Getting Around Denver
The best ways to get around Denver are on foot or by light rail. Many of Denver's most popular things to do can be found within walking distance of one another in the downtown area. And for attractions not easily accessible on foot, the Regional Transportation District's light rail routes can often get you close enough to walk. RTD also operates an extensive bus system, but routes can be difficult to navigate if you're not familiar with the area, but the system's Trip Planner services can help you get where you need to go. Relying on these forms of public transportation will allow you to dodge parking and car rental costs, and you'll get a better feel for the historic neighborhoods if you're not busy trying to navigate unfamiliar streets.
Renting a car will come in handy if you're planning on traveling into the Rocky Mountains. Should you decide to pick up your own set of wheels, you can do so at the Denver International Airport (DEN), which sits about 25 miles northeast of the downtown area. From the airport, you can also rely on RTD's SkyRide bus or the light rail University of Colorado A line to get you into town; both one-way trips will cost $9. Meanwhile, if you opt for a cab ride, expect to pay between $55 and $75 each way.
|On Foot or By Bike
Many of Denver's museums and shopping areas sit within close proximity to the downtown area, making them easy to reach on foot. Just make sure to wear comfy shoes and dress in layers in preparation for the weather's occasional fickleness (especially during the spring and fall).
Biking is popular in Denver, in part thanks to the miles of dedicated bike paths. Case in point: You can follow a 15-mile paved path that runs from Cherry Creek State Park to Cuernavaca Park. You can rent from any number of local bike shops, or do as the locals do and pick up a bike from the city's bike-share program, Denver Bcycle. Several of the best Denver tours also use bikes to get around.
Denver's light rail system, managed by the Regional Transportation District, features nine lines that service 53 stations across downtown Denver and its suburbs. Trains run every day starting just before 4 a.m. and continuing until around 2 a.m., although schedules vary by route. Fares depend on how far you travel – the city is divided into several zones, with Rail Fare Zone A marking the city center and Rail Fare Zone C the outskirts.
One-way trips within one or two zones cost $2.60 while rides further afield can cost up to $4.50. You can purchase single-ride tickets from the vending machines found at all light rail stations; they are automatically validated upon purchase, but you must use them within the next 90 minutes. If you plan on relying on the light rail as your primary form of transportation, consider purchasing a book of 10 tickets (costing between $23.50 and $40.50, depending on the zones they cover) or a day pass. You'll have several day pass options to choose from: One-day passes for travel within one or two fare zones costs $5.20, while access to more suburban areas can cost $9. Meanwhile, five-day unlimited passes will set you back just anywhere from $26 to $45. You can purchase 10-ride ticket books and day passes online or from an RTD sales outlet.
RTD operates more than 125 bus routes throughout central Denver and nearby communities (including Boulder), with buses running nearly 24 hours a day every day of the year. But navigating RTD's extensive system can be tricky for tourists; use the RTD Trip Planner to help you find your way.
One-way trips cost between $2.60 and $4.50 depending on whether you're riding a local (travel in zones one and two) or regional (travel in all three zones). Fares should be paid in cash as you board, but note that the driver does not make change. If you plan on using the bus frequently, consider purchasing a book of 10 tickets – the cost of which ranges from $23.50 to $40.50, depending on the zones it covers. You can also opt for a one- or five-day pass, which covers transport on both the bus and the light rail. Prices for day passes range from $5.20 to $45 depending on its length of validity and the number of zones it covers. You can purchase 10-ride ticket books and day passes on the RTD website or from one of the system's sales outlets.
RTD also operates a free bus route along the 16th Street Mall, (MallRide), connecting Civic Center Station and Union Station. Buses come every few minutes between 4:59 a.m. on weekdays, 5:30 a.m. on Saturdays, and 6:30 a.m. on Sundays and stop at nearly every street corner.
If you can, take advantage of the open-air Platte Valley Trolley; this route is all that remains of Denver's once-extensive network of trolleys. During the prime tourist season – from May through September – the trolley system offers the Riverfront sightseeing route that takes passengers along the South Platte River from Confluence Park (just north of Speer Boulevard on the eastern side of the river) to the children's museum, passing such sights as the Downtown Aquarium and Elitch Gardens Theme Park. Single rides cost $5 for adults and $2 for children. You can catch the trolley Thursday through Monday between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m.; it runs every 30 minutes.
With Denver's natural landmarks – the Rockies and the South Platte River – and the navigable layout of its streets, getting lost here will be a challenge. Garages are abundant downtown, so park your vehicle in a convenient spot before traversing Denver on foot. However, you should note that parking rates in central Denver can take a fairly big bite out of your budget.
Taxicabs are a convenient way to get around the city if you don't have a car and need to get somewhere fast. You can hail them from the street, but it'll be much easier to call in advance or wait for one outside a major hotel (there aren't a whole lot driving around downtown, waiting to be hailed). But be warned: Fares can add up quickly. The meter starts at $2.50 with each additional mile costing another $2.25 and each additional passenger adding another $1 to the total. Ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft also operates in Denver.
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