I’m currently a stay-at-home mom, but to be honest, the term is a bit of a misnomer. We love our lazy days at home, but most of the time we are on the go. My mom thinks it must be a generational thing: she rarely went all over creation and gets stressed out thinking about how much we’re out and about. I personally think it’s easier to be out than to stay at home: there’s plenty to look at and see when we’re outside our normal environment, and my toddler tends to behave better (emphasis on tends to, we’ve had our share of public meltdowns). Getting out a lot may also have to do with where we live: Colorado is families’ paradise. There are so many attractions and things to do with kids that it makes it so easy to get out and do something fun.
However, I am still a stay-at-home mom, so we are very budget conscious. Nothing gets me more excited than finding FREE things to do around the area with my kids. With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of “Ten Totally Free Attractions in the Area” for those days that you want to get out but don’t want to spend any money.
- Hammond’s Candies’ Factory– Take your little candy lovers to tour this local factory. You get the cutest little hats and a behind the scenes look at candy canes and lollipops being made and packaged.
- Littleton Historical Museum (note: closed Mondays)- This is probably my favorite free spot in the area. This living history museum in the heart of Littleton is set up like a 19th century farm; complete with the biggest pigs you’ve ever seen. See the animals, one room schoolhouse, farmhouse, and the blacksmith shop. There’s a little indoor kid’s play area too, with a play kitchen, wagon, and farm themed book reading area.
- Hudson Gardens– With its beautiful flower gardens and fountains, Hudson Gardens has lots of great space for the kids to run around. There’s also a toy train that runs a few times a week, as well as a hay bale maze and a pumpkin patch in the fall. Hot tip: in the summer, stop by Nixon’s coffee (a little coffee shop on the Platte River bike path, accessible at the back of the gardens) and get the Venetian Cream, otherwise known as the best coffee drink ever.
- US Mint Tours– Geared for kids above 7, Denver’s US Mint branch located in the heart of downtown is a great educational opportunity to watch coins being produced. Reserve a spot online before you go.
- Cherry Creek Mall Play Area– As far as mall play places go; this one is actually pretty cool. It’s Looney Tunes themed, and has all soft structures so you don’t have to worry about your kids hurting themselves. I’ll be the one yelling at my preschooler for licking Bugs Bunny (True story, unfortunately. Not my finest parenting moment).
- School of Mines Geology Museum– Head over to nearby Golden to check out a moon rock, a dinosaur bone, and a pretend mining cave with glow-in-the-dark rocks.
- Lookout Mountain Nature Center– If you want to get out out of the big city a bit, head to Lookout Mountain Nature Center in Morrison. They have a kids play area and various FREE nature programs—just check online for the schedule. Of course, if you want to get out in nature, hiking is always free. Check out this list of great family hikes near Denver. Nearby Red Rocks is also a fantastic place to walk around for free.
- APEX Indoor Clubhouse– This amazing tree house themed indoor playground in Arvada is a great choice for those rainy or snowy days when your crew needs to burn off energy. Note: Other activities such as the waterpark have costs, but you can always come to the clubhouse for free.
- REI Play Area– Come to the children’s clothing area at the Denver Flagship store for a cute play area with a pretend cave and slides.
- Denver Art Museum– Okay, I’m cheating a little, but the Art Museum just made admission FREE for kids under 18 (you still have to pay for admission for you). The Denver Art Museum is surprisingly kid friendly, with family backpacks with games and puzzles, and their “Create Playdate” a drop-in art class on the second Wednesday of the month from 10-1.