While the start of the new school year is quickly upon us, there are still plenty of fun summer family activities in the metro area which are available during the day and right after school. Many of these are great fall activities as well and offer spectacular views of the changing colors. Below is a list of some of my favorites when my son was in preschool and an elementary school student, as well as during the middle and high school years. Happy adventures!
*Bike, walk or tube the Platte River Trail from C-470 to Hudson Gardens where you can visit their gardens and have refreshments at the riverside coffee shop. Start at the South Platte Park entrance station at Platte Canyon and Hwy 470 (it is approximately 3 miles to Hudson Garden from there). For a shorter trip, start at the Carson Nature Center at South Santa Fe Drive and Mineral Avenue just west of Aspen Grove.
*Learn to build drip sand castles online or from DVDs at your local library. All you need are a couple of buckets and a trowel for endless fun. For a challenge, build one in the middle of a stream by piling up rocks as a foundation (the stream at Belleview Park is great for this).
*Go crawdad fishing at Robert H. McWilliams Park (2701 E Yale Ave, Denver between University Avenue and Colorado Boulevard). We like to use chicken liver on fishing line and last week our group caught 109 of them in 30 minutes–magical!
*Go berry/veggie and flower picking at Berry Patch Farms in Brighton. They have building workshops for making bird, bat and ladybug houses.
*Head out Hwy 285 to Kenosha Pass. Within an hour of Denver you can hike the Colorado trail and catch some amazing aspen views. There is a picnic area on the east side as well as open forest service area a little further on. After hiking, cook some hot dogs over an open fire or try camping (there is also a designated campground on the west side of the pass). As you hike the east side, you’ll find a couple of tepees constructed out of dead trees. On the way home, make sure to stop at Coney Island just west of Bailey. Shaped like a hot dog, they offer burgers and dogs with ice cream treats for a cheap price.
*Visit Barr Lake State Park in Brighton, CO. It’s a great place to fish, has a lovely nature center, an 8.8-mile multi-use trail that circles the lake and passes several wildlife viewing stations and the wildlife refuge.
*Find a construction site and just hang out and watch. The building of the Pepsi Center was a delight for us.
*Go to Larkspur Community Park in Larkspur, CO (south of Castle Rock off I-25). You can fish, play on the playground and watch the trains stop and unhook engines from pushing the coal trains up the Palmer Divide. There’s plenty of railroad junk off the sides of the track if your child likes to collect things.
*Visit the Forney Museum of Transportation at 4303 Brighton Boulevard in Denver, which hosts a large collection of antique cars, trains, horse-drawn carriages, bicycles and other modes of historical transportation.
*Go to The Perfect Landing restaurant at Centennial Airport. While you can’t sit on the runways like you could pre-2001, the restaurant is a great place to have an ice cream and watch the planes.
*Hike and visit the nature center at Roxborough State Park. This 3,339-acre park is filled with dramatic red-rock formations and a variety of wildlife ranging from black bears to mule deer.
*Check-out the preserves the trackways of dinosaurs that roamed the be shores of the Cretaceous Interior Seaway along Dinosaur Ridge and visit the nature center. Don’t miss the dinosaur-filled gift shop and indoor exhibit hall.
*Race the go-carts at Bandimere Speedway. You can get going upwards of 50 mph.
*Adventurous teens should try RipBoarding on Clear Creek in Golden. It’s like rafting without a raft and is similar to bodyboarding with the added thrill and challenge of whitewater.
*Visit Golden Gate Canyon State Park outside of Golden for great hikes, car camping and backpacking shelters. It’s the perfect place to introduce kids to backpacking. If want to try something different, try lashing together dead trees into a raft on one of the lakes. Visit the park office and watch the trout swim in the pond.
*Rent jet skis at Cherry Creek State Park from The Ski Shak (303-766-0766) Memorial through Labor Day. Or try hiking, biking, picnicking, camping or swimming. If you enjoy horseback riding, there will be a new stable concession later this year.
Guest blogger Craig A. Knippenberg, LCSW, M.Div. is a child and family therapist and president of Knippenberg, Patterson and Associates (serving Colorado families for the past 30 years). He is also the founder of AdventureDad.org, a Web site and blog dedicated to helping dads (and moms) connect with their kids through adventures.