Best Things To Do in Denver
Denver makes a great starting place for travelers venturing into the Rockies; those looking for a mountain experience can spend a day driving along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. But be sure to devote some time to all that the Mile High City has to offer: Denver is home to numerous museums, galleries and restaurants. Sports fans are drawn to the lights of Coors Field and Empower Field at Mile High, while families can spend hours exploring the Denver Museum of Nature & Science or the Denver Zoo. For a taste of old-time Denver, spend some time in Larimer Square – also a good place to sample some of the city's cuisine and, of course, beer. For help navigating the city's to-dos, opt for one of the best Denver tours and enjoy a little guidance from a local.
Updated April 27, 2020
- #1View all PhotosfreeLarimer Square#1 in Denver0.6 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.6 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
In 1858, a group of American Indians and settlers struck gold at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Their discovery soon spread back to the East Coast, prompting people to pick up and move west. The site of the original pioneer camp (known back then as Auraria) soon grew into the charming area now known as Larimer Square. Although the city has since expanded, this historic neighborhood remains the heart and soul of the Mile High City, and according to some, it's the place to start your Denver experience. It's also a featured stop on many of the best Denver tours. Recent visitors attest that Larimer Square is always buzzing with life, thanks to the area's numerous restaurants, shops and nightlife venues.
Before venturing to Larimer Square, you may want to pay a visit to the Larimer Square website. Here, you'll find a listing of all the local businesses and upcoming events, not to mention maps that can help orient where specific dining, shopping and entertainment options are.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Denver12.4 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, Hiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND12.4 miles to city centerEntertainment and Nightlife, Hiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
With its excellent views of the Rocky Mountains, miles of hiking trails and cinnamon-hued sandstone cliffs, Red Rocks Park is a big draw for outdoors enthusiasts. Occupying 700-some acres, this impressive park offers visitors the opportunity to experience the fascinating geographic transition between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. If you only have a short amount of time here, stretch your legs along the Trading Post Trail; this nearly 1 ½-mile-long path weaves through the rust-colored buttes, making for some spectacular scenery. Before you head out, travelers recommend stopping by the visitor center, which features information on the parks history and trails.
Another big draw is the expansive amphitheater, which has hosted such headliners as the Beatles, Tom Petty and John Denver. You'll soon find (and hear) that the theater – geologically formed by the red rocks – boasts amazing acoustics and an enjoyable atmosphere. But many recent visitors said that no matter the show, the majestic atmosphere makes it a good time. Even if you can't fit a concert into your schedule, many travelers agreed that the theater is worth a stop for the photos alone, while the park's visitor center features displays dedicated to past acts.
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Located south of central Denver, Washington Park is consistently praised by Denverites and visitors alike for its ample facilities and enjoyable atmosphere. Occupying 165 acres, this immense park boasts miles jogging paths, swaths of gardens and, most notably, two massive lakes. Washington Park is a popular weekend hangout spot thanks to the variety of things to do here. You can spend your time simply relaxing on the grass, or you can take advantage of the park's eight tennis courts, boat rentals and Recreation Center, which houses a pool and offers scheduled fitness classes and swim lessons.
Denverites don't hesitate to praise their beloved Washington Park, comparing it to Boston Common or New York City's Central Park. You can get to Washington Park from the downtown area by hopping on the E light rail line. You are welcome to visit Washington Park at any time of day or night, and there's no entry fee; however, different facilities within the park adhere to their own hours of operation and may charge admission. For more information, visit the Washington Park website.
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The 16th Street Mall is to Denver what Rodeo Drive is to Los Angeles. This mile-long pedestrian thoroughfare, which stretches across the southern end of the LoDo district and bypasses Larimer Square, is lined with a variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, making it a popular place to visit at nearly all hours of the day (although some travelers note that the area can feel a bit dicey at night, despite a heavy police presence). Even if you're not looking to give your credit card a workout, recent visitors recommend taking a stroll along the 16th Street Mall, as it leads to some excellent people-watching.
If you're not up for walking, hop aboard the free MallRide shuttle bus, which passes by every few minutes and stops at every street corner. After sundown, you might skip the bus and opt for a horse-and-carriage ride instead. Travelers say this is the place to window-shop, grab a bite to eat and pick up souvenirs.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Denver2.5 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND2.5 miles to city centerZoos and AquariumsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Modeled after a Kenyan nature preserve, the Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals, including tigers, black rhinos, kangaroos and orangutans. Sprawling across 80 acres of City Park, this impressive facility boasts a number of ways to view our furry, feathered and reptilian friends. Head to Predator Ridge, the recreated African savanna, to see hyenas, lions and African dogs roam, watch monkeys swing from tree branches at Primate Panorama or catch a glimpse of colorful critters like Panamanian golden frogs and green tree pythons at the Tropical Discovery center. You can also overload on cute during a visit to the nursery and take on a ride on the zoo's train and carousel.
While you're here, many travelers highly recommend timing your visit around feeding times, during which staff offers educational lectures about the zoo's residents. Keep in mind that this is a large facility; you'll want to budget plenty of time to see all the animals.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Denver36.2 miles to city centerHiking, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND36.2 miles to city centerHiking, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
If you came to Denver to experience the Rocky Mountains, you'll want to reserve a day to take a drive up to Mount Evans. In this instance, it isn't the destination that travelers rave about – it's the journey. To get to Mount Evans, you'll have to hop on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, a two-lane road known as the "road into the sky" because of the nearly 9,000 feet of elevation change. At the Mount Evans peak, drivers will be 14,264 feet above sea level. Along the way, you'll find a number of lookout points from which you can admire the view of the Rockies.
Those who have driven to Mount Evans recommend taking it slow and admiring the scenery, especially around Echo Lake Park. Located about halfway between Idaho Springs and the top of Mount Evans, Echo Lake boasts excellent fishing conditions, as well as picnic facilities and hiking trails. You can also stop by the Denver Botanic Gardens' Mount Goliath location, just beyond Echo Lake. But the views aren't the only reason to take your time along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Recent visitors cautioned others to drive carefully and slowly since there are steep drop-offs; they also recommend dressing in layers as the temperatures fluctuate depending on the elevation.
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With exhibits featuring everything from dinosaur bones to Egyptian mummies, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science inspires learning in the young and young at heart. This impressive facility houses artifacts pertaining to a variety of scientific areas, including anthropology, zoology, geology, health sciences, paleontology and space science. Some of the more popular displays include the wildlife exhibit, which includes more than 90 habitat scenes containing information on animals from around the world, from Alaska to Australia. Meanwhile, the hands-on Space Odyssey area introduces travelers to the outer reaches of the galaxy and beyond.
Recent travelers raved about the museum, saying that visitors will likely want to devote several hours to half a day to explore the engaging exhibits. They also praise the museum's cafe and gift shop.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Denver1.9 miles to city centerParks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1.9 miles to city centerParks and GardensTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Denver Botanic Gardens' 24 acres feature a whopping 50 gardens for visitors to explore. This expansive facility in downtown Denver's Cheesman Park treats travelers to a variety of different environments, from a traditional Japanese garden (complete with bonsai trees) to the South African Plaza blooming with exotic plants like asparagus fern and torch lilies. Meanwhile, art aficionados will also appreciate the gardens thanks to the numerous sculptures that grace the grounds; the facility also plays host to touring exhibits that have included works by such artists as Stephen Talasnik and Dale Chihuly.
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by all the gardens have to offer, consider tagging along on a guided tour. Docent-led tours (which cost $14 for non-members) focus both on the flora and the art found throughout the facility. Recent visitors said the gardens are enjoyable no matter the season, describing them as "stunning" and "mesmerizing." They also highly recommend perusing the gift shop.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Denver1 mile to city centerSports, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1 mile to city centerSports, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Named for Denver's famed beer, Coors Field in Denver's LoDo district is home to Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies. The stadium occupies a whopping 76 acres and has the capacity for more than 50,000 people. Of course, the main reason to come to Coors Field is to catch a game, but there's more to this stadium than a diamond. Whether you're traveling with children or alone, be sure to spend some time at the Interactive Area, where you can test your skills in the video batting cages and the Speed Pitch area. And if you've left the kids at home, take the opportunity to sample some of Denver's local brews on the Rooftop, a 38,000-square-foot platform with fantastic views of the field and downtown Denver. If the weather isn't cooperating, pay a visit to the on-site SandLot brewery instead.
Even if you aren't able to catch a game, you should still take time to tour the stadium. Guided tours, which cost $12 for adults and $9 for seniors and children ages 12 and younger, allow you to visit areas you wouldn't get to see if you simply attended a game. Tour times vary throughout the year: During baseball season, guided tours are offered at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. on non-game days and at 10 a.m. and noon when there's an evening game. There are no tours offered when there's an afternoon game. During the offseason, you can explore the stadium every day at noon and 2 p.m. Although reservations aren't required, they are recommended as groups fill up quickly.
- #10View all Photos#10 in Denver1.4 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND1.4 miles to city centerSports, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Football fans won't want to pass up the chance to spend some time on the Denver Broncos' home turf. The stadium can hold more than 76,000 NFL junkies across different levels and it boasts something you don't normally associate with football games: several public art displays. Surprisingly, the stadium was built in 1948 as a minor league baseball stadium, but it became home to Denver's football team shortly after, nurturing "Broncomania" since the team was formed in 1960.
If you can swing it, try to catch a home game. Ticket prices vary by game and availability, and you'll want to purchase your seats well in advance to ensure availability. If you can't make it to a game, you can tag along on a guided tour of the stadium. Led by employees from the on-site Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum (one of the stops on the tour), these 75- to 90-minute walkabouts take participants to the visiting teams' locker rooms, through the Broncos' entrance tunnel, as well as into the network television production compound and the TV and radio broadcast facilities. Recent visitors described the tour experience as incredible.
- #11View all PhotosfreeCoors Brewery#11 in Denver12 miles to city centerTours, Wineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND12 miles to city centerTours, Wineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Brewing since 1873, Coors has become a Colorado institution worth visiting. "Cold as the Rockies" is a phrase we hear uttered during its commercials, and Golden, Colorado – the home of the beer company located about 15 miles west of downtown Denver – is a great spot for you to test this advertised truth. The brewery invites you to take a self-guided tour (which should take about 30 minutes) through its facility, offering you the chance to learn more about Coors' malting and brewing processes. You'll also get a quick education on how beer is produced and packaged and find out more about the history of the brew. Once you reach the end of your tour, you can sample some beer in the tasting room.
One aspect of the Coors Brewery tour that visitors especially liked was its kid-friendliness. Youngsters will find the exhibits interesting, and while you're downing a cold brewski, your kids can quench their thirst with some free soft drinks. Just note that you are not allowed to bring any type of backpack, bag or purse with you as you explore the facility.
- #12View all PhotosfreeUnion Station#12 in Denver0.9 miles to city centerSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.9 miles to city centerSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Denver's Union Station is a two for one: it's a working public transit station and a highly praised dining and shopping center. The station was a huge success when it first opened to the public in 1881, providing railroad service until the center of the building caught fire in 1894. The architecture from the 1917 redevelopment remains and today, it's home to an Amtrak hub and a bus concourse. Located in the hip Lower Downtown neighborhood (aka LoDo), with multiple dining options and boutiques, and The Crawford Hotel, Union Station is a newfound entertainment center.
To learn more about the art, history and retail space of the station, as well as the luxury hotel, consider taking a tour. The Crawford Hotel offers tours of Union Station for $20 and the proceeds benefit the hotel's Dollars For Dreams nonprofit partners. The tour culminates at the Terminal Bar for a complimentary drink, so visitors can get the full Union Station experience.
- #13View all Photos#13 in Denver0.3 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND0.3 miles to city centerMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
With galleries showcasing more than 70,000 works by famed artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Winslow Homer, the Denver Art Museum houses one of the most impressive collections of art between Chicago and the West Coast. Spread across two buildings, the museum's holdings range from pre-Columbian artifacts to contemporary displays with such mediums as painting and sculpture represented. One of the highlights of a visit to the Denver Art Museum is its extensive assembly of western American art, which includes paintings, sculptures and works on paper related to the West going back two centuries.
Past visitors raved about the Denver Art Museum, praising its diverse and varied collections and the museum's ability to appeal to kids through interactive activities. Reviewers also recommend perusing the museum's gift shop for some unique and interesting finds. If you don't make it here on your own, you'll find that the museum is a popular stop on many of the best Denver tours.
- #14View all Photos#14 in Denver0.1 miles to city centerSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND0.1 miles to city centerSightseeing, Tours, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Even if you hate the sound of excess change rattling around your pockets, you'll find a tour of the Denver branch of the United States Mint to be an interesting way to spend an hour or so. Having opened in 1863, its purpose was to transform the Gold Rush's findings into coinage. Today, the U.S. Mint in Denver can produce up to 50 million coins a day.
A free guided tour of the U.S. Mint in Denver will allow you the opportunity to learn more about each stage of coin production, from the design and sculpting of each piece to the cutting of each type of coin. Some recent visitors marveled at the coin-making machines, but say that not all travelers will likely find it enthralling.
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Nestled among the contemporary architecture of the Capitol Hill district is the Molly Brown House Museum, an eccentric example of Victorian life and design that no history buff should miss. Once the home of the "unsinkable" Margaret "Molly" Brown (Kathy Bates' character in the film, "Titanic,"), this museum offers a glimpse into Denver's history and the life of one of its most fascinating residents. On a guided tour of the house, you'll learn about Brown's experience aboard the Titanic, as well as her role in the women's suffrage movement and her endeavors in Colorado's mining industry.
Recent travelers described the tour guides as friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about history. Along with the personal history of Brown, you'll also hear about the house's renovations and artifacts.
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