October is a beautiful month in Denver. The leaves are slowly turning from a vibrant green to lovely shades of yellow and red in the yards of quaint, charming homes—all with the snow-capped Rocky Mountains as a back drop. Any adult would relish the chance to spend some time in this city learning about its rich history and drinking its locally crafted beers, but it can be challenging to travel with young children in a big city as it may seem like there is never enough to keep them engaged. Spending a day at the Denver Botanic Gardens, however, may be the answer.
As soon as your ticket is marked by one of the Garden’s volunteers, you are greeted at the entrance by a huge glass sculpture which looks like it came straight out of the movie Frozen—what kid wouldn’t eat that up? This is just the first of many pieces by American artist Dale Chihuly which are scattered strategically throughout the Garden’s regular exhibits. The large, bright pieces of art peek out from behind the plant life, looking as if they grew from the ground themselves and are reminiscent of the illustrations from a Dr. Seuss book making the whole place feel like a fantasy land.
At night, the real fun begins. When the sun goes down, the lights go on and Chihuly’s sculptures truly come to life. To experience this special after-hours event, you must buy tickets in advance as many dates between now and November 30—the last day of the exhibit’s run at the Denver Botanic Gardens—are sold out.
During daylight hours, however, your little ones can explore the Mordecai Children’s Garden. Many different kinds of plants live in this space, and kids are invited to learn by smelling and even touching the displays. Plaques throughout the garden ask children to identify the color of flower buds, feel the texture of needles and count leaves—all piquing their curiosity and keeping them engaged.
Wooden bridges provide a great deal of amusement as the children run, jump and play, loudly exerting energy in a safe space. Allow the little ones to take off their shoes and splash in the stream before walking down to see the plants growing around the pond. At the very back of the garden there is a little stage and a farm stand for imaginative play and a building where classes such as gardening and cooking are offered for families.
Tasty snacks can be found to satisfy tiny tummies in the main gardens at the Offshoots Café. Vegetarian and gluten-free options breakfast and lunch options can be found along with classic sweets such as éclairs and colorful cupcakes the size of your fist.
It is easy to get lost in the Denver Botanic Gardens for a day with your kids; it’s a fantastic and engaging learning experience for every member of the family.
Shauna Armitage is a parenting blogger, a freelance travel writer and the co-founder of Pure Wander Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @CarpeCalamus