Summer is here and hopefully Grandma and Grandpa are getting to enjoy the warm weather and spending time with their grandchildren.  Below are some suggestions as to fun, worthwhile and wholesome places to go and activities to enjoy together.

Denver Zoo

I have fond memories of going to the zoo with my grandmother, whose name was Fanny Grossman.  Granny Fanny to me.  A simple lunch was packed before we got on a city bus and headed to the zoo for a few hours.  I encourage you, Dear Reader, to pack a simple lunch for all, and head to the zoo.  From A to Z, antelopes to zebras, the animals are there for the viewing.  There are places to sit and talk and munch on a PBJ sandwich with family, soaking up the outdoor environment with animals from all around the world.

To add a bit more interest to the outing, consider having each person carry a small pad of paper and pencils.  Grandma and Grandpa might suggest that the grandkids draw pictures of the animals as they see them.  Have the kids take the time to write the names of the animal species, and perhaps give their drawn animals names.  Granny Gazelle?  Grampa Gorilla?  Brother Bobcat?  Sister Seal?  Alex the Alligator?  Leo the Lion?  Drawing and naming the animals will help keep the grandchildren’s interest longer at each exhibit.  Asking them to write a short story, an adventure story involving some of the animals, will extend the interest of the kids.  Grandma and Grandpa could help develop the stories, of course, and that keeps everyone involved with each other.  What a great keepsake to share with the parents at the end of the day, and in the years ahead.

Your Neighborhood Library

A trip to the library with a grandparent provides an opportunity for the kids to show Grandma and Grandpa what books they have read, at school and at home.  It also allows the grandparents to share some books that Grandma and Grandpa have read over the course of their lives.  Libraries have quiet areas where people can sit and read to each other, if done using inside-the-library voices.  What a great way to ensure that books are in the hands of children, hopefully more often than current norms suggest.  Time in the library with to teach and share lessons, which may just spark the interest of the children to read about.

Botanic Gardens

Botanic Gardens DenverA family can enjoy several hours strolling through the grounds of the Botanic Gardens.  The plants which grow outside are simply amazing.  Visiting every few weeks allows us to watch them grow as the season progresses.  Those of us who like to garden a bit are often left stunned by the high level of skill it takes to create such beauty.  Inside the domed structure, it is sort of like stepping into a mild section of the Amazon forest.  Hiding behind each turn on the path is yet another species of flora which one does not ordinarily see.  I can almost hear a child ask a grandparent, “Grandpa, can we grow a banana tree at your place?”

Parks and Lakes in Your Neighborhood

All of us live somewhere with a park fairly close by our home.  A leisurely jaunt with the grandkids, walking on the grass or the path, with lots of room for conversation.  And with all of the natural surroundings, it is an opportunity to leave the electronic devices at home or in the car.  You might consider bringing a kite or two on the trip, or a Frisbee or soccer ball.  Ace Hardware or a local store’s toy department is a good place to purchase kites, string, Frisbees and balls.  Goodwill is an excellent source for outdoor sporting gear.  The kids will love it, and it may have been a while since Grandma and Grandpa flew a kite or tossed a Frisbee themselves.  Many parks have small lakes.  Feeding the ducks and geese is always something that the children will enjoy.

Washington Park

Wash Park, as the locals refer to it, is a favorite place for families to enjoy time together.  It is located in the heart of capital, very close to many senior living communities in Denver. The north lake has paddle boat rentals during the summer, and bike rentals as well.  There is also a large playground for the kids next to the lake.  Lots of equipment there for grandchildren to swing on, climb on, slide down and generally play on.  The park maintains several really beautiful sections of planted flowers as well.  As grandparents and grandchildren walk around the park, it is always nice to stop and smell the flowers.  Wash Park is a large environment, so bringing a sack lunch for all is something to consider.  Really a wonderful outing.

Nick’s Garden Center

Nick’s is a 10-acre place of amazing gardening supplies.  From trees to flowers, vegetable plants to succulents, it is hard to comprehend how they tend to such a huge selection.  Visiting Nick’s is, to me, sort of like going to the Botanic Gardens, but for things that I can plant at home.  If the grandkids, or the grandparents, do any gardening at all, this would be a worthwhile place to visit.  They also sell a variety of foods to take home or eat on the way home.

Harvard Gulch Golf Course

Harvard Gulch is a short par-3 golf course.  Perfect for grandkids who may not be able to play a regulation course.  Well-suited for grandparents who may not be up for walking a regulation golf course, even for 9 holes.  There are no golf carts to ride, so everyone walks.  You will only need a few clubs for this one, which keeps the golf bag much lighter to carry.  I do not mind that at all!  This is a fun course to play, which even has a water hazard to avoid.

Denver Firefighters Museum

Denver Firefighters MuseumThe history of Denver Firefighters is old and interesting.  Dating back to March 25, 1866, when the first “Volunteer Hook and Ladder Co. #1” as it was known, was organized.  The museum has lots of artifacts, documents and pictures chronicling the history of firefighters in Denver.  There is a dog model which lets visitors know what they are allowed to touch, but most exhibits are for viewing only.  In the heart of Downtown Denver, this would be a good place to visit with the grandkids.  You can then go on and stroll around downtown if you care to.  It is always beneficial to know the history, some of the history at least, of the first responders whom we generally take for granted.  It takes a special breed of person to work at a fire station.

Rocky Mtn. Arsenal Wildlife Refuge

From I-70 exit at Quebec Street and go north. Travel approximately 2.8 miles to Prairie Parkway/64th Avenue. Turn right at Prairie Parkway and travel 0.6 miles to Gateway Road. Turn left at Gateway Road. Continue on Gateway Road until you pass through the Refuge entrance.

This wildlife refuge center is 15,000 acres of land.  There is no charge to visit.  Two of the lakes on the property have a floating boardwalk and/or fishing and observation pier on them.  This allows the visitors to get up close with the fish and the other wildlife in and around the water.  Visitors must stay on established trails and roads.  There is a Wildlife Drive tour which grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy from the comfort of a car.  With more than 300 species of wildlife, the family is sure to see things that can only be enjoyed in nature.  I once again encourage drawing pads and pencils, and encouraging the grandchildren to draw pictures of the scenes and the animals that they see.

Memories, valuable memories, can come from whatever activities grandparents choose to enjoy with their grandchildren.  Whether visiting a place that is indoors or outdoors, being together as family is what will hopefully keep family together as time passes.  I have very fond memories of times spent with my grandparents, many years ago.  I hope, Dear Reader, that your grandchildren find this to be the case for them as well.

Aaron Ainbinder is the author of “Just Before the Stroke of Seven”.