Where to stay, what to do with kids in Denver.
February 28, 2013 12:23 PM   Subscribe

My kids (ages 12, 9, and almost-6) and I will be in Denver for two days and one night this coming July. I am looking for advice about where to stay and what to do.

Here are our special circumstances:

We will be dropped off at the train station on Saturday morning, and will leave by train on Sunday evening. I don't want to rent a car, so a hotel within an easy-to-moderate cab ride of the train station, while also being within easy reach, or straightforward public transit, of attractions, would be ideal.

We have been to a lot of big cities and seen their aquariums, natural history museums, science musems, and so on. We've been to the Field Museum in Chicago, the Franklin Institute in Philly, the Center of Science and Industry in Columbus, the New England Aquarium in Boston. We love that stuff, but we are not likely to be in Denver again. If Denver doesn't have a head-and-shoulders-above iteration of one of those kinds of places, we might prefer a less-splashy but more unique-to-Denver outing over, say, a science museum whose exhibits are typical of science museums everywhere.

We like to splurge on a nice hotel from time to time. I may have to penny-pinch when the time comes, but for the purpose of this question, assume we're willing to pay $150 +/- $25 for a spiffy place and a good location.
posted by not that girl to Travel & Transportation around Denver, CO (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The Hotel Monaco is right downtown; it is a spiffy place in a good location.

Check Westword for Denver-Centric festivals and the like that may be going on at the time.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:27 PM on February 28, 2013

Denver has the new museum for Clyfford Still, not that he had any connection to the city.

How friendly it would be for kids -- depends on your kids. But it is the most significant collection of Still's anywhere, and it's in Denver, and if you're not going to be in Denver again, now would be the time.

Haven't been, can't personally vouch.
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:38 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Gates Planetarium at the Denver Museum for Nature & Science is nifty for kids and adults.
posted by maggieb at 12:45 PM on February 28, 2013

I'd skip the museums given your caveats. Denver has good ones, but they are not superior to the ones you've listed. I'd take the bus to Boulder and visit the Pearl Street Mall, which has a lot of fun shops and buskers on the weekend. Also consider a tour of Hammond's Candy Factory. Also, REI's flagship store is at Confluence Park. It has a huge free climbing wall.
posted by Wordwoman at 12:55 PM on February 28, 2013

Best answer: I'll second the Hotel Monaco as a great place to stay. Kimpton hotels are fantastic and I had a wonderful time staying there in October of last year.

less-splashy but more unique-to-Denver outing

The answer to this is Casa Bonita. Terrible food, hilariously bad decor and old video games, and absolutely guaranteed to be something your kids love and remember for the rest of their childhood. South Park made an entire episode about it. It's not in a great neighborhood, so take a cab rather than the bus, but the restaurant itself is a Denver institution and will be packed with families almost any time you go.
posted by MsMolly at 1:02 PM on February 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Red Rocks shows movies during the summer but they don't have their schedule up yet, and I think it's only once a week so it might not be happening on the weekend, but it's a lot of fun.
posted by jabes at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2013

Best answer: The newly open Colorado history museum, down near City Hall, is infused with total regional flavor and has lots of fun interactive flair to the exhibits that would be total catnip to kids - for instance, to learn about CO's mining history you first go into a "mine shaft" (small cubicle with shaking metal floor) to enter an exhibit where you can do such things as press a big plunger to explode "dynamite" in the mine wall. It's the most fun history museum I've ever been to and I imagine it would have whipped me into catatonia as a youngster. If you're anywhere in the vicinity of 16th street it's very walkable.
posted by superfluousm at 1:06 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A new museum, History Colorado, quite close to downtown, has some great locally-oriented exhibits well suited to kids of various ages, including an amazing map of the state inlaid in the floor. http://www.historycolorado.org. Seconding the REI, which is in an amazing old building on the river, a short walk from downtown--walk up the hill from there to Little Man ice cream, a local landmark. If you do take the bus to Boulder, it's a solid hour on the bus, but Pearl Street is nice and there are some easily doable walks/hikes. The light rail line to Golden will be open by then, which would get you closer to the mountains. Wear hats and sunscreen and drink lots of water!
posted by Sybil Stockwell Oop at 1:08 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh and tours of the Denver Mint! It's free, walkable from any downtown hotel, and not something you can do too many other places.
posted by jabes at 1:09 PM on February 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, these are great tips! I wouldn't have thought of the mint, even though I myself enjoyed a tour there when I was a kid. And Casa Bonita looks like the kind of place that they would love.
posted by not that girl at 1:43 PM on February 28, 2013

You need to make reservations for the Mint. It is hard to get in at short notice. The Denver Art Museum is very kid-friendly and interactive, and quite near all the fun downtown stuff. Have a great time!
posted by Malla at 3:09 PM on February 28, 2013

If (or when) you go to the mint, you sh old make time to visit the wonderful Denver Public Library, central branch. The architecture is playful, the children's section is awesome, and is part of what makes Denver's Civic Center so special.
posted by dbmcd at 8:22 PM on February 28, 2013

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