Parker, Colorado sits on the southeastern edge of the Denver metro area. Until the early 1990s, Parker had little more to offer than two main roads and one shopping center. Today, this booming ranch town is known for its family-friendly culture. If you've got little ones, you'll find lots to do year round without ever leaving Parker.
1. Splish Splash
Almost every neighborhood in Parker has its own swimming pool, but you've got to try the City of Parker's H2O'Brien Pool (parkeronline.org) for toddlers. The pool features a water play structure, a spray garden, geysers and plenty of shaded seating areas. The pool gets crowded between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., but come early for Little Squirts from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Only children who are 48 inches and under are invited during this time, so that would include toddlers and preschoolers. Centennial Center Park (centennialcolorado.com) has become a busy attraction for families. This park features a huge spray garden with a meandering stream, as well as a rope climbing structure, a tree fort, a sand and water play area and even a dinosaur dig. There's plenty here for both toddlers and older children. The park is open year round, although the water features close for winter. Entrance is free.
2. Indoor Fun
In winter when there's 12 inches of snow on the ground, you'll appreciate Monkey Bizness (monkeybizness.com) to burn off some of that toddler energy. Monkey Bizness is an indoor play arena that has multiple playscapes and a designated toddler area. Come either early in the morning or after lunch for the fewest crowds. The Parker Field House (parkeronline.org) offers a free indoor play structure on the second floor above the track. It's not huge, but hey -- it's hard to beat free. Tables are provided, so bring a snack.
3. Outdoor Playgrounds
Parker boasts an abundance of playgrounds and trails, but the two largest are O'Brien Park, located at the corner of Main Street and Parker Road, and Tallman Park, across the street from Legend High School (parkeronline.org). Both playgrounds have toddler areas. Tallman Park is all but deserted during the day, but O'Brien park is usually bustling between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon and between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the evening.
4. Kid-Friendly Dining
Parker has several fast food restaurants with indoor play lands, but most of them are too big for toddlers. Chick-Fil-A (chick-fil-a.com) is one exception. Located next to Parker Adventist Hospital, this restaurant has a small play land designed with toddlers in mind. Helpful service, wheeled high chairs, adhesive place mats and sanitary hand wash all make this restaurant an ideal choice for busy parents and little ones. Looking for Mexican food? Las Delicicias (no website; 19553 E. Main Street, Parker; 303-840-0325) offers lightning fast service so little ones don't have to wait. The restaurant is decorated with pinatas and paper flowers to keep toddlers' interest. After playing at O'Brien Park, stroll down Main Street to Swirlz Frozen Yogurt (swirlzfrozenyogurt.com). Swirlz offers over 20 yogurt flavors, plus a fruit and candy bar.
5. Classes and Groups
The Parker Recreation Center (parkeronline.org) offers lots of classes for tots, including swimming, gymnastics, yoga, art and early preschool programs. The center also has a drop-off daycare for toddlers while parents attend fitness classes. MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers International) has chapters at several local churches, including Southeast Christian (sechristian.org), Parker Evangelical Presbyterian Church (pepc.org) and Crossroads Community Church (crossroadschurchparker.org). These groups offer classes, crafts and play groups for moms and children from infancy to kindergarten.