Is there anyone who attended school in metro Denver who has not been to the remarkable Denver Museum of Nature & Science in City Park?
On weekday mornings during the school year, a fleet of yellow buses park outside while youngsters explore the dinosaur skeletons, the brilliant minerals, artifacts from space exploration or a myriad of other collections.
But it’s not just for kids, people of all ages can enjoy the magic of our natural world. Explore three stories of exhibits, both permanent and traveling. Plus, an IMAX, planetarium, interactive space area, cafe, amazing gift shop and more.
While a membership is highly recommended to save money, there are also FREE days (and some nights from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) are scattered throughout the year. You an also use your Denver Public Library card to book a single-day membership for FREE. Do note that while admission is free on these days, it does not include the Planetarium or IMAX.
The museum began as the modest private collection of a 19th century naturalist Edwin Carter in a Breckenridge cabin. He wanted to engage in and promote the scientific study of the birds and mammals of the Rocky Mountains.
What began so modestly has grown into a prestigious institution known for its famous wildlife dioramas, its work in archeology, anthropology and paleontology — as well as human physiology, health, mechanics, astronomy and more. Today a mere 2% of the 1.5 million artifacts and specimens are on display.
One of the highlights is the dinosaur bone area, which has been part of the museum in one form or another since it opened. In fact, a towering T-rex greets guests as they enter the museum.
Head to Prehistoric Journey to see more ancient skeletons, as well as display on how the world came to be as we know it. Then, at the end of the exhibit, watch on as staff cleans real fossils that were recently discovered.
Next, traipse through the full-scale dioramas on the second and third floors. These too have been part of the museum for decades, but displays from the Arctic, desert, plains and other regions showcase animals in lifelike scenes.
This spot is great not just for seeing and learning about a slew of animals and their habitats, but for little walkers who need a carpeted surface to explore and those looking for a (usually) quieter spot to explore. See if you can find the crazy swivel chairs, puzzle block and moving “trout pond” while you’re there.
Kids will also love the Discovery Zone. This area, best for ages 3 to 8 (with a sectioned off toddler area too), features STEM activities from water play to building to puzzles. There’s also a rubber sand dig area where little ones can take a brush and shovel and practice finding and cleaning of dinosaur bones.
Another Denver Museum of Nature & Science classic is the Coors Gems and Minerals Hall, which celebrates Colorado’s mining history.
Though it hasn’t changed much in the last 40 years, it’s still a magical place to explore, complete with a gypsum crystal cavern, a six-foot wall of sparkling red rhodochrosite crystals, locally-mined gems and minerals, and a giant Brazilian topaz that was once owned by the surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
One of the newest additions to the museums is Space Odyssey. Located on the first floor, guests learn all about Mars and the robots that have been there, meteorites, planets and more.
There’s a lot of interactive features to this exhibit too, including creating your own images of nebulae and galaxies, a rocket launch simulator, crater creation and more. Don’t miss the VR Transporter or the kid-friendly spaceship in the very back of the exhibit.
But wait, there’s so much more going on at this 716,000-square-foot museum. Visit Egyptian mummies. Learn more about the body and your own genetic own make up in Expedition Health.
See artifacts and find out more about Native American tribes from the area. The display of rare Vasily Konovalenko gem sculptures shouldn’t be missed either.
Finally, pay a little extra to get tickets to the planetarium ($4 to $5) where the heavens come down to Earth in a handful of captivating shows. There’s also the Infinity Theater, where a calendar full of fabulous, ever-changing films bring the natural world to Denver on a giant, 3D screen ($10 to $7).
Denver Museum of Nature & Science, 2001 Colorado Blvd., Denver, 303-370-6000
How to save at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
- Get a membership
- Pack a lunch
- Find the FREE days and nights
- Check your local library for passes
- Free tickets to licensed Colorado K-12 educators
Check the DMNS website for revised hours and ticket prices as there are special discounts under the new ticketing system.
Open every day: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (except Christmas Day, and only until 3 p.m. on Thanksgiving), and some Fridays the museum is open until 9 p.m.
General Admission Prices
(Note: You save $1 on admission when you buy peak tickets online.)
Seniors (65+): $19.95
Junior (3-18): $17.95
Military (current & retired): $3 off
SNAP recipients: $1 admission for up to 10 people
Additional charges for Infinity Theater, Planetarium & Special Exhibitions.