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Denver, Colorado, is an incredibly family-friendly destination with a wide variety of activities that make it a destination that many families should put on their must-visit list. It’s also a city that many folks have a number of misconceptions about as well. We break down the myths and share some important tips and some of the best new and old attractions that the City of Denver has to offer.
Check out our list of the best things to do in Denver with teens.
The Best Time to Visit Denver
Most people may think that Denver is under an endless blanket of snow most of the year, but that’s actually not the case. In fact, when you speak with residents of the city, they will often laugh at this misconception. Make sure to bring layers because the weather can change quickly throughout the day depending on the time of year. Each season has its pros and cons, and it’s important to consider them.
- Summer-This time of year has a wide range of free and fun activities for the whole family. Events range from the Cherry Creek Arts Festival to national league sporting events such as a Colorado Rapids Soccer game or a Colorado Rockies baseball game or going to Mission Ballroom for a concert. One downside to visiting during the summer is the fire season that has plagued most of the Western United States due to a prolonged drought in the region. If there is a fire happening in the Western United States, Denver and the state of Colorado may be impacted in the form of smoke and haze. Mid to late summer is when travelers may be impacted by this issue.
- Fall/Winter/Spring-These three seasons are wonderful times of year to visit as well. When planning trips during this time of year, snow may impact quick trips to the mountains or your flight. But one thing that many people might not be aware of is how quickly the snow melts as compared to other parts of the United States.
Denver is a high-altitude location. It’s important to keep this in mind when planning your visit. If you’re unsure how a high altitude may impact your body while visiting, it’s recommended that you speak with a doctor prior to arrival and speak with your child’s pediatrician as well.
Where to Stay and How to Get Around Denver
Most tourists unfamiliar with Denver will typically choose a hotel in downtown Denver. While this isn’t a bad choice, there are two other areas that are also great areas to visit when you’re in town.
- The Highlands-This area of town is within walking distance to downtown Denver and the light rail transit system. It has a wonderful mix of restaurants, coffee shops, and a fantastic view of downtown. The popular Little Man Ice Cream Shop is a must-visit, but be prepared for lines.
- Cherry Creek North–Located across the street from the Cherry Creek Mall, this neighborhood is filled with tons of unique local stores and restaurants. It also hosts several large community events, such as the Cherry Creek Arts Festival.
It’s pretty easy to get around Denver if you’ve decided to rent a vehicle. There is also extensive access to Lyft and Uber. It’s important to note that Lyft has a slightly bigger corporate footprint in Denver. The light rail is easy to navigate and can be taken from the airport to its final stop at Union Station in downtown Denver. There are also scooters, pedicabs, and e-bikes that can be rented if you have the right app.
The Best Things to Do in Denver
Oftentimes, Denverites will hear that people aren’t really sure what there is to do in Denver. The city has an incredible amount of activities and venues to enjoy and several new spots that have opened up since 2020.
It’s difficult to describe what Meow Wolf is to people who haven’t had the good fortune to visit one of the three venues located in Denver, Santa Fe, or Las Vegas. The easiest way to describe it is an interactive, immersive art experience. Visitors of all ages will have an incredible time making their way through the venue. There’s so much to take in that it’s impossible to do all in one day. The food at Meow Wolf is pretty good too.
The summers have gotten hotter, and Waterworld is just the place to cool off for the day. It’s a massive all-water amusement park with a lazy river, a massive wave pool, and tons of slides and other activities to enjoy. It’s best to go earlier in the week if possible.
Epic Sky Trek
Located south of Denver in the suburb of Park, Epic Sky Trek is not for the faint of heart. If you or your family members are afraid of heights, this is not the activity for you. But, if you’re excited about spending the day on what is basically a massive outdoor jungle gym for teens and adults.
The Denver Art Museum
Some of the best-curated exhibits make their way through the Denver Art Museum. Recent exhibits include the Yves Saint Laurent Retrospective, Dior: From Paris to the World, and other unique exhibits that bring the world of art and fashion to the city of Denver.
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
Voted one of the best music venues in the world numerous times, Red Rocks is a must-visit. The best way to visit Red Rocks is to attend an event such as a concert, Yoga on the Rocks, or Movies on the Rocks. I’ll never forget watching Black Panther with 9,000 other attendees.
If you’re familiar with the show South Park, then you’re familiar with Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the new owners of Casa Bonita. Generations of Colorado kids have visited this unique experience and have returned during adulthood. If your family is into campy, kitschy experiences, this is a must-visit when it reopens in the late Fall of 2022. The food will be phenomenal as well with the new chef, Dana Rodriguez, who is the owner of Super Mega Bien.
Where to Eat in Denver
Unlike Chicago, New Orleans, or New York City, Denver isn’t known as a food city. It’s a shame because there is a lot of good food to be eaten while you’re here. Here are a couple of restaurants to check out.
- Bacon Social House– If you love bacon, you must check this place out. One of my favorite items on the menu is the bacon flight.
- Happy Camper Pizza– For pizza lovers looking to enjoy a meal on a cute patio, look no further. This is a Chicago-based chain, just in case you’re wondering about the pizza.
- Stanley Marketplace– This is a mixed-use space with shopping, restaurants, and outdoor space for events. It’s quintessentially Colorado. What I love about Stanley Marketplace is that there is something for everyone in your group. For dessert, grab some Spanish churros and chocolate from Churriera de Madrid.
- Culinary Dropout– Many Denverites might not be familiar with this restaurant because it opened during the pandemic. It’s definitely worth a second look.
- Meta Burger– If your kids are vegans, Denver has an overwhelming number of restaurants that are entirely free of animal protein. What makes Meta Burger stand out is that meat-eaters won’t know the difference. If you’re looking for a good burger and fries with a shake on the side, Meta Burger Edgewater Public Market is the place that I recommend.
- Pandemic Donuts– If you’re needing a donut fix, there are two ways to get a Pandemic Donut in your hands. The first is ordering a box and having them delivered to your hotel. Or, you can go to the South Pearl Street or City Park Farmer’s Market to purchase one of these delicious locally-made donuts.
Make sure to set at least half a day to enjoy a quick visit to the mountains while you’re here. Denver is really dry, so it’s important to stay hydrated, bring a lot of lotion, lip balm, and sunblock, and try to wear a hat while you’re here.
What are your favorite things to see and do in Denver? Let us know in the comments.
Michelle Jackson grew up in Denver and Boulder and loves to share her hometowns and state with friends and visitors. Her goal is to amplify and support locally run businesses and initiatives that people new to town might not know about through her site, Square State Colorado.