Situated on Colorado’s western slope, Grand Junction has lots of thrilling indoor and outdoor activities for families. With the Colorado River and Gunnison River flowing through the region, many water sports are popular in summer. The rivers also create a fertile valley ideal for orchards and wineries (think wine tasting!). The area’s fairly mild seasons make biking and hiking popular activities year-round. With Grand Junction’s wide range of activities, visitors can enjoy a well-rounded Colorado family vacation.
Grand Junction Expands Family-Friendly Attractions
As the largest city on Colorado’s Western Slope, Grand Junction is a popular overnight stop for many visitors traveling between Denver and Salt Lake City. But as the population steadily rises (it’s at about 150,000), Grand Junction is becoming much more than a pit stop. From skiing to river rafting, indoor/outdoor family-friendly attractions, and a growing wine region, Grand Junction is a destination in itself.
And for Los Angeles residents like my family, getting to Grand Junction will become even easier when American Airlines begins direct flights from L.A. to Grand Junction June 17.
A small group of journalists and I traveled to Grand Junction at the beginning of March and were impressed with this high desert town, which has warm days and cool nights. Grand Junction has a nice balance of indoor and outdoor activities within close proximity.
For example, we hiked in the morning and examined dinosaur fossils in the afternoon. We also discovered that Grand Junction is home to young adults who stayed in the area to re-purpose and grow the family business. We visited a few of these neighborly folks to see what their plans are for summer.
Bananas Fun Park
If you meet Bananas Fun Park owner Chris Burns, you’ll see a grown man. But he’s a kid at heart and is constantly updating and improving the family entertainment center. (You might even see the hands-on family man scrubbing toilets, planting flowers and cooking.) The venue is packed with go-carts, laser tag, bumper boats, mini-golf, an arcade, and an inflatable playland.
The newest addition is Coconut Cove, a 6,000-square-foot aqua play center scheduled to open in June. The attraction will feature a 10,000-gallon tipping bucket, splash pads, water guns, arching jets, water slides and other various water play features. It’s not a water park because there won’t be any standing water.
“There’s nothing like this attraction on the Western Slope and we hope it helps to draw people to the area to see all that it has to offer,” says Burns.
Get Air at the Silo Trampoline Park
When Joe White took over the family’s old feed mill in 2014, he didn’t have grain on his mind. He saw a great space for an indoor trampoline park. And it’s been a jumping success. The Main Court has thousands of square feet of vertical trampolines, basketball courts, a dodge ball area and individual trampolines. There’s also a foam pit in the back. The day we visited, we watched brothers Lance, 6, and Owen, 9, Wright run back and forth between climbing structures and the foam pit.
The newest features are a Climb Climb and Cave Jump built inside the side-by-side 100 year-old, 75-foot-tall concrete silos. For those brave enough, you can strap on a harness and climb to the top of the first brightly painted silo. The Cave Jump is pitch black as you jump about 15-20 feet down before a motion sensor activates light.
Dinosaur Journey Museum
Even if you’ve seen dinosaur replicas in other attractions, it’s worth a visit to this museum that has a working paleontology lab. The museum’s exhibits showcase real fossils, cast skeletons, and robotic reconstructions of dinosaurs. If you’re lucky, you might hear Museum Curator & Educator Rob Gay tell chilling dinosaur stories. Such as how the Allosaurus’s roar was so deep it could liquefy organs. Younger kids might prefer making dino tracks in a sandbox, and uncover actual Jurassic dinosaur bones in a “quarry site.”
This summer, Dinosaur Journey Museum will host the Smithsonian traveling exhibit “Titanoboa: Monster Snake.”
Enstrom’s World Famous Toffee
There’s a place in Western Colorado that takes up an entire city block. It’s a special place the locals take pride in, where they make almond toffee that’s so good, it’s world famous. That’s one reason they cook up over a half-million pounds of it every year.
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Need another reason to visit Grand Junction? Just a stone’s throw from the Dinosaur Journey Museum, the Colorado National Monument is a great place to stretch your legs. Though the park has about 18 trails, you don’t have to be a great hiker to explore the colorful canyons. We took a leisurely walk along the level, half-mile Canyon Rim Trail. The easy trail follows the cliff edge above Wedding Canyon, providing amazing views of the red rocks and the distant Book Cliffs. Allow about two hours to visit the park.
Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott, Grand Junction
The family-friendly Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott has a great downtown location, clean and spacious rooms, and a friendly staff. I liked that hotel amenities were within easy reach. There’s a compact but efficient exercise room overlooking the indoor swimming pool. My floor had guest laundry facilities. The free breakfast has a good selection of hot and cold items. Restaurants and shops are right outside the front doors.
Grand Junction, Colorado also has lots of farms, wineries, and outdoor family-friendly attractions.
Looking for a family-friendly resort town closer to Denver? Consider Copper Mountain.