With the evaporation of mask mandates, warming weather and optimism that COVID’s worst days are likely behind us, spring break looks hotter than ever this year, whatever the temperature.
As schools prepare to let out — including Denver Public Schools from March 28 to April 4 — we’ve got some ideas for family-friendly, free and relatively low-cost activities to keep kids busy during our annual passage into spring. (This year’s vernal equinox arrives about a week before, on March 20.)
There are dozens more events at denverpost.com/calendar, but here are a few that we like.
Big museums for the littlest spring-breakers
As parents know, museums and parks are great ways to burn time and energy without micro-managing your kids (hopefully, anyway). And spring break is a chance to catch up on all the things you haven’t seen yet.
While SCFD is not offering any free days during DPS Spring Break (that’s intentional, given the potential revenue for these nonprofits), kids under 18 are always free at Denver Art Museum, which has a fancy, renovated building and new angles to show off. Everything there is bilingual, too. denverartmuseum.org
There are a few free SCFD days just before DPS Spring Break, when other students will already be loosed from their educational shackles. Those include Denver Botanic Gardens, both the York Street and Chatfield Farms locations (March 16); the kid-heaven of the Colorado Railroad Museum (March 17); Denver Botanic Gardens’ Plains Conservation Center (March 19); Clyfford Still Museum (March 19); and, just after DPS goes back to school, Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum (April 5) and the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave (April 6). Visit scfd.org/find-culture/free-days for the full list.
Nature, painting and more kid’s camps
While many kids’ spring break camps filled up early, there are still last-minute reservations available for full, half-day and multi-day camps, from hip-hop dance to basketball fundamentals. We’re creatives at heart, so we like Conifer’s Nature Art Camp, which flits between its indoor art studio and local open spaces like Pine Valley Ranch and Hiwan Heritage Park. It’s targeted toward K-fifth grade students, March 21-24. $40 per day for $140 for 4 days. thenaturelink.com
Spots are also available for History Colorado’s Kapow! Super Hero Spring Break Camp, March 30-April 3, at History Colorado Center. Kiddie cosplay meets myth-making as participants create their own costumes, origin stories and comic books — all of it tying into the museum’s What’s Your Story? exhibit. Behind-the-scenes tours, visits from “real life heroes” and more should keep kids busy. $250 for the week, with tuition assistance available. historycolorado.org
Northeast Denver and Aurora residents can tap into Bluff Lake Nature Center’s Spring Break Sessions, which begin March 18. The 123-acre wildlife refuge offers nature-themed activities, games, crafts and more with Bluff Lake’s environmental educators, according to its website. March 18, then March 31-April 1. $50-$100, with scholarships available. Register at blufflake.org/mini-camps.
Naturally, there are lots of deals at other commercial businesses, from rock-climbing walls and laser tag to paint-and-take classes. Visit our buddies at milehighonthecheap.com for more on those.
Sunny day trips, light(er) on traffic
If you’re not looking to fight ski traffic or hit your favorite high-country hiking spot, consider these options for day trips from Denver. Take the kids fishing or ice skating at Estes Park’s Trout Haven Ranch Trout Pond. Skating is $5 (or $3 if you bring your own skates) and ice fishing is available “with all the supplies needed for a relaxing experience,” such as on-site enclosed sheds, equipment and bait. No license is required. $1.25 per inch for what you catch; $1 per fish to clean, and $2 and $3 rod rentals. trouthavenresorts.com
Great Sand Dunes National Park is a must-see if you haven’t been yet, with majestic dunes available for kids to climb and slide down. It’s near Alamosa and generally easy to get to via U.S. Route 285. Visit nps.gov/grsa/index.htm for more.
Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, near La Junta, is known as a living museum, where costume-clad guides lead you through a trading outpost once frequented by the legendry Kit Carson, according to colorado.com. Visit nps.gov/beol/index.htm for details.
If you’ve got time on that trip, swing through the New Mexico border town of Trinidad — it’s about 80 miles, or 90 minutes away — for some food, gallery-hopping or visits to the city’s historic attractions, such as one-of-a-kind sculptures, a preserved locomotive and the city’s newly refreshed food and drink culture, thanks to a number of Denver transplants opening up shop there. trinidad.co.gov
Visit colorado.com/articles/colorado-family-attractions-kids-10-under for lots more kid-friendly Colorado activities that won’t break the bank or strand you in the daily I-70 parking lot.
Assemble some free crafts
If you’re a member of the Ikea Family, the Swedish furniture giant’s rewards program, swing by the Centennial location as it offers to-go craft bags for painting, paper spinners and popsicle makers, as well as an on-site scavenger hunt. Yes, it’s a sales incentive to join the company’s discounts and sales-tracking system, but it’s also a fine deal if you’re going to be there anyway. Free crafts available Monday-Friday, March 14-25. Sign up for free in the store or RSVP at ikea.com/us/en/stores/events/centennial-co