Finding “Magic” In Colorado Without Traveling to Disney

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According to a recent article from Time’s “Money Magazine,” a standard, 4-night vacation for a family of four to Walt-Disney World in Orlando, FL costs roughly $6,360. That estimate includes average transportation prices, accommodations within in the park, a standard food plan offered by Disney, and Park Hopper Passes which allow you to visit different parks within the same day.

The article goes on to list a cheaper trip that cuts many corners like, for example, a stay off the premises 14 miles away in Kissimmee, FL and regular park passes. Still, that option will set you back $3,564.

While that’s a very expensive trip for your average Colorado family, the desire for kids and parents alike to experience the “magic” is as strong as ever.

Fortunately, Colorado is home to some innovative thinkers that are determined to bring that same vision to children of the Centennial State. Here are some road trip destinations to consider for Rocky Mountain families on a budget:


In much the same way that Cinderella’s Castle acts as a guidepost to visitors of the Magic Kingdom, Elitch’s 100 foot tall “Big Wheel” Ferris Wheel towers over Denver’s downtown area, welcoming families in search of some theme park adventure. Set on 67.7 acres next to the Platte River, the expansive Colorado destination features 53 total rides including Tea Cups and Tower of Doom; 6 large roller coasters (the most of any park in the state); a 20-acre water park; and entertainment and special events throughout the months it’s open – May through October. And while you can’t stay on the premises like you can at Disney Resorts, there are reasonable options in the downtown area.

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No family destination in the Denver Metro area brings as much of that Disney “magic” to its guests as Geronimo Parks’ Lava Island. From the finely-crafted, tropics theme found throughout

the entire park to the seemingly-endless Active Play opportunities spread throughout the massive indoor park, the group behind this new venture isn’t afraid to think big. Even Walt Disney would be impressed.

Located in Aurora, Colorado, the park features 15,000 square feet of colorful trampolines, 23 themed climbing walls, and 21,000 square feet of ladders, slides and mazes all built around a giant volcano. But the true Disney-esque magic lies in the overall look-and-feel of the place. No detail has been ignored and no touchpoint has been comprised. Lava Island offers families 8 themed birthday experiences – Jungle/Island, Ice Cave/Ice Palace, Princess/Castle Courtyard, Lego-Inspired City, Good Guys / Bad Guys, Space Adventure, Underwater, and MO & GLO – the park’s two animated mascots that could have been plucked right out of a Pixar film.

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Part of the magic of going to a Disney Resort is staying on the grounds, whisked away from the reality of the outside world. Only one of the Colorado destinations to make our list offers onsite accommodations and its Great Wolf Lodge, located right off of I-25 near Colorado Springs. Centered around a 50,000 square-foot water park, the expansive facility has some dry activities in addition to its smaller water features for the little ones and “big kid” slides. Guests can also enjoy nightly “jammie jamboree” dance parties, story times, a rope course, gem panning, bowling, hotel-wide scavenger hunts and much more. And while family trip here won’t cost you as much as a vacation to Disney, rooms do start at $199 per night.

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