Next time you’re looking for something fun to do with the family, you don’t need to look far. Thornton, Colorado, and its surrounding areas offer tons of kid-friendly attractions that you’ll want to check out. Here are five of the best nearby spots that the kids are sure to love. 

1. Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

A herd of bison in the middle of an open plain.

Image via Flickr by USFWS Headquarters

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge has been a favorite local spot to explore and interact with nature just outside of the city since 1992. Visitors can watch bison grazing and eagles flying through the skis with the Denver skyline in the background. Covering more than 15,000 acres, this refuge is one of the biggest in the country. You can tour the refuge on foot or in your car. The self-guided Wildlife Auto Tour is a great place to start if your family hasn’t yet experienced the refuge. Get ready to see more than 330 different species of wildlife. 

Visit the refuge any day from sunrise to sunset free of charge. The refuge is located on Gateway Road in Commerce City, just about 8 miles east of Thorton. For information on events, learning opportunities, hiking trails, and more, be sure to stop in at the visitors’ center located right inside the entrance to the refuge. 

Take in the peaceful waters of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge by walking along the floating boardwalk over Lake Mary and Lake Ladora and the observation deck over Lower Derby Lake. Check out the refuge’s learning activities designed just for kids. They can enjoy a guided hike, take on a scavenger hunt, or work to earn their Junior Ranger badge. 

2. Butterfly Pavilion

Offering a bunch of exciting hands-on exhibits, the Butterfly Pavilion is the perfect place for kids to get up close with interesting invertebrates. This was the first non-profit, stand-alone invertebrate zoo in the world when it opened in 1995. Visit any day of the week from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. with a timed entry slot you can reserve online or over the phone. Admission is $13 for adults and $9 for kids ages 2 to 12. 

If your kids love bugs, this is a must-visit place. The Wings of the Tropics exhibit features more than 1,600 butterflies fluttering around, showing off their beautiful colors and designs. Visit the Colorado Backyard exhibit to see species that are indigenous to the area and the Crawl-A-See-Em, where Rosie the tarantula lives with other arthropods. Summer and winter camps are also available for kids to get more involved with the Butterfly Pavilion and engage their curiosities about creepy crawlers. 

3. WOW! Children’s Museum

About 16 miles northwest of Thornton in Lafayette on North Harrison Avenue, the WOW! Children’s Museum provides a fun space for kids to learn, create, and be active. Current operating hours are from 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, with reserved spots required, but operating hours will continue to expand in the future. Admission costs are $5 per adult and $10 per child ages 1 to 11. 

The WOW! Children’s Museum is also a great place for private birthday parties. They also offer a birthday party at home kit, which includes party supplies, a stuffed animal, a special birthday message from the WOW! mascot, and optional Pirate Ship or Slime class supplies. If you find yourself visiting the museum regularly, consider a family membership that includes admission for two adults and all children of the household for a year. 

During a visit, kids can explore exhibits that feature light-sensory experiences, the properties of air and wind, bubbles, and more. Head to the ArtSpace exhibit to get the creative juices flowing and the Clinic to learn more about health and wellness with doctor and patient role play. 

4. My Nature Lab

My Nature Lab is a “living classroom” where kids can come to learn about nature, animals, and the environment. Head to the lab on South Boulder Road in Louisville, just 20 miles northwest of Thornton. Classes are an hour each and include up to three families at a time. Reservations must be booked in advance and include a hands-on session with one of the My Nature Lab experts. Tickets are $10 per person, but museum members get free admission.  

There are several different membership options to choose from depending on the type of support you want to provide and the experiences you want yearly access to. Families can get a lab, field, patron, or sustaining membership. Kids can meet snakes, lizards, and other critters in person during their lab experience. They’ll have the chance to touch and hold animals, ask questions, and learn about how animals live and thrive in different ecosystems. There’s also an ecology lab available that digs even deeper into science with different themes each week. 

5. Downtown Aquarium

Head to Downtown Denver, about 9 miles south of Thornton on Water Street, to check out the Downtown Aquarium. The admission price is $23.50 per adult and $17.50 per child. Exhibit hours are Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., Friday 8:30 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., Saturday from 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Visit to see the massive exhibits, dine at the on-site restaurant, and experience the other attractions the aquarium offers. 

Regularly open exhibits include In the Desert featuring animals that have adapted to dry environments like lizards and toads, North America featuring species you’d find on our continent, and The Rainforest featuring some of the most interesting and colorful underwater animals in the world. Many other exhibits are found throughout the aquarium showcasing more than 500 species of animals. 

So, there’s our list of some of the best kid-friendly things to do in and around Thornton. At Crème de la Crème of Lone Tree, CO, we love seeing families spend time together learning new things, being active, and making memories. Each of these places offers the opportunity to do just that. Drop us a line to let us know how your experiences went.