Free Things To Do in Denver
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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. 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 DenverEntertainment and Nightlife, Hiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDEntertainment and Nightlife, Hiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
- #11View all PhotosfreeCoors Brewery#11 in DenverTours, Wineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDTours, Wineries/Breweries, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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 DenverSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
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.
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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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