We’ve all been there. After all the anticipation and planning it’s time to say goodbye to your vacation. If you’re at a Disney theme park (hopefully using one of Undercover Tourist’s awesome deals on a park pass!), you may have enough time to hop into one of the parks before you drive or fly home. But what about if you’re out in Colorado on a ski vacation? You’ve likely been skiing for days and your tadpoles are tired, but your flight isn’t for HOURS. What’s a frog to do?
First of all, if you’re headed back to Denver International Airport from Vail, Breckenridge, Keystone or the like, make sure you’ve given yourself enough time to drive from the mountains back to the city, keeping in mind that the airport is actually east of the city in Aurora. If you’re traveling back into the Denver metro area on a Sunday or holiday, expect lots of traffic, as there’s no FastPass for this ride! The same rules apply when it’s snowing. Don’t want to cut it too close? Consider driving back into Denver the day BEFORE you fly back and stay overnight closer to the airport. More time to explore and a fun way to extend the vacay!
Toadally Great Activities When Driving Out of the Mountains
A number of activities can keep your froggy family occupied on the way out of the mountains, assuming you’re not pressed for time. Keep in mind that these activities may be closed or have new measures in place in light of COVID-19, including mask requirements and social distancing.
Consider taking a train ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad, easily accessible off I-70 in Silver Plume (exit 226) or Georgetown (exit 228) and just over 45 miles from the Denver city limits. This narrow gauge railroad has been around since the late 1880s and is a must-see for any train aficionados. Round-trip train rides last about an hour and 15 minutes, and if you’re feeling adventurous and have extra time, you can add on a mine tour for a total of about two and a half hours. While you can simply show up, it’s best to check the train schedule ahead of time and make a reservation. If you do make a stop in Georgetown, be sure to also check out the wildlife sheep viewing area on the south side of the highway. While there’s no guarantee the sheep will be out when you’re there, it’s always fun to search for them.
Just east of Georgetown on your way out of the mountains is Idaho Springs. Billed as “where the gold rush began,” Idaho Springs is a fun little town in which to meander. With antique shops, local and chain restaurants, and yes, even mine tours, there’s plenty to do here for a couple of hours. Just beyond Idaho Springs there’s another opportunity for wildlife viewing. Be sure to exit the highway at Genesee (exit 254) and check out the Buffalo Herd Outlook where you may just see up to 24 buffalo enjoying the great outdoors.
Ribbeting Ideas for a Half Day or More in Denver
Two of the best places to visit (especially with tadpoles) are the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, both more than 100 years old! The Denver Zoo is open year-round and has every kind of animal from penguins to elephants to bears to gorillas and more! My personal favorite is Tropical Discovery, an enclosed building (perfect for when the weather isn’t quite frogtastic) that houses alligators, snakes, turtles, fish, and even a collection of frogs! Hop on over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, as it’s located adjacent to the Denver Zoo, where you can take in an IMAX movie, view permanent and traveling exhibits, and even experience a planetarium.
Frogtastic Fun at Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport (DIA) can be its own attraction once you arrive there. After you’ve checked your bags and are on your concourse, check DIA’s Twitter handle (@DENAirport) for any fun hoppenings.
Photograph provided courtesy of Denver International Airport
In addition to the usual kinds of airport dining and shopping, if you’re looking for something to do before the security checkpoints, visit what’s known as the Plaza where past activities such as indoor mini-golf, concerts, a puppy bowl and even ice skating has happened! The Plaza is located between the Jeppesen Terminal and the airport’s Westin Hotel. Events are not currently being held due to COVID, but if you are flying through, it's toadally worth it to see if that has changed! So check out DIA’s website to find out what’s in store for your specific travel days.
One of the other big highlights to watch for is the Canine Airport Therapy Squad (CATS). While it's currently taking a break from in-airport visits, it’s the largest airport therapy program in the country with more than 100 therapy dogs on its team (no frogs, unfortunately). CATS squad members (and their owners) circulate for approximately two hours per visit with about three visits scheduled each day. What a way to relieve some stress and cheer up when your vacation is ending!
The airport also showcases a variety of art and culture exhibitions; some are permanent exhibitions while others change throughout the year, making each trip into and out of DIA just a tad bit different each time you visit.