This post may contain affiliate links where we earn from qualifying purchases. As an amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Find out more in our disclosure.
Downtown Denver is one of the absolute best cities to explore with kids. It’s easy to get around, has tons of kid-friendly activities and there are so many free and cheap things to explore with kids in Denver.
After living in the Denver area for most of my life, it was a thrill to take our kids back after being gone for a few years. Here are our top things to do in Downtown Denver with kids.
#1 Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo is one of our favorite zoos in the world (right behind the legendary Singapore Zoo). It’s packed full of a huge variety of animals, has a lot of hands-on exhibits for kids, and is really well maintained.
The best exhibits at the Denver Zoo that you absolutely should not miss are the Tropical Discovery (indoor and HOT and HUMID…feels amazing on cool days), the Asian exhibits featuring the elephants and rhinos, and the primates. These three exhibits are all spread in each corner of the zoo, so plan on getting your 10,000 steps in EARLY! While the zoo is quite large, it’s absolutely possible to visit it all in one day, and the kids will love it.
There are several shows and feedings throughout the day, but the best one is the elephant show, so it’s worth scheduling the rest of your day around it.
We’ve found that the food at the zoo is pretty basic so if you want something special, pack a lunch from home or grab take out before you arrive to eat at one of the picnic areas.
TIP: September and October are the least crowded times to visit and May is typically the most crowded because of school field trips.
#2 Explore The 16th Street Mall
For a true Downtown Denver Experience, head to the 16th Street Mall. The mall is actually a street that’s a giant pedestrian zone with shops and restaurants all along it. In good weather, you’ll find street performers, and in the winter you’ll find the area all decked out for the holidays.
Take advantage of the mall ride busses that are always free and are a great way to get from one end of downtown Denver to the other for FREE.
Make sure to enjoy lunch at one of the 40 sidewalk cafes or grab a quick treat while you stroll. Don’t miss taking the kids to the legendary Tattered Cover Bookstore while you’re in Downtown.
#3 Rockies Game at Coors Field
Located in Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo), you’ll find Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies major league baseball team. With busy MLB schedules it’s easy to find a Rockies game during the spring, summer and fall.
For a super cheap Rockies experience, grab Rockpile tickets at the ticket office the day of the game. Kids tickets are only $1 and adults are just $5. While the seating isn’t great (far into center field), the experience can still be awesome as long as bleacher seats don’t bother you. Go early on game day as tickets do sell out at peak times.
Best of all, Dingers Playground for kids is located just below the Rockpile seating so it’s perfect for restless kids!
#4 Denver Museum of Nature and Science
If you have kids who love science, this is the best place to take them in all of Denver. This museum has captivated my kid’s attention from the time they were toddlers through teens, and everyone learns something new when they visit.
The best exhibit is the space odyssey, which was recently redone with lots of fantastic hands-on activities. Also worth spending lots of time in are the animal dioramas, which are incredibly well done. We love that the museum has a rotating exhibit that changes every few months so there’s always something new to see!
If you have a membership at another ASTC Passport museum, you can get into the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for FREE!
#5 REI Flagship Store + Confluence Park
Yes, the REI Flagship store in Denver is seriously SO FUN for kids and our kids always have a blast when we go. Explore the little trails around outside, try on some new shoes and test them out on the little traction walls, or take them upstairs to the kids playground (yes, REI has a play area just for little kids).
Make sure to pack a picnic lunch and head down to the river to eat on the boulders. In the summer, you can watch kayakers practice their tricks here, which the kids are always fascinated by. Walk up or down river a little to find a calm stretch of sand where everyone can take off their shoes and soak their feet for a bit.
#6 Denver Childrens Museum
The Childrens Museum in Denver is incredibly well done and absolutely worth the visit. Located a little outside of downtown Denver, it’s worth the trek to visit. The water exhibits are always a hit when my kids are toddlers and the kinetics and bubble labs are still engaging for my teen. This is a great childrens museum that the entire family will enjoy.
#7 Tour The Money Museum or Denver Mint
For a really great educational experience, take the kids to the Denver Money Museum or on a tour of the Mint. Both are great places to teach kids about money and your kids will be spouting off all sorts of financial facts after your visit.
Entrance is free, but advanced reservations are required.
NOTE: Both the Money Museum and Mint are temporarily closed due to COVID precautions.
#8 Explore Union Station
Union Station is a stunning building and also the transportation hub of downtown Denver. If you arrive in Denver by train, as we have before, you’ll come here. This is also the place that you’ll want to be for most Lite Rail Connections within Denver.
Instead of just rushing to your train, plan in some extra time to explore the building, lounge in the gorgeous seating, or grab a treat from a cafe. In the summer there’s a splash fountain outside of Union Station that’s perfect for the kids. Around the holidays, Denver’s Union Station is festively decorated and covered in lights. This is the best building to show kids in downtown Denver.
#9 Take A PediCab Tour
Pedicabs are three-wheeled bicycles with baskets on the back for passengers. While you can take one for just a few blocks, the real treat is taking a Pedicab tour. Drivers will give you a narrated tour of Denver complete with pointing out major landmarks, explaining the history, and telling you all about the city. These tours start at just $99 and will pick you up directly from your downtown hotel!
Where To Stay in Downtown Denver With Kids
We’ve stayed several places in Downtown Denver with kids, but none of them have been as good as our recent stay at the Embassy Suites. Located directly across from the Colorado Convention Center (home of the famous Blue Bear), and just 2 blocks from the 16th Street Mall, this hotel is perfect for families.
Offering 2 room suites that sleep 6, a made-to-order breakfast, and a free happy hour with drinks and snacks, we were incredibly impressed by the value that Embassy Suites Downtown Denver provided. Our stay was just after Christmas and cost us $170/night for our family, which is a great value. For the food, location, and service, we think that this is the best place to stay in Denver with kids.
Is Downtown Denver Safe With Kids?
Absolutely! We’ve taken our kids all over downtown Denver and have never felt unsafe. As with all places, use good judgement, and avoid unfamiliar or deserted looking areas at night. We’ve been taking our kids to downtown Denver for over 14 years and have never felt unsafe!
Best Way To Get Around Downtown Denver
Use public tranportation HANDS DOWN! The 16th Street Mall ride buses are free and come every few minutes. That will handle most of your tranportation and lots of things are just a couple of blocks from there. To get places like the museums and zoo, take the RTD bus. We found it’s easiest to get the RTD app and buy an unlimited day pass so we can get a ride ANYWHERE we want.
The RTD app is super user-friendly, and once you activate your ticket purchase, simply show it to the bus driver when you get on. These tickets also work on Lite Rail Trains (just have your app available to show if a conductor asks). We can get to most places in Denver in about 12-20 minutes using public transportation.
Parking In Downtown Denver
There are parking lots on almost every block. The closer you are to 16th street or the convention center, the more expensive parking is. Many places charge $10/hour during the day, but also only $10 for an entire evening. For cheap downtown Denver parking during the day, park north of 21st where the cheaper parking lots start popping up. It’s a bit of a walk into downtown, but it can save you lots of money!