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The angular buildings, wide sidewalks, public art, and pedestrian-friendly vibe of Denver’s Acoma Plaza make it the perfect adventure destination for city kids. Just mentioning downtown to my little ones is enough to elicit brushed hair and their “clean” Keens. With the Denver Art Museum and neighboring Denver Public Library, this area provides ample space and activities for your little Remington or Russell to get their art game on. Here’s your itinerary:
First Stop: Denver Art Museum
Almost every nook and cranny at the Denver Art Museum is filled with something for inquisitive kids to see, do, find, make, and experience. The museum alone could take days to explore, but with kids in tow, the goal is a hands-on experience (and now that general admission for youths under 18 is free, the pressure to do it all has evaporated).
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A good first stop is the Studio, located just inside the main entrance of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building. This is a carefully curated, kid-friendly space where your little one can truly tap into their inner-artist. The Studio typically compliments a temporary exhibit. Now that the museum has blossomed with In Bloom: Painting Flowers in the Age of Impressionism, the “Flower Studio” is budding with different materials and arrangements for artists of all ages to manipulate.
Every single time we visit the DAM, my kids beg, “Can we do a backpack?” These packs are mapped adventures that take you to different exhibits deep inside the museum and provide a game, puzzle, and craft. Our favorites include “Living like a Chinese Scholar,” “Jaws,” and “Paws and Claws,” but the “Inside, Outside, and Into the City” pack is a perfect start for younger visitors. Or check out the DAM’s Create-n-Take stations, creatively placed activities where take-home crafting is encouraged. Choose one or do them all—if you can find them (ask the welcome center staff or security guards to guide you). Both Family Backpacks and Create-n-Takes are available on weekends during throughout the school year.
Insider Tip: Make use of the lockers—You are going to want to be hands-free to help your kids with their crafts. But don’t forget to slip your license into a pocket, as the DAM requires it to check out a backpack.
Visit: Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy.; 720-865-5000; denverartmuseum.org; Admission is free for youths under 18; $10 for adults who are Colorado residents; and $13 for adult non-residents
Second Stop: Picnic
Kids’ adventures always include a snack, mostly because no one wants to see Mom hangry. There are two groups of well-sized, clean tables outside the DAM’s Hamilton Building where people-watching is at a premium. One section is between the DAM and the Clyfford Still Museum overlooking Joel Shapiro’s angular sculpture, “For Jennifer.” The other is directly adjacent to Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s “Big Sweep,” which is a good reminder to pick up after yourselves.
Forgot to pack a lunch? You can visit Palettes inside the DAM for convenient, contemporary cuisine, but expect to pay for that luxury. We prefer Mad Greens (1200 Acoma St.; 720-496-4158), where you can snag a salad for yourself, and some mac-n-cheese for the kiddos.
Third Stop: Denver Public Library
Once bellies are full and legs are rested, don your DAM creations and march across 13th Ave., past Mark di Suvero’s enormous painted steel sculpture, “Lao Tzu,” and into the west entrance of Denver’s Central Public Library. This Michael Graves-designed building is another space where kids can skip, hop, and marvel at the architecture without getting a disapproving glance.
After you arrive, head straight to the Children’s Library, located in the middle of the first floor. It’s cozily appointed with cushioned Adirondack chairs and roomy tables. My family likes to load up with books, grab a giant stuffed animal for a pillow, and head into the Claire McMenamy Berger Memorial Children’s Pavilion. This octagonal-shaped space is a circus-like room with large window seats overlooking Acoma Plaza and Civic Center Park.
Still have some steam? If your kid’s a history buff, check out The Legacy Table in the Library Commission Room on level 7 to see where the Denver Summit of the Eight—including Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin, Tony Blair, and Jacques Chirac—met in 1997. Get that camera ready as your kids turn into modern-day diplomats, finger-pointing and all.
After a few books, your little ones are sure to be sleepy from their downtown adventure. Check out some reads for the ride home (remember all Denver Public Library books may returned at any branch), and call it a day. Happy reading—if they can keep their eyes open.
Visit: Denver Public Library, 10 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy.; 720-865-1111; kids.denverlibrary.org