Exploring Northern Colorado on Family Day Trips


From exploring Rocky Mountain National Park with the kids to educational museum visits in Fort Collins and everything in between, Northern Colorado has something to delight travelers of all ages. This article will highlight the best family-friendly activities and attractions across Northern Colorado to help you plan your perfect family getaway. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, hands-on learning, or just plain fun, Northern Colorado has it all.


  • Northern Colorado offers families endless outdoor adventure options in stunning natural settings, such as Rocky Mountain National Park, Pearl Lake State Park, the Great Sand Dunes, and more.
  • The region offers immersive historical and cultural attractions like the Ute Mountain Tribal Park, Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine, and a variety of engaging museums to educate kids.
  • Quirky activities like feeding giraffes at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, dining in an antique airplane, and playing miniature golf offer families unique and memorable experiences.
  • Practical tips, specialized tour companies, and eco-friendly recommendations help families plan their Northern Colorado adventure.

Overview of Family Day Trips in Northern Colorado

Northern Colorado encompasses a diverse landscape, from the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the eastern plains, providing families with tremendous variety for outdoor exploration. Signature destinations like Rocky Mountain National Park, Red Rocks Park, and Mesa Verde National Park offer hiking trails, wildlife viewing, ranger-led programs, and junior ranger activities perfect for kids. State parks like Pearl Lake, Steamboat Lake, Eldorado Canyon, and Golden Gate Canyon cater to families with campgrounds, fishing, boating, climbing, and interpretive programs.

Urban hubs like Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins also entice families with world-class zoos, hands-on children’s museums, aquariums, and science museums to engage budding young minds. The Denver Botanic Gardens is a popular destination for young and old alike.

Quirky activities like giraffe feeding, gold mine tours, scenic railways, dinner theater shows, and miniature golf combine education with whimsical family fun. Northern Colorado truly offers families the best of all worlds when it comes to day trips. A visit to the Colorado Model Railroad Museum is another activity that brings out the kid in everyone.

Local Experiences and Culture

While outdoor recreation opportunities abound, Northern Colorado also provides families with authentic local experiences to discover regional history, culture, arts, and traditions. Historical sites like the Ute Mountain Tribal Park and Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine transport visitors back to Native American and frontier mining eras with tours, gold panning, museums, and living history demonstrations. In urban centers like Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins, specialized tour companies like Denver Microbrews and Old Town Food Tours mix education with family fun through behind-the-scenes looks at local culinary and craft scenes.

Various ranches and cultural centers offer glimpses into Western heritage with horseback riding, chuck wagon dinners, and Native American dance performances. The unique National Museum of World War II Aviation in Colorado Springs educates families on the war’s impacts and Colorado’s contributions through historic aircraft, vehicles, memorabilia, and oral histories. From edible and adventure tours to frontier living history, families can experience Northern Colorado’s rich culture and traditions up close.

Outdoor Adventures

Of course, Northern Colorado’s biggest draw for families is the wealth of outdoor recreation readily available across the region’s diverse landscapes. Rocky Mountain National Park offers over 300 miles of hiking trails, scenic drives, ranger-led programs, horseback riding, and abundant wildlife like elk, bighorn sheep and marmots to delight kids of all ages. Adventure companies like Adventures Out West provide specialized guided tours in Rocky Mountain tailored specifically to families.

State parks like Pearl Lake, Steamboat Lake, Eldorado Canyo, and Golden Gate Canyon cater to families with hiking, rock climbing, camping, boating, fishing, and interpretive programs led by knowledgeable rangers. Sandboarding and sledding the towering dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park thrill kids while scenic drives like Mount Evans Byway, Trail Ridge Road, and Last Dollar Road dazzle with mountain vistas. Northern Colorado’s outdoors offers families adventure, education, and awe-inspiring nature.

Historical and Educational Attractions

Beyond outdoor recreation, Northern Colorado also provides families ample opportunities to soak up history and culture at an array of educational attractions. In Colorado Springs, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center, and Western Museum of Mining and Industry engage kids with interactive exhibits and activities. Hands-on children’s museums like the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, Exploration Place in Canon City, and Mountaintop Children’s Museum in Frisco encourage learning through play and exploration.

Narrow gauge railways like the Georgetown Loop Railroad, Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad, and Royal Gorge Route Railroad delight train-loving kids while providing glimpses of Colorado’s railroad history. Dinosaur Ridge is another popular place for kids to learn and explore. From prehistoric animals to mining heritage, trains to hands-on scientific exploration, families can spark kids’ imaginations while imparting history and culture.

Planning Your Family Trip

Planning a family trip to Northern Colorado may seem daunting, given the tremendous variety of attractions and activities spread across the expansive region. Families can maximize their time by choosing a home base in Denver, Boulder, or Fort Collins and then planning a day trip or two to surrounding areas. Tour companies like Colorado Sightseer offer guided tours that hit top attractions like Rocky Mountain National Park and the Denver Zoo, which are tailored specifically for families.

The best times to visit are June through August when the mountain passes are free of snow, and school is out. Family-friendly festivals also abound in the summer, such as the Colorado Renaissance Festival and Rocky Mountain Folks Festival. Traveling by car allows flexibility to hit multiple destinations, while the convenient airport hub in Denver allows easy access. Eco-friendly practices like staying in LEED-certified hotels, carrying reusable water bottles, and being respectful of all wildlife and nature preserve Northern Colorado’s diverse landscapes.

Unique Family Experiences

Beyond the well-known national parks and outdoor attractions, Northern Colorado also brims with an array of quirky, only-here experiences perfect for adventurous families. At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs, kids can hand-feed towering giraffes, an unforgettable up-close wildlife encounter. Miniature golf courses, like Colorado Springs’ Adventures in A-Bay, immerse kids in creative settings, from pirates to aliens to dinosaurs.

The Airplane Restaurant in Colorado Springs provides families with a novelty dining experience inside a retired Boeing KC-97 tanker. In southwestern Colorado, the Dinosaur Journey Museum brings to life the region’s rich paleontological history with dinosaur bone bed tours, fossil casting, and hands-on exhibits. From dining in a plane to digging for dinosaurs, these off-the-beaten-path attractions promise families unique memories.


What are the best family-friendly hiking trails in Northern Colorado?

Some top family-friendly hiking trails include Alberta Falls and Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Colorado Trail in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and the trails around Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. These offer manageable distances and elevations for kids, along with gorgeous scenery.

What is there to do on a rainy day in Northern Colorado with kids?

On rainy days, visit top museums like the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery, the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, or the Butterfly Pavilion. Colorado Railroad Museum and the Georgetown Loop Railroad also offer covered train rides.

What are the best places for families to go camping in Northern Colorado?

Great family camping spots include Elk Meadow and Moraine Park in Rocky Mountain National Park and campgrounds in Mueller, Hermit Park, and Steamboat Lake State Parks. These offer kid-friendly amenities, natural beauty, and outdoor activities.

Are there any amusement parks suitable for families in Northern Colorado?

While there are no major amusement parks, smaller family-oriented parks like Water World in Federal Heights, Tiny Town in Morrison, and Lakeside Amusement Park in Lakeside provide rides, attractions, and entertainment that are perfect for families with a more local vibe.

What tours do you recommend for families wanting to maximize their time?

Reputable tour companies like Adventures Out West, Colorado Sightseer Tours, and Rocky Mountain Rush offer specialized guided tours to top family-friendly attractions tailored to families wanting to maximize their experience. These tours eliminate planning headaches.

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About the author

Simone Weisman

My deep appreciation for nature and active living strongly aligns with the vibrant outdoor culture of Colorado. My enjoyment of yoga, hiking, and exploring scenic trails provides me with a unique perspective that I bring to ReadyColorado.com. This personal passion enriches my ability to connect with and inspire our audience, whether they’re local residents or visitors seeking to explore all that Colorado has to offer.