Budget-Friendly Family Fun in Denver

February 14, 2013

Photo by mhanson, via Flickr

There are tons of reasons Denver is a great place to raise a family: the casual kid-friendly dining, sixty degree days in mid-January, and a collective love for the great outdoors. Best of all, there are loads of child-friendly establishments – which means family fun never has to break the piggy bank. Grab your kids, and explore a few of these local gems.

Be a Joiner:
Sure, I could list the free days at the Children’s Museum, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Art Museum, and the Denver Botanic Gardens, but who wants to go to a museum when there are a billion other people roaming the halls?

If you’re a museum-frequenting family, pick your favorite museum (or two), and buy a yearly family membership.  Each of the above mentioned organizations is a nonprofit, which means your membership fee is tax-deductible.

While it may not seem to be as kid-friendly as the Children’s Museum, the DAM’s super cheap family membership ($70 annually) won me over years ago. You’d be shocked at how many kid-friendly activities and constantly changing exhibits this art museum offers.

For tots, there’s Totspot Sundays every second Sunday beginning February 10. Preschoolers (ages 3-5) can participate in free “Create Playdates” every second Wednesday (10-1). And, over spring break, the 18 and under crowd is granted free admission for special activities designed for school-aged kids.

Out to Sea:
Sharkey’s Fun Zone, a free indoor play area hidden inside the Denver Aquarium, is packed with colorful, humongous sea creatures – a perfect place for your baby or toddler to explore on a cold or rainy day.

Feed the Animals:
If your kiddos are 13 or older, consider the Teen Volunteer Program at the Denver Zoo. Not only will your kids get primo access to the premises, they’ll also cultivate valuable life skills while getting philanthropic experience (great for the soul and all those college applications).

Book It:
Between Book Babies, Story and Craftimes, and the “After School is Cool” clubs, there’s no shortage of free fun to be had at your local public library. Consult the Denver Public Library online schedule for events in your neck of the woods. The Bookies’ staff holds a free story time every Tuesday at 10:30.

On Thursdays at 11, the Right Start in Cherry Creek puts on a “Very Hungry Caterpillar” story time. Barnes & Noble Glendale has monthly readings for young book lovers too. And, the whole family will enjoy Musical Family Fridays (6:30 p.m., last Friday of each month) at the Tattered Cover Bookstore.

Shop Around:
Most organizations that host children’s’ programs will let you try a class for free before committing. If yoga’s your thing, try Belly Bliss, Mudra, and ONE Yoga  for parent/child classes and Karma for big kid classes.

Need to expel some energy on a cold or rainy day? Both Great Play of Cherry Creek and Gymboree offer a free class for first-timers.

Culinary Kids:
The Tamarac Turnips cook up something every 4th Saturday at the Tamarac Whole Foods. Classes are free and designed for children 3 and up (although, all are welcome). There’s also a kids club at the Capitol Hill Whole Foods.

All Aboard:
With its meandering creek, full-scale petting zoo, picnic perfect pavilions, and summer-time train rides, Belleview Park is a true gem. For a fun-filled morning or afternoon, all you’ll need is a little pocket change.

Public Transit:
Youngsters love public transportation. You’ll have loads of fun on the Light Rail as you watch the city pass by beneath and observe fellow travelers – and a round-trip ticket will only set you back a few bucks.

This post was written by Jamie Siebrase, a Denver-based freelance writer and JD who specializes in parenting, homes and lifestyles, and local events. She writes a column for the Washington Park Profile, and maintains Spilled Milk: A blog for moms of all ages, stages, and genders.

(Would you like to write a guest post for The Dime? Email us at dimecontact@copera.org.)

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