24 Hours in Denver (with kids!)

First to set the scene: As last week was coming to an end, Calder and I knew that we wanted to do something fun for the weekend. Ideally, we wanted to head into the mountains and camp, but the weather was not cooperating. What do I mean? The forecast called for rain/SNOW, and that’s exactly what we got! Recognizing that a few days of precipitation were on the horizon, we didn’t want to force a camping trip of any sort knowing that everyone could end up a bit miserable.

We cut our losses and had a flash of genius on Friday when we decided to get a hotel room in Denver for Saturday night. It ended up being such a great decision because with some simple planning we had a fun weekend away from the house, visited new-to-us Denver attractions, ate great food, and came home without feeling overly tired or frazzled (which can happen so easily when a toddler’s in the mix!).

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Today I wanted to share the recipe we discovered for our perfect weekend in Denver (or any larger city), which included:

  • choosing the hotel location wisely
  • limiting activities
  • working with your kiddos’ naps
  • being smart about meal times

Hotel Location

To minimize travel times around the city, choose your location wisely. Ideally it would be central to the main attractions you want to visit, including restaurants, since you’ll have to eat at some point! Even though it’s a bit pricier, we opted for a hotel right in the middle of the city. Why? because then we could easily walk to restaurants for dinner and breakfast (and convenience stores for late night snacks!), and we were only a couple of miles away from the Denver Aquarium and the Children’s Museum (the big attractions for this particular weekend). In fact, if the weather had been just a touch nicer, we would have taken our bikes and biked to the aquarium and museum!

Limit Activities

Rather than pack in the activities (there’s so much you could do in Denver), we just picked one big activity for each day, and made sure to do those during Alex’s prime happy hours. Since we knew that we could spend hours at both the aquarium and children’s museum, it was essential to not plan on doing anything else on either day. If we would would have tried to do more, then Alex would have ended up overly exhausted, and it would have made meal times and the rest of the day tantrum-inducing messes.

Nap Schedule

Key to our successful weekend was that everyone remained happy, and that was due to everyone, particularly Alex, getting plenty of sleep. To do this, we did not vary from his nap schedule, but planned our days around it: making sure his nap times remained at their usual time, and making sure that soon after he woke up we were at the day’s attraction. As I mentioned above, we ended up driving to and from Denver during his naps, but we also asked for a later check-out on Sunday just so that we would have the hotel room during nap time in case we needed it.

Meal Times

While Calder and I enjoyed the aquarium and museum, for us part of the fun of a weekend in the city is getting to go to new restaurants, especially since we don’t eat out often.

  • Dinner Time : On Saturday night we wanted a grown-up meal. While this can be hard to do with kids, if you go early (say 5:30), then the restaurants are open and your kids aren’t too hungry/tired. We walked through¬†Larimer Square, peaking in the windows of a few places that interested us until we found one that was open, had a small crowd (you don’t want to end up being the only customers in an empty restaurant; that’s not fun!), and we didn’t want to end up in a place that was too fancy for a two-year-old. The trick really is to take a walk through a neighborhood with great options until you find something you like. We ended up at Russell’s Smokehouse¬†and loved it!
  • Breakfast : For breakfast on Sunday we wanted a traditional downtown diner (we still miss them from our Philly days!), but these can fill up fast, especially on the weekend, so the key is to get there early! This shouldn’t be a problem since your kids are likely to be up anyway. We walked over to Sammy’s #3 around 8am, it already had a good crowd, but they were able to seat us right away, which was better than waiting in the long line we saw as we were leaving!

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By following that simple recipe, we had such a successful weekend away! Everyone came home happy, refreshed, and feeling like we did something new and fun rather than just letting the weekend pass us by (of course, there are also times when a lazy weekend is just what we need!).

Do you have any tricks for a successful weekend in the city with toddlers? If so, we would love to hear them! Also, what are your favorite city attractions for toddlers?

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