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My personal top 5 playgrounds in metro Denver

This month I’m celebrating the launch of the 3rd edition of my guide book Denver Playgrounds & Parks. After having been out of print for half a year, it feels great to have more books available again. front cover tinyWith an additional 160 playgrounds and a new focus on the very best 50 parks in town, this 2016 edition is more fun than ever! So to mark the occasion, I’ve listed my own personal top 5 Denver play areas… it’s a question I get asked a lot. Happy exploring!

The guide is available as a book and iPhone app. The book is sold at Amazon and at local stores such as Timbuk Toys, The Bookies, and The Tattered Cover. 

Carpenter Park

This mega-playground in Thornton was constructed in 2013 and truly offers something for everyone. In addition to the 10 swings, 8 slides, and 6 spinners, the play area includes a merry-go-round, a rocking boat, sliding bars, and more. The sprayground features spouts and fountains that light up at night. On summer weekends, there are pedal boat rentals on the adjacent lake, as well as a full-sized carousel.

Location: Madison St & 112th Ave, Thornton2 carpenter park

Hopper Hollow Park

 This cheery park in Wheat Ridge replaces a vacant lot with grassy fields and a great play area. Ladybug-themed and colorful, the playground offers a 4-person merry-go-round and lots of ladders at odd angles. The separate toddler area is nearly as large as the main play area.

Location: Kendall St & W 44th Ave, Wheat Ridge3 hopper hollow park

Quail Crossing Park

Come visit this tall rocket waiting on its launch pad! You can climb to the top level, enter through one of the Shuttle Entrances, and adjust its large mission control panel. There is an alien-themed teeter-totter, a large suspended blue platform, and a spinning red ring (for sitting or lying inside).

Location: 13402 Kalamath St, Westminster4 quail crossing

Estates Park

Come to this park at 6030 feet elevation and have it all! You get great views of the foothills and plains, a modern playground with super-tall slides and several spinners, and plenty of grassy open space for playing frisbee golf or running around.

Location: 16169 W Ellsworth Dr, Golden5 estates park

Big Dry Creek Park

This spacious park is located along the Big Dry Creek Trail in Westminster. The playground boasts some fun equipment: a weight-adjustable teeter-totter, a flat-top spinner, a cage spinner, a stand-up arch seesaw, and a suspended wobbly walkway.

Location: 1694 W 128th Ave, Westminster6 big dry creek

In case you missed them:

Guest blogger Chris Sekirnjak has lived in the Denver area since 2004 and currently resides in Applewood (Wheat Ridge) with his wife and two young children. Outdoor fun has been his main form of entertainment ever since he was a little boy growing up in Austria. His two guide books Denver Playgrounds & Parks and Run, Stroll, Hike were published between 2014 and 2016 and have been adapted to iPhone apps.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. While clicking these links won’t cost you extra money, they help us keep this site up and running. See our disclosure policy. 

Free Days in Denver 2016

I am so proud of living in Colorado where Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law legislation needed to put the renewal of the successful Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) before voters in November (please plan to vote YES) once again. The bill gives funding to SCFD facilities giving us access and these great FREE days!  

Also of note this summer: General admission to the History Colorado Center and plus all six of these Community Museums statewide are FREE for kids ages 18 and under every day through Labor Day! 








Free Days are subject to change. Always check with the museum or attraction to confirm!

Also of note, there are a few places that are always free. The Denver Art Museum is free for kids 18 and under every day (due to an awesome grant they received in 2015), Hudson Gardens and Aurora History Museum.

Also of note, if you have a 4th Grader, they can get an annual pass to the National Parks as a part of Every Kid in a Park. (Thanks, President Obama). 

Bolder Boulder’s fun on the run (at least that is the hope!)

A few months ago, I decided that I’d like to run the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day. Since I have never run a 5K…or any-K for that matter since P.E. class in High School (Class of 1600 BC), I bribed my family to do the Family Walk division in the Bolder Boulder this year so I can do a test run (no pun intended) and see what it’s all about.

My thoughts are that I’ve had a bit of time to train. I’m not a runner by nature (well, unless you count running errands!) I love to shop, so I more or less go at a leisurely stroll (so as not to miss any bargains, of course). If shopping was an Olympic sport, hands down I’d have the gold! But here I am, committing to this 5K. I’m motivated, driven, I even bought a cute new running outfit. I’m putting it out there because then this way I now have to be accountable, right? Power of your peers and all that.

But all this motivation has got me thinking…why this race and why now?

Viral video sums up parenting in 19 seconds

We’ve allllllll been there.

In a video labeled on YouTube as the “Most Patient Dad Ever,” we see in 19 seconds what every parent goes through during the daily grind called parenthood. I mean, you can only hear the same question (“why?”) so many times before you want to scream.

P.S. He is frosting a cake. In case you didn’t get that the first 10 times.

Contest: Panera Bread’s Summer Salads ($25 gift cards up for grabs!)

Who is ready for some summer salads?

Panera Bread has been busy  creating new salads and updating your favorites. The best news of all? They are all deliciously clean without artificial preservatives, flavors sweeteners or colors from artificial sources. Currently, 85-90 percent of Panera’s ingredients are natural and their chicken, turkey, sausage and ham are raised without the use of antibiotics. 

There are 27 bakery-cafes in the Denver/Boulder area and here are the delicious salads you’ll find this summer:


Chinese Citrus Cashew with Chicken

(New) Chinese Citrus Cashew with Chicken. Because I’m a huge fan of the Asian Sesame Chicken Salad, I’d highly recommend this new salad made with romaine, napa cabbage blend, cucumber, fresh pineapple and cilantro. Oh, and while we’re at it, throw in some mandarin oranges, roasted cashews, hoisin sauce and soy-miso lime dressing for the win!

(New) Green Goddess Cobb with Chicken. This glorious Cobb has antibiotic-free chicken, arugula, romaine, kale and radicchio blend, vine-ripened tomatoes, pickled red onions, avocado, bacon, cage-free hard-boiled egg, house-made green goddess dressing.

(In season) Strawberry Poppyseed with Chicken. Chicken raised without antibiotics, romaine, fresh strawberries, blueberries and pineapple, mandarin oranges, toasted pecan pieces and (drum roll) fat-free poppyseed dressing. 

Green Goddess Cobb with Chicken

Green Goddess Cobb with Chicken

Fuji Apple with Chicken. Chicken, argula, romaine, kale, radiccio blend, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, toasted pecans, Gorgonzola, apple chips, sweet white balsamic vinaigrette.

Romaine and Kale Caesar with Chicken. Chicken raised without antibiotics, kale, romaine, handmade parmesan crisps, Caesar dressing. 


Mile High Mamas has FIVE $25 Panera Bread gift cards up for grabs. You may enter as many as five times!

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Clean It Up Yourself: Every Parent Can Relate to This Hilarious Parody

Summer is a time for fun, water fights, watermelon, BBQs and messes. Lots and lots of messes.

If you’re a parent who feels like you’re constantly cleaning up after your kids (who isn’t?), then this new video from the lovable Holderness Family will give you some comic relief. 

Now, get back to cleaning up.

This summer: explore potential energy, kinetic energy, speed & force with your kids!

FREE at-home lessons and activities available on Speedometry website

In 2014, the Mattel Children’s Foundation and the USC Rossier School of Education partnered to introduce Speedometry, an innovative program that uses cars, tracks and household items to make STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning fun and engaging.

Hot Wheels® Speedometry™ aims to deepen students’ understanding of speed, angles, slopes, collisions, kinetic energy and potential energy. The free-to-use curriculum targets fourth grade (8-9 year old) students and aims to put them on course for success in science and mathematics.

In fact, recent classroom testing of the curriculum revealed positive results from implementation, and showed that fourth graders who learned science and math concepts with Speedometry showed gains in content knowledge and a greater interest in lessons in comparison to students who did not use the curriculum.


But the fun doesn’t have to end when the school bell rings – you can bring Speedometry™ learning home! After all, math and science are all around us and play is more than simply fun. These downloadable activities are intended to provide an opportunity for families to share moments of joy, excitement, curiosity and wonder – all using materials found around your home.

 “With the need for more students in the STEM fields, teachers and parents need to find ways to make scientific topics engaging and accessible for students from an early age,” said Rossier Dean Karen Symms Gallagher. “The Speedometry curriculum brings science to life for kids while also being grounded by the research and assessment of learning experts in the field of education.”

The curriculum and home-based activities are available for free in both English and Spanish on the Speedometry website ( Be sure to watch the “Activities at Home” video and download the free Hot Wheels® Family Engagement Activities to try Speedometry™ at home with your kids.


-By Shannon Fallon. In partnership with Mile High Mamas.

Summer Reading: Book Picks and Tips for Every Age

Sunscreen, snacks, sunglasses, and a book in hand — these are the summer essentials for all bookworms, kids and adults alike! Whether your family is traveling on vacation or sticking closer to home, the season offers wonderful opportunities for readers of all ages to dive into new reads. Every book is a new journey and the more books you pick up, the more summer adventures you’ll have!

Brightly has a lot to offer when it comes to getting your family’s summer reading ready. Broken down by age and stage, you’ll discover great reading recommendations (everything from fun mysteries for young kids to romantic beach reads for moms), printable activities, road trip listens, and so much more —perfect for outdoor reading, family trips, and all-around summer fun.

Pre-K (Ages 3-5) 

Summer Book Lists

Growing Readers (Ages 6-8) 

Summer Book Lists

Tweens (Ages 9-12) 

Summer Book Lists

Reading Tips and Activities

Teens (Ages 13-17) 

Click here for brand new YA releases, road trip book recommendations, resources to help teens write more this summer, and more.

Summer Reading: 

Reading Tips and Activities: 


Click here for great reading inspiration — from nonfiction to romance, we’ve got you grown-ups covered this summer!

Summer Reading

by The Brightly Editors (

Adoptive Families: Have You Signed Up For Adoption Camp Yet?

We in Colorado are fortunate to have a variety of adoption camps held right here each summer. Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families has been forging connections within and among adoptive families for 25 years. Which camp is just right for you?

My family has already registered for this year — it’s our third in a row. The first year, both my kids and I made new friends — people who know what it’s like to be in an adoptive family. Each subsequent year, we look forward to seeing our new friends, doing campy activities, and learning more about identity and the ages and stages of growing up.

As an adoptive mom, I get a lot from the special speakers brought in to help me navigate the sometime turbulent waters of adoptive parenting. (Here’s a sneak peek at the adult workshops for Domestic Adoption Camp.) Topics may include behavior and nutrition, forging better connections with your kids, getting the support you need at school, what you need to know about search and reunion, transracial issues, culture exploration and other subjects adoptive parents want to know more about.

Plus, simultaneously, the kiddos are bonding with each other and learning more and more about their own journeys, helped along by counselors who have walked their path.

Registrations deadlines are coming up soon, so check into your camp today!


adoption bookLori Holden, mom of a teen daughter and a teen son, blogs from Denver at Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available in paperback, hard cover, audio and e-book versions. It makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life.

Chewbacca Mom Strikes Back with Star Wars Director J.J. Abrams

When James Corden loses his patience with Chewbacca Mom in the car, “Star Wars” director J.J. Abrams has some notes for Candace Payne and gets James in on the fun.

Does anyone else want to be her BFF? That laugh just doesn’t get old!