Denver Travel Diary – 2018

Over the summer, my family and I took our first ever vacation! Now, we have done our fair share of traveling since the twins were born, but this was the first time ever for us to go on a trip that didn’t include visiting family. What a different experience it was! No obligatory visits and no one else’s time table, which for our families usually means waiting and waiting for other people.

We spent a long weekend in Breckenridge and Denver, Colorado, and I wanted to share with you some of the family-friendly things we did with our toddler twins. I hope you enjoy reading about our trip to Denver. Stay tuned next week for a look at what we did in Breckenridge.

Things to Do

We visited Denver over the last weekend of July, so the weather was warm and sunny the whole time we were there.

Downtown Aquarium

The Downtown Aquarium is a great place to spend a day with the whole family. The boys absolutely love animals, so they were very interested in seeing everything this aquarium has to offer.

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Downtown Aquarium – Denver

The aquarium boasts over a million gallons of underwater exhibits, containing over 500 species of animals.  In addition to the aquarium, the complex has a Stingray touch pool, restaurant, and activities including face painting, a carousel and theatre.

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Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities

Hubby and I visited the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities on our first visit to Denver, back when we were still dating. We absolutely loved it, and when we were planning out this trip, it was one of the first things that came to mind when we were thinking of things to do with the children.

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Inside the Main Gallery

The Arvada Center is located in the city of Arvada, which is about 20 minutes northwest of Downtown Denver. The Center’s facilities include art galleries, classrooms, theatres,  an outdoor amphitheatre, and sculpture gardens.

After checking out the galleries, we spent the rest of our visit in the outdoor sculpture gardens. They were so fun for the boys to run around it, and for older kids, there are tons of opportunities for them to climb!

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Squiggles, Interactive Sculpture Garden – Bill Gian
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Arvada Center Outdoor Sculpture Garden

16th Street Mall

Our hotel was located a few blocks from the 16th Street Mall, so we wound up spending quite a bit of time walking around the area. The Mall is mile long pedestrian and transit promenade in the middle of Downtown. Free shuttle buses go up and down the mall. We didn’t take advantage of it since we liked to walk.

The mall has tons of restaurants and shops, as well as movie theaters.

One of the landmarks on the 16th Street Mall is the D&F Tower. The tower is a two-thirds replica of the Campanile of St. Mark’s in Venice, Italy and was the highest building west of the Mississippi when it was built in 1909.

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D&F Tower

One of my favorite things about the 16th Street Mall was the public art in the alleyways.

 

Meow Wolf at Next Stage Gallery

Meow Wolf was basically one of the best things happening in New Mexico when I was living there. I found out that Meow Wolf was collaborating on a temporary exhibit, called Special Guest at the Next Stage Gallery, which was within walking distance of our hotel! I immediately added this to our itinerary.

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I loved that the kids got to interact with the exhibits and explore in a safe, fun and creative environment.

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Meow Wolf is currently preparing to open a permanent space in Denver sometime in 2020. For more information, visit them online.  Until then, Special Guest will be running until the end of this year.

City Park

After arriving in Denver, getting our luggage, getting our rental car and eating, the boys really needed to have a chance to run around since we were immediately continuing on to Breckenridge. We stopped by City Park in Downtown and played in some of there beautiful open fields.

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City Park

They had a run of the place and had a lot of fun. The park was surprisingly clean for an urban park.

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City Park – Denver

Sleeps

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View from our room at the Hyatt Place Denver Downtown

For this trip, we made our home at the Hyatt Place Denver Downtown. This is a great option for families because of the central location, amenities and moderate price.

We loved how convenient the location was. This hotel has great freeway access and is within walking distance of the 16th Street Mall. We were playing it pretty easy this trip so we did not mind that the majority of eateries along the 16th Street Mall are national chains. We just wanted convenience since we were traveling with the twins and another family as well.

Pros: indoor pool, fitness center, high quality hot breakfast buffet included with your stay, free wifi, location, clean. Our room also had a nice view of Downtown Denver, which the boys loved.

Cons: Parking fee. Pack n Plays provided, instead of cribs.

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Enjoying the view!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip to Denver. Let me know if you have any favorite things to do in Denver with kids! Our stay was so short that we weren’t able to even scratch the surface!

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Tips for Visiting Disneyland with Twin Toddlers

We recently had the chance to visit Disneyland in Anaheim, California as invited audience members for the 2018 Disney Parks Holiday Special tapings. I wanted to share my thoughts on things we did to make our visit to Disneyland with twin toddlers enjoyable. While we spent the majority of our time waiting for and attending the taping, I still think many of our experiences could be helpful for a variety of situations.

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Visiting with Mickey Mouse
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Cameraman set up for filming on Main Street

Tip 1: Stay overnight

Since we live an hour-plus away from Anaheim and we were visiting on a weekday, we decided to stay overnight in Anaheim the night before our visit to Disneyland. The great thing about Disneyland, compared to Walt Disney World, is that there are a ton of hotels that you can stay at that are within walking distance to the park entrance. This time we stayed at the Fairfield Inn Anaheim Resort, which is a 6-minute walk from Disneyland (no joke)! Another great thing about staying off property was that we were able to leave our car there even after check-out time, we just had to pay the parking fee for an additional day, which was less expensive than Disney parking.

Tip 2: Get to the park early

Disneyland has added additional security measures in recent years, which makes getting into the park a little more time consuming. My recommendation is to get there early. If your toddlers are like mine, they are up and ready to go around 7 AM! You never know how long getting through security and the gate will take, so get there early and start your day of magic!

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Checking in for Disneyland

Tip 3: Take advantage of the Baby Care Center

The Baby Care Center is located on Main Street and has so many amenities for parents with infants to toddlers, including high chairs, toddler potties, changing tables and nursing rooms.

Tip 4: Get Fastpasses

Unfortunately, Disney does not offer Fastpasses for the majority of the little kid-friendly rides in Fantasyland. Making our kiddos wait in lines for at least 45-minutes sounded like torture for all of us, so we took advantage of one of the rides that did offer Fastpasses. We got Fastpasses for “it’s a small world” Holiday, and it was so worth it!

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“it’s a small world” Holiday

I love “it’s a small world,” but it is honestly one of my favorites during the holidays.

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For a current list of rides offering Fastpasses, check here.

Tip 5: Pack you own food

We didn’t have the chance to plan or meal prep for this visit to Disneyland, but hopefully, we can next time. While there are some good food options at Disneyland, when you are desperate to find food for your hangry toddlers, you might find yourself in long lines for mediocre and extremly pricey food!

Tip 6: Keep the kiddos occupied

Mickey’s Toontown is a no-brainer for letting your high-energy toddlers run around and have fun! There are lots of places where they can explore hands-on.

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Mickey’s ToonTown

My sons loved Goofy’s Playhouse. Goofy’s backyard has a toddler play area with a slide and play structures, including a giant watermelon and pumpkin! Goofy even came by to visit with guests while we were there!

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Goofy’s House

Tip 7: Make memories

I discovered that the memories you make are not necessarily the ones that you expect. My husband was very adamant about having our sons participate in character greetings, while I was thinking, they will never remember this! Little did I know, that meeting Mickey and Goofy were their favorite events of the day! Plus, we will forever have these photos of them!

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Hanging out with Goofy

Waiting for the parade was rough because we had over an hour before the thing actually started. There was a lot of juggling kids, getting up and walking around, and generally trying to get through it! Once the parade finally started, they loved it for the first 30 minutes or so, but little brother wound up falling asleep in my arms!

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Waiting for the parade
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Disneyland Christmas Parade

The parade was probably a little bit of sensory overload for them, but it is certainly something hubby and I will remember!

Tip 8: Keep your expectations reasonable and be flexible

We kept our expectations low for our trip to Disneyland. We just wanted to see the parade and go on maybe one or two rides, and make it home at a reasonable time. This was very doable for us and we did not feel the need to “do everything.”

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Main Street Christmas Tree

I hope these tips help you if you plan on making a trip to Disneyland! The Disney Parks Magical Christmas Day Parade will be airing on Christmas Day: Tuesday, December 25, 2018 (10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. EST, 9:00-11:00 a.m. CST/MST/PST). We will be watching to see if we see ourselves!