Explore the most incredible things to do in Colorado with kids. From topping a “fourteener” at Pikes Peak to sandboarding the Great Sand Dunes
When my family found itself heading to Colorado in October, we weren’t prepared for just how incredible this state is. And exploring Colorado with kids quickly became one of our favorite adventure experiences of the year.
There were so many things to do in Colorado with kids that, even with 10 days, we still didn’t have the chance to do everything that was on our list. But those 10 days in Colorado were filled to the top with incredible experiences.
From top to bottom, the list of Colorado things to do is nearly endless. And from sandboarding to hiking, dining, and history, there is a Colorado attraction for every interest. But if you’re interested in family adventure travel, you would be hard-pressed to find a state that has more things to do than Colorado.
So if you’re thinking of traveling to Colorado with kids, I’m here to share all of our favorite things to do in Colorado for families. Strap on your hiking shoes, gas up the car, and loosen your belt. Because Colorado is awesome. And things are about to get wild!
Why Visit Colorado With Kids?
Colorado is an epic state. It contains such an incredible variety of landscapes, small towns, big cities, and experiences that families would have to work hard to be bored. Whether you like the outdoors, unique places to eat, amazing music, mountains or lakes, Colorado is loaded with them. From the epic peaks of the American Rocky Mountains to the scenic show caves of Cave of the Winds, you can mix up your things to do in Colorado with kids by the hour.
If you plan on experiencing the best of Colorado for families prepare for a road trip. Colorado is a big state, and seeing the best of Colorado means a road trip. You can get your kids ready for an epic Colorado travel experience with these road trip tips:
- Download some audiobooks to keep everyone entertained during the trip. My kids are right into the Percy Jackson series these days.
- Load up on snacks. No one likes to go hungry on a Colorado family road trip. We usually pack a foldable cooler to keep our drinks cool.
- Make sure to stop often to explore. There is something new around every corner in Colorado. But be careful. The state is mountainous, so the roads are windy. Ensure that you’re safely off the road before you get out.
The Best Things To Do In Colorado With Kids
Ok, it’s time to explore the top attractions in Colorado for kids. But where do we start? With all of these amazing Colorado family experiences, any one of them could fill a family’s bucket list. So I’ll lay out the family travel to Colorado experiences in no particular order so no one gets upset.
Take A Stroll Through The Garden Of The Gods
OK, I said this would be in no particular order. But Garden of the Gods in the city of Colorado Springs completely captured my heart. This National Natural Landmark is one of the most popular attractions in Colorado for families.
Not only is the Garden of the Gods a stunningly beautiful landscape, but it’s also one of the completely free things to do in Colorado with kids. Garden of the Gods sits within the city limits of Colorado Springs and is just over an hour from Denver. And because it’s so accessible, the Garden of the Gods is often incredibly busy, especially on weekends.
Kids in Colorado will love exploring the otherworldly landscape. Kids can climb over many of the rosy red rock formations. Families can explore the well-manicured walking paths, or take in the history of the Garden of the Gods at the visitors center. It’s among the best and most family-friendly hiking areas in Colorado Springs.
But be warned, parking can be very hard to find. I recommend arriving early and bringing a picnic lunch. Once you get to the Garden of the Gods, you won’t want to leave.
Where To Stay Near Garden of the Gods For Families
One of the top-rated hotels near Garden of the Gods Colorado for kids is the uber-popular Garden of the Gods Club & Resort. This family-friendly Colorado hotel is just a 15-minute drive from Garden of the Gods. It features tennis courts and an Olympic-sized pool. The rooms have fireplaces and you can relax among the beautiful mountain views. You can check out their prices and availability here.
Top A Fourteener At Pikes Peak
To call Pikes Peak an epic mountain is an understatement. This iconic spot National Park just outside of Colorado Springs is so beautiful and formidable that it inspired Katharine Lee Bates to pen the song “America The Beautiful”. Since then, Pikes Peak has become the second most visited mountain in the world behind Japan’s Mount Fuji.
The winding mountain highway, one of the few that you can drive to the top of one of Colorado’s epic “Fourteeners” (mountains topping 14,000 ft in height), makes for one of the most beautiful drives in America. Pikes Peak is truly one of the most incredible Colorado things to do with kids.
There are three ways to reach the top of Pikes Peak. There is a hike, a cog railway, and the famed Pikes Peak Highway. The cog railway is a unique train that climbs the steep rock on a special railway. It’s the highest cog railroad in the world. Reservations need to be made in advance.
While many families opt for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, I highly recommend making the drive up instead. The summit of Pikes Peak doesn’t offer much beyond epic views, which are often shrouded in clouds or snow. But the stops on the way will take your breath away, literally!
At over 14,000 ft, the air is thin. But there are incredible short hikes that kids will love. Kids will love all the epic rocks to climb and the unforgettable views that come along with them. You can check out our guide to driving up Pikes Peak here.
Where To Stay Near Pikes Peak Colorado With Kids
While there aren’t any hotels within Pikes Peak National Park itself, those looking for great hotels near Pikes Peak can stay at the Best Western Plus Peak Vista Inn & Suites. This hotel sits just one mile from the Air Force Academy and offers rooms with cable TV with HBO. It features an indoor pool, a hot tub, and Pikes Peak views. You can check out their prices and availability here.
Go Sandboarding At Great Sand Dunes National Park
Colorado is famous for its skiing and snowboarding culture. Epic destinations like Vail and Aspen are often on the list of the coolest things to do in Colorado with kids. If you love tearing down hills on sleds and snowboards, you’ll get a thrill out of sandboarding at Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Great Sand Dunes is home to the tallest sand dunes in North America. These monster dunes can top 750 ft in height. This makes them one of the greatest natural play areas in Colorado for families.
We first tried sandboarding in Ica Peru, and since then our boys have been begging to do it again. A visit to Great Sand Dunes National Park gave us a great chance to hit the hills and get some sand in our faces. Sandboard rentals aren’t available in the park itself, but they are available at the Oasis Store just a short drive from the entrance to the park.
If you end up going to the Great Sand Dunes to experience sandboarding in Colorado with kids, make sure to pack a pair of goggles and something to cover your face. Because, unlike snow, sand doesn’t melt! You can check out our complete guide to visiting Great Sand Dunes National Park here.
Where To Stay Near Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado With Kids
Great Sand Dunes National Park is very remote. The closest town with decent places to stay is in nearby Alamosa. One of the most popular hotels in Alamosa for families is the Best Western Movie Manor.
This unique hotel features a seasonal drive-in movie theatre and a year-round restaurant on site, this hotel is 15 minutes drive from Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. A free hot breakfast is served daily. You can find their prices and availability here.
Go Underground At Cave Of The Winds
Exploring caves with kids is something that we absolutely love. Whether it’s raw natural caves or show caves like those at Cave of the Winds near Colorado Springs, it’s good to be underground. Cave of the Winds is a great spot to experience the magic of Colorado for families.
The 45-minute cave tour will walk your family through the history and geology of this gorgeous cave system. Or you can sign up for a more immersive look into the deeper areas of Cave of the Winds with tours like the Lantern Tour. You can also learn more about spelunking with their Caves 101 tour.
What makes Cave of the Winds one of the best things to do in Colorado for kids is that there is so much more than just the cave. Kids can climb and play on the Wind Walker Challenge course, fly along the cliff walls on the Bat-a-Pult, or get plummeted into a canyon on the Terror-Dactyl.
The Cave of the Winds is open rain or shine, but the outdoor activities are weather-dependent. You can learn more about Cave of the Winds here.
Where To Stay Near Cave of the Winds Colorado With Kids
While the most popular hotel near Cave of the Winds Colorado for families is the Best Western Plus Pikes Peak Inn & Suites, another, more budget-friendly hotel nearby is the Rodeway Inn Manitou Springs.
The hotel might be simple compared to some of those with luxury options, it is comfortable and breakfast is included, which is great for families. You can check out the prices and availability here.
Explore Ancient Cliff Dwellings At Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park offers a unique glimpse into the rich history of North America’s indigenous people. Throughout this sprawling park are around 5,000 archaeological sites that cover hundreds of years of the history of the Pueblo people.
These sites include over 600 cliff dwellings. buildings and villages built directly into the walls of the towering canyon that divides Mesa Verde. You can even sign up for a tour that will take you directly into one of these incredible cliff dwellings.
Kids will love following the hiking trails and exploring the museum as they work to achieve their National Parks Junior Ranger badge. A visit to Mesa Verde is an incredible opportunity to get a glimpse into the history of the Pueblo people in Colorado for kids.
There are few things to do in Colorado with kids that offer this kind of historical and educational experience. You can find out more about our time camping at Mesa Verde National Park here.
Best Family-Friendly Hotels In Mesa Verde Colorado For Families
One of our favorite places to stay in Colorado with kids was the Far View Lodge. This family-friendly Colorado hotel sits right within the Mesa Verde National Park.
It offers beautiful sunset and sunrise views and unprecedented access to the park. Staying here also includes breakfast at the Far View Restaurant. You can check out the hotels’ prices and availability here.
Take An Old Fashioned Candy Tour At Hammonds Candies
I’m going to be completely honest here and say that this Colorado experience was more about me than it was for my kids. They don’t even like candy that much. But I do! And a visit to Hammonds Candy Factory in Denver gave my sweet tooth the hit it was looking for.
Hammonds Candie’s crafts old-fashioned candies. These are those types of massive lollipops, marshmallows, and swirlies that you would expect to see pumped out at Willy Wonka’s. But instead of Oompa Loompa’s, a tour of Hammonds shows you up to 150 expert candy makers crafting the most beautiful treats you’ve ever seen.
Not only is a tour of the Hammonds Candy Factory one of the most delicious things to do in Colorado with kids, but it’s also free! You’ll learn about how the company got started, and just how big of a business candy can be.
Kids will be awe-inspired watching workers hand pull massive slaps of sweet deliciousness and transform them into beautiful treats right before their eyes. And no visit to a candy factory would be complete without a couple of free samples! You can find out all the tour details on Hammonds here.
Where To Stay In Denver Colorado With Kids
Hammonds Candies is one of the most kid-friendly things to do in Colorado with kids. But the factory is in an industrial area, so I wouldn’t recommend choosing this area for your hotel in Denver. Instead, consider checking out the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek.
The Cherry Creek Neighborhood is close to loads of great family-friendly Colorado activities such as the Denver Botanic Gardens at York Street, the Denver Zoo, and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. You can check out their prices and availability here.
If you’re looking at more options, you can find out the complete guide on where to stay in Denver right here.
Experience Waterfalls And Wildlife At Rocky Mountain National Park
If you love family-friendly wildlife experiences as much as we do, there are few places to visit in Colorado with kids that will fill that bucket more than Rocky Mountain National Park.
The park is filled with deer, caribou, big horned sheep, and much more. At times the Caribou in Rocky Mountain National Park can even cause traffic jams. But in a state that has more National Parks than any other, Rocky Mountain National Park stands in a league of its own.
Kids will love the easy and beautiful hikes to places like Alberta Falls and easy strolls with magical views like those at Bear Lake. What makes Rocky Mountain National Park of the greatest Colorado experiences for families is just the sheer immensity of the areas to explore. This park truly stands as one of the ultimate activities in Colorado.
The drive from Denver to Estes Park is half the fun of visiting RMNP. You can check our guide on picking the best route from Denver to Estes Park here. And you can check out our list of what to do in Rocky Mountain National Park with kids here.
Where To Stay Near Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park is vast and epic. If you plan on getting a true taste for this Colorado beauty, I recommend visiting over at least two days.
While those with the gear can camp directly in the park, many people visiting from outside Colorado will need to find a hotel near Rocky Mountain. Your best bet is to stay in the picturesque and popular Estes Park. Many of those who stay in Estes Park look at the famous Stanley Hotel, which served as the inspiration for Stephen Kings “The Shining“.
For a less creepy accommodation, consider The Landing at Estes Park. This hotel offers great access to the entrance to Rocky Mountain Park and has some of the best views in town. You can check out their prices and availability here.
Walk Through History At Dinosaur Ridge National Landmark
One of the coolest things to do in Colorado with kids is to explore the massive number of fossil beds scattered throughout the state. While places like Dinosaur National Monument can be difficult to access, there are loads of great dinosaur fossils in Colorado that are closer to the action. One of my favorite dinosaur experiences in Colorado for kids is Dinosaur Ridge National Landmark.
Dinosaur Ridge is a small park with an incredible collection of dinosaur footprints and dinosaur bones still embedded in the rock. The standing among the dinosaur footprints reminded us of our visit to Dinosaur Footprints National Park in Portugal.
Dinosaur Ridge is one of the many free things to do in Colorado with kids. Although you can also pay for a bus tour of the landmark. The bus tour is guided and is a great way to see dinosaur fossils in places that you would never expect to see them. The tours book quickly, so make sure to register ahead of time. You can find out more about Dinosaur Ridge National Landmark here.
Take A Look Beneath The Waves At The Denver Aquarium
Aquariums are always a hit with families. And the Downtown Denver Aquarium definitely makes the list of fun things to do in Colorado with kids.
Denver is full of excitement, but there is something extra special about experiencing the undersea world among the beautiful displays of the downtown aquarium. Kids in Colorado will get a hit out of the stingray touch tank, the massive shark tank, and the colorful jellyfish displays.
There was one thing about the Denver Aquarium that was out of sorts with this museum. Near the end of the aquarium, displays a lone tiger within an enclosure. The tiger display seems completely out of sorts with the other marine life on display. The aquarium would be better off without it. You can find out more about the Downtown Denver Aquarium here.
You can also explore more amazing things to do in Denver with kids here.
Explore Locomotive History At The Colorado Railroad Museum
The railroad history of Colorado is almost as old as the state itself. And there’s no better place in Colorado with kids to explore that history than at the Colorado Railroad Museum just outside Denver.
The railroad museum is chock full of historical train engines and cars. Many of these are open to climb on, through, and over. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Colorado for families that combine awesome trains with engaging displays, the Colorado Railroad Museum is worth a visit.
Make sure to head downstairs to the museum to check out the incredible model railroad display. The attention to detail will blow your mind! You can find out more about the Colorado Railroad Museum here.
Discovering the best things to do in Colorado with kids is half the fun of visiting this incredible state. And this list will grow as we discover more of the amazing family-friendly Colorado experiences.
If we’ve missed something, drop a comment below and tell us your favorite Colorado attractions for families. Or swing by our Facebook page and share a photo. We would love to share in your travels.
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I love Croatia
Saturday 9th of January 2021
Absolutely stunning! Thank you on a detailed impressive guide!
Sunday 10th of January 2021
It's a gorgeous place to visit! Thanks for the kind words.
Tuesday 24th of December 2019
I haven't been to CO with kids, but I myself was a kid the first time I went. It is such a beautiful and epic state!! I spent several summers in Manitou Springs and Garden of the Gods never got old. And the Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde are both so amazing!! Whenever I do have kids, I'll definitely be taking them on a trip to all of those.
Wednesday 25th of December 2019
You're totally right! Epic is a great way to describe Colorado! Every corner has something completely unique and special on display.
Tuesday 24th of December 2019
I've enjoyed two self drive holidays including Colorado, one as a teen with my parents and sister, and the other with my husband a good decade or more later. I do need to go back as there's a lot more to see, particularly natural landscapes such as Pikes Peak and Great Sand Dunes NP. I'd enjoy Cave of Winds too depending on how accessible it is. Other sites, like Mesa Verde, I'd happily revisit.
Sunday 29th of December 2019
You'll be happy to know that the Cave of the Winds is very accessible. I'm happy to hear you've had the chance to experience a couple of Colorado road trips. It's one of the best ways to experience the state.
Tuesday 24th of December 2019
I haven't been to Colorado but have always wanted to go. My daughter would love the Cave Of The Winds and the Aquarium. Looks like there's lots to do indoors and outdoors with the family there.
Sunday 29th of December 2019
Those are two great places to experience in Colorado with kids. It's a very family-friendly state!
Tuesday 17th of December 2019
I lived in Colorado for a year and you are making me feel like I wasted my time there. I was a freshman in college and probably overwhelmed with school. Estes Park was my favorite place to visit when I lived there.
Tuesday 17th of December 2019
Estes Park is loads of fun! If you spent anytime there, you definitely didn't waste your time in Colorado.