Who says you have to break the budget to find fun activities to enjoy with your family? Colorado offers plenty of options for family play at a bargain price: free!
Tours are fun and you'll learn something along the way! Take the guided tour at the Celestial Seasonings Factory in Boulder, the Coors Brewery in Golden (with beer tasting for the adults) or learn about our currency at the Money Museum in Denver. The National Earthquake Information Center in Golden also has fascinating tours, and your pint-sized athletes will love the free tour at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
Learn how the West was won and travel back in time. Free admission to the Pioneer Museum in Colorado Springs makes it a fun but thrifty way to spend a day. Other museums with free admission for kids can be equally interesting: The Leanin' Tree Museum of Western Art in Boulder, the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center, American Numismatic Museum (money!) in Colorado Springs, Bishop Castle in Pueblo, the Colorado Ski Museum and Ski Hall of Fame in Vail, Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in Denver, the Geology Museum at Golden's Colorado School of Mines and the Southpark City Museum near Fairplay (with 40 buildings that recreate life as it was at the end of the 19th century).
The Crane Festival is an annual event in Montrose, where you can welcome back the big birds. Or try something silly: The Great Fruitcake Toss in Manitou Springs, also home to the annual Emma Crawford Street Bed Race! Take in the International Snow Sculpture Championships, an annual party for the competition that takes place in Breckenridge. Or check out the Music and Blossoms Festival in Canon City, the winter-favorite Ouray Ice Festival with a thrilling ice-climbing competition, Snow Down in Durango, the Lamar Snow Goose Festival or just welcome warmer weather at Winter Park's Spring Splash.
In the agricultural heart of Colorado's fruit and wine region, Palisade hosts the Peach Festival where you can sample peach delights -- from ice cream and pies to salsa and wine. More yummy fun is in nearby Paonia during Cherry Days, the summer celebration of the juicy fruit for which the area is famous. Montrose is home to the Russell Stover Candy Factory Outlet where visitors sample a variety of free sweet chocolates. Mountain town Telluride goes one better by offering visitors their signature Free Box -- really, a free box of stuff!
More fun in Telluride: the box canyon in Telluride is the start of a free 13-minute gondola ride to Mountain Village where visitors can enjoy hiking and biking trails, a nature center and even a disc golf course. The excitement for kids comes upon boarding the gondola to soar above town on the trip to the mountaintop, while enjoying spectacular panoramic views of mountain peaks and waterfalls.
There are seven national wildlife refuges in Colorado, and they are free and open to the public. Load the kids in the car and explore the natural beauty of these areas. Just outside Denver, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Refuge sports a new visitor center with a kid-friendly learning lab that lets little ones get a peek inside of a bee tree or explore the wildlife dioramas. Many Colorado refuges offer recreational, educational and nature activities free to kids: hikes, fishing, lectures and interpretive displays. And you're sure to spot wildlife: bison, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, moose, hawks and bald eagles.
Nature had a hand in creating this roller coaster ride! Open from Memorial Day to late autumn, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in the United States and tops out at 12,183 feet above sea level. Great scenery is everywhere you look from the start to the summit, and kids will enjoy spotting the bighorn sheep navigating the rocky peaks and the rainbow colors of wildflowers lining the road and dipping into the deep valleys.
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