My Family’s Budget-Friendly Denver Summer Bucket List


Can we all agree that summer time in Denver is just the best? For me, as a kid growing up in the Denver suburbs, summer weekdays were the perfect excuse for an impromptu family day trip to go explore one of the many impressive Denver attractions usually only reserved for school in-service days or chaperoned class field trips. These summer family adventure days were the highlights of summer break, which might explain why the dinosaurs at the Museum of Nature & Science (called the Denver Natural History Museum back in the day) have never lost their luster, and I still feel compelled to test out how far I can jump compared to a polar bear or a salmon at the zoo.

When thinking about my family’s summer bucket list, Denver’s iconic attractions are naturally at the top of my to-do list, but they can get pricey. Good news though – CityPASS is now available in Denver, just in time for the school-summer transition, making it super affordable and convenient to tick off all of our city’s best places to visit. I’ve had my eye on this cool service in other areas for a while.

It’s essentially a nine-day bundle on tickets to the best attractions in major cities, which lets you save money while getting the most out of a destination. The Denver pass let’s you choose 3, 4, or 5 attractions from a list of the top eight attractions in Denver, resulting in up to 34% savings compared to buying tickets separately. $48 for entrance to four museums versus the $20.00 adult admission at the Aquarium makes this money-conscious mom very, very happy.  In my opinion, CityPASS is the perfect and affordable solution for the week when daycare is closed, there is no summer camp scheduled, or when you have friends in town that you want to show around.

Personally, here’s what I’ll be hitting up this summer in the Denver area with my pass:

Image credit: Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus

Children’s Museum: We’ll be checking out the young child woodland play area for my 16-month-old to climb around in, with a stop at the bubbles exhibit, because she just learned to say “bubble” in the most adorable way.

Mystic Mermaids at the Denver Aquarium

Denver Aquarium: We’re looking forward to the sea otters because they. are. the. cutest. And the mermaids, because I’ve basically been singing “Part of this World” non-stop since I was five.

Photo courtesy of Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum: The new family space has tons of activities to inspire creativity and imagination. I’ll also be back in the fall for the Rembrandt, Claes Oldenburg (of broom and dustpan sculpture fame), and Dior exhibits, which would all make my college art history teacher very proud.

(C) Denver Botanic Gardens. Photograph by Scott Dressel-Martin

Denver Botanic Gardens: The Mordecai Children’s Garden, because my daughter and I have never been and it sounds right up my little girl’s alley. I can’t wait to see her sniff all the flowers, wander through its six different ecosystems, splash in the creek, and get all around dirty.

Image courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver Museum of Nature & Science: We’re super into practicing all the animal sounds these days, so you’ll find us at the wildlife and dinosaurs exhibits. But if you haven’t been to the Dead Sea Scrolls yet, I highly recommend adding it to your agenda.

Denver Zoo: We’ll let the toddler set the agenda at the zoo, but I have a feeling that the Toyota Elephants Passage, penguins, and big cats are high on her must-see list.

Image courtesy of History Colorado

History Colorado Center: I lovelovelove the Denver A to Z floor at this new-ish museum. It’s full of interactive, nostalgic stations for both kids and adults. These new postcards also look like a blast and will be perfect for documenting our visit on Instagram.

Image courtesy Wings Over the Rockies

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum: I feel like this is always the first stop someone takes visiting from out of town friends with kids to, and I’ve never been myself, so on the bucket list it goes! My husband loves all things jets, I’m into drones, and the little one digs anything that flies, so this is a win-win all around.

What’s on your Denver summer bucket list besides these popular sites? We’d love to hear about your family’s summer plans and your own childhood summer memories in Denver.

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Karleen is proud to be a (rare) Denver-Metro native, currently living in Broomfield with her husband and spunky toddler girl. Karleen is the Digital Marketing Manager for Visit Boulder. In a previous life, Karleen was a professional ice skater performing everywhere from theme parks to cruise ships throughout North America and Europe. Unpacking her bags permanently in the Mile High City in 2012 has been a welcome change of pace, and motherhood is the most recent adventure she’s attempting to navigate one day at a time. Karleen is a graduate of the University of Denver, which remains her most favorite neighborhood in Denver. Aside from working and toddler wrangling, Karleen can be found snuggled in bed with a good book or taking the occasional lap around the rink at the nearby YMCA.


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