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Budget is a big concern these days with most families that have kids, but if you’re in Colorado, you’re in luck, as this state offers nearly an endless list of cheap fun things to do, including these.
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Explore the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center, Broomfield
The Butterfly Pavilion is located just 15 minutes from downtown Denver and offers the chance to walk through a 7,000-square-foot tropical rainforest conservatory filled with about 1,200 free-flying butterflies from around the world. The facility also hosts hundreds of different plants, birds, turtles, frogs and fish, all of which are sure to fascinate the kids. The Crawl-A-See-‘Em houses unique arthropods too, like scorpions, walking sticks, tarantulas and giant millipedes. There’s also a touch tank that’s home to marine invertebrates, and an interactive display where humans are bug-sized and the bugs look like giant creatures. That’s a lot to see for a low admission price – kids 2 through 12 are $7, and adults pay $11.
Take the U.S. Mint Tour, Denver
The Denver U.S. Mint produces more than 50 million coins every year. While very young ones may not appreciate it, kids over the age of 5 or so are usually mesmerized by the gigantic machines that count, sort and bag the coins, and the huge stacks of hundred dollar bills. A behind-the-scenes tour details the history of money and the coin-stamping process, and you’ll also get to see America’s second-largest deposit of solid-gold bullion, after Fort Knox in Kentucky. But the best part? It’s all free!
Visit the Denver Children's Museum
If you’re kids need to work off a lot of energy, head to the Children’s Museum of Denver. If you’re a member it’s free, and you can often find coupons off the regular admission price of $13 a person for those aged 2 through 59. The little ones can play on the three-and-a-half-story climber, step inside a 6-foot bubble, sculpt a clay masterpiece or power a hot balloon. They can also learn important life lessons, like shopping at the child-sized grocery market or building in the construction workshop. At the Big Backyard, they can put on a costume and see the world through the eyes of their favorite backyard animal or insect. Joy Park offers a zip line, a sand pile for digging, the chance to build a fort using large swaths of fabric and stacking blocks, and more.
Experience the Denver Botanic Gardens
The Denver Botanic Gardens features 15,000 species of plants from around the world, including over 700 types that are native to Colorado. Located in downtown Denver’s Cheesman Park, visitors can enjoy everything from a traditional Japanese Garden with bonsai trees to the exotic plants like calla lilies and red hot pokers that bloom at the South African Plaza. While many kids enjoy seeing the various plants and flowers, the highlight for them is the Mordecai Children’s Garden, where they’ll get to play and enjoy hands-on experiences using a variety of natural materials in the garden, allowing them to use their imagination and create their own connections with plants.
Catch a Fish at Trout Haven Ranch Trout Pond, Estes Park
If your kids have never fished but want to try it, take them to Trout Haven Ranch Trout Pond in Estes Park, less than an hour’s drive from Denver, and an ideal first-time fishing experience. It’s open all year round and is fun for the whole family – plus, there’s no license needed and you pay just $1.25 an inch for what you catch. Rod rentals, fish cleaning packing, freezing and storing is available too.
Ride For Cheap at Lakeside Amusement Park, Denver
This old-school amusement park has been called the best of its kind west of the Mississippi an offers the chance to enjoy an inexpensive evening of rides, like an old-fashioned wooden roller coaster, bumper cards, a merry-go-round, all sorts of spinning rides and a miniature steam-engine train. Plus, Kiddies’ Playland is filled with rides just for the little ones. Admission is only $3, and you can even bring in your own picnic.
Go Underground at Cave of the Winds, Manitou Springs
Cave of the Winds in Manitou Springs, a short drive east of Colorado Springs, offers the chance to go underground, exploring more than two miles of limestone passageways on well-lit tours through the cave’s twists and turns. This historic natural landmark is filled with impressive formations, and the Discovery Tour is a family-friendly 45-minute tour that’s perfect for those with kids. It also hosts the Wind Walker Challenge Course, safe and open to all ages who can navigate a maze of steel beams, swinging ropes and ladders.
Visit Santa at the North Pole Year-Round, Cascade
You probably never knew you could actually visit Santa in the summer, but at the North Pole Home of Santa’s Workshop in Cascade, east of Colorado Springs, you can do just that. It’s open from mid-May through Christmas Eve and includes visits with the man himself, a Candy Cane roller coast and over 20 other rides, magic shows, and more.
Splash around at Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa, Hot Sulphur Springs
Who doesn’t like hot springs? While spas aren’t exactly a popular spot to bring the kids, at Hot Sulphur Springs Resort and Spa, just west of Rocky Mountain National Park, all of the lower pools are designated for children, while the upper pools are only for the adults. Arguably the best one for kids is the covered Caribou therapy pool – it’s large enough to paddle around so the kids can have fun splashing around, plus if you go during the winter, the canvas walls block out the wind to prevent an icy chill.