you're exactly a mile above sea level. Tours are offered year-round, but times may vary based on game schedules so call ahead to confirm. (303-762-5437)

6 Elitch Gardens
Historic Elitch Gardens first opened in 1890. Today, the park has a full range of modern rides, along with several roller coasters, including the Half Pipe, the only one of its kind in the United States. A portion of the grounds has been developed into Island Kingdom Water Park with about a dozen attractions: water slides, lazy river rides, and wave pools. A number of rides accommodate little ones, but even daredevil teens find plenty to love. Parking is available but pricey; however, an RTD bus stop and a Light Rail stop can be found at the park's entrance. For specials and promotions check the tickets page at http://www.elitchgardens.com/tickets.aspx. (303-595-4386)

5 Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center
Don't miss this one — the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center was the first stand-alone insect zoo in the country, and it's awesome! The main exhibit, a 7000-square foot tropical conservatory, has about 1200 free-flying butterflies from around the world, plus hundreds of different plants, birds, turtles, frogs and fish. It's an entire ecosystem. Other sights include the Crawl-A-See-'Em, home to all sorts of unique arthropods like tarantulas, walking sticks, scorpions and giant millipedes. The Water's Edge is a touch tank full of marine invertebrates, and Shrunk is an interactive display where humans are bug-sized and the bugs are HUGE! There's also a nature trail and lots of wildlife to see. (303-469-5441)

4 Dinosaur Ridge
Part of the Morrison Formation, a vast belt of land rich in fossils that stretches from New Mexico all the way north to Canada, this site first became famous during the fossil rush of the 1870s-1880s. A 1.25 mile trail winds its way along a ridge and signs are posted to help you interpret what you see, which includes dino fossils as well as trackways. More detailed guides and souvenirs are available at the Visitor Center. Apatosaurus, Stegosaurus and Diplodocus are just a few of the animals first found here. (303-697-3466)

3 The Children's Museum of Denver
If you have kids — or can borrow some for an afternoon — you won't want to miss this museum! Hands-on exhibits encourage creativity and learning — kids love clambering over a fire truck, trying their hand at puppetry or dance, and building their own gizmos from common household recyclables. An art studio and a kid-sized basketball court further enhance the experience. All this fun is bound to make you hungry, so head to the Hungry Tummy Café for sandwiches and cookies, and don't miss the exciting gift shop. (303-433-7444)

2 Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo, as it currently exists, arose from humble beginnings — the gift, in 1896, of a young black bear to the mayor. From this small start, the zoo has mushroomed into an 80-acre refuge housing approximately 4000 animals. Habitats that mimic in-the-wild conditions shelter animal residents, who include great cats, primates, reptiles, birds, elephants, fish, and no small number of endangered species. A painting rhino is one of the zoo's unusual denizens. The facility has also gained fame for its conservation efforts. (303-376-4800)

1 Downtown Aquarium
Landlocked Denver might seem an odd sort of place to catch a glimpse of a shark or a sea turtle, but you can do just that at the Downtown Aquarium. The state of the art facility has hundreds of thousands of gallons of water in multiple tanks, which house hundreds of saltwater and freshwater critters from around the globe. Favorite inhabitants among the themed exhibits include river otters, sharks, and a touch tank full of sting rays. After taking in the sights, enjoy a meal at the restaurant or cocktail bar, and browse through the gift shop. (303-561-4450)


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Maps and Directions

1
Denver Firefighters Museum 10Best List Arrow
Type: History Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
2
Denver Museum of Nature and Science 10Best List Arrow
Type: IMAX Theaters, Museums, Science Museums
3
Water World 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Theme Parks, Water Sports
Neighborhood: NORTH DENVER
4
Coors Field 10Best List Arrow
Type: Spectator Sports, Tours and Excursions
Neighborhood: Lodo (Lower Downtown)
5
Elitch Gardens 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Theme Parks
Neighborhood: Downtown
6
Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center 10Best List Arrow
Type: Family Friendly, Zoos
Neighborhood: WESTMINSTER
7
Dinosaur Ridge 10Best List Arrow
Type: Historic Sites, Museums, Outdoor Activities, Science Museums
Neighborhood: MORRISON
8
The Children's Museum of Denver 10Best List Arrow
Type: Children's Museums, Museums
Neighborhood: Downtown
10
Downtown Aquarium 10Best List Arrow
Type: Aquariums
Neighborhood: Downtown