Bucketlist Places to Visit in Colorado was written by Casandra Karpiak and originally appeared on Karpiak Caravan. Casandra is the founder of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel and a mother to two adventurous young boys. Casandra is a family-focused adventure travel advocate. A Toronto native with Danish roots, she became an avid traveler after her first trip to Europe as a college student. Casandra's goal is to provide an educational experience for her family when she travels. It has been republished with permission. Please note that contributing opinions are that of the author. They are not always in strict alignment with our own opinions.
Colorado is one of the most beautiful states in America. From alpine lakes to hot springs, mining towns, and mountain resorts; there’s an endless variety of places to visit in Colorado.
With the breathtaking views on top of famous mountains, national parks full of hiking trails, or even skiing areas for those who want some fresh air after all that adventure, these places to visit in Colorado will not disappoint.
The state of Colorado has many vacation options, whether you plan to visit in the summer or winter. With so many fun activities for all ages, planning a vacation in Colorado is an easy decision.
Here you’ll find the best places to visit in Colorado, like exploring the city of Denver and doing fun things like going sledding, exploring the best National Parks, or climbing the Rocky Mountains.
Best Places to Visit in Colorado
Colorado is an outdoor lover’s dream destination with many national parks to visit for a hike or some rock climbing, but that’s not all the state has to offer. There are also many fun indoor activities and cultural sites that focus on the state’s Western heritage.
Dinosaur National Monument Park
As the name suggests, this park is a great place to visit for dino lovers. The good news is that it is a fun and educational trip that will keep kids entertained for hours regardless of their interests in the pre-historic creatures. Furthermore, entry is free for children under 15 years.
Dinosaur National Monument Park is overflowing with the life of yesteryear. There are over 1,500 dinosaur fossils still embedded in the park rocks. There are eleven species of dinosaurs on display that you can not only see but feel too. Don’t forget to walk the Fossil Discovery Trail for more hidden fossil finds.
The park is enormous and doesn’t only focus on dinosaurs. It also has a few other activities like white-water rafting, hiking, and mountain biking. At night, the sky is almost as bright as day because there is no light pollution from nearby towns or cities. Park rangers and astronomer volunteers lead nighttime events held regularly.
Colorado Springs is a fun destination for a family vacation in Colorado in summer and winter. It is rich in Western history, culture, and beautiful natural landscapes. You would need to stay in Colorado Springs for a few days to enjoy all it has to offer and there is no better place to stay than at The Broadmoor Hotel.
Colorado Springs has a few great options for families on a budget, with most parks and attractions for nature lovers being completely free. For travelers interested in culture, there are also a few must-see spots. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings, the North Pole Colorado Santa’s Workshop, and the National Museum of World War II Aviation come to mind as places both kids and adults will enjoy.
Explore the underground caverns of Colorado at Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs. Two unique tours investigate the caves’ history and geology. The Discovery Tour is great for the whole family, while older kids may find the Haunted Lantern Tour more to their liking.
Garden of the Gods
This park has some of the most beautiful scenery in Colorado. It’s a National Natural Landmark and features stunning geological formations, rock climbing opportunities for all levels from beginner to expert, nature trails that lead you through remarkable sandstone outcrops with amazing views of Pikes Peak on top – not forgetting its historic sites too.
The historic Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site placed on the list for historic places in 1971 makes this location all more special with its living history museum – you’ll feel like you’re back in time when life was simpler.
Guided nature walks and mountain biking trails will bring you through the gorgeous surroundings of this land. There are also horseback riding opportunities and hiking trails along paved paths as well unpaved ones making whichever option suits your fancy best. For the easiest footpaths to the rock formations, start at the main parking lot and take the concrete paths.
For those who wish to admire this iconic landmark in Colorado, there is a road that will bring you around the landmark so you can appreciate it from your car.
Since you’re in the area, why not book an Airbnb in Aspen, Colorado, and stay awhile. Aspen is especially popular among visitors during winter and with good reason. Both you and the kids will love the city’s four snowy mountains in winter.
Aspen Snowmass is the go-to resort for skiers and winter outdoor recreation. The terrain is excellent for experienced and novice skiers alike. While Aspen is a trendy destination in winter, it can also make for some of Colorado’s best family summer vacations. There are plenty of activities like horseback riding, music festivals, art shows, and hiking trails when the snow melts.
Hike Maroon Bells
A popular hiking trail is in the Maroon Bells. Its lush surroundings, crystal clear lake, and towering peaks look like a live painting. Six hiking trails open when the snow melts from late fall to late spring. If you’d like to stay longer, they also have on-site camping grounds.
Hammonds’ Candy Factory Tour
If you’re looking for free things to do in Denver with the kids, then this candy factory is the place to be. The 30-minute tours are free from Mondays to Saturdays with a reservation.
Here, sweet-tooths have the opportunity to see how candy has been made and continually packaged in this factory for over 100 years. The hand-pulling technique used in the factory today is the same pulling and shaping methods of the 1920s, and you’ll get to see it in action first-hand.
After the tour, guests each receive a free candy cane as a treat. Then, you can browse through the many treats available on sale, like the classic toffee to the more adventurous ‘Pigs ‘n Taters’. This sweet treat is Oprah’s favorite treat from the factory and is a mix of chocolate, crispy kosher bacon bits, and potato chips.
Rainbow Trout Dude Ranch
Set in the mountains not too far from the New Mexico border, this 5-star ranch is a once-in-a-lifetime family getaway. Owned by Doug and Linda Van Berkum, Rainbow Trout Ranch offers a full-service ranch experience with horse-riding, fishing, hiking, and white-water rafting. Not to mention a kids club, and entertainment every night.
Horse-riding and hacks up into the hills are a big part of life on Rainbow Trout Ranch. You will learn how to saddle a horse, how to ride, and then adventure out on the trails for an all-day ride. And don’t worry, there are plenty of cowboy boots to borrow at the ranch – so there’s no need to purchase any special equipment. For avid fishing enthusiasts, the river running through the ranch offers spectacular fly-fishing opportunities.
The main lodge serves as a central meeting place, dining area, reception, and shop. Accommodations are beautiful log cabins set along the valley. While the setting is rustic, the rooms, dining, and customer service are all 5-star. The meals are hearty and delicious, and each evening there is a different theme and kind of entertainment. From line dancing to hayrides, cowboy barbecue to a full Thanksgiving dinner – every night will be better than the last.
Visit Colorado’s Many Amusement Parks
The best Colorado summer vacation activity by far, especially for kids and the young at heart, is visiting the many amusement parks. There is something for every age group or interest, from theme parks to water and adventure parks.
Water World is a large water park in downtown Denver with over 50 attractions. It boasts Colorado’s first water coaster and will provide endless hours of fun. If heights aren’t your forte, there are also a few family-friendly rides like raft rides, wave pools, and lazy rivers.
Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park has been in the thrill-seeking biz for over 130 years. This park is more extensive than Water World and combines water thrills with a theme park. This park has rides and attractions for all ages, from the KiddieLand attractions to the plummeting Tower of Doom.
There are also a few adventure parks like Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park and Lawson Adventure Park. Both places offer new ways to explore nature’s beauty through fun activities and rides. Indoor and outdoor lodging is available at Lawson Adventure Park.
Visit Golden, Colorado
Golden is an iconic small western town and makes for an easy day trip from Denver. Most people will opt to visit Boulder instead, so Golden is a place that tends not to be as busy or overrun by tourists. It’s a classic western town that has many local shops.
While spending a day in Golden, you can eat at the local restaurants, do some shopping, and even go tubing if you’re visiting in the summer. Kids will especially love going tubing down the river, especially if they’re a bit older and can have a tube of their own!
Colorado Road Trips
Colorado is so vast that it would be a shame to stay in one place for too long. While exploring the Centennial State, opt for a road trip when traveling from place to place, so you don’t miss any views.
Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rocky Mountains are about a two-hour drive from the state capital of Denver. The national park has 76 mountains dotted all over the great 415 square mile span of land. The iconic Trail Ridge Road is the best way to see the majestic mountains by car.
The picturesque road takes you through Estes Park in the east to the Grand Lake in the west. It is a two-hour drive aptly known as ‘Highway to the Sky’ because it’s the highest continuous road in the U.S.
On the drive, you’ll go from the thick Alpine forest to the majestic jagged mountains. You’re also likely to spot some animals like moose, elk, and bighorn sheep that are sure to excite the young ones. This Rocky Mountain Half-Day Explorer Trip is a great way to see the Rocky Mountains with a tour guide.
Peak to Peak Highway
This road trip is ideal for family stay-cationers who want to stay close to Denver. The scenic route has no age limit and is an excellent drive for all ages, from young kids to teens to adults.
Peak to Peak Highway to Estes Park passes ghost towns, gold mines, grand mountains, and a few historical sites. There are numerous trails and lakes to discover on summer vacations in Colorado. The Rockies come alive in vibrant colors and snow-capped mountains in the cooler months.
You don’t have to limit your visits to just summer and winter. There are many pitstops along the way for photos or fun activities all year round. For example, try your luck at the goldmines by panning for gold yourself or visit the creepy Stanley Hotel in Estes Park from the popular blockbuster ‘The Shining.’
Catch a Game at Coors Field
Easily one of the best things to do in the Mile High City is supporting the local baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, at Coors Field. Located right in LoDo, this baseball stadium is impossible to miss and is the perfect way to get involved with the local culture during your visit.
Visitors can purchase tickets online in advance. Here’s a tip from a local: don’t be afraid to wait until right before the game starts to buy your ticket. Often, this is the lowest price you can get, and those who purchase further in advance spend more! This is not always the case, though, especially if they’re playing a popular team like the LA Dodgers.
Final Thoughts on Bucketlist Places to Visit in Colorado
Whether you’re looking for a Colorado summer family vacation or one in winter, Colorful Colorado has an activity for you. While most places in Colorado may be more popular in one season, like Aspen in winter, the state has adapted and made it a must-visit destination all year round.
This Western state has a warm charm and beautiful landscapes, making it an excellent vacation spot for the whole family from young to old. While the state is a good fit for outdoor lovers, there are a few cultural sites and museums to visit. It is also great for road trips and long drives along scenic routes.
So, what are you waiting for? Book your Colorado trip with these fantastic fun options today.
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