If you’re looking for an unforgettable family-friendly vacation, look no further than Colorado. This Rocky Mountain state is home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, and there’s no shortage of things to do. Both a winter wonderland with some of the best skiing in the world and a beautiful summer destination, Colorado offers family-friendly options all year round. Here are 10 bucket list family-friendly Colorado vacation ideas that are sure to create lasting memories.
Our family has visited Colorado many times over the years. We love the mountains and love to ski, and few places are as special as Colorado. From skiing the Rocky Mountains in Vail, Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge, to hiking and enjoying it for a summer vacation, Colorado is one of our favorite places to visit for a family vacation. Here are some of the best family-friendly Colorado vacation ideas to include on your bucket list!
Rocky Mountain National Park
Spend a day or a week exploring Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, Colorado. With over 350 miles of hiking trails, this is a hiker’s paradise. Don’t miss the opportunity to see some of the park’s wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep and moose.
Highlights of Rocky Mountain National Park
- Discover Bear Lake Trail, one of the best hikes for families around the beautiful Bear Lake.
- If you are traveling with older kids, take a more challenging hike to Adams Falls Trail to see the scenic waterfalls.
- Enjoy fly fishing, kayaking, whitewater rafting, boating and paddleboarding in one of the park’s many lakes and rivers.
- Discover the park while on a horseback riding adventure through the park.
- Do some wildlife spotting as you look for the native elk and big horn sheep who live in the park.
- Enjoy nearby Estes Park for shopping and dining, as well as the river walk.
- Take a ride on the Estes Park Aerial Tramway to see the views from above.
Colorado’s large city of Denver is another great place to enjoy a family-friendly Colorado vacation getaway. It’s family-friendly and walkable with great restaurants, shopping and fantastic hotels. It can also serve as a home base to take day trips for many of the nearby adventures.
We have stayed in Denver several times. It is a fantastic Mile High City full of hustle and bustle, while surrounded by the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.
Highlights of Denver
- Visit the Denver Children’s Museum.
- Enjoy the animals at the Denver Zoo.
- Learn about science and the Denver Nature and Science Museum
- Take a ride on the Denver Trolly.
- Fly high at the Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum.
- Have a blast at the Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park.
- Watch a Denver Broncos’ home game.
- Visit Dinosaur Ridge (near Red Rocks & Amphitheater).
- Take a family hike at Red Rocks.
- Ziplining at Castle Rock is fun for the whole family.
- Learn about Colorado’s history at the Buffalo Bill Museum in Golden.
One of our favorite mountain towns in Colorado, Steamboat Springs is fantastic in both the summer and the winter. This old Western town is surrounded by beautiful mountains and home to many natural hot springs well worth visiting. You feel like a real cowboy in this fantastic town, full of wonderful restaurants and shopping, including F.M. Light & Sons, a historic shop full of authentic Western wear.
If you come in the wintertime, Steamboat Springs is one of the most family-friendly ski locations in Colorado. In addition to a fantastic ski school, you will also find ice skating, night skiing, snow tubing and much more.
Highlights of Steamboat Springs
- Visiting Old Town Hot Springs.
- Enjoying Strawberry Park Hot Springs Resort (in nature!).
- Horseback Ride through Aspen trees.
- Enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding or whitewater rafting on the Yampa River.
- Try flyfishing at Stagecoach Tail Waters.
- Ski at Steamboat Springs ski resort.
- Enjoy dog sledding.
- Get your cowboy gear at F.M. Light & Sons.
- Ride the Steamboat Springs mountain coaster.
Another one of our family’s favorite family-friendly Colorado vacation ideas, Vail is fantastic both in the summer and the winter. Its breathtaking beauty and epic skiing, as well as plenty of fun summer activities, make it one of the best mountain family vacations around.
Our family has skied here in the winter and vacationed here in the summer. So it is one I highly recommend. While it is known for thrilling ski runs, like the Legendary Back Bowls (which are indeed legendary!), it is full of family-friendly trails and a fantastic ski school. In the summer, you can enjoy mountain biking, hiking, swimming, the mountain coaster and Vail Village.
One of the things that sets Vail apart is its appearance that makes you feel like you stepped into the heart of Austria. In fact, there are also two Austrian restaurants in Vail Village, along with lots of shopping and outdoor brew pubs. In the summer, you can enjoy the outdoors in this beautiful setting. But in the winter, you can take in the crisp mountain air, beautiful decorations and even enjoy ice skating as part of the apres ski activities in Vail Village.
I also love the assortment of vacation rentals available in Vail Village. It makes for an easy Colorado family vacation, having amenities like kitchens and laundry.
This is definitely one of my top family-friendly Colorado vacation spots no matter what time of year you visit.
Highlights of Vail
- Ride the gondola to take in the spectacular Rocky Mountains (or to get to the top for activities.)
- Hike down the mountain on family-friendly trails in the summer in Vail.
- Enjoy mountain biking down epic Vail trails.
- Ride the mountain coaster for family fun.
- Stroll around the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens.
- Ski Vail’s epic trails, including the Legendary Back Bowls.
- Ice skate in Vail Village.
- Dine at one of the brewpubs or Austrian restaurants in Vail Village.
Breckenridge is a town located in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, just about 90 minutes from Denver and under an hour from other known ski resorts like Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain and Keystone.
It is a popular western ski resort town and, during the summer, it is a great place to visit for outdoor activities like hiking, biking and fishing. Kids will love the activity parks full of challenging courses and adventure, as well as the mountain coaster and alpine slide.
It’s another great family-friendly Colorado vacation destination year-round and perfect for skiing and snowboarding. The wide open trails, kids’ ski and ride programs and plethora of winter activities make it ideal in the winter as well as the summer. No matter what you choose to do, you’re sure to have a great time in Breckenridge.
Highlights of Breckenridge
- Visit the Breckenridge Heritage Museum, which features exhibits on the history and culture of the area
- Take a ride on the GoldRunner Coaster, which is a family-friendly roller coaster that travels through downtown Breckenridge.
- Hike or bike on the trails in the surrounding mountains.
- Enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants in town.
- Ski the wide open ski slopes, go ice skating, dog sledding or tubing in winter.
- Take a horse-pulled sleigh ride.
- Ride the Alpine Slide.
- Enjoy tubing on the river in nearby Golden, Colorado.
- Have an adventure at the Alpineer Challenge Course.
Pikes Peak is one of Colorado’s 53 fourteeners, a mountain that rises more than 14,000 feet above sea level. The peak can be seen from almost anywhere in Colorado Springs and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
There are several trails that lead to the summit, some of which are more difficult than others. The most popular route to the summit is the Barr Trail, which begins in Manitou Springs and is about 13 miles long.
Pikes Peak Colorado is a great place to visit with kids. There are plenty of things for them to do, including hiking, biking and sightseeing. The views from the summit are simply breathtaking, and your kids will love feeling like they’re on top of the world.
Highlights of Pikes Peak
- Discover the Manitou Springs Cliff Dwellings.
- Go on a cave tour at the Cave of the Winds Mountain Park.
- Shop and dine in Manitou Springs town.
- Visit the Broadmoor Seven Falls (best with older kids.)
- Visit Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Canon City and take a gondola ride for a great view.
- Take the Pikes Peak cog railway.
- Enjoy a day at the North Pole – a Christmas themed amusement park!
If you’re looking for a family-friendly Colorado vacation, Colorado Springs is a great place to visit. There are plenty of things to do in town, including hiking, biking, rock climbing and swimming. No matter what you choose to do, you’re sure to have a great time in Colorado Springs.
The Garden of the Gods is a must-see in Colorado Springs. This unique park features massive red rock formations that are sure to amaze. Kids will love exploring all the nooks and crannies of the rocks.
There are many ways to discover the Garden of the Gods: by foot, up in the air by hot air balloon, by Segway, bike and more. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Colorado Springs.
Highlights of Colorado Springs
- Spend a day exploring Garden of the Gods.
- Handfeed giraffes at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.
- Discover dinosaurs at the Dinosaur Resource Center.
- Step into history at the Ghost Town Museum.
- Visit the United States Air Force Academy.
- Explore Red Rock Canyon.
- Tour the Olympic Training Center.
Aspen is a picturesque town set in the Rocky Mountains and is a great place to visit with kids. There are plenty of things to do in Aspen, including hiking and biking in the summer, and skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
Certainly, you will love exploring the charming town of Aspen itself. It’s home to some great family-friendly restaurants and bars, as well as some excellent kid-friendly hotels, and you are located in proximity to many things to do with kids though it is going to be a bit quieter in the summer than in the winter.
That said, Aspen is a beautiful Colorado mountain ski town that offers some of the best of the Rocky Mountains.
Highlights of Aspen
- Enjoy the nighttime Colorado sky by camping at Licoln Gulch Campgrounds.
- Have a ride on the Breathtaker Alpine Coaster.
- Visit the John Denver sanctuary and discover what inspired his song about a “Rocky Mountain High.”
- Take family friendly hikes and enjoy some rock climbing at Crater Lake Trail and Grottos Trails.
- Enjoy a winter skiing and snowboarding vacation at Aspen Snowmass.
- Older kids might like the Aspen Trail’s Ghost Tour.
- Discover the best of Aspen in the winter with Aspen Powder Tours, tubing, Snowcat Dinner Rides and more.
Colorado Dude Ranch Vacation
If you ever wanted what it is like to be a cowboy or cowgirl, then a Colorado dude ranch vacation is one of the most family-friendly Colorado vacation ideas to put on your bucket list. Our family has done two dude ranch vacations, and they are what my kids have called “the best vacation they have ever had.”
Whether you have ridden horses before or not, are interested to learn to herd cattle or just want a tranquil family vacation, a Colorado dude ranch experience is sure to exceed your expectations. From riding horses to flyfishing to hiking to just enjoying the beauty of the ranch, it is sure to be one of the most unique and memorable family vacations your kids will love.
There are several family-friendly dude ranches in Colorado. And while their amenities may differ as well as the activities they offer, typically a dude ranch will have horseback riding, family meals and a lot of fun on the menu.
Highlights of a Colorado Dude Ranch Vacation
- Go horseback riding in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.
- Unique activities like flyfishing, hiking, whitewater rafting, river tubing and more.
- Quiet simplicity of a ranch vacation, often electronic free with limited internet and cell service for you to unplug.
- Family-style meals of homecooked food.
- Additional activities like overnight pack trips, camping under the stars, herding cattle and games on horseback.
- Quality family time making lifelong memories and friends.
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mesa Verde National Park Road Trip
For a very unique Colorado family vacation, Great Sand Dunes National Park is one that’s hard to beat, as is Mesa Verde National Park. So, how about a road trip that includes both parks as one of the top family-friendly Colorado vacation ideas for your bucket list?
About 215 miles apart, you could spend a couple of days visiting both areas, especially if Colorado is somewhere you don’t visit very often. Here’s why. Both parks are very special and different, and ones you will definitely want to see.
Mesa Verde National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In fact, there are about 4500 archeological sites in this park, about 600 are cliff dwellings, the most preserved of which is Spruce Treehouse. It is the ancestral home of the Pueblo Indians, and their dwellings are a site to see. It’s a great history and science lesson for kids and one to definitely include on your bucket list.
Great Sand Dunes National Park is also worth a visit, because of its unique sand dune formations. You can rent a sand sled and, like snowboarding, sled down the sand. They are the tallest sand dunes in North America and are surrounded by a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, alpine lakes, forests and tundra.
Highlights of Mesa Verde National Park and Great Sand Dunes National Park
- Take a Ranger-guided tour in Mesa Verde to see some of the cliff dwellings up close.
- Tour the Mesa Top Loop to see some additional samples of the preserved homes.
- Learn about the culture of the Pueblo Indians and their life at the visitor’s center.
- At Great Sand Dunes National Park, rent a sand sled or sandboard to ride down the dunes.
- Visit the park at night to see the Milky Way and enjoy a spectacular view of the night sky.
- Take a splash in Medano Creek.
- Take a 4WD Tour of the Sand Dunes.
Final Thoughts on Family Friendly Colorado Vacation Ideas
Colorado is a fantastic place to enjoy a range of activities all year round. Whether you visit during their epic ski season in the winter or enjoy the beauty of the mountains and national parks in the summer, there are plenty of things to do for the whole family. Colorado offers unique landscapes, tremendous history, family-friendly fun and spectacular views. It is definitely one of the top places to put on your family bucket list.