Suzanne Dent's annual trip to the Colorado mountains was this year with a stopover in Denver and a stay at Broadmoor resort with her husband Simon and their children, Ellie aged six, and Charlotte aged four. Here's her guide to the activities for kids on offer in Denver, before heading up to the luxury resort in Colorado Springs.
For us, when ski season arrives we make our annual trek to our favorite US ski location, Colorado. But this time we decided to slowpace and take a detour through Denver with our two girls, Ellie aged six and Charlotte aged four. Typically, a winter city break with the kids fills me with dread of trudging through indoor shopping centres and arctic-cold pools at a chain hotel.
Located in the middle of downtown Denver, we stayed at the pop art hotel The Curtis, a DoubleTree Hilton Hotel. Its bright colors and fun themed floors made a nice change from the business travel set. and it'sis perfectly located within a few miles of museums and activities for families to explore.
It's the perfect stop off before our December trip to Colorado Springs...
No more is going to the zoo a strictly summer pastime, as there are plenty of indoor things to look at. Rather than our typical self-guided tour, we booked the penguin encounter, a premier animal experience that is restricted to families with children aged six or older.
First up on the tour is the birdhouse, which had us quickly shedding our top winter layer in the tropical temperature. Animal-mad Ellie showed no hesitation in grabbing up handfuls of live worms and crickets to throw to the crested wood partridge and ground doves.
After a tour of the feeding and welfare facilities for the birds, we are led to a private room inside the penguin enclosure. The door opens and in waddles the star of the show, Juniper, an eight-month-old African penguin (which you’re even allowed to touch!)
The zookeepers are happy to answer the steady stream of questions and use simple words to explain tougher subjects, such as details on how African penguins have become endangered due to oil spills and excessive fishing.
If the zoo doesn’t tire the little ones out, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science with giant IMAX screen is conveniently located next door.
I never plan a family trip to a US city without checking to see if there is a children's museum handy. The Children’s Museum of Denver is a kid-focused touch-everything educational bonanza, where themed rooms are spread over two floors. Ellie started in the bubble room, where every kid seems crazy to get their hands dirty with soap and water and compete to blow the biggest bubbles. Educational plaques are dotted around the room explaining water vapour and encouraging math skills with measurements. Charlotte insists on the giant anthill with costumes teaching about habitats and animals native to Colorado.
Then, there’s the full-sized retired fire engine downstairs and located right next door is the Downtown Aquarium, which makes a full day's itinerary for two tiny tots.
For older kids, any given week in Denver is bound to have a professional sports game in town to see. We went to see the Colorado Avalanche NHL ice hockey team – there was a lot of whopping and hollering inside the Pepsi Centre even though we didn’t have a clue what was going on in this fast-moving, full-contact sport on ice.
An hour and half drive south of Denver you can partake in beautiful mountain scenery at the luxurious Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs - the grand dame of the Rockies. It is a beautiful regal resort hotel with a history dating back to 1918 with a backdrop of craggy red cliffs and pine trees.
The hotel was founded by the wonderfully named Spencer Penrose, who made his fortune through gold mining in the nearby hills.
With pink stucco towers, yellow and white striped awnings around the swimming areas, you’d think a resort such as this would be more suited for the Mediterranean rather than rustic Colorado. The architecture may feel Mediterraneanbut the modern convenience at every turn, and the excellent service, is definitely American.
First stop is one of the swimming pools, indoors and open all year round. I settled the girls with their dad and headed for an indulgent trip to spa on the third floor – I am sure this layout was designed with mums in mind.
After a facial and a long gaze at the scenery from the cleverly named Mountain View Room, I'm back to family life to help negotiate the girls out of the pool with a promise of an evening of Americana at the Broadmoor's own ten-pin bowling alley and restaurant called Play.
It’s an intimate venue, with just six lanes and a lux lounge feel – just make sure you get a reservation booked at check-in so that you don’t miss out. Here, the playing field is evened out for the whole family, as with bumper guards and a metal ramp to assist, my four year old is vying fortop score with her father.
Even in winter (we travelled in December), daily activities keep us busy, such as,the on-site movie theatre, family bingo, and hikes or horse riding into the hills.
When the weather gets better and the seasons change, there’s also three golf courses, tennis courts and what looks to be an impressive outdoor pool area - we’ll definitely be back for our summer holidays.
The restaurant next to the bowling alley has simple but hearty American food and, curiously, a great sushi menu. Kids will love the milkshakes; the adult versions come mixed with vodka!
Another family must try is the Golden Bee advertised as an English pub, but has more of an old west saloon feel and comes complete with a piano man. If you’re missing home though, it does have chicken curry or fish and chips on the menu – I’d recommend the steaks and burgers, though.
How to get there: British Airways flies from London to Denver, for £945 return
Travel time: A flight from London to Denver takes 9 hours and 20 minutes.
2014 events: Visit broadmoor.com/bonanza for events insummer.
Upcoming events include the Weekend of Jazz at The Broadmoor (4-5 April), 3rd Annual Women’s Weekend of Wellness (1-4 May), and Adventures on Planet Barbecue (28-31 May 28-31 and 31 May – 3 June).