Colorado: Denver, Family Vacation Ideas -History, Art, and Theatre. The awesome Rocky Mountains guard the city providing an ever changing mountain views throughout the city. The tenth largest downtown in the U.S. is distinctly urban, delightfully natural and ready for families. It is a destination with a spectacular mile-long pedestrian promenade at its heart and miles of bike paths to be enjoyed. History, art and theatre thrive in Denver providing families with oodles of options for vacation fun; for families, the city rocks.
Get in touch with your artistic side. The Denver Art Museum is known for its collection of Western and regional works, including Frederic Remington’s bronze “The Cheyenne”, Charles Russell’s painting “In the Enemy’s Country,” works by Georgia O’Keeffe and 19th century photography. Other exhibits of note include the American Indian collection, spanning 2,000 years of American Indian art, collections including architecture and design, and art from around the world. Bonus: Admittence to the museum is free on the first Saturday of every month, as well as on Dia del Niño in April and on the day of Friendship Powow in September. A variety of child and family-focused programs are offered regularly, and children under the age of 12 are admitted free of charge. Also an in-depth tour of a different area of the museum is offered each Wednesday and Friday at noon and 1pm. (100 W. 14th Avenue 1(720) 865-5000 or www.denverartmuseum.org)
Count some coins. The Denver Mint, one of four mints in the entire United States, is one of two which allows visitors to view the actual process by which lumps of metal become shiny new coins. The Denver Mint mints billions of coins each year – the guided tour through the visitor’s gallery allows guests to get a birds’ eye view of the entire minting process, and displays explain the mechanics of minting. Need to know: Due to increased security concerns, interested parties must contact their congressional representative at least three weeks in advance to arrange for a tour, www.senate.gov or www.house.gov. (320 W. Colfax Avenue 1(303) 405-4757 or www.usmint.gov)
Know your history. The Colorado History Museum “Colorado Chronicle” exhibit spans from 1800 through 1949 using biographical plaques and an astounding collection of photographs, news clippings and paraphernalia which beautifully illustrate Colorado’s colorful past. Aside from the “Colorado Chronicle” exhibit, dozens of dioramas portray important episodes in state history, and a new exhibit entitled “Ancient Voices” is dedicated entirely to Colorado’s native tribes and their unique individual and shared histories. (1300 Broadway. 1(303) 866-3682 or www.coloradohistory.org)
Ride ‘em cowboys. The Black American West Museum & Heritage Center chronicles the little known history of black cowboys (one-third of all cowboys in the Old West) along with the contributions of black doctors, teachers, miners, farmers, newspaper reporters and state legislators through photographs, newspaper clippings and personal narratives. The museum is located in the Victoria-era home of Dr. Justina “Lady Doctor” Ford, the first black woman licensed to practice medicine in Denver. (3091 California Street. 1(303) 292-2566 or www.blackamericanwest.org)
Log some hours. The oldest log home still standing in Denver was built in 1859, and visitors to the log home today can get a glimpse of life in the 1850s-1880s all in Four Mile Historic Park. Everything in the home is authentic to the time period including the furnishing, outbuilding and farm equipment. Seasonally, “Heritage Events” feature pioneer-area musicians and craft demonstrations and food; big events include the Fourth of July and an outdoor theatre series. Bonus: In fair weather visitors can enjoy weekend horse-drawn carriage rides. (715 S. Forest Street. 1(303) 399-1859 or www.fourmilepark.org)
Take a break at the lake. The Lakewood Heritage Center at Belmar Park preserves the story of many of Denver’s early, wealthier residents. The historic village includes a 1870s farmhouse, a 1920s one-room school, a 1950s variety story and the Barn Gallery. Exhibits help visitors explore the people and places of Lakewood and feature antique and vintage farm machinery, self-guided history walks through the 127-acre park, and rotating art exhibits. Bonus: Also located at the Lakewood Heritage Center are an amphitheatre and festival area which hosts a summer concert series as well as seasonal fairs and celebrations. (801 S. Yarrow Boulevard. 1(303) 987-7850 or www.lakewood.org/Culture/heritagecenter.cfm)
Some things come in small packages. Tiny Town & Railroad, built in 1915 at the site of a Denver-Leadville stagecoach stop, is a one-sixth scale Western village. Consisting of 100 colorful buildings and even a steam-powered locomotive which visitors can ride, Tiny Town is a creative way to experience history. (6249 Turkey Creek Road, Tiny Town 1(303) 697-6829 or www.tinytownrailroad.com)
Indulge in child’s play. Denver’s best hands-on kid experience can be found at the Children’s Museum of Denver. Specifically focused on entertaining and educating children the museum uses “playscapes”, such as Fire Station No. 1, and a faux supermarket which allows kids to be both shoppers and clerks. Other playscapes run the gambit from biology to engineering. (2121 Children’s Museum Drive 1(303) 433-744 or www.cmdenver.org)
Text researched and created by Travel Communications Inc. Images provided by Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau.The Colorado History Museum photo by Stan Obert. Copyright 2009.