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Old 04-16-2012, 02:32 AM
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
15 posts, read 23,043 times
Reputation: 17


I'm planning a trip to Colorado in early June and would appreciate some itinerary advice. I'll be traveling with my husband and 7 yr old. This will be our first trip to Colorado. I'd like to start my introduction by visiting the Front Range cities (Boulder, Denver, Colorado Springs) and thought I could do this is 5 days. After further reading I realize I'd need more time LOL. I've adjusted my itinerary to extend my stay to 7 days. I'm trying to find a nice "sweet spot" for seeing the sites without getting overwhelmed. I'm wondering whether this is a realistic plan for an introductory visit, and whether anyone would have suggestions for what I should change, include or skip. Thanks!

DAY 1:
-- Arrive in Denver (1pm)
-- Sleep in Denver.

DAY 2:
-- State Capitol
-- Denver Art Museum
-- US Mint
-- 16th Street Mall
-- Denver Museum of Nature & Science
-- Sleep in Denver.

DAY 3:
-- Drive to Manitou Springs
-- Lunch in Manitou Springs
-- Garden of the Gods
-- Drive back to Denver
-- Sleep in Denver

DAY 4:
-- Drive to Boulder
-- University of Colorado
-- Pearl St Mall (lunch)
-- Celestial Seasonings ??
-- Drive to Estes Park
-- Sleep in Estes Park

DAY 5:
-- Drive to Grand Lake
-- Trail Ridge Road
-- Sleep in Grand Lake

DAY 6:
-- Drive to Golden (lunch)
-- Drive to Denver
-- Sleep in Denver

DAY 7:
-- Fly out of Denver (10am)

I will be staying outside of downtown Denver. Would anyone have suggestions for where to find parking in the downtown civic center area?

I originally wanted to do the Pikes Peak Train, then later nixed that and added 2 extra days to my stay in order to do the Trail Ridge Road drive to Grand Lake. Should I still do Pikes Peak?

Is it worth driving to Red Rocks Park? (when there is no concert scheduled)

Also, how easy is it to find public restrooms in any of these areas? This is important with a young child in tow.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:21 AM
Location: Avondale, AZ
1,207 posts, read 4,139,717 times
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In June the sun is around for a long time. It's still light at 9pm. If you arrive at DIA at 1pm, and settle into your hotel at 3, you'll have 6 hours of daylight left. You could easily drive to Red Rocks and check out the amphitheater and hike around the park.
Also on day 3, when you drive south to Manitou, you could easily add the Rocky Mountain Dinasaur Center in Woodland Park. I would also add the Air Force Academy. It's close to I-25, and has an impressive museum/gift shop with easy access to veiw the campus. I would also suggest driving SH105 north out of Monument on your way back to Denver. It's a beautiful drive along the foothills back to the Denver area.
Good Luck on your trip.
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Old 04-16-2012, 09:49 AM
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Faye, there is a lot of leeway in your Day3 schedule, you could easily fit in taking the cog train up to the peak, the train is right there in Manitou anyway, up Ruxton Avenue. Manitou will be there when you get back. You can pack in a lot of things in a full day.
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Last edited by Mike from back east; 04-16-2012 at 10:04 AM..
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:07 PM
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Wink Reasonable enough

Basically, your itinerary seems reasonable.

If with the interest, Red Rocks Amphitheater is certainly a beautiful and unique place. Do check, as unsure what access is possible when without a concert, and it would be best appreciated from inside the venue.

I cannot entirely answer you question on public restrooms, although in part. In downtown Manitou Springs, you should be able to locate something, as this town definitely caters to tourists. The same is absolutely the case in Estes Park, with a number of dedicated public restrooms in the downtown area. If any questions in this, they offer a tourist center across the wide street of US 34 from McDonald's. As national parks will, Rocky Mountain National Park offers public restrooms in popular locations. Naturally, at their main visitor's center, but, as you may be in the mood by then, also high on Trail Ridge Road, both near its summit, and also not far beyond there at the Alpine Visitor's Center. The town of Grand Lake also offers such options.

If unfamiliar with Estes Park, you may wish on entering its picturesque valley that you could spend more time there, as it enjoys magnificent scenery. But a few hours, an afternoon and evening will not be enough time for all that might be visited, both in town and that reached from there in RMNP. But it is still, in recompense of a tight schedule, a fantastic drive via Trail Ridge Road to Grand Lake.

You may wish to consider lodging options in Estes Park. By June, you should have a reservation if wishing the certainty of staying in a particular place, and not shopping around for what is left. Most of the lodging in Estes Park is of but an average motel standard. If wishing something more memorable, head for the Stanley Hotel, or one of the few other places with higher standards.

Should be a fun trip, and as well that you have not overly scheduled it. You may wish to stop here and there for no more than a photo opportunity.
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Old 04-16-2012, 05:32 PM
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Day 2 is over ambitious. If the Museum of Nature and Science interests you, it is a three hour visit. If it does not interest you much, don't go. You might take in the 16th Street Mall the first afternoon, have dinner and retire to the hotel.

Day three is possible. Do plan at least 90 minutes going and returning from the Springs - that is three hours out of your day right there.

There are opinions above as to other sights to see, and they are perfectly valid. There are items on your list I personally would skip, and if I had a 7 year old I would take in the zoo, but you cannot do everything so stick with the things you think will interest you.
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:43 PM
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Good itinerary. I agree you might want to do one of the downtown things on the first day after your child has a nap. It will be good to get out and stretch your legs. Plan to do your lower elevation less strenuous things in the first couple of days while you get used to the altitude.

Red rocks is very accessible accept when there is an event going on. There is a little gift shop there that has some interesting history on building it so try to go during the open hours.
Red Rocks Gifts Shop

You might want to consider renting a small RV for the trips out of the Denver/Boulder area. It will allow you to stay where you are and then continue to the next destination. And your bathroom for the young one goes with you. Staying at a few campgrounds would probably be the highlight of the trip for your 7 yr old. You could do 3 nights in a hotel, 3 nights in an RV.
Cruise America: Compact RV Rental Model
RV Rent - Motorhome Rental - Road Bear RV USA
There are different sizes available. I just included links to the smallest.

You might want to try and fit in a white water rafting trip. http://www.raftingcolorado.com/whitewater/ (broken link) Loads of fun and they have some pretty tame ones. The scenery is usually pretty spectacular. Also while in the mountains you may want to do a gold mine tour. http://www.historicargotours.com/

This place has a hotel and is kind of fun because of how old and historic it is.
The caves http://www.indianhotsprings.com/colorado-thermal-caves are adults only but your daughter can go in the pool. http://www.indianhotsprings.com/colorado-mineral-pool

Last edited by mic111; 04-16-2012 at 07:58 PM..
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Old 04-16-2012, 06:48 PM
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
15 posts, read 23,043 times
Reputation: 17
Thank you so much for the responses, they're all very helpful!

I had no idea that there is still light until 9pm, good bit of info to know! I love the idea of checking out Red Rocks on the day of arrival.

I will definitely look into some of the other recommended sites. The Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Center sounds like something my daughter might like to see, and I'm glad you mentioned this because it isn't even mentioned in the Frommer's I've been using to plan my trip.

I threw in Museum of Nature and Science because I thought my 7 yr old might like it. I know it isn't quite in downtown but it looked like a short drive from there. I'll ask her to see whether she'd be more interested in this or the zoo. I didn't consider the zoo since she had already been to the San Francisco Zoo (not very remarkable) and the San Diego Zoo (huge and overwhelming).

I'd be interested in hearing which items you would personally skip.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:03 PM
Location: Boulder, Co
49 posts, read 155,499 times
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I would check out the Rocky Mountain National Park website. They are doing major road reconstruction starting the end of May. I read something about mandatory shuttle buses unless you arrive in your own vehicle by 9am. Not sure if it impacts Trail Ridge Rd or not.
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Old 04-16-2012, 08:04 PM
Location: CO
109 posts, read 233,218 times
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We moved here from the Silicon Valley 18 years ago and have raised two kids in Colorado Springs. I think we've probably done and seen just about everything on your list. Keeping kids in mind, this is what I'd advise...

State Capitol - this is interesting - especially if you can take a guided tour.
Denver Art Museum - probably not very entertaining for your daughter. I'd skip this in favor of other things if you're pressed for time.
US Mint - this is very cool. Make sure you reserve a tour well in advance (as in right now). Tours fill up very fast in the summer.
16th Street Mall - overrated. Just a lot of shopping & restaurants that you can find pretty much anywhere.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science - very cool for kids and adults. Allow several hours.

I'd also suggest the Aquarium in Downtown Denver and also the Denver Zoo (located near the Museum of Nature & Science).

Lunch in Manitou Springs - more tourist shopping and restaurants. There's a cute penny arcade there. It won't take you long to see most of Manitou.
Garden of the Gods - DO NOT MISS THIS!!!! Take the drive all the way through the park. Stop at the Trading Post inside the park and the Visitor Center outside the park entrance.

Do try to take the Cog Railway up Pikes Peak. It is definitely worth it!
USAFA is also worth a stop, as mentioned by another poster above.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is VERY nice.

Drive to Boulder
University of Colorado - my son went here for a couple of years. It's a pretty campus - but you can just do a quick drive through. Your daughter won't be impressed.
Pearl St Mall - much like 16th Street Mall. It's much smaller than you'd think and there isn't much to do there.
Celestial Seasonings - the free tour is fun - but short.

There are some beautiful hiking trails up in the Boulder foothills.

Plan to spend the better part of a day driving Trail Ridge Road - assuming it's open. (It has been closed due to snow in June plenty of times before.) Allow lots of time for stopping and hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is not much to do in Grand Lake, so plan on spending more time on the Estes Park side.

Golden - there is really not much to see and do in Golden that would be of interest to your daughter. Honestly, since you have limited time, I'd skip Golden and spend more time in Denver or Colorado Springs.

You could easily fill 2 or 3 days just in Colorado Springs.

Oh! If your daughter is at all into Dinosaurs, stop at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison. It beats the museum in Woodland Park hands down. (There are real dino tracks in the hillside!)
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Old 04-16-2012, 09:39 PM
2,253 posts, read 5,840,209 times
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Wink Per RMNP

Per RMNP, do check the park's web site, but a drive across Trail Ridge Road in June should pose no problems.

There is currently construction in the park on the road leading to Bear Lake and that trailhead to points beyond; at the moment this means closure of this road to the public throughout each night. It is a lovely drive, and an excursion which normally could be done (round trip, sightseeing, etc.) in a few hours from Estes Park. But this road and whatever closures it may have is separate from Trail Ridge Road, which is a different route altogether.

RMNP generally tries to have Trail Ridge Road plowed of snow and open by Memorial Day weekend. If anything, it should open even earlier this year, as the winter of 2011/12 was unfortunately weak.
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