Free Family Fun in Loveland

Children playing on a sculpture in Benson Sculpture Garden

With the arrival of spring comes the motivation to get outdoors and Loveland offers so many opportunities to enjoy nature free of charge. From city parks and open spaces to art walks and spectacular scenic drives, families will find no shortage of options that are also easy on the pocketbook. 

Picture Perfect Parks

A girl hangs upside down from playground equipment.

The ultimate in free outdoor entertainment, Loveland’s parks include a little bit of everything. River access for splashing and wading? Check. Skate parks? Yep. Playground equipment galore? Of course! A steam train replica you can ride? Absolutely. There are so many great parks in Loveland, you could visit one a day and still not see them all in a long weekend. Our favorites include: 

  • Fairgrounds Park Fairgrounds Park provides easy access to the Big Thompson River, perfect for wading and splashing on warm days. The younger set favors the Tot-Land and Spray Park (seasonal), while visitors of all ages are drawn to fishing the river, walking the rec trails, ogling the sculptures, sampling the skate park, hitting homers at the batting cages, and shooting hoops on the basketball courts. 
  • North Lake Park Located in the center of town, Lake Loveland features a pretty public park on its north shore – called North Lake Park – with fishing access, a park, playgrounds, sport courts and fields, an amphitheater and picnic areas. The park is also home to the Buckhorn Northern Railroad, a tot-sized replica of a real steam train that runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day (closed Mondays) for just $1 per passenger per ride. Not free but certainly frugal and well worth the spend. The train’s route includes 1,588 feet of track, a small depot, tunnel, a water tower and more. 
  • Loveland Sports Park – A favorite for good reason, Loveland Sports Park features two inline hockey rinks, a skate park, basketball courts, sand volleyball courts, loads of athletic fields, a playground and picnic areas. 
  • Mehaffey ParkThis 64-acre oasis is beloved by kids – young and old – for its Adventure Playground, skate park and pond. Parents love the artwork and sculpture. You’ll also find a variety of sport courts and fields, a 9-hole disc golf course, an Arboretum, a rec trail, and picnic areas. 
  • Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park is a park and natural area nestled along the Big Thompson River and U.S. Hwy 34 in the Big Thompson Canyon. Originally opened in 1926, the park has been restored twice due to the Big Thompson floods in 1976 and 2013. The park features picnic areas, shelters, a fishing platform, a kid zone, sculptures, an overlook and more. Duck into the nature cabin to learn about the area history and resident wildlife. 

Lounge Along the River's Edge

Anglers fish along a pond at River's Edge Natural Area.

The 163-acre River’s Edge Natural Area is situated alongside the Big Thompson River and includes five ponds that are ideal for fishing, plus 3.8 miles of natural surface trails for walking, bicycling and wildlife viewing. You’ll also find three picnic shelters, an amphitheater and environmental education stations tucked underneath a broad canopy of mature trees perfect for peeping. Natural Areas are pockets of land that provide convenient access to the outdoors, help minimize urban sprawl and provide habitat for wildlife and native plants. 

Conquer the Devil's Backbone

For impressive views, hike along a stunning two-mile strip of Dakota sandstone at Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail. Even visitors with shorter legs and attention spans can hike to find the “keyhole,” a unique arch within the backbone. The destination makes for a great reward, and the hike allows for expending loads of energy. Need a little more time outdoors? Continue along the full 12 miles of trail in the 2,198-acre Devil’s Backbone Open Space, which also connects to Rimrock Open Space and Horsetooth Mountain Open Space. The area is perfect for hiking, biking, horseback riding, running, wildlife viewing and observing nature.  

Hunt for HeARTs

Heart Sculpture in the grass near a waterfall at a Loveland business.

Did you know there are heaps of fiberglass hearts – each 5-feet tall and 4.5-feet wide (perfectly pint-sized) – “hidden” in Loveland? The City with HeART™ program is a great way to engage every member of the family in exploring the city as nearly 50 hearts are scattered throughout. Download or pick up a HeART map at the Loveland Visitor’s Center and hunt to your heart’s content. The program is supervised by the Loveland Chamber of Commerce and each heart is individually sponsored, named and designed by an artist.  

Bonus: While picking up your HeART map at the Loveland Visitor’s Center, lock your love to the city’s “LOVE” love lock sculpture, situated on the adjacent lawn; it’s the largest of its kind in the U.S. You can bring your own lock or purchase and engrave one inside the Visitor’s Center. Loveland is home to a second sculpture, shaped like a heart, overlooking Lake Loveland. 

Play Among the Art

Chapungu Sculpture Park

Chapungu Sculpture Park at Centerra showcases 82 monumental stone sculptures from Zimbabwe across 26 acres of natural and landscaped gardens. We know, we know…getting littles to tour sculptures is like trying to get them to eat green beans. Chapungu is different! Walking trails meander along the Greeley and Loveland Irrigation Canal, over bridges and through varied vegetation, there’s loads of open space to explore and a kid-approved hill to climb in The Children section of the park. Who knows? The kids might just enjoy this cultural intro without realizing it – like hiding spinach in a smoothie. Chapungu is free and open daily. Paths are wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. 

People stroll the grounds of Benson Sculpture Garden.

Home to 182 permanent sculptures, Benson Sculpture Garden wows with natural and human-crafted beauty. Sculptures are nestled among 10 acres of grassy lawn dotted with mature trees, native plants and tranquil ponds. A paved path meanders through the sculptures providing the perfect place for kids to run, jump, play and explore. The park’s children’s garden is the perfect destination to see some of the more kid-centric pieces, including Alligator, a high-fiving dog (“High Four”), a banana on skates (“On a Roll”), and several sculptures featuring children. Benson Sculpture Garden is a free public park founded in 1985 and new pieces are added annually. Paths are wheelchair- and stroller-friendly. 

Explore Big Thompson Canyon

Big Thompson Canyon

One of the state’s most iconic routes, Hwy 34 through Big Thompson Canyon, connects Loveland to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The spectacular drive features stunning scenery and Big Thompson River access along 25 miles (one way). The rural route highlights the splendor of nature – no matter the season – with a side of nostalgia. Pull over to snap pics of at these beloved stops along the way: the Dam Store for an aerial view of the falls from the lookout tower onsite; the Colorado Cherry Company for fresh-baked pies; Viestenz-Smith Mountain Park for a picnic and the play structures; and a detour at Drake onto C.R. 43 through Glen Haven and on to Rocky Mountain National Park.