Summer's a great time to spend quality time with the kiddos. But by the time it officially starts, you're already tired of the typical hangouts -- the Denver Zoo, the Children's Museum. That's when it's time to break out of the ordinary: Here's are five off-the-beaten-path activities, each particularly well-suited for babies, toddlers and preschoolers.
1) Sunflower Farm 11150 Prospect Road, Longmont Sunflower Farm started out as an experiment, an attempt to customize a working farm around the interests of children and families. This summer, the farm will celebrate ten years of being open to the public, offering a space where kids can explore, grow, learn and connect with the environment by chasing chickens and nursing orphaned lambs, among other things. The farm isn't polished or perfect: It's real and organic and a great place for kids do what they do best: play and run free. Sunflower Farm is open from 5 to 8 p.m. Fridays in June, July and August. Admission is $10 per person; kids under a year ae free. For information, visit the Sunflower Farms website or call 303-774-8001.
2) Classic Car Show Cars and trucks are awesome, which is why most toddlers are fascinated by them. The Highlands Ranch Community Association is hosting the Classic Car Show, a fun-filled family event that brings all sorts of souped-up makes and models of cars, trucks and motorcycles to the mini-van Mecca that is Highlands Ranch, at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 15. There'll also be good music and food available for purchase. The show will be at Cherry Hills Community Church, 3900 East Grace Boulevard on Saturday, June 15; for information visit the Highlands Ranch Community Association website or call 303-791-4100. The event is free to attend; $15 to register your vehicle in advance, $20 on the day of the event.
3) Rocky Mountain Aardvarks The Colorado branch of Brooklyn's original Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals, Rocky Mountain Aardvarks is a place where parents can introduce their kids to music without going insane themselves. That's because these music classes focus on original funk and rock songs that are kid-friendly and parent-friendly. too. "The classes help instill an appreciation and understanding of melody, rhythm, literacy and more," says Rocky Mountain Aardvarks founder and musical guru Janet Casson. To sample a class, take your kids to Naturally Loved, 7349 East 29th Avenue at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 8 or Saturday, June 15; the cost is $10 for the first child; $5 for each additional child. Or try the free Family Night at the Tattered Cover on Colfax, 2526 East Colfax Avenue, at 6:30 p.m. on the last Friday of each month. For more information, visit the Rocky Mountain Aardvarks website or call 720-515-8275.
2) Denver Botanic Gardens 1007 York Street Themed seedling classes focusing on nature and gardening, such as Pick a Salad and Summer Sun, allow children to learn what it takes to grow a garden by engaging in some hands-on exploration at the Mordecai Children's Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Classes are held weekly through the summer and divided into the following age groups: 18-24 months, 24-36 months, and 3-6 years. The cost is $10 for toddler classes, $12 for preschool classes, with special pricing available for members. Check the Denver Botanic Gardens website for specific dates, weekly themes and times, or call 720-865-3500.
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1) Colorado Gay Rodeo Grab the whole family and head out to the 31st Annual Colorado Gay Rodeo at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, July 14-16. It's the longest-running gay rodeo in the nation, and draws folks from all over. The rodeo highlights this state's traditional cow-guy-and-gal heritage while celebrating a GLBT population that isn't always noticed and celebrated. "This is a very family-friendly event," says Bruce Gros, spokesman for the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association. Younger children in particular will love watching genuine rodeo events like bull-riding, barrel clowns and races. Tickets are $10-12; for information, visit the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association website.