Founded in 1876, Colorado has a lot of backstory, and History Colorado Center aims to tell those truths through art, installations, information and artifacts.
But it’s not just a museum dedicated to history, the institution aims to educate and open the minds of everyone who crosses its threshold. Plus, it’s really fun at the same time.
Keep in mind, if you haven’t been to the museum since 2010, you will find the whole thing is totally different.
The original building was demolished in order to build up Denver’s Justice Center. Then the History Colorado Center re-opened in a new space on April 28, 2012.
The current building was designed by Tryba Architects, and fills a 200,000-square-feet of space.
Once inside you get a sticker, aka ticket, and walk into a vast foray. But try not to be intimidated by the looming space.
It’s four floors, and, while it may look big, the museum can easily be done in four to six hours, even if you took everything in.
Now, how to tackle such a large museum. We suggest you start from the top floor with Written on the Land: Ute Voices, Ute History. This unique exhibit focuses on Colorado’s longest continuous residents, the Ute tribe, and the stories are all told in their own voices.
Inside the exhibit see traditional Native American arts, modern photography, and artifacts displaying a timeline of how the Ute people have adapted through the years.
Next, head to the third floor for Zoom In: The Centennial State in 100 Objects. If you have kids with you, you may find this display is the perfect “eye spy” location, it’s so packed with interesting things.
In fact, 700 artifacts deck out the space, all showcasing how Colorado became the state it is. Expect to see Jack Swigert’s Apollo 73 flight suit and other exciting items.
Now that you’ve seen the objects that make up Colorado’s history, time to head to the second level and journey to the West.
Or more, journey to Living West, a show exploring the people and their relationship to the land. This includes the impacts of climate change, invasive species, snowpack, wildfires and more.
Also on the second floor is Memorabilia from Colfax Ave, which is inside the Colorado Stories exhibition. Colfax, which was named after the 19th-century politician, Schuyler Colfax, goes East to West for just over 50 miles.
A lot has happened on that street (and still does), and through this show you can explore its unique history.
The whole of the Colorado Stories show should be taken in as well. Each display gives visitors and nugget of a resident’s life, no matter how mundane or glorious.
Highlights include tales from the Chicano activists of the 1960s and 1970s; information from semi-famous Colorado residents such as Cleo Parker Robinson, founder of the dance company, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble; a peek into the castle-like outpost Bents Fort; what life was like at the Silverton Silver Mine; and a detailed diorama of what Denver looked like in 1860.
Once back on the first level, stop by and say “hi” to the Civil War Monument located at the base of the stairs. Then, wander into Destination Colorado, a great spot for all ages.
With lot’s of interactive features such as a talking outhouse, slide and car you can “drive,” it’s a great spot for young historians. It also gives visitors a good view on how life used to look like in the Centennial State.
The ground floor is also home to the Makerspace studio, where kids can build LEGO structures, make art and construct their own creations to take home. It’s all included with admission.
Aside from the wonderful permanent displays, rotating exhibits pop up often too. Recently that included Rainbows & Revolutions, Forty Years on the ‘Fax, Queer Capital Hill and Liberated: America Fights for Democracy in World War II.
These can be found interspersed in galleries, on walls and in the common spaces throughout the museum.
Check the website for special events. Many are FREE with membership or cost a small fee.
Bonus, if you get a membership here it includes entry to all 13 of the museums and historic sites run by The State Historical Society of Colorado throughout the state.
History Colorado Center, 1200 Broadway, Denver, 303-447-8679
How to save at History Colorado Center
- Get a membership
- Utilize your library card for a FREE day pass
- Children 18 and under are FREE
- They offer discounts for groups of 10 and more
- FREE admission for all military personnel on active duty, National Guard and Reserve and their families
- There are four FREE days a year
Open everyday: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Closed: Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and closes at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve
Guests over 18: $15
18 and under: Free
Find parking meters and surface parking lots in the blocks surrounding the History Colorado Center.
Covered parking is available Art Garage, 1268 Lincoln St.
Keep in mind History Colorado Center is downtown, and many festivals and parades take place nearby, which can make parking and access difficult. Check what’s going on and plan accordingly.