We’ve made a tradition of taking a special trip with our boys to celebrate their 13th birthdays. We visited San Francisco with our oldest son, Sam, two years ago.
Our middle son, Ben, turned 13 last week and we headed for Denver, CO with him. The boys call this their “teen trip” and we look forward to having that time with each boy all to ourselves.
That said, I sure am grateful that we have 5 long years (please don’t let them speed by too quickly!) before our last kiddo will be ready for his own trip. Edited to add: We visited Pigeon Forge with our youngest son, Nate, for our family’s last 13th birthday trip.
Things To Do In Denver, CO
While we planned this trip to Colorado specifically around our visit to Cave of the Winds, there was plenty to see and do and eat in Denver as well. I lost count of the number of people who recommended we eat breakfast at Denver Biscuit Company.
Let’s go ahead and establish now that trying The Franklin biscuit sandwich is a must when you’re in the city.
Sassafras American Eatery is another highly recommended restaurant for breakfast or lunch. I couldn’t even decide between all of the seriously mouthwatering choices, so I was very happy to have Sean and Ben with me to order as well. I happily sampled it all.
Denver Central Market is a gourmet marketplace and food hall in downtown Denver. Word of advice? Go hungry! I would’ve loved to taste every single food at the market. Everything looked and smelled incredible.
That said, I couldn’t resist the ice cream at High Point Creamery. I’m happy to say that it lived up to every rave review.
Denver City Park is a fun way to spend the day in Denver. You’ll find Denver Museum of Nature and Science as well as Denver Zoo, plus tennis courts; horseshoes; baseball, football and soccer fields; two lakes; picnic sites and two playgrounds.
My sister, Jenny, has been telling me about the Denver Children’s Museum for years. It’s been a favorite with all of her girls and they visit every time they’re in Denver.
The United States Mint is in Denver as well and tickets are available for same-day tours only; no advance tickets are available. Tours are only offered Monday through Thursday and tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and during peak tourist seasons visitors often arrive as early as 5 a.m. to secure tickets. While it didn’t work out for us to tour the mint this trip, I may plan a future trip with a tour in mind.
Cave of the Winds
About an hour and a half south of Denver, you’ll find Cave of the Winds in Colorado Springs. Ben loves geology and when we visited Kartchner Caverns last year he enjoyed it immensely, going so far as to declare it one of the best days ever.
So, for his birthday trip this year, we decided to visit Denver and make a day trip to explore Cave of the Winds.
We took the one hour guided tour which included 15 cavern rooms and about half a mile of walkways. We learned about the history and geology of the cave while exploring the caverns.
Cave of the Winds also offers a lantern tour (think ghost stories and pitch black darkness) for those who might be braver than I am.
And for the more adventurous, there is a longer tour option that includes crawling, climbing, and walking through wet and muddy undeveloped passages in the caverns. You’ll learn basic spelunking skills along with the history and geology of the caves.
Garden of the Gods
On our way home from Cave of the Winds, we stopped at Garden of the Gods. Just a few miles apart, you’ll want to set aside time to visit both places.
We wanted to get back to Denver in time for dinner, so we didn’t hike while we were there, but even for just a drive and a short walk it was lovely. Next time we visit, we’ll definitely plan time to hike in the area.
If you’re making a day of it in Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods Market & Cafe is perfect for lunch in between the two places. We impulsively stopped there and lucky for us it wound up being a really great restaurant.
Where To Stay In Denver
While we were in Denver, I shared a peek inside the Airbnb guest house we rented. So many of you messaged me, I promised to link to it here. We’ve stayed in some really great homes while traveling over the past few years, but this one is officially at the top of our “would love to stay here again” list.
You can always tell when a host has put serious thought into making their space welcoming and this place is top notch. With nicer linens and more comfortable beds than most higher end hotels, this guest house was hands-down the loveliest rental we’ve ever found while traveling.
Just to clarify, this trip wasn’t a travel partnership and we paid for our stay. However, I can not recommend this particular Airbnb home highly enough. If you’re ever looking for a place to stay in the Denver area, this is where you want to be. (And when you’re there, be sure to tell Bill and Rita “hi” from me!)
To see more of our family travels, check out these posts from our giant summer road trip. We spent five weeks this summer driving across the United States with 3 kids, 2 parents, 1 fifth wheel and a whole lot of excitement.