For Denver area parents the holidays are a special time full of cookies, Santa, twinkling lights, and quality time with the kids. A whole lot of quality time in fact, since most school-age children are home for at least two weeks during the season.
While we may think getting presents and doing special holiday things would entertain them, any seasoned mom or dad or caretaker knows there comes a time when you just need to get out of the house.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to spend a fortune on fancy play parks in order to have fun. There are plenty of cheap, FREE and exciting things to do.
Do, See and Make Free Art
Art abounds in and near Denver, and there are so many ways for kids to do, see and make some.
The Denver Art Museum is FREE for those under the age of 18, and $13 for adults who live in Colorado.
Not only can the kids and their friends wander around and take in thousands of pieces of art, but they can make some too.
There’s no limit to how long you spend in the art studio, and usually there are two projects offered, as well as a chance to speak to the artist in resident.
At the Clyfford Still Museum, located right next to the Denver Art Museum, kids 17 and under are also FREE. Adults cost $10, though if aged 65-plus it’s just $8.
While this museum isn’t huge, there’s plenty to see and garner inspiration from. Have the kids bring a sketchbook and design their own masterpiece.
Then, find the maker studio where beads, wire, paper, glue, markers and other supplies abound for guests of all ages to use and create something to take home.
If the weather is nice go out and take a FREE art walk. Currently there is a special one geared toward kids in Golden.
Or head to the Arvada Center where the year-round sculpture garden looms, perfect for kids to run around in.
Make sure to check out the events calendar at your local library. Many libraries have art classes, all for FREE, you don’t even need a library card.
The Denver Public Library makes it easy on its website to search online for arts and crafts sessions for kids. Check your local library for details, and keep in mind some classes require pre-registration.
Library class highlights include a ceramic workshop at the Pauline Robinson Branch Library (5575 E. 33rd Ave.) on December 14 from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m.; crafting beaded intention bracelets at Ross-Barnum Branch Library (3570 W. First Ave.) on December 14 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.; and making Hansel and Gretel candy houses at the Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library (1498 N. Irving St.) on December 22 from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
There’s also a weekly ideaLAB at many locations, which offers kids a chance to create tangible and digital art.
Get the Wiggles Out
When the weather is bad it’s so hard to get kids out and moving, but they, and the parents, need to. Local parks are of course FREE and fun, but sometimes that’s not an option.
Check out our list of indoor play spaces to take advantage of HERE. This includes the Adventure Playground at Apex Clubhouse (13150 W. 72nd Ave., Arvada), which is free for kids 1 to 10 to play on.
There’s an indoor play space at the Butterfly Pavilion (6252 W. 104th Ave., Westminster), which is included with a day pass ($9.50 to $14.50, with 2 and under FREE).
Save money by getting a membership, and right now the venue is offering the yearly membership for 25-percent off with the code HOLIDAY22 for new members, and RENEW23 for renewals. Normally it’s $95 for a family membership.
When there’s enough snow, winter break is the perfect time to go sledding.
Popular spots include Ruby Hill Park (1200 W. Florida Ave.), Barnum Park (360 W. Hooker St.), Ken Caryl Sledding Hill (at South Kipling Parkway and West Ken Caryl Avenue, Littleton), and Robinson Park (200 Fairfax St.).
You don’t even have to own a sled in order to partake. Here are 17 easy, do-it-yourself sleds to check out.
Get a membership. While not on the cheap side, if you plan on going multiple times a month it cuts the cost a lot.
For example, a basic monthly membership to Urban Air (multiple locations) runs around $13 per kid, where as a day pass costs $23.99.
Best part about many of these spot-they have WiFi and tables so parents can get some downtime while the kids jump the wiggles away.
Book Some Quiet Time
With the bustle of holidays sometimes it’s nice to just get some downtime. Visit your local library for kids’ story time, crafts, and to pick up some books perfect for curling up with as the snow falls.
You don’t even need a library card in order to come and hang out, though if you want to take some books home it’s free to register.
Book stores also offer solace and a little entertainment. Second Star From the Right (1455 South Pearl St.) hosts monthly events including story times.
For December there’s a holiday theme featuring a FREE letter drop off (until Dec. 10) and then a meet-and-greet and story time with Santa on Dec. 12 and 18. On Dec. 17 the bookshop’s resident drag queen Alice will be telling stories and wrapping up any presents purchased there.
The Tattered Cover also offers a FREE story time. There are five locations to visit, and each hosts weekly, kid-focused readings. Visit the website HERE for details.
Head to The Bookies Bookstore (4315 E. Mississippi Ave.) for a FREE low key, family game day Sunday, each week from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shop also hosts author readings, just check the event calendar HERE for more information.
Add In Education
Sure, school is out but that doesn’t mean little brains don’t need some challenges. Now is the time to check out all of the area’s amazing museums.
Kids can visit the Denver Art Museum, Clyfford Still Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and History Colorado for FREE.
There are also a handful of FREE days at various museums, see the list HERE.
Many of the local libraries also have FREE family day passes to check out with your library card.
Denver Public Library alone offers passes to the Butterfly Pavilion, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Firefighters Museum, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, History Colorado, Museo de las Americas, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Forney Museum, Molly Brown House Museum, Wings Over the Rockies and Friends of Dinosaur Ridge. Book a pass online, up to two weeks in advance.
Westminster Public Library has passes to many of the same spots, as well as passes to state parks. You can also book a day pass for the family to the Westminster Recreation Center locations, which includes swimming, a gym, and golf, though winter isn’t the season for the latter.
Another way to save money and see the museums is by getting a membership, which, as it happens, also makes a great holiday gift.
All over the city Santa is popping up, and the school break is a great time to catch him.
We hear he is dropping in at Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum in Lowry on Dec. 17 ($11.95 to $18.95), and at the Exploration of Flight at Centennial Airport on Dec. 18 ($6 to $12). Best part, he is coming by helicopter.
While this is certainly a fun way to see him, there are FREE visits with Santa too. Head to Santa’s Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s (Thornton & Lone Tree), which runs now through Dec. 24. Just make sure to book a reservation first.
Find a complete list of where Santa is popping up and how much it costs HERE.
Make Dining an Adventure
Go out to eat and make it into an event. Have your kids “review” their food. Draw pictures of that burger and create a food-focused gallery show at home. Challenge little ones to try something new.
While these tasks might seem expensive, a lot of places actually have FREE meals for kids, cutting the cost down by a lot. HERE is our list.
Another tactic to idle away an afternoon or evening involves a grocery store and a cookbook. Or recipes on the internet if that’s easier.
Let them pick something they love or want to try, then go to the store to shop for ingredients and work together to make it. This could be a full meal, snack or even holiday cookies.
Do-it-yourself pizza is another meal that’s not only kid-friendly, but fun to make. Many small pizza shops sell their dough, so you can take it home and embellish.
Or if all else fails, most Spouts grocery store locations sell pizza dough too, plus all the toppings.