Top Fun Family Day Trips in Southern Colorado for All Ages


Southern Colorado is a vibrant region bursting with family-friendly attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. From exploring ancient cliff dwellings and gold rush towns to hiking through stunning national parks and embarking on whitewater rafting adventures, this area promises no shortage of memorable experiences for families.

With colorful history and culture, incredible natural landscapes, and four distinct seasons offering changing sights and activities, Southern Colorado entices families to return again and again. Read on for an in-depth guide to planning your own family day trip or vacation to this remarkable destination.


  • Southern Colorado offers a huge variety of family-friendly outdoor adventures, historical sites, kid-focused museums, seasonal activities, and more.
  • Must-see attractions include Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods, as well as the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo and the North Pole theme park.
  • Tips are provided for creating fun family itineraries, dining options, places to stay, and when to visit.

Overview of Key Attractions and Activities

From Colorado Springs and Canon City to Salida and Pagosa Springs, fun awaits families around every corner of Southern Colorado. Though most renowned for outdoor recreation, the region also contains incredible history, culture, and entertainment the whole family can appreciate.

Scenic Sites

Several national parks and monuments allow families to take in dramatic natural landscapes. Pikes Peak offers stunning mountain scenery with a cog railway to its 14,115-foot summit. Great Sand Dunes National Park contains North America’s tallest sand dunes, with opportunities for sledding and sandboarding. Mesa Verde National Park is home to over 4,000 ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings to explore.

Outdoor Adventure

The Arkansas River provides mild rapids perfect for family whitewater rafting, while numerous hiking trails cater to all ability levels. Camping spots abound in state and national parks and forests, allowing families to sleep under the stars. Anglers can cast lines for trout in cold mountain streams while bikers pedal along scenic bike paths.

Kid-Focused Attractions

The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, ranked #1 in the U.S., offers animal encounters and a chairlift ride with panoramic views. It showcases over 150 exotic and domestic animals in naturalistic habitats, allowing kids to get up close with creatures like camels, wolves, and lemurs. The North Pole theme park brings Christmas magic year-round with rides, shows, and Santa himself.

Families can enjoy a day of relaxation and fun at some of the many hot springs in Colorado, like Pagosa Springs, Glenwood Springs, and Idaho Springs. Look for resorts with special attractions for kids and families.

Historical Sites

Families can step back in time exploring Southern Colorado’s Wild West towns and ancient Puebloan ruins. In Cañon City, the Museum of Colorado Prisons sheds light on the state’s prison history. Victor and Cripple Creek give a glimpse into Colorado’s 19th-century Gold Rush era.

Local Experiences and Culture

Beyond the well-known attractions, families visiting Southern Colorado can gain one-of-a-kind experiences engaging with local culture.

Festivals and Events

From hot air balloon festivals to chili cook-offs to rodeos, annual events infuse communities with tradition and pride. The Colorado Renaissance Festival transports attendees to a 16th-century village with jousting, music, and merriment. County fairs and cultural festivals celebrate everything from palomino horses to Basque culture.

Educational Experiences

Living history demonstrations bring the Old West to life through blacksmithing, quilting, and candle making. Families can try gold panning and interact with reenactors portraying historical figures. Local Native American tribes also share their heritage through cultural centers, festivals, arts, and storytelling.

Cuisine and Crafts

Southern Colorado cuisine reflects the cultures that blended together throughout its history. Green chile, a flavorful pepper, often makes its way into stews, sandwiches, burgers, and even desserts! Local wineries allow families to sample wines while kids enjoy grape juices. Handmade crafts like pottery, jewelry, quilts, and more can be found at local shops and markets.

Outdoor Adventures for Families

With boundless blue skies and vibrant landscapes, Southern Colorado entices families outdoors to hike, bike, raft, and more. These adventures not only provide exercise but also forge lasting memories.

Hiking and Camping

An abundance of family-friendly trails cater to all abilities, many leading to stunning waterfalls, mountain vistas, and geological oddities like the Paint Mines or Garden of the Gods. Well-marked paths and helpful park rangers make hiking manageable, even for tiny trekkers. Campgrounds throughout Southern Colorado’s parks and forests allow families to sleep under the stars after full days of adventure.

Water Sports

While whitewater rafting on the frothy Arkansas River thrills adventure seekers, smooth stretches allow beginners and kids to test the waters. At Eleven Mile and Spinney Mountain State Parks, families can boat, paddleboard, kayak, and fish on calm waters. Great Sand Dunes National Park offers the unique chance to sled, sandboard, and splash in Medano Creek.

Wildlife Watching

Southern Colorado provides families ample opportunities to spot diverse wildlife in their natural habitats. Deer, elk, bighorn sheep, black bears, and over 200 bird species call state and national parks home. At the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, kids can safely view exotic animals from across the globe to learn about conservation.

Seasonal Activities for Families

One of Southern Colorado’s biggest draws is the variety of sights and activities each season brings. Families can enjoy entirely different experiences in summer compared to winter or fall.

Summer Fun

Mild weather and long days lend themselves to outdoor adventures like hiking, biking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting. Rodeos, county fairs, hot air balloon festivals, and farmers markets celebrate community and culture. Splashing in water parks and municipal pools offers stays cool close to home.

Winter Wonderland

Blanketed in snow, Southern Colorado transforms into a true winter wonderland. Families can tube, ski, and snowboard down beginner-friendly hills specially designed for kids. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing provide fresh air and exercise minus the steep slopes. Holiday light displays, ice skating, and Christmas-themed events spread seasonal cheer.

Fall Foliage

Autumn paints aspen groves and mountainsides with vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds. Scenic drives like the Gold Belt and Silver Thread Byways allow families to soak in the changing colors. Fall festivals highlight harvest traditions, and pumpkin patches tempt kids to pick their perfect gourds. Cooler weather welcomes back opportunities for hiking and biking.

Spring Adventures

Mild temperatures and wildflower blooms signal the start of spring. Whitewater rafting ramps up as snowmelt swells rivers. Easter egg hunts, kite flying, and May Day celebrations give families reasons to enjoy the outdoors. Spring break road trips can incorporate stops at state parks and family-friendly attractions.

Educational Trips for Kids

Beyond pure fun, family vacations present opportunities for children’s growth through educational travel experiences. Southern Colorado offers many kid-focused sites and programs to supplement school lessons. An interactive exhibit at a nature center can both entertain and educate people of all ages, making them more aware of the fragile ecosystems found in nature. For example, the San Juan Mountains Association Durango Nature Center in Southwest Colorado offers tours, picnic areas, guided hikes, and star parties.

Historical Sites

From ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings to Wild West towns, Southern Colorado brings history alive. Kids can imagine themselves as Native American children centuries ago while exploring Mesa Verde National Park. In old mining towns like Victor and Cripple Creek, families step back into Colorado’s Gold Rush era panning for riches.


Both traditional and uniquely-themed museums engage kids through hands-on exhibits and activities. The Museum of Colorado Prisons utilizes equipment like a gas chamber to shed light on corrections history. At the CM Zoo, kids become zookeepers-in-training, learning how to care for a menagerie of animals.

National Parks

Rangers at Colorado’s National Parks run educational programs to help kids appreciate nature. Great Sand Dunes offers regular lessons in geology and ecology. Mesa Verde provides Native American history. At any park, kids can become Junior Rangers by completing activity booklets.

Family-Friendly Dining

After action-packed days exploring Southern Colorado, families can refuel at restaurants catering to kids’ tastes and parents’ sanity. These dining spots understand and accommodate the needs of little ones.

Kid-Friendly Fare

Families can count on kid-pleasing menu items at family-friendly eateries like mac ‘n cheese, chicken fingers, grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, and burgers. Servers understand the chaos kids can cause, taking spills and noise in stride. Recognizing kids perform best fueled on wholesome foods, many family restaurants include nutritious dishes like fresh salads, rice bowls, and grilled chicken. Parents appreciate these lighter options integrated among the usual fried favorites.


Some restaurants incorporate entertainment like animatronic animals, model trains, and arcade games to keep kids occupied throughout the meal. Others feature sizable outdoor play areas with playground equipment, allowing children to burn energy.

Family-Friendly Lodging and Staycation Ideas

Families need accommodations that cater to their unique needs with kids in tow. Southern Colorado offers a spectrum of family-friendly lodging options and ideas for memorable staycations.

Resorts and Vacation Rentals

All-inclusive resorts provide perfect bases for families with on-site amenities like pools, games, organized activities, and dining. Condo rentals and cabin retreats allow families to settle in with multiple bedrooms, kitchens, and comfortable gathering areas. Both offer homey amenities that are optimal for multi-day stays.

Family-Friendly Hotels

Hotels provide family suites with kid-sized beds, microwaves, refrigerators, and sometimes waterslides or pools for overnight trips. Many offer cribs, high chairs, baby-proofing features, and even child activity packs. Coin-operated laundry facilities help families clean up after messy adventures.

Local Staycations

Families can create memorable “vacations” without leaving town by experiencing Southern Colorado’s many attractions. Staycations based in Colorado Springs could incorporate trips to Cave of the Winds, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, the North Pole, Seven Falls, and more over several activity-packed days.

Planning Your Family Trip

Strategic planning helps prepare families for smooth, enjoyable vacations in Southern Colorado. These tips aim to ease logistics so parents and children can relish their time together.

Crafting an Itinerary

The region offers far more activities than any one trip allows. Prioritize must-see sites and build around a major attraction or activity theme each day. Factor in downtime plus flexibility for the unexpected. Include kids when planning to get them invested. Consider adding unstructured time for kids to play at a city park and enjoy a picnic.

Packing Essentials

Prepare for diverse weather across seasons and altitudes. Layer clothing for temperature fluctuations. Remember to wear sunscreen and sun protection, including hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Pack closed-toed shoes for hiking and sandals for water play. Carry rain gear in shoulder months. Refillable water bottles help families stay hydrated.

Transportation Considerations

Depending on their home base, families may need a car to access top sites. Prepare entertainment like tablets, books, and snacks to survive long drives. Carefully assess the child’s height, weight, maturity, and legal requirements before allowing them to ride attractions. Strollers and baby carriers cater to tiny travelers.


Where are the best places to go camping with kids in Southern Colorado?

Great family camping spots include Mueller State Park, Eleven Mile State Park, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, and the San Isabel National Forest. Each offers hiking trails, fishing, and ranger-led educational programs.

What is there to do with toddlers and preschoolers?

Excellent activities for little kids include the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, CM Zoo, North Pole theme park, splash pads and wading pools, short easy hikes, Pikes Peak Cog Railway (with an adult), and hands-on museums like the Space Foundation Discovery Center.

Are there any amusement parks suitable for families?

Though no massive theme parks exist in Southern Colorado, smaller venues like the Santa’s Workshop at North Pole theme park, Cave of the Winds’ “Terror-Dactyl” ride, and Royal Gorge Bridge’s new Via Ferrata offer amusement park-style thrills on a smaller scale suitable for families.

What family-friendly events happen in the fall?

Top autumn events range from fall festivals and Halloween celebrations to harvest traditions and holiday bazaars. Favorite picks include the Colorado Renaissance Festival, the Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade, Dia de los Muertos festivities, the Festival of Lights parade, and the Southern Colorado Farmer’s Market Harvest Festival.

Are there any family-friendly dude ranches?

Several all-inclusive dude and guest ranches cater to families and offer horseback riding, hiking, fishing, campfires, kids’ programs, and entertainment. Some top options include 4UR Ranch and Majestic Dude Ranch.


About the author

Ransom Patterson

My expertise in Colorado life extends beyond just residing here; it’s also about living actively within the community. I spend my time cycling through Denver’s trails, experimenting with local cuisines, and immersing myself in the local music scene. These activities give me a unique perspective on the cultural and outdoor offerings of Colorado. This hands-on approach allows me to provide insider tips and personal recommendations that resonate with both locals and visitors alike.