One of the best things about living in Colorado is that there is wildlife right outside your backdoor. Deer, coyotes, owls and occasionally the stray mountain lion have been known to venture into neighborhoods. Luckily, there are a number of opportunities within Denver and the outlying areas where kids can see animals safely and learn how to protect Colorado wildlife as well.
The Butterfly Pavilion
No matter the time of year, its balmy and warm in the tropical rainforest housed at the butterfly pavilion, just 15 minutes north of Denver. Here children can interact with and watch 1600 butterflies in the encased area, but they can also explore a number of other exhibits where they can learn about invertebrates and insects. Brave little (or big) ones can even hold the resident tarantula, Rosie.
The Denver Zoo
Located nearby the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and City Park, the Denver Zoo offers a number of exhibits and shows sure to delight all children. The elephant and sea lion shows are popular among visitors, and families are sure to enjoy the variety of animals and food available throughout the park.
Denver Downtown Aquarium
Though Denver is landlocked, the Downtown Aquarium has a lot to offer in terms of variety and size. Within the aquarium, families will see a variety of different fish, but they can also experience what a flash flood looks like up close, walk through a tunnel of water where stingrays swim all around, and even experience touching a few different sea creatures. They also offer a restaurant on site with aquarium views, and specialized experiences like mermaid shows and scuba or snorkel adventures where kids can swim alongside fish or sharks.
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
While much smaller than the Denver Zoo, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, located southwest of Colorado Springs, offers a much more intimate experience with the animals. Visitors can engage directly with giraffes, where they will come directly up to you and you can feed them from your own hand. Not only will kids get to experience wildlife, but they will do so in a beautiful and naturally interesting area.
Wild Animal Sanctuary
Located on the eastern plains in Keenseburg, the Wild Animal Sanctuary provides visitors with a truly unique experience. The Wildlife Sanctuary is the oldest and largest nonprofit that exists for large carnivores who have been rescued from captive exotic situations. On their 720 acres, they house 290 animals, including bears, leopards, lions, wolves, tigers and mountain lions. While one of their main goals is to rescue these animals, the second is to educate people about them and the dangers of exotic pet ownership. Visitors can walk across the raised platform that stretches approximately 5,100 feet in length. While visiting can be expensive, doing so offers a donation that goes into saving and maintaining the lives of such animals.
While encountering wildlife in Colorado can be accessed just outside your backdoor, there are many other opportunities for families to experience wildlife, gain useful education about the animals and insects that make up our world and how to conserve and protect them.