Children’s Museum of Denver was originally founded in a converted school bus in 1973. Since then, its surroundings have changed, but its mission has remained the same: to engage visitors in learning through play. Its collection of 13 hands-on playscapes is designed to stimulate the minds of children from birth to age 8, earning Children's Museum of Denver a spot on Forbes's 2012 list of the 12 Best Children's Museums in the US.
Amid the museum's two stories, visitors learn about fire safety in Fire Station No. 1, shop for healthy foods in the market, and unleash their creative sides with paint and stage costumes at Arts a la Carte. Dedicated to nurturing a love of math and science, the museum also features a recyclable-material assembly plant, a bubble experimentation lab, and a newly opened kinetics exhibit with a gigantic marble run.
Built in 1859, the Four Mile House marked the final rest stop for people on westward journeys to Denver along the Cherokee Trail. Nestled on the Cherry Creek’s banks, the house played host to travelers seeking home-cooked meals and a place to sleep before their final four-mile trek to the city. Since then, the abode has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, and it's Denver's oldest standing structure.
A preserved slice of frontier life circa 1859–1899, Four Mile House is open for tours, as are its surrounding barns and outbuildings. Elsewhere, visitors can greet live goats and chickens or hop aboard horse-drawn rides around the 12-acre park. Four Mile House further celebrates its pioneer legacy with events such as historic demonstrations of activities like blacksmithing, the art of taking any object and painting it black.
Since their founding in 1991, the Museo de las Americas has hewn true to a mission of celebrating the diversity of Latino Americano art. A permanent collection of more than 4,000 artifacts ranging from pre-Columbian times to the colonial era to contemporary creators provides a strikingly clear delineation of the history of Latin American culture. Temporary exhibits have explored the art of the Huichol people, whose culture remains uniquely intact even after centuries of colonial influence, and the surrealist work of Daniel Luna, which recalls Salvador Dali.
Aviation Xtreme's simulators let land-locked folk fly aboard jetfighters and WWI- or WWII-era aircraft in aerial missions or close-range combat. Aspiring aces strap into the cockpit of their simulator and choose from aircraft such as an F-15A Eagle, F-4 Phantom, or P-51 Mustang. After a short instructional video, they take off into the realistic blue yonder on a chosen mission, which can include an anti-ship mission or ground-attack mission. Each simulator is part of a larger computerized network, allowing friends to go head-to-head in a dogfight or team up to carve clouds into self-portraits.
Aviation Xtreme is housed inside Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, the former locale of the 1930s-built Lowry Air Force Base that closed in 1995, reports Frommer’s. These days, the 150,000-square-foot hangar houses more than four dozen airplanes, including five Century Series fighters and one of two B-1A Lancers on display in the world. The museum is even home to a full-size X-Wing Starfighter from Star Wars and the Harrison Ford Welcome Theater, where the staff starts each day in hiding to surprise Mr. Ford in case he visits.
In addition to aircraft from films, the museum’s space and rocketry exhibits include full-scale replicas of boilerplate spacecrafts used to train Apollo missions to the moon. Others models recreate planes in all their glory, such as the 16-foot Titan II launch vehicle, while hands-on exhibits replicate the conditions of space travel.
The Mizel Museum glimpses into Jewish heritage and contemporary experience with exhibits that showcase fine art, film, drama, sculpture, and music, while striving to promote a message of communal understanding and interculturalism. The museum’s permanent exhibit, 4,000 Year Road Trip: Gathering Sparks, explores the diversity within Jewish history with a combination of artistic elements, artifacts, and photography. The 27-acre Babi Yar Park, a project of the Mizel Museum and Denver Parks and Recreation, memorializes Holocaust victims from the Ukraine. Founded in 1971 and dedicated by Elie Weisel, Babi Yar Park will soon incorporate steel from the World Trade Center into its landscape.
Along with its exhibits and memorials, the Mizel Museum enlightens the public with outreach programs such as a Working Artists program and interculturalism sessions for teachers. An artist-in-residence program for preschoolers and grade-school kids helps them explore Jewish culture through art forms such as storytelling, puppetry, and blowing bubbles into letters from the Hebrew alphabet. The museum supplies abundant activities for adults, such as painting classes and programs that combine compelling discussion topics with wine and hors d’oeuvres.
In 1909, when Denver's Engine Co. No. 1 moved into its new two-story station, firefighters still relied on horse-drawn trucks to race to the scene of a fire. Those trucks now stand beside motorized vehicles in displays at the Denver Firefighters Museum, which has occupied the station since 1980. The nonprofit museum showcases more than 150 year's worth of firefighting history, featuring everything from tools such as helmets and bunking gear to the station's preserved officer's quarters and locker room.
Winding along the gallery floors, firefighter boot prints lead to educational stations with hands-on activities geared toward younger guests. Children can ride miniature fire trucks and poles, try on firefighting gear, and handle actual firefighting tools. To impart additional fire safety skills, the museum's experts teach programs both at the museum and inside local preschool and kindergarten classrooms. The museum also houses a unique gift shop with a melange of interesting, firemen-related items.