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How to Plan the Perfect Weekend in Denver
For an outdoorsy adventure to remember, explore these can't-miss attractions across the Mile High City.
With a wealth of culinary, outdoor and cultural allures, Denver offers plenty of enticements for an action-packed weekend jaunt.(Getty Images)
With inspiring natural attractions and booming art and culinary scenes, the Mile High City doesn't just lure hikers and skiers to its picturesque trails and glistening slopes in the nearby Rockies. Yes, you can easily reach the majestic mountains with a scenic drive along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway or commune with nature at the Denver Botanic Garden. But there's also top-notch restaurants at the city's storied Larimer Square, upscale resorts and world-renowned art on display at the Denver Art Museum. So, if you're ready to embrace Denver's laid-back charm and blend of urban and natural splendors, here's how to plan a weekend trip to remember.
Embrace the Great Outdoors
If your goal is spending some quality time outside, Denver has you covered. Within the Arapaho National Forest, just 60 miles west of Denver, you'll find Mount Evans of the Rocky Mountains. You'll drive on the two-lane route often called the "road to the sky" to get to Mount Evans, the highest paved road in North America. With prime opportunities for hiking, fishing and biking, Mount Evans offers plenty of attractions and scenic vistas vying for your attention.
If you don't have enough time to explore Mount Evans and all of its can't-miss sights in a quick weekend trip, consider visiting Red Rocks Park, which is roughly 16 miles west of downtown Denver. Yogis should also check out the summer Yoga on the Rocks series, but be sure to grab a ticket in advance, as tickets are only available online. If yoga isn't your thing, take a stroll along the 1.4 mile-long Trading Post Trail.
If you don't have time to explore the outdoor attractions outside of downtown Denver, but you want to soak up the great outdoors, head to the Denver Botanic Gardens. Known as one of the top botanic gardens in the country, the Denver Botanic Gardens features three new specialty gardens – the Sensory Garden, the Steppe Garden and the All-America Selections Garden.
Enjoy Excellent Meals at Foodie Hot Spots
With award-winning chefs and burgeoning culinary and beer scenes, there are a variety of innovative Denver establishments worth checking out. The city's popular brunch spot, Snooze, is a consistent crowd-pleaser, with dishes like peach pie pancakes. Other must-try eateries include Syrup, Beast + Bottle and Table 6 Restaurant. Meanwhile, you can easily get your caffeine fix at Crema Coffee House, Thump Coffee, Denver Bicycle Cafe, Huckleberry Roasters and the Molecule Effect.
When you're ready for lunch or dinner, check out Cart-Driver, a prized institution among pizza lovers and Zaidy's, a top Denver deli. Meanwhile, Duo restaurant offers a farm-to-table focus, Pinche Taqueria is a must-stop taco hot spot and Root Down is the perfect place for globally-inspired plates, such as organic sweet potato fries and sweet corn risotto. If you're a beer enthusiast, don't skip exploring Crooked Stave Taproom, a brewery renowned for its specialty sour beer. On tap, you'll find artisan beer concoctions alongside creative cocktails.
Discover Denver Gems
If you're a book lover, don't skip exploring the Tattered Cover, an independent bookstore with multiple locations and a history dating back to 1971. Featuring hundreds of live author events each year, a mix of new and used books and even a charming coffee outpost at its hip Lower Downlown location, the literary haunt is a favorite among locals and visiting bookworms alike. If you're more of a history of film buff than a lit fan, you won't want to skip checking out the Molly Brown House Museum, once home to the "unsinkable" Molly Brown, a survivor in the Titanic tragedy.
To get your shopping fix, Highlands Square, just west of downtown, is the place to find trendy one-of-a-kind Denver boutiques. And if you're planning a weekend trip in the summertime, consider arriving in June to check out the Highlands Street Fair along with the Sunday farmers market each week at the square. Art aficionados will also want to stroll through Denver's art districts, where galleries stay open late for an art and culture-filled evening the first Friday of the month. And of course, the Denver Art Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art are worthwhile attractions for art lovers, too.
History enthusiasts should also explore the Colorado State Capitol, which features the iconic Capitol dome, made of pure gold mined from Colorado. If you're traveling with younger ones in tow, make sure to stop by the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys, which features unique exhibits, along with scavenger hunts to keep the kiddos engaged.
With a wealth of diverse activities and attractions across the Mile High City, don't try to tackle it all in one weekend alone. Instead, explore a museum or two, choose one outdoor adventure, dine at a few tried-and-true Denver institutions, bike around downtown and discover a few little-known gems of your own.
If you fly into Denver International Airport, you'll want to use the convenient light rail system; the A Line takes visitors directly from the airport to Union Station in downtown Denver for just $9. Once you're in the heart of Denver, take advantage of the popular city bike share program, Denver B-cycle, which offers nearly 90 stations throughout the city. Even better, Denver's bus and light rail systems operate 24 hours a day and are available year-round, so whether you choose to explore by bike, bus or light rail, getting around Denver typically doesn't require a rental car.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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