Family Guide to Colorado with Toddlers
Let’s be honest, when we think of Colorado we probably think of skiing or hiking. But when you have a six, three and 18 month old, both of those things are nearly impossible. Sure, you may want to just wait until they are older, but there is sooo much you can do in Colorado with little kids, and I’m so happy we took this trip last August. In this post I’m going to share how we made the most of everything Colorado has to offer- with very little kids- in 9 days.
Day 1 - 3
Gaylord Rockies Resort: We spent our first two nights at Gaylord Rockies. It was our kid’s favorite thing the whole trip and quite honestly one of our favorites too just seeing our kids so happy! The resort caters to families, equipped with multiple swimming pools, a lazy river, a splash pad and water sides... as well as mini golf, craft zone, scavenger hunts, lawn games, etc. You can read more about our stay at Gaylord Rockies resort in my blog post here__.
Boulder: we rented a car at the airport in Denver and drove the hour to Boulder. Boulder is a crazy fun college town with the best open pedestrian street called Pearl Street. We really enjoyed walking along the street, being outdoors, hearing live music, getting ice cream, seeing people eating outside at restaurants and letting our kids play at a few of the mini play areas along the street as well. Our kids just loved the big rock kid play area right on Pearl Street and they made so many friends while climbing on the big rocks!
In Boulder we visited Chautauqua Park which is known for a ton of hiking trails. We had every intention to do a short trail, but even that was too difficult with our kids. It was over 100° and there was no shade at the entrance to the hike, so we abandoned our plan. However, we were able to get some really cute pictures in front of the mountain and there was a great playground right at the foot of the mountain as well as a fantastic restaurant, called the Chautauqua Dining Hall.
Boulder’s farmers market
If you stay in Boulder over the weekend, definitely check out their famous farmers market right in town. We were super impressed by how big it was and the variety of vendors, however, due to Covid we needed to pre-register to limit the number of people. So if you go, make sure to check ahead of time at their website here___.
We stayed at an Embassy Suites in Boulder. We love booking suites for our family because it’s just so nice to have extra room and for the kids to sleep in a separate area so we don’t distract them from falling asleep if we want to stay up later. This Embassy suites in particular was just remodeled and it was so beautiful!
Estes Park: Estes Park is an 1.5 hours drive from Boulder and it is such an amazing town surrounded by quiet streams, lakes and mountain ranges! Complete with beautiful pedestrian paved walking trails on the ground level that takes you through the cutest little town. In town we found a bunch of stores, restaurants and coffee shops; in addition to a great playground right in the center of town as well as a sensory garden for kids.
Rocky Mountain National Park: The main reason why we traveled to Estes Park was to see Rocky Mountain National Park. Also because of Covid, we needed to make reservations in advance to limit the number of people in the park. Everything we did was accessible by car, which was perfect for the kids because hiking long distances just isn’t easy for us with their ages- and we really wanted to see a bunch of things in just an afternoon’s drive.
Prior to driving into the park, Matt downloaded an app that gives you a guided tour of each area in the national park. I made fun of him while he was downloading it, but honestly it turned out to be my favorite part of the experience. We learned so much about the history of the area and it was fun to be in “the know” about what we were seeing all around us. Some of the things we saw in the park were: Bear Lake, Old Trail Road, elk, deer, & bison.
Estes Park is 9,000 feet above sea level and we could definitely feel the altitude change there. My sinuses acted up and we all felt slight pressure headaches. If you do decide to do any sort of physical activity when you go, I would think planning the first day to take it slow to help you adjust to the altitude may not be a bad idea.
Accommodations: We stayed at Estes Park Resort. Matt was looking into staying at The Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the famous Steven King book and movie “The Shining”. However he read a bunch of negative reviews about the cleanliness of the hotel so we opted out. In all honesty Estes Park Resort seemed a little outdated, especially for the price, but the location was absolutely fantastic and we really enjoyed the gorgeous lake and mountain views.
Red Rocks & Dinosaur Ridge were two must sees on our list that are easy to check off on a travel day.
Red Rocks: On our way back to Denver from Estes Park, we stopped at Red Rocks. This was something Matt just HAD to see being a big music guy. It was actually really fun to see the views from the concert venue and the kids had fun running all around the area. Of course with littles, we were unable to see a concert but that would be so neat to experience when they are older!
Dinosaur Ridge: Our kids (and us!) LOVED Dinosaur Ridge and I’m soo happy we stopped last minute to see it. Dinosaur Ridge is a paved walking path that walks up, around and down a huge ridge in the earth where Paleontologists have found dinosaur foot prints, fossils and bones. We just loved seeing everything dinosaur and I could tell the boys (Matt included) were very excited to see it all! The walk around the ridge probably takes about an hour and then you have to walk back around again, so make sure you have enough time.
Day 7 - 9
Denver, Breckenridge, & Colorado Springs (Garden of the gods)
We concluded our trip back in Denver with a short trip day trip to Breckenridge & Colorado Springs.
I have to say, I was really excited about seeing the city and my expectations were much different than what we actually experienced. First, we were surprised how many homeless people camped all around the city, and there were definitely a few situations where we felt pretty uncomfortable walking around with our children- to the point where a police officer even told us to get out of the area we were walking through in broad daylight because it was too dangerous. It’s sad, we’ve been allll around the world and felt most uncomfortable in our own country. A lot of things we saw went over the kids’ heads, like the one man we passed clearly high on drugs singing along the street, or another man urinating right in front of us, or seeing the numerous tents along the sidewalk. I guess our kids are used to urinating outside or singing at the top of their lungs- and of course they begged us to set up our tent in the backyard when we got home (which we did). But, honestly, we didn’t discuss the matter of homelessness with them. A part of me just didn’t feel like taking the time to explain it and they didn’t notice it anyway, and another part of me just wanting my kids to remain sheltered a little longer from all the sad things in this world. I love how carefree they are and I’m sure it will only be a few more years before these difficult conversations will come up.
One area we loved in Denver was LoDo (Lower Downtown). We walked around the beautiful Confluence Park and the Union Square area is really nice too!
Breckenridge: We decided that instead of spending two full days in Denver, we would devote one mini travel day to explore! First we drove to Breckenridge to walk around the town. Generally this town is known for its skiing, but since it wasn’t ski season yet we just enjoyed all the shops and walking along the Main Street.
Colorado Springs: Next we headed to Colorado Springs, primarily to visit Garden of the gods and then grab dinner before returning back to Denver. Garden of the gods is so cool! The kids just loved walking around the whole area and the rocks were absolutely beautiful. We arrived later in the evening and it was getting dark, or I’m sure we would’ve spent much more time exploring there!
Matt booked a suite at the Ritz Carlton in Denver and we quickly remembered why we love the Ritz Carlton brand so much. They always seem to have amazing customer service and really do cater to our children more than most hotels. That night, we had dinner at the hotel and we just love how accommodating the servers were with our kids. The restaurant wasn’t busy, so our waiter changed one of the TVs to a cartoon channel, brought us champagne on the house, and when Dylan asked for a second glass of lemonade, our waiter, knowingly, watered it down so it wouldn’t be too sugary. I just love being around people who “get it”. Also our suite was just gorgeous and very spacious. Our covid hotel experiences have been less than ideal, but the Ritz made up for it all.
If you are hesitant to travel to Colorado with young kids, I say don’t wait until they are older- you can always go back again when they are older! ;) I shared the other day on my Instagram an unknown quote “Having kids is a reason to travel, never a reason to stop”. Let your kids experience the world beyond the four walls of your house and learn through active experiences instead of behind a screen or not all.