In my little family of three, I’m notorious for uttering the words, “I saw this thing on Instagram/the internet/the news in insert random Colorado place that we should go to this weekend!” And my husband and toddler humor me as we load up the car, takeoff strategically around nap time, and set out to see what all the hype is about. And we are always so glad we did. As you already know, Colorado has no shortage of amazing places to explore, but if you need some fresh inspiration to shake up your summer plans, here are some tried and true day trips:
Fort Collins Area Day Trips:
Our neighbor just one hour north of Denver has a lot going on for families way beyond just bikes and brews. Although those things are great too! Check out the Fort Collins Museums of Discovery to cool off indoors, or paddle around Horsetooth Reservoir to cool off on the water. For a new-to-you playground experience, Twin Silo Park which opened a couple of years ago, is high on my summer bucket list. This unique play space features an orchard, BMX park, and the tallest slide around, which spirals between two refurbished farm silos. Afterwards, stroll around Old Town (which was the model for Disneyland’s Main Street USA) and kick back at one of the many family-friendly breweries or restaurants in the area.
If your kids need a break to stretch their legs on the way up to Fort Fun, consider stopping at the Chapungu Sculpture Park in Loveland, just off I-25. Innocuously located behind the Centerra shops, this beautiful trail of Zimbabwe stone sculptures that weaves around ponds and shady trees,is the only collection of its kind in the country, and the perfect place for kids and their parents to roam free. If you head a little more into town, you’ll find the Benson Sculpture Garden whose 10-acre park is recognized as one of the most important art sites in the world. Who knew!
Boulder Area Day Trips:
Just 30 minutes up HWY 36, Boulder may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a “day trip”, but there is literally so much to do here, it will easily take up a full 6-8 hours. And the novelty of it all will have your kids enthralled the whole time. Of course you’ll want to hit up Pearl Street and its famous buskers and splash pads, perhaps after a visit to the Saturday Boulder Farmer’s Market. Some other activities you can add to your list are watching the tubers navigate down Boulder Creek, meander around the Flatirons at Chautauqua Park, grab lunch at one of these kid-friendly eateries, nerd out at the Fiske Planetarium, or lazy the afternoon away at the Boulder Res.
Colorado Springs Area Day Trips:
Us Denver-ites tend to forget how many utterly unique Colorado things there are to see and do in Colorado Springs. Head down south and this venture could easily become a two, three or four day-trip. For starters, you’ll want to visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo , rated as one of the best in the country. I’ll admit, I’ve still never been, but am making sure to check it off my list, too. If you’re feeling adventurous, head up Pikes Peak, the second most visited mountain in the world. If you make it to the top you’ll be rewarded with fresh donuts (yes, you read that right) and the views that inspired, “America the Beautiful”.
Other iconic spots where every Coloradoan should play tourist at least once are the Garden of the Gods, the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park, the North Pole, the Space Foundation Discovery Center, and the Air Force Academy. In 2020, add the much anticipated U.S. Olympic Museum to your list. Phew! I think we’re going to need more days.
Just outside of the city you can explore Florissant Fossil Natural Monument, which was featured as Colorado’s One-of-a-Kind Delight in this month’s issue of Oprah magazine. Or scamper around the Paint Mines Interpretive Park in Calhoun for Instagram-worthy photo-ops instead.
Evergreen/Bailey/Georgetown Area Day Trips:
One of the best things about living in Denver is you don’t have to drive to far to get your mountain fix. Head west for 30-60 minutes and you can take advantage of these unique mountain towns. SUP or kayak on beautiful Evergreen Lake or take a drive up the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America, then browse around the Downtown Evergreen shops.
In Bailey, check out some of the local hiking trails, and then grab a bite at the hot dog-shaped Coney Island boardwalk. Here you can also get your fill of local lore at the Sasquatch Outpost, which houses a museum and shop dedicated to all things Bigfoot.
Any day trip from Denver wouldn’t be complete without a ride on the scenic Georgetown Loop Railroad. Add on the mine tour and gold panning experience to the hour and 15 minute train ride, and you will have achieved a quintessential Colorado day.
Estes Park Area Day Trips:
Another personal favorite, this is where we usually head when we feel a case of the Sunday Scaries coming on. There’s nothing Estes Park views and salt-water taffy can’t cure. We like to hang at this outdoor pub which has a great outdoor space with fun patio games, and drive through the park looking for elk, moose, deer, and anything else we can spy. On the way home, take the Peak-to-Peak highway, which will wind you past Longs Peak and around Nederland for one of the best scenic drives in the state.
Breckenridge Area Day Trips:
There’s tons to do on Breckenridge Mountain in the summer. Literally zip, slide, coast and climb your way across the mountain. Or, stop at Lake Dillon on your way into town and hit up the tiki bar while your kids SUP or kayak on the lake. And good news for anyone who missed the chance to troll around town last year, Isak Heartstone, the wood art installation that made headlines, has a new home on the south side of Breckenridge which will be accessible once again starting in June.
Vail Area Day Trips:
Vail is one of my all-time favorite places in the world, and it shines in the summer. And coming from a girl that has Vail taste on a Silverthorne budget, a day-trip is the easiest – and more affordable way to enjoy this gorgeous resort town. Plan to come on a Sunday to take advantage of the weekly Farmer’s Market & Art Show that winds through the lower village. Eat breakfast/second breakfast/brunch/lunch at one of the many food tents set-up to sample the local fare without the splurge. Afterwards, set the kids up at Epic Discovery on the Lionshead-side for an afternoon of adrenaline-filled alpine adventure.