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Denver is one of the coolest cities in the US. It’s a mile high city, has a huge outdoor culture, a fanatical sports following, a growing craft brew scene and emerging foodie scene.
There are many, many things to do in Denver, Colorado. It’s one if the fast growing areas for millennial migration in the US so the city is quite hip, edgy, and happening.
It’s walkable, has some of the friendliest and happiest people in America, and is surrounded by the mesmerizing Rocky Mountains and Colorado River – my favourite place to explore in the US.
Caz biking the Colorado River
We visited Denver and the Rocky Mountain National Park on our road trip in 2016.
We loved it then, but noticed huge improvements on our return trip, and love it even more now. It totally suits our lifestyle vibe.
If you’re not sure what to do in Denver, then keep reading to discover some of the best attractions and places to visit…
Things to Do in Denver, Colorado
Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, relaxing bars and restaurants, or something fun and unusual, you’ll find all this and more with the follow attractions in Denver.
1. Check Out 16th Street Mall
We stayed around the 16th Street Mall area, which is the touristy area of the city. I liked that the mile-long pedestrian street was walkable, but also has the free tram going up and down if you want to jump on that.
There are plenty of restaurants on 16th street and the streets running off it.
Next time we visit, we plan to stay in a vacation rental in one of the trendy neighborhoods we heard so much about like RiNo (River North), Highlands, and Five Points.
2. Dine at Stout Street Social
We LOVED this restaurant on 14th street across the road from the Convention Centre, mostly for the delicious roasted brussel sprouts and the gluten free beer.
The receptionist at our hotel recommended this as the place to go and the sprouts as the dish of the century.
You rarely hear that about brussel sprouts so curiously, we ordered and were blown away by the flavour. They’re roasted in mint, cilantro, truffle-chile glaze with a bit of snap, crackle, pop.
I’ll let you know the recipe once I can replicate it at home.
The salmon quinoa salad was also the bomb. We visited twice and ordered the same thing both times!
3. Admire Union Station
So we fell in love with Union Station. It was our first experience of Denver stepping off from the train from Denver Airport.
It’s the nicest train station I’ve been too, which is one reason we’ve out it on our things to d in Denver list.
Tastefully refurbished, clean and modern with soaring 65-foot ceilings and enormous arched windows filling the room with sunlight. There are many great restaurants, cafes, comfy waiting couches, and even a bar with foosball table.
We just love how quiet and well behaved everyone is having drinks, quiet conversations and playing games.
Reflecting back on Central Station in Sydney makes me shudder – ugly, drab with too many drunken yobbos.
We returned there many times for something to eat and to hang out. It has such a pleasant vibe.
4. Drink Coffee at Pigtrain Coffee
Our first coffee in Denver was of decent size. Now that’s a large.
One morning, Craig and I were in fits of giggles at the gigantic coffee cups people were walking around fueling up with. America’s small is equivalent to an Australian large (and much cheaper!)
I can’t say the coffee is as good as Australia, but it was way better than I remembered and most places had almond milk!
Read More: 19 Essential things to know before visiting the USA
5. Attend the Chalk Art Festival
Durin the summer in Denver, there are always festivals and events happening. While we were there, the Chalk Art Festival was on.
Artists come out and create their designs on the roads around Larimer Square. There was music and food and drinks and once again everyone is civilized and the vibe upbeat and happy.
It was fun checking out all the incredible artwork.
6. Hire a bike and tour Denver
Love getting around on a bike in Denver
Denver is a flat city so perfect for bike riding. The city makes it easy for you with their share bike program, Denver Bcycle.
here are multiple bike stations set up throughout the city. You can grab a B map or download the app, pop in your credit card and rent a bike to explore.
Very important to note – for $9 a day you get unlimited bike rides within the 24 hours, but there is a catch.
You can only take the bike for 30 minute periods. So plan carefully.
All you do is return the bike to a bike stand and then take a different one out. That way you can still keep riding but you won’t get charged overtime rates.
We hired a bike from the bottom of the pedestrian bridge at 16th street on the way to Highlands and cycled to the confluence of the Platte and Cherry Creek River, where the settlers first started Denver.
The Confluence with a big REI in the background
They would follow the Cherry Creek from Kansas and until they arrived at the Confluence to look for gold – and so Denver began.
After checking out that slice of history, and the children swimming in the small rapids, we took the Cherry Creek bike trail .. all the way to Cherry Creek mall. it was an easy and fun bike ride.
We then rode home, go changed, and took more bikes out to ride down 14th street – always great fun with all the traffic, back to Highlands for drinks at Linger.
7. Wander Around Civic Center Park
We couldn’t not pay a visit to the Colorado State Capitol and stand on the mile high steps for the obligatory photos.
It’s exactly a mile high. Across the road is Civic Center Park, which is green space bordered by the State Capitol, City and County building and the Denver Art Museum. It’s the space for frequent city events.
The Mile High City
We received notice too late one day that there were food trucks happening on a Wednesday lunch time.
Civic Center Eats offers food and music from Tues- Thursday from 11am-2pm during the summer. Bummed we missed it!
But, we did learn of The People’s Fair happening on the weekend that we ducked down to have a look at. Music was playing, food was cooking, and plenty of arts and craft stalls, and local craft beer.
I bought a crystal and checked out a photographer who’s photos were amazing.
8. Explore The Highlands Neighborhood
The Highlands neighbourhood is sought after as a place to live by the millennials. If you’re looking for hip restaurants, bars and boutique stores, this is the place. It’s only a short walk over the bridge to downtown.
We had a brief hour or two there. We’re keen to check it out more when we return.
9. Explore Linger
When multiple people tell you Linger is the best place to eat and drink in Denver you go. Second to that was Root Down which is owned by the same people. We didn’t get a chance to visit there – next time.
Linger has a rooftop bar which is the place to go, especially for happy hour Mon-Fri 4pm-6:30pm – $5 cocktails, $4 beers and $5 appetizers.
The tacos and sweet potato waffle fries were the bomb! Make sure you have your ID – I was carded and almost not served because I did not have my ID.
I had to let the manager know what my birthdate was to prove I was in fact 40. I am flattered, but really, I’d love for common sense and good judgment to return to society.
Just below Linger is Little Man Ice Cream – a gigantic milk bottle, you can’t miss that has ice cream people line up for hours for.
Our friend, Don gave us the inside tip for this one. I’m not an ice cream lover so I headed up to the bar instead.
10. Drink Ales at Amato’s Ale House
After happy hour at Linger, we popped down the road to Amato’s Ale House for dinner. No gluten free beer for me to sample, but a delicious bison burger and happy hour red wine made me happy!
Some other tips for restaurants for the Highlands area Don gave us:
Lola (Mexican and fish – not your standard taco or burrito. Higher end, very good)
Central Bistro Always a good meal. Modern, but not trendy. If the weather’s okay, sitting on their patio is nice with a good view of the city
Avanti Very moderate prices. It’s a food hall concept with individual restaurants and a main dining area along with a couple of bars – killer deck views of downtown
11. Check Out The Music Scene
Denver has an excellent music scene. While it might not be as famous as Austin, Nashville, or New Orleans, there is a growing folk/Americana movement with groups like Paper Bird and singer/songwriters such as Danielle Ate The Sandwich and Patrick Dethlefs.
Additionally, the indie scene is healthy with bands like Tennis and Hindershot gaining traction.
Denver has also been a launch pad for larger, mainstream acts as well. Groups such as The Fray, One Republic, The Lumineers, and The Flobots have all found international fame after recognizing popularity locally in Denver.
Visitors can check out the music scene first hand by stopping by one of the many independent music venues throughout the city.
Alternatively, visitors can turn their radio dial to 1340 am for Open Air Colorado, a Colorado Public Radio station that plays local, independent music.
12. Take a Day Trip to the Colorado Rockies
Rocky Mountains National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park is the most accessible national park from Denver and it couldn’t be more different from the city experience.
Visitors are treated to majestic mountain views, fresh Rockies air, unique wildlife encounters, and amazing hiking opportunities amongst the alpine wilderness.
Icy glaciers, glassy lakes, and the iconic Longs Peak all compete for attention along the continental divide in one of the crown jewels of America’s National Park system.
Don’t forget to check out Colorado Springs too, especially if you’re visiting in the winter.
13. Attend the Great American Beer Festival
Denver is a beer town. Part of this reputation comes from the host role the city plays to the Great American Beer Festival each year.
The festival is the brewing industry’s top competition and public tasting session and there is no other place in the world where you can find more beers on tap.
Every October, More than 450 breweries come together to pour more than 2200 different beers to thirsty festival goers.
Visitors can find EVERY type of beer at the festival and many types they never even knew existed.
14. Have Brunch at Snooze
Snooze is the place for brunch. Someone from our community recommended we go there and we chose it as our last place to eat in Denver before we jumped on the train to fly home.
I had the Snooze Spuds Deluxe – A heaping portion of hash browns, covered with melted cheddar & jack cheese, scallions, avocado and mushrooms, which was delicious and Craig the Spring Greens quinoa salad.
15. Explore the Capitol Hill Area
Capitol Hill is a vibrant and funky neighborhood southeast of downtown that is also one of Denver’s most diverse.
Around the gold-domed state capitol building, stately 19th century mansions mingle with mid-century apartment buildings and punk-rock clubs line the same streets as high-end restaurants.
The neighborhood is flanked by two of Denver’s best parks, the Greek Revival styled Civic Center Park and the spooky Cheesman Park – which still contains many bodies buried underneath from its past life as a cemetery.
16. Dine at Mercantile
We stopped here for lunch one day when nowhere else really grabbed us. “Let’s go back to Union St Station.”
The Mercantile was another recommendation from Facebook. Delicious! We had the soup and salad – fresh, wholesome, and a decent price.
You can even stay at the luxurious Crawford Hotel within the station.
Our friend Don told us a lot about the history of Denver, one fact being that is the hotel is named after his friend, preservationist Dana Crawford, who was instrumental in the revitalization of much of Lower Downtown.
She’s the reason Denver is such a beautiful looking town with preserved brick warehouse style buildings.
The location of Union St Station is premium being right near the trendy Highlands and the Rockies stadium! We attended a game in 2006 and loved it.
It’s such a beautiful stadium with those views of the Rockies – plenty of craft beer and game fever in the pubs that surround it too.
17. Go Shopping in Larimer Square
Fairy lights strung between the trees overhead and diners spilling over onto the street pavers, Larimer Square is a pretty place to be and although we didn’t get there at night, I think it would be a perfect spot to hang out. (This is an area Dana Crawford revitalised!)
We had a coffee at Market St on Larimer, which was a good spot to hang out if you want to do some work online.
Coffees weren’t amazing but they were big.
Larimer Square is a unique Victorian era street that offers boutique shopping and dining in Lodo.
Just a few blocks away sits Rockmount Ranchwear, providing a one-of-a-kind shopping experience.
Rockmount introduced the first Western style snap button shirts and is still the premier supplier of the iconic clothing to clients in Hollywood and all around the world.
Just down the street from Rockmount Ranchwear is The Tattered Cover Bookstore. Located in an old warehouse, the independent bookstore is one of the largest of its kind.
It’s an incredibly atmospheric store with ancient hardwood floors, exposed bricks, and plenty of comfy chairs and hidden corners to settle into with a good book.
18. Check out the Red Rocks Amphitheater
The Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is a world famous concert venue located in the hills above Denver. Towering red rock formations create a natural amphitheater with amazing acoustics.
Some enterprising individuals added seating and a stage to turn it into one the most unique concert venues in the world.
The stage has seen countless legendary performers including The Beatles, U2, and Jimi Hendrix. Though a concert is the best way to experience the venue, it is open to the public for free when there aren’t any concerts.
19. Go Hiking in Mount Evans
Mount Evans in Colorado is home to 53 14,000 foot (4260 meter) mountains and is often referred to as the ‘Roof of America’.
Though you can summit every one of Colorado’s ‘14ers’ via hiking and climbing, Mount Evans offers the unique distinction of offering a road to the top.
Visitors can hop in their car and summit one of the tallest mountains in North America with their automobile.
Along the way there are numerous scenic overlooks and plenty of wildlife including the famous Mountain Goats who are always willing to pose for a picture.
20. Relax in Confluence Park
Confluence Park is located right downtown Denver, confluence park offers a scene of nature in the middle of the city.
Located at the confluence of the Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, Confluence Park offers a kayaking course, city and mountain views, running and cycling trails, and the flagship REI store, a mecca for outdoor sports enthusiasts.
21. Take the Kids to the Water Parks and Theme Parks
Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park
Denver is home to some of the most thrilling water parks and theme parks in the United States.
For thrill-seekers, head to Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park, which boasts over 50 rides and attractions, or Water World, which features more than 40 water-based rides and activities.
For a more laid-back experience, head to Lakeside Amusement Park, which has been entertaining families for over a century, or Denver’s Downtown Aquarium, which combines aquatic exhibits with amusement park rides.
22. Spend a Day at the Museums
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Denver has many world-class museums to explore. If you’re looking for things to do in Denver on a rainy day, then this is the number one activity.
Head over to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, which has exhibits dating back to prehistory, including dinosaur bones that go back to millions of years.
It also has some real centuries old Egyptian mummies and a world wildlife exhibit. You could easily spend a full day here and not see it all.
If you have children, take them to the Children’s Museum of Denver, which combines play and education in an exciting way.
If you want to learn about aviation history, head to the Wings Over Rockies Air and Space Museum which is famous for its realistic flight simulators.
For something more unique, head to the Molly Brown House Museum, the home of an HMS Titanic Survivor.
At the top of Lookout Mountain, you’ll find the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, who is one of the most famous cowboys in the USA.
23. Drive the Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is one of the most breathtaking scenic drives in the USA, which offers stunning mountain views for 28 miles.
The byway stretches from Idaho Springs to the summit of Mount Evans, which stands at 14,264 feet above sea level, making it the highest paved road in the USA.
You will encounter a variety of landscapes, from dense forests to barren alpine tundra, as well as hairpin turns and steep drop-offs that require caution and careful driving.
The journey is worth it, though, as the panoramic views from the summit are truly awe-inspiring.
Driving the Mount Evans Scenic Byway is an unforgettable experience for any traveler visiting Colorado.
24. Catch a Show at The Denver Performing Arts Complex
The Denver Performing Arts Complex is a massive complex that houses multiple theaters and venues, including the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the Boettcher Concert Hall, and the Buell Theatre.
Here you can watch a wide range of performances, from Broadway shows to symphonies to ballets.
Beyond the world-class performances, the complex itself is a stunning architectural marvel, with sleek modern design and impressive acoustics.
25. Relax in the Denver Botanic Gardens
This 24-acre oasis in the heart of the city boasts over 50 gardens and collections, including a Japanese Garden, a Water Garden, an Alpine Rock Garden, and a Rose Garden.
You can enjoy the serene beauty of the gardens, stroll along meandering paths, and take in the sights and scents of the plants and flowers.
The gardens also offer numerous educational programs and events, making it a great spot for families and groups.
26. See the Animals at Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo is home to over 3,000 animals from around the world, including lions, tigers, penguins, and elephants, as well as rare and endangered species like black rhinos and clouded leopards.
You can attend animal feeding demonstrations, and even get up close and personal with some of the animals in interactive exhibits.
Beyond the animals, the zoo offers beautiful gardens, playgrounds, and a train ride that winds through the park.
27. Take a Day Trip to Boulder
Just 30 minutes away, Boulder is a beautiful city nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains with stunning views and plenty of outdoor activities.
You can spend a day hiking in the mountains, exploring the charming downtown area full of unique shops and restaurants, or take a tour of the famous Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory.
Boulder has a laid-back vibe and endless opportunities for adventure, making it the ideal day trip from Denver.
28. Watch a Sporting Event
Denver Mile High Stadium
Denver is a great city for sports fans, with a variety of professional teams to watch throughout the year.
Catch a Broncos football game at the iconic Empower Field at Mile High, or cheer on the Rockies baseball team at Coors Field.
If basketball is more your style, head to the Ball Arena, formerly the Pepsi Center and check out the Denver Nuggets in action.
For hockey fans, the Colorado Avalanche play at the same venue.
No matter what sport you’re into, there’s always something happening in Denver!
Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Denver, Colorado
Denver was up there on the list when we were looking for destinations to live in the USA. I was concerned about the chilly winters, but locals have shared with us that Denver doesn’t get too brutal.
It experiences winter for sure, but the days are warm and sunny. When the snow falls it melts away quite quickly, but there’s plenty of snow dumping for you a further 5,000 feet high and close by.
The weather we had during our week stay in Denver during the beginning of summer were quite perfect.
We visited to attend a three-day conference in Snowmass and decided to stay a few extra days in Denver.
We just can’t travel all that way to America for just a few days, the jet lag is killer enough.
But we’re glad we were able to get out and explore some of these top Denver attractions.
I hope this guide helped you plan your visit to Denver and gave you some inspiration for what to see and do there.
Where to Stay in Denver
Ritz Carlton Denver
The Brown Palace – An elegant and historic hotel in the heart of downtown. It has played host to presidents, royalty, and pop icons. For those such as myself who can’t afford the elegant prices that come with it, a visit to the afternoon tea ceremony in the lobby is a suitable alternative.
The Curtis – A much more affordable hotel that offers a unique and whimsical alternative to the high class of The Brown Palace. Each floor has a unique pop culture theme (think one hit wonders, sci-fi, etc.) that is carried through to all of the rooms.
The Crawford Hotel – A lovely four-star hotel with a perfect location in the heart of Denver’s CBD district. It’s sheek and modern, and primarily caters to couples over large groups. It’s the perfect place to stay if you’re planning a romantic weekend in Denver.
We loved our more lux stay at the Ritz Carlton on Curtis Street. The rooms were spacious with separate living areas, service was exceptional, locatuion great, and we loved the premier lounge with free happy hour every day!
For more places to stay in Denver choose from the largest range of hotels, apartments, and guesthouses with our partner Booking.com. You get free cancelation on most rooms, and in most cases you only pay when you stay.
Popular Denver Tours
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What are your tips for our next visit to Denver? Let us know in the comments.