Complete These Quintessential Rocky Mountain Quests

What may seem extreme elsewhere can be weekend warrior stuff in Colorado, even for the short set. “There are so many learning opportunities for families,” says Stacey Halvorsen, the youth education programs director for 111-year-old Colorado Mountain Club (CMC), which hosts day and overnight camps for first through 12th graders that teach skills such as mountaineering and rock climbing. “I remember hiking and talking to my dad about philosophy and social situations. It’s that bonding time and learning to persevere: How do you change your attitude when things get hard?”

To build up your child’s physical stamina and mental toughness, Halvorsen suggests gradually increasing the difficulty and keeping things fun with songs, games, and snacks. Safety comes first, but even a decision to turn back in inclement weather can be a teachable moment. When your little explorer is ready to take on some of the state’s raddest adventures—a determination parents are best-suited to make, Halvorsen says, because they know their kids’ abilities and limitations—consider these beginner-friendly options.

Hike a Fourteener

In addition to being a relatively moderate out-and-back trek—3,005 feet of elevation gain over 7.3 miles—the very popular (go on a weekday) trail to the top of Grays Peak is less than a 90-minute drive west of Denver. That’s why CMC leads eighth graders to its summit, or as close as they can get, every year.

Sport Climb Al Fresco

For budding climbers looking to go from gym to crag, the Cat Slab section of Clear Creek Canyon, 6.6 miles east of Idaho Springs, offers a plethora of bolted climbs rated from a relatively easy 5.4 to a much harder 5.11d. With supervision, your kiddo can build confidence on 5.4 Gumby Cat before trying more advanced routes such as 5.8- Skimbleshanks. (Bonus: The pleasant riverside rock is set away from the traffic on U.S. 6 and in a prime spot for watching rafters float by.)

Solve a Boulder Problem Outdoors

Boulderers—aka folks who like to climb on small rock formations without ropes—flock to Flagstaff Mountain, which rises west of Boulder, to tackle the peak’s nearly 400 problems (rated on a scale that goes from V0 to V16). Kids will need to bring a crash pad and a spotter to the Crown Rock trailhead, where they can access Beer Barrel (V0 all the way up to V9), Tree Slab (V0 to V1), and the famous Monkey Traverse, whose full route rating is V4, but boulderers can step or jump off anywhere to reduce the difficulty.

Ski/Snowboard Ungroomed Terrain

Thanks to the blue runs interspersed throughout the mostly un-groomed, black diamond terrain in Vail’s iconic Back Bowls, it’s a great practice spot for skiers and riders who’ve conquered corduroy but are powder newbies. Look for areas with groomed options that kids can switch into if they get uncomfortable or need a break.

Mountain Bike Intermediate Singletrack

Just north of Golden, North Table Mountain Loop’s 7.5 miles of mostly singletrack offer a solid challenge for littler legs, starting with a steep ascent up a gravel road from the parking lot. Epic 360-degree views from the top of the mesa (read: perfect for snapping selfies) serve as extra motivation to keep pedaling.

Have a Real Tea Party

Time to upgrade from plastic cups and teddy bear dining companions to china and IRL besties? Reserve a table for afternoon tea (3 to 5 p.m. every day) at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse. The intricately decorated building was a gift from sister city Dushanbe, the capital of Central Asia’s Tajikistan, where it was crafted and shipped, piece by piece, from 1988 to 1990 to its home along the creek downtown. For $15 per child (high tea is $25 for adults), Dushanbe will put together a kid-friendly menu—bites such as peanut butter and jelly and cucumber tea sandwiches, fruit tarts, poppyseed cake, scones, lemon curd, and clotted cream—to complement its line of children’s teas. Options include naturally sweet herbal blends such as the Solstice Moon chocolate mint rooibos and the floral, fruity Razzmatazz, both of which are perfect for sipping, pinkies out, while admiring Dushanbe’s hand-carved, vibrantly painted ceiling.

Shop Where Fantasy Becomes Reality

Spider-Man, Princess Leia, Harry Potter, Tiana: Children’s heroes often belong to science fiction and fantasy worlds. Luckily, Denver has two retailers that have been bringing a multitude of imaginary universes to life since before it was cool to debate Marvel vs. DC. We created trading cards for each store.

Mile High Comics

Origin: 1969, by 13-year-old Chuck Rozanski in his parents’ basement
Lair: A 65,000-square-foot warehouse in Sunnyside, just southwest of the Mousetrap (aka the I-25/I-70 interchange)
Superpowers: An inventory of more than 10 million comics dating to the Golden Age (1933 to 1955); hundreds of showcases and displays of collectible toys, replicas, and posters, many of which come from beyond the superhero realm (think: Transformers, Lord of the Rings, and the new Netflix hit Wednesday); a huge selection of Funko Pop! figurines

The Wizard’s Chest

Origin: 1983, in a tiny space on Columbine Street in Cherry Creek
Lair: A 16,000-square-foot, red-and-purple multilevel castle along Broadway in Baker; gated entrance guarded by metal wizard Winchester Slatebeard
Superpowers: A fabulous costume section, including wigs, makeup, and accessories like wands and swords; clever novelty gifts such as Bigfoot research kits and H.P. Lovecraft pins; regular open-play events for games such as Pokémon, Dungeons & Dragons, and Magic: The Gathering

Rock Out & Camp Out

Photo courtesy of Telluride Bluegrass Festival

When you think “music festival” (Coachella! Bonnaroo! Lollapalooza!), you probably don’t think “kids.” But at many of Colorado’s multiday bluegrass shindigs, you’re likely to see plenty of mini hula hoopers grooving alongside their parents. In fact, children 12 and under get in free to the following four fests, which offer budget-friendly camping and attractions specifically for the next generation of music lovers.

Pagosa Folk ’N Bluegrass
June 9 to 11
At this 16-year-old fest, held on Reservoir Hill’s more than 130 acres, the Ponderosa Pavilion hosts characters like Andy the Juggler and Ruby Balloon, as well as a T-shirt giveaway, face painting, and arts and crafts, all free for kids.

Palisade Bluegrass & Roots Festival
June 9 to 11
Attendees of Palisade’s 14-year-old celebration of twang can pitch tents alongside the Colorado River near the aptly named Riverbend Park, which hosts all the tunage. Water-centric activities for families include fishing, swimming, and participating in a stand-up paddleboard regatta.

Telluride Bluegrass Festival
June 15 to 18
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the wildly popular Telluride Bluegrass Festival has a family tent with mostly gratis activities—such as yoga, crafts, and puppet shows—for families. On Sunday afternoon, the annual kids parade winds through the festival grounds in Telluride Town Park, on the east end of the historical downtown.

RockyGrass Festival
July 28 to 30
Just half a mile from event promoter Planet Bluegrass’ cliff-backed Lyons ranch, where 51-year-old RockyGrass is held, LaVern Johnson Park has a dedicated camping area for festival-going families with quiet hours from midnight to 7 a.m., multiple playgrounds, and North Saint Vrain River access. (Shuttles are available both ways, but it’s more fun to bring an inner tube and float back to your tent.)

Earn Your Après

Douglas Sacha/Getty Images

In Colorado, everything tastes better if you devour it after an adventure. We rounded up four perfect play-and-partake pairings.

Do This: Follow the sharply switchbacking road to the top of Golden’s Lookout Mountain to visit the grave of Wild West adventurer and showman William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. If you’re up for a hike, take the milelong (one way) trail to the Lookout Mountain Preserve and Nature Center.
Then Savor This: The on-site Pahaska Tepee Gift Shop and Café is famous for its root beer floats and homemade fudge, both best enjoyed at the picnic tables on the Buffalo Bill Museum’s free observation deck, from which you can catch vistas of the Front Range and the Eastern Plains.

Do This: Wilderness On Wheels, at the base of Kenosha Pass, is home to a one-mile stretch of eight-foot-wide boardwalk that allows people using strollers and mobility devices—as well as stumble-prone toddlers—to smoothly ascend to 9,000 feet through aspens and pines. (Access is free, although donations help the nonprofit maintain the route as well as its accessible cabins, campgrounds, and stocked trout pond.)
Then Savor This: Heading back to Denver, about a mile before you reach Bailey on U.S. 285, you’ll find a building shaped like a giant hot dog along the North Fork of the South Platte River. The iconic South Park Coney Island Boardwalk plans to open for the season in early May and is under new management, which hopes to eventually add items like french fries and ice cream to the lineup of basic sausages.

Do This: Ride the Broadmoor Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which has been hauling visitors up 14,115-foot Pikes Peak since 1891, to the visitor center perched at the summit. New in June 2021, the sleek structure has indoor and outdoor areas with views all the way from Colorado Springs to Denver on clear days.
Then Savor This: For more than a century, concessions staff have made doughnuts atop Pikes Peak using a secret high-elevation recipe. With the recent renovations came a new, eco-friendly machine that churns out the golden rounds and is so large—1,500 pounds and more than 7.5 feet tall—workers had to move it in before construction was finished.

Do This: Set up a tent among the apple trees at Big B’s Delicious Orchards in Hotchkiss before walking to the outdoor stage by the farm store, cafe, and taproom, where throngs of (often barefoot) kids groove to live music on summer weekends and take turns on the rope swings nearby.
Then Savor This: Depending on the season, U-pick—and you eat—options at Big B’s can include cherries, peaches, pears, raspberries, assorted vegetables, and, of course, apples. Wash down your bounty with freshly made juice. (Psst: There’s hard cider for the grown-ups.)

Volunteer to Feed Your Peers

Organizations that ensure schoolchildren have food to eat over the weekends are perhaps the easiest and most relatable places for your young do-gooders to start volunteering. Seven-year-olds and above are welcome at Food For Thought Denver’s bag-packing events, held outside on Friday mornings September through May, on Metropolitan State University of Denver’s campus near downtown and in a warehouse in Central Park. Jeffco Eats, which serves 27 local schools and seven low-income housing communities, allows volunteers to bring children ages two and older along to fill food totes on Friday mornings at Lakewood United Methodist Church.

Make a Splash

Photo courtesy of Evergreen Park & Recreation District

Just because we live in a landlocked state doesn’t mean there’s not watery fun to be had. These are some of our favorite bathing-suit-required pursuits and where to try them.

Sliding & Surfing

A local legend for 44 years, Water World has everything you’d expect: lazy (and not-so-lazy) rivers, an eight-lane racing slide, and a wave pool. But featured within the 50-some theme-park-esque attractions on the 70-acre campus north of Denver, where day-of passes are $45 for children and $50 for adults, you’ll also find a gondola, an Egyptian pyramid, and a Tyrannosaurus rex. Although surfing the Wave requires some skill in exchange for the thrill, young kids can navigate most of the rides, and there are dedicated splash areas for the tiniest tots.


For a leisurely—or, more likely, splash- and shriek-filled—float under the Colorado sun, it doesn’t get much better than the idyllic two miles of the Yampa River that run from Steamboat Springs’ downtown to the James Brown Soul Center of the Universe Bridge. Local outfitter Backdoor Sports has a convenient put-in location, rental gear for $25 per person, reliable shuttles, and real-time flow information (high levels can result in age restrictions). Go early in the day for better weather and smaller crowds.

Stand-Up Paddleboarding

Less than an hour west of Denver, Evergreen Lake reflects the pine-covered peaks that give the alpine jewel its name. Lodgelike Evergreen Lake House offers boards for $25 per hour (or $45 per hour for four-person boards; kids nine and younger must ride with an adult) that are perfect for paddling the 40 acres of calm surface before grabbing rainbow shave ice (pro tip: add the sweet cream) at the Slife’s Devil Dogs food stand nearby.

Whitewater Rafting

Based in Buena Vista, Wilderness Aware Rafting has been navigating Western whitewater for nearly five decades. Options for ages four and up on the Arkansas River include a half-day romp through Lower Browns Canyon ($100 per person) and a dinner float trip ($95) that ends at the Riverside Grill. Kids of the same age are also welcome on both full-day ($165) and two-day overnight trips ($509) that depart near Kremmling and ply Class II rapids on the Upper Colorado River’s Little Gore Canyon.

Bust Mutton at the National Western Stock Show

If you’ve attended a rodeo at the National Western Stock Show, you’ve likely been mesmerized by the mutton bustin’ segment (tiny children in helmets clinging to sprinting sheep) and wondered, What kids actually want to do this?! A lot, it turns out: More than 1,000 five- to seven-year-olds applied for 2023’s 200 slots, and 79 percent of them were filled by youth from the Denver metro area. Arvada’s seven-year-old Camryn Trowbridge was one of the lucky few to be randomly selected to participate. After her wild, five-second ride—during which she slid to her steed’s side, lost a boot, hit the dirt, and took a hoof to the torso before hopping up to wave at the roaring crowd—we asked Trowbridge about her experience.

H. Mark Weidman Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

5280: What made you want to try mutton bustin’?
Camryn Trowbridge: I saw it at the rodeo last year, and I was like, I want to do that. I want to be a cowgirl when I grow up.

How did you get ready for this?
My sister [Maggie, 10] ran around the house like a sheep while I was on her.

What were you thinking when it was your turn?
I was like, OK, I can’t even hear anything because my helmet was covering my ears. Then the sheep rolled over me, and I couldn’t even feel it. I felt really scared but also brave and excited to see if I would get a trophy.

Any advice for other kids who want to try mutton bustin’?
Just think of how big the trophy will be. It was really fun. I liked it a 10 out of 10.

Visit Niche Museums

Denver’s marquee cultural institutions are popular, and for good reason—but once you’ve knocked out the Children’s Museum of Denver, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and the Denver Art Museum, follow your kids’ interests to these more specialized spots.

The four-year-old Denver Selfie Museum, located near the Colorado Convention Center downtown, is exactly what it sounds like: 4,000 square feet of colorful sets, optical illusions, silly props, and neon catchphrases. (Hourly admission fees start at $25.) In other words, it’s your TikTok-obsessed teen’s dream come true.

Nestled among the galleries in the Art District on Santa Fe, the Museo de las Americas celebrates Latino arts and culture through paintings, pottery, and textiles. Admission is waived for those 13 and younger, and each summer, the museum’s Lxs Jovenes Leadership Lab invites sixth through ninth graders to participate in a free, four-week, community-project-based workshop.

From a Vietnam War–era helicopter to a replica Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter, Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum—in Hanger 1 of the old Lowry Air Force Base—is packed with aircraft past, present, and futuristic.

Photo courtesy of Wings Over the Rockies

Before or after seeing a Rockies game, hit up the National Ballpark Museum just a few doors southwest on Blake Street. Its vast memorabilia collection, including a turnstile from Wrigley Field and a ball-dented section of Fenway Park’s Green Monster, focuses on MLB’s 14 classic early 1900s ballparks, and kids 16 and under get in for free.

Beloved for its annual The Polar Express rides and events featuring Thomas the Tank Engine, the Colorado Railroad Museum’s depot and 15-acre rail yard in Golden hosts elaborate model setups, rides (for an additional fee)on a passenger train and the Galloping Goose motorcar (select days and times), and more than 100 cars, cabooses, and locomotives.

Housed in the former home of Colorado’s first African American female licensed physician, Dr. Justina Ford, who practiced medicine in the first half of the 20th century, Five Points’ appointment-only Black American West Museum & Heritage Center showcases the many Black people—cowboys, miners, soldiers, schoolteachers—who are too often erased from Western history.

If it goes—or, more accurately, went—it’s probably in Elyria-Swansea’s Forney Museum of Transportation, whose 800 artifacts documenting the history of getting around include an 1817 bicycle, a steam-powered tractor, and a yellow Kissel Speedster owned by Amelia Earhart.

At the restored Molly Brown House Museum in Capitol Hill, aspiring glass-ceiling-smashers learn why surviving the Titanic disaster was among the least of Denverite Margaret Brown’s achievements, which also included advocating for miners, juvenile offenders, and rescue animals.

Children and teens enjoy free admission to LoDo’s Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which also displays its commitment to the next generation of creatives via an internship program for high schoolers that culminates in curating its top-floor exhibit space and a separate, annual $20,000 Learning Through Failure college scholarship.

Near Civic Center Park is a place dedicated to the brave humans who actually rush into burning buildings every day: the Denver Firefighters Museum. In addition to historical exhibits, the firehouse, built in 1909, has interactive areas where kids can practice dialing 911, create a safe escape plan, and don bunker gear (helmets, trench coats, etc.) before sitting in the driver’s seat of a giant red fire truck.

Climb North America’s Highest Via Ferrata

Photo by Ian Zinner/Courtesy of Arapahoe Basin

Via ferratas (translation: iron ways) have popped up on many a Western mountainside over the past decade. But none in North America is perched higher than the set of rungs permanently affixed to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s East Wall. Opened in summer 2021, the route—appropriate for active, elevation-acclimated people ages 12 and older—begins around 12,000 feet. The full-day guided tour, which includes lunch, takes climbing-harness-equipped guests 800 vertical feet up to the ridgeline and back down again. The experience starts at $155 per person, but photos of your teens grinning and hanging off the rock face like Alex Honnold are priceless.

Experience the New Classics

People who grew up in Denver love to lament the attractions of their youth that have been lost to time and “progress.” Here, four of them—and the spots today’s kids may be wistfully telling their kids about someday.

Then: Elitch Gardens
Founded as a zoo in 1890, Elitch’s Berkeley location hosted botanic displays, a theater, and roller coasters before moving 15 of its rides downtown in 1995.
Now: Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park
Children of the early 21st century will recall taking in views of the Denver skyline and the Rockies from the top of the Tower of Doom, which will relocate or disappear when the site is eventually redeveloped into mixed retail and housing.

Then: Casa Bonita
Watching cliff divers while eating overpriced, dubiously sourced Mexican food was a birthday tradition until Casa Bonita shut its West Colfax Avenue doors in March 2020.
Now: Casa Bonita
With South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone reopening (next month, tentatively) the icon that starred in one of their cartoon’s episodes, we’re confident Casa Bonita will retain its weird charm—minus the mystery meat, because local chef Dana Rodriguez is running the kitchen.

Photo by Jess Bernstein/Courtesy of Meow Wolf

Then: Buckingham Square Mall
Woolworth, a food court, and fountains aplenty: This Aurora mall, built in 1971, had all the hallmarks of suburban mall glory before it was demolished in 2007.
Now: Stanley Marketplace
A newer, cooler version of a mall, Stanley Marketplace filled a former aviation center in northwest Aurora with independent retailers, fitness studios, kid magnets such as VR Social and MindCraft Makerspace, and local dining spots including Churreria de Madrid, Comida, and Sweet Cow Ice Cream.

Then: Celebrity Sports Center
With an arcade, 80 bowling lanes, restaurants, and a huge pool, this Walt Disney–backed project in Glendale was a beloved indoor playground from 1960 to 1995.
Now: Meow Wolf Denver
Tucked between highway overpasses in the Auraria neighborhood, Convergence Station’s 90,000-square-foot immersive art installation dazzles visitors with brightly colored, interactive elements that hold clues to its multiversal transit station storyline.

Walk With Dinosaurs

Faina Gurevich/Alamy Stock Photo

On a hot fall morning, I trudge up a steep paved road just east of Red Rocks Amphitheatre with my youngest strapped to my chest. Usually when my family hikes, it’s my five-year-old who lags behind. But today, he’s leading us.

Ever since my son received some dinosaur toys when he was two, he’s been obsessed with the prehistoric behemoths. Luckily, we live in Golden, just a short drive from a track-and-fossil-filled site called Dinosaur Ridge. The 2.5-mile paved trail is free to access by foot or bike, making it the perfect place to burn some of that limitless little kid energy while following in the literal footsteps of the giants who roamed this land nearly 100 million years ago.

As we arrive at the main tracksite a half-mile from the visitor center, my son runs up to the slanted rock wall to get a closer look at the collection of 250 impressions. The signs inform us that most of the prints are from herbivorous hadrosaurs that migrated in herds along what was once an ocean’s shore. Next to those are the birdlike prints of an ornithomimid—omnivores who might have hunted hadrosaur babies—scratch marks from prehistoric crocodile claws, and tracks from large, carnivorous theropods.

My kindergartner wonders aloud if the theropod tracks belong to an Allosaurus or a Ceratosaurus (both of which did roam this area, although likely not when these marks were made) and whether the ornithomimid was big enough to take down the larger hadrosaur. He’s so engrossed in weaving a tale about what happened when these dinosaurs met on this beach, in fact, that it takes numerous attempts to coax him back to the car—to the present day and the welcome air conditioning. But much like those dinos’ heavy footfalls, the experience leaves a lasting impression. —Erin Skarda

Immerse Yourself in State History

There’s only so much one can learn about Colorado’s past in classrooms. For a more enriching experience, visit these sites, all of which allow children to step back in time to see, touch, and even smell history.

Jurassic Period
~200–145 million years ago
Located within Comanche National Grasslands in Colorado’s southeastern corner, Picket Wire Canyonlands contains the largest dinosaur tracksite in North America, with more than 1,900 prints. To stand among them—and find rock art likely left by nomadic hunters up to 4,500 years ago—book a guided eight-hour auto tour (Saturdays in April, May, June, September, and October) via It’s only $16 for adults and $8.50 for kids ages six to 12 (five and under are free, with a $1 reservation fee), but you’ll need to BYO high-clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicle, spare tire, food, and water.

Donna Ikenberry/Art Directors/Alamy Stock Photo

The dwellings built into cliffs by the Ancestral Puebloans at Mesa Verde National Park in the Four Corners region are an awesome sight to take in from the park’s many overlooks, but to truly get a sense of the scope and function of the structures, you’ll need to reserve a spot on a ranger-guided walking tour. While exploring Balcony House ($8, May 14 to October 22), visitors climb a 32-foot ladder, crawl through a tunnel, and ascend stone steps to an open cliff face, tracing the paths of the people who once called the 38 rooms and two kivas home.

During the summer, interpreters in period dress as well as a variety of animals—including an ox, mules, peacocks, guinea fowl, and cats—bring to life the reconstructed adobe trading post at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site in La Junta ($10 for those 16 and older; 15 and younger free). Hispanic, Native American, and white travelers visited to buy and sell mostly fur goods while residents plied trades. As you wander the grounds and rooms that range from sleeping quarters to a saloon, you may hear the clanging of a blacksmith’s hammer and catch whiffs of traditional foods, such as cornbread or buffalo tongue, cooking.

An hour and a half northeast of La Junta, the free-to-visit Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site memorializes the more than 230 Cheyenne and Arapaho people, mostly women and children, who were brutally slaughtered when Colorado volunteer soldiers attacked their peaceful encampment in November 1864. Regular interpretive ranger talks provide guests of all ages with difficult but instructive details about the horrific event to contemplate while walking the trails that wind through the grasslands afterward.

Take the Train to the Lift

Scenic train rides with steam engines pulling refurbished historical cars tend to get all the glory in the Centennial State. (See: the Georgetown Loop Railroad, Royal Gorge Route Railroad, and Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad.) For a more modern adventure—and one that actually takes you somewhere—however, it doesn’t get more Colorado than the Winter Park Express. The Amtrak-operated seasonal route picks up shredders at Union Station at 7 a.m. (Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from mid-January through late March) and delivers them to the base of Winter Park Resort’s slopes two traffic-jam-free hours later. Skis and boards ride free; the coach class seats recline; and snacks and panoramic vistas can be found in the bilevel Sightseer Lounge. Accompanied kids two to 12 only pay half the adult fare (in 2023, that was $17 one way; an adult ticket cost $34), and if you trust your age 16-plus teenagers to make the 4:30 p.m. departure, they can ride solo.

Encounter Animals (Safely!)

Photo courtesy of Paragon Guides

If you’re lucky—and smart—your family won’t get too close to Colorado’s wildlife out on the trails. But groups around the state let you interact with a variety of interesting critters, including these five.

If you’ve driven CO 17 through southern Colorado’s San Luis Valley (home to Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve), you’ve seen the signs advertising the Colorado Gators Reptile Park. Next time, pull over: This quirky rescue is home to hundreds of alligators, snakes, turtles, and lizards, and your modest entry fee includes the chance to snap a picture holding a small alligator and pet the freely roaming tortoises.

The Denver Zoo’s classic close-up animal encounter ($150 for your group of up to six people, ages six and above) lets you hand-feed lettuce to the tallest mammals on Earth while peppering their caretakers with questions about why their necks are so long, how they get comfortable to sleep, and what makes six-year-old Dobby the group’s resident jokester.

The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs feels like a resort from a bygone era, so perhaps it’s not surprising it has a falconry program. The 4,000-year-old hunting pursuit, nicknamed the Sport of Kings, partners humans with birds of prey and takes years to master, but the beginner lesson ($203 per person, ages five and up) lets you meet trained owls, hawks, and falcons and hold one on your fist—all in about 90 minutes.

Taking a llama to lunch sounds like the plot of a children’s book, but it’s actually an offering from Vail outfitter Paragon Guides. For $625 for two people (each additional adult is $95; ages four to 12 are $55; and three and under are free), you can lead the gentle, lovable pack animals on a hike tailored to your group and through an obstacle course with water and logs to navigate. A trailside picnic
is included.

Colorado Springs’ Cheyenne Mountain Zoo gives guests the chance to feed many of its residents, from orangutans to rhinos to sloths. The marsupial encounter, however, is special in that participants ($425 for a group of up to four, no age restrictions) also get to pet the zoo’s mob—yes, that’s the technical term—of adorable, charismatic red-necked wallabies.

Go to a U.S. Air Force Academy Football Game

Photo courtesy of Air Force Athletics

Sure, you could pay hundreds of dollars to take your kid to squint at the Denver Broncos from the nosebleeds. But…why? Instead, we present a by-the-numbers argument for heading an hour south of Empower Field at Mile High to enjoy a day of gridiron glory—and all the pageantry of a military academy—at Falcon Stadium.

$30: Starting price for a single home game ticket; season tickets (which, by the way, include the Navy matchup at Empower Field on November 4) start at $109

31-8: Air Force’s record over the past three seasons (the Broncos went 17-33 over the same stretch)

50: Yard line the parachutists who deliver the game ball and American flag before each contest aim to land on

1,000: Freshman cadets who march onto the field to stand at attention for the national anthem—before bolting to take their seats in the stands

4: Aircraft that fly over Falcon Stadium before every game

200: Miles per hour that Air Force’s falcons, raised and trained by cadets, can reach as they swoop and dive around the stadium during halftime

152: Pushups freshman cadets did (one for the Falcons’ point total after every score) during a 41-10 rout of the University of Colorado Boulder in 2022