Looking for fun things to do and fun day trips with kids in and around Parker, CO?
Here is a great day trip for Colorado kids and a side trip BONUS if you feel like an adventure.
June is just around the corner and in Colorado that means snow run off and fun day trips with kids. Snow run off brings big fun at the Sand Dunes National Park. Each year when the snow melts and comes out of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains it flows down the valley and right through the Great Sand Dunes National Park.
The ideal time to take this trip is starting mid May through early July. It gets very hot down on the dunes in July and August.
The creek that runs through the dunes is a great place to sit and chill out all day long. I suggest leaving the house early and getting their around 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning. The run off water is cold so try to pick a nice warm day if possible. Most of the time the water flow is a trickle and the water levels are counted in inches in most places. Be aware that during peak run off times it can get pretty fast and deep in a few spots. We usually choose a location that has less water depth so the kids can play freely without worry of being swept downstream.
We love fun day trips with kids. We try to do several of these each year.
Caution: Water levels change through out the day! We have been there early in the year and had very warm temperatures. Think about where you are…You are playing in a snow run off creek bed. Water levels will change throughout the day with higher flows later in the day as the snow melts and makes it’s way towards you. Do not leave kids unattended to go climb the sand dune peaks. I’ve seen the water rise 5-6 inches in a matter of minutes.
Here are a few tips for visiting the Sand Dunes in the Spring.
- They are open daily and here is the link to the Sand Dunes hours.
- Sun screen is a must have.
- Chairs and a shade tent. There is no shade on the dunes.
- Lunch and snacks. Enough for each person to eat twice if you plan of staying all day.
- Toys for the kids to play with in and out of the water. Think sand castle building, kickball, football, wiffle ball, frisbee etc…
- Plenty of towels.
- Shoes for climbing the sand dunes. Yes they will be full of sand. Sandals with a heal strap work well.
- Dry change of clothes for everyone.
- More water than you think you will need. It’s hotter on the sand than if you were anywhere else in Colorado. Drink a lot.
- Bring rinse off water too. When you hop in the car to come home it’s nice to have a gallon or two to rinse off the sand. I carry a 10 gallon camping jug for drinking and clean up. My wife hates the feel of sand in her toes when riding home. I’m a smart man! No complaining when she has clean feet. Remember – “Happy wife = happy family.”
- Blankets for the ride home for wife and kids. Playing in the water and sand all day makes kids and moms tired. They will be chilly in the car on the ride home so have something for them to cover up with on the ride and they will be asleep before you hit the main road home. Trust me…it works.
- Bottle of your wife’s favorite wine. See why at the bottom…
BONUS kids and parents side trip if you feel like a real adventure.
“Now let’s turn this day trip into a super fun overnight trip. Not for the budget conscious but super fun.”
Usually after a full day of playing in the sand, creek and climbing the dunes we are HUNGRY. Not a little but usually bordering starvation. When I get this hungry and for some reason this far south my family starts thinking Mexican Food! You know the cravings… gotta have it cravings for good, REAL Mexican food.
So, we usually pour the tired kids and mom into the car and point the car even farther south to Taos, New Mexico. It’s about another 1.5 hours to Taos, NM but worth the drive. Listen…1.5 hours is like a drive across Denver in traffic so I can do this drive no problem.
Here is how this side trip goes down.
The kids and mom sleep for the 1.5 hours to Taos. Dad gets to chill with his own music with no distractions. You will arrive to Taos even more hungry but find a sweet Mexican restaurant serving the best Mexican food you tasted since the last time you were in Taos. Extra added double bonus. There will usually be a festival or something going on in Taos when you arrive. I’ve never been there when there wasn’t something cool happening.
Time to sleep?
By now it is well past 4:00 and we are winding down. Once we have finished off the kick butt Mexican food we usually walk around town, play in the park, window shop and people watch. By this time we are getting a little tired. Finding a deal on a nice hotel room is a game we like to play. Think Groupon on speed.
We know of several 4 and 5 star hotels in the area so we stop in or call each one to check availability. Most hotels are willing to deal on their room rates after 4:00 and even more so when 5:00 approaches. Typically we can get $100 discounts on rooms and sometimes we have been known to get even more. Shop wisely and don’t be afraid to get the manager involved and state the price you are willing to pay. You will be shocked at what they will take for what is typically a $500 a night suite with a private outdoor hot tub after 4:30. Last year I told them I’d pay $250 and they took it. I’m not kidding…
To finish off the night… hopefully you thought ahead and packed your wife’s favorite bottle of wine. After a quick swim in the hotel pool the kids are happy to go to sleep and you are free for the evening. Fill your wife’s wine glass and enjoy the private hot tub in the courtyard and relax… the day is done. If you and your family cannot enjoy this day trip with a bonus trip to Taos then I just cannot help you. Please seek counseling immediately.
The Beam Family has made this a yearly tradition with our kids and they love it. I know this isn’t a quick trip but worth every minute of driving and effort to get there.