Family Fun for Everyone

The Outdoorsy Family

For more than 40 years, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy has protected land in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forests. It also funds the free Junior Ranger program in RMNP every summer, allowing families to borrow explorer bags and earn badges, says philanthropy director Kaci Yoh. Age groups are divided into kids 5 and under, 6-8 and 9 and up.

Explorer bags are stocked with a magnifying glass, binoculars and a thermometer to check water, air and soil temperatures. English and Spanish activity booklets teach families about the park (with sections on plant and animal track identification) and help them get comfortable in wild settings. Digital booklets and a coloring book are also available.

A family with their Junior Ranger booklets.

Families can pick up explorer bags, booklets and badges between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily from May 18-Aug. 24 at the Junior Ranger Headquarters located at Hidden Valley on the east side of the park along Trail Ridge Road. Families can also participate in the Junior Ranger program on the west side of the park from May 30-Sept. 27, with activities in the Kawuneeche Valley (booklets and badges are available at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, but they don’t have explorer bags). A series of special Junior Ranger events are held on the west side throughout the summer.

Youngsters can also learn how to fly fish and earn a badge through the Junior Angler program, which takes place at the same time on Fridays at the Colorado River bridge a quarter mile from the Holzwarth Historic Site parking lot.


Wizard’s Tower, a Time Emporium escape room in Loveland.

The Nerdy Family

Unpredictable weather in May and early June creates opportunities for indoor play—and problem solving. Time Emporium Escape Rooms’ three Northern Colorado locations offer different stories and puzzles to tackle as a family. Unravel the Secrets of the Pharaohs to retrieve a time medallion, travel back in time to solve the Murder in London, find treasure in an underwater world at the Gates of Atlantis and embark on other adventures offered in Fort Collins, Loveland and Estes Park.

The immersive experiences last 30-60 minutes and require critical thinking, communication skills and an ability to solve riddles, decode symbols and pass mental tests. For safety reasons, the door remains unlocked.

“Expect a fun, unique way to test teamwork with friends and family in a high-pressure situation,” says Nathan Hawthorne, marketing manager for Time Emporium.

The escape rooms are recommended for groups ages 13 and up, though children under 13 are allowed with an adult chaperone. Children 5 and under are free. Prices range from $25-40 per person, depending on the location and number of players. Reservations are recommended.

After escaping, families can release pent-up energy at Colorado’s largest laser tag arena, Loveland Laser Tag Fun Center, which is located next to the Loveland escape room. Maneuver the indoor ropes course, ride bumper cars and enjoy scratch-made pizza, or, for groups 21 and over, head to the Looking Glass Escape Lounge at the Fort Collins escape room to celebrate your victory with craft cocktails and appetizers.

BIGS Meat Wagon at the Taste of Fort Collins. Photo by Sean Leddy Creative.

The Foodie Family

If scoping out the freshest tastes in town is a perennial family project, Townsquare Media’s Taste of Fort Collins needs to be on your calendar. Held from June 8-9 this year, the festival brings live music and food vendors to Washington Park.

Local fare includes Backyard Bird’s fried chicken sandwiches, steamed buns (bao) and other Asian island creations by Hot Bamboo, loaded waffles from The Waffle Lab, aloha-style sippers whipped up by Maui Wowi Hawaiian Coffee & Smoothies, smoky barbecue served by BIGS Meat Wagon and many others.

This year’s music headliners are pop vocalist Andy Grammer (Saturday) and multi Grammy-nominated hip hop artist Rick Ross (Sunday).

Tickets range from single day passes for $17 to single day VIP passes for $50. Limited weekend passes are $24 and include both Saturday and Sunday admission. Children 5 and under are free.

If crowds aren’t your jam or you prefer hands-on learning, The Cooking Studio Fort Collins offers two-hour classes for parents and as many as three kids ages 6 and up on Saturday afternoons. Learn to cook or bake from-scratch recipes taught by skilled chefs, including breakfast pastries and international cuisine. The best part? After preparing a dish, it’s time to eat (and the studio does the dishes).

The Athletic Family

Calling all football fans! The National Arena League has a new team: the Colorado Spartans. Currently in their first season, the Spartans will go head-to-head with three more teams in home games at Blue Arena this summer.

On May 17, the Spartans host the North Texas Bulls, and on June 1, they face off against the Idaho Horsemen. Their last home game is against the Carolina Cobras on June 15. Attend the games and cheer on the home team as a family.

Blue Arena is located at The Ranch Events Complex and is also home to the Colorado Eagles hockey team. The 6,800-seat facility hosts concerts, comedy shows, strongman competitions, rodeos, basketball games and other sporting events throughout the year.

To purchase Colorado Spartans tickets, visit the Orthopaedic & Spine Center of the Rockies Box Office online or stop by Blue Arena from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Parking can be purchased through ParkWhiz. Children under 2 are admitted for free but must be seated on an adult’s lap.

A kids’ pottery class at Flingin Pots.

The Artsy Family

If your family enjoys getting elbow deep in dirt while creating a masterpiece, an all-ages pottery class may be just what you’re looking for.

For years, potter Suzanne Fling and her partner, Scott Prosser, ran the experience portion of the First Friday Art Walk in downtown Fort Collins. They observed how both kids and adults lit up when they had a hands-on opportunity to make their own pottery.

After running a mobile pottery studio for several years, the couple set up shop in their Fort Collins home and called it Flingin Pots. Now people flock to them to throw on a wheel.

Sessions run the gamut from a sensory class for youngsters to a family wheel-throwing class. The studio has week-long pottery camps for youth ages 11 and up as well as classes for teens and adults, offering opportunities to make dinnerware sets, lidded containers (such as honey pots), raku and owls. Participants choose their glazes and Fling does the firing.

In the 90-minute family class, participants make two pieces and choose their glaze colors. Fling and Prosser fire the pieces in their kiln and have them ready for pick up one month later.

“People sit at the wheel and we center the piece; that’s the hardest part because of body mechanics and physics,” Fling says. “It’s like a first musical experience. It’s got a lot of body awkwardness to learn how to position yourself to be successful.”

In addition to their pottery classes and camps, Flingin Pots sells make-at-home kits on their website, which come with clay, color stains, tools and instructions. Patrons return their pottery to Fling for clear glazing and firing.

Simon, a tiger at The Wild Animal Sanctuary.

The Travel Family

Families fond of road-tripping can plot out an itinerary that includes viewing wild animals in natural habitats and a jaunt to Nebraska to experience life during the Miocene era, when now-extinct mammals roamed the American prairies. A vast collection of Lakota Native American artifacts and ranching history affords unique learning opportunities.

Make your first stop The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, which public relations director Austin Hill describes as an experience, not an attraction.

“We’re a sanctuary first,” he says. “Our one-and-a-half-mile elevated walkway (three miles round trip) is open for education and is secondary to saving animals involved in the captive wild animal crisis.”

Founder Pat Craig began rescuing animals in 1980 when he brought a young jaguar kept in a zoo to his family’s Boulder farm. Since then, the nonprofit has grown to more than 33,000 acres, and it is currently home to hundreds of rehabilitated carnivores. A welcome center features the Lion’s Den Cafe, an ice cream shop, a gift shop and an elevator, ramp and stairs to access the walkway.

“Since animals wear their fur coats 24/7, they don’t like hot sun and look for shelter or shade,” Hill says. “May and June is a good time to see animals, especially early in the day.”

Next, drive north about 160 miles to Gering, Neb., (or Scottsbluff, which is nearby) to spend the night, refuel and cool off. The route takes you through Weld County’s Pawnee National Grassland, with more than 193,000 acres of flora and fauna. Campgrounds are available with reservations if you wish to stay overnight and explore the Pawnee area.

Once you arrive in Gering, a 50-mile drive to Agate Fossil Beds National Monument traverses the wildflower-filled prairie grasslands and buttes of the Niobrara River Valley. After checking out the exceptional fossil exhibit and wealth of Native American artifacts inside the monument’s visitor center, you can walk the surrounding trails to spot more wildlife.