City and Mountain Summer Day Trip Ideas


The best part about living in Colorado is that we live in a vacation destination!

Summer is a great time for friends and family to come visit. If you have visitors coming into town, or need some “staycation” ideas for just your family, I’ve created a couple of itineraries (some city, some mountain) for summer day trip ideas around Denver.

My requirements:

  1. Everything is less than an hour from Denver.
  2. Water options to help beat the heat.
  3. Uniquely Colorado food/dessert recommendations that out-of-towners will love.

Have fun being a tourist (and playing tour guide) in your own city!

City Option #1

First, start your day off with breakfast at the Denver Biscuit Company on Colfax. The kids will probably like the Strawberry Shortcake, and you will like the Dahilia sandwich. Visitors (and you!) will love it here!

From there, you’re just a short distance away from the Zoo/Nature and Science Museum. If you have the budget for it, you can do both. I, for one, wish these places had a combo pass, since they are RIGHT NEXT to each other, but I digress.

If you’re doing both, I’d start with the zoo first, before it gets blazing hot. This month kicks off the new dinosaur exhibit!

The Nature and Science Museum has lots of great spaces, like the IMAX, the kid’s Discovery Zone, and perfect “touristy” shots of the downtown/mountain skyline from the west facing atrium.

When you’re done with the Zoo, and before going to the Nature and Science Museum, enjoy a picnic lunch by the fountains near the museum, in City Park.

City Option #2

Park at Denver’s flagship REI store, and enjoy the children’s play area and huge climbing wall.

Then hop on the Platte Valley Trolley that picks up right outside of the store and head over to the Denver Children’s Museum. Spend some time (maybe a picnic?) in the outdoor Joy Park and the many indoor exhibits (fire truck, bubbles, water play, toddler area, etc.) 

Finally, take the trolley back to REI, grab your car and cross over the river to Union Station, where you and your guests can look around, grab a bite to eat (if you didn’t pack a lunch), and (most importantly) get Little Man Ice Cream and jump in the fountains outside.

Mountain Option #1

Pack a yummy lunch for everyone and head to Eldorado Canyon State Park. This is one of the best picnic spots around. Check out the trail profiles here. Note: This is a state park, so it will require an $8 entrance fee, per carload.

After all that hiking, you’re all probably ready for a little refresh. Right outside the park, there is a hot springs pool called Eldorado Swimming Pool. It’s warm, but not too warm, and SO picturesque, it’s the perfect place for guests.

Mountain Option #2

You’ll start your day at the Evergreen Lake House.  There is hiking, paddleboating, and stand up paddle boarding. It’s not too far into the mountains, but far enough that you get some wonderful views.

After that, head into town for an early lunch at Beau Jo’s. It’s pretty much a requirement that any Colorado visitor try a Beau Jo’s. We love that the Evergreen location has a buffet for lunch.

If you’re up for it, and have little kids in tow, hop on 285, and end at Tiny Town in Morrison for a quick train ride, ice cream, and to look around at all the pint sized buildings.

There you have it! This obviously just scratches the surface for what you can do in and around Denver, and I hope these itineraries seems doable AND fun for you and your guests! Happy hosting!

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Allie is a Denver transplant from the frozen tundra known as Wisconsin. She and her husband have loved building a life here in the Metro area and are the parents to two great kids: a sweet and rambunctious toddler boy and newborn baby daughter. As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Education and English/Language Arts, she is passionate about teaching kids to love learning (and especially books!). She's a self-proclaimed "bookworm" and is set to launch Stacks and Shelves- a blog with all sorts of bookish recommendations in the coming months. Aside from mothering, Allie is involved with her awesome church, loves girls' nights and iced coffee, and binge watching Netflix with her husband after the parenting torture known as the bedtime routine commences for the evening. Twitter: @allierasmussen Instagram: @allierasmussen1


  1. These are great ideas! I’ve been here 16 years so I’ve done many of these day trips but I still learned about some new spots from you. Can’t wait to check them all off my list.


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