Denver, Colorado, is a vibrant and exciting city with much to offer. Whether you're a local or a tourist, there are endless fun, cheap things to do in Denver that will keep you entertained and engaged.
Firstly, let's clear up some misconceptions about Denver's climate. Despite being nestled in the base of the mountains, Denver is surprisingly sunny and gets around 300 days of sun per year. While winters are mild, there's still plenty of snow for skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts. Let these fun and inexpensive things to do in Denver inspire you to see the Mile High City.
Things to Do in Denver: Tips to Explore Like a Local
- Familiarize yourself with this list of Denver neighborhoods that will help you find your way around.
- The mountains are West, so everyone uses them as a reference point when figuring out where things are located (you can do it too, and then you'll practically be a local.)
- Downtown Denver is on a diagonal, and the rest of the city is not.
- Denver is a mile high above sea level, so learn about altitude sickness to recognize and treat it if you experience symptoms.
- Pick up a free Westword Newspaper from one of the red newspaper stands to get the low-down on events happening while you're in town. Or, check them out online to find events before your visit.
- Grab a 5280 Magazine, named for Denver's altitude, for a more in-depth look at stories and events happening in Denver.
1. Denver International Airport to Downtown Denver
Denver International Airport (DIA) is 23 miles from the city. A cab or ride share will run approximately $55 each way.
You can also take the RTD SkyRide bus from the airport to downtown Denver, which is approximately a one-hour ride. The RTD SkyRide runs about every hour, so check out the schedule as you plan your travel.
Denver's Controversial Landmark
Be sure to look at the controversial raging blue horse Mustang when you're coming or going. You can get a better view when you're departing the airport. The city of Denver commissioned this piece of art, and people either love it or hate it.
Some see the sculpture as a kitschy play on Denver's cow-town image. Some dark Denver history: the 32-foot horse killed sculptor Luis Jimenez when it fell on him during the creation of the sculpture.
2. The 16th Street Mall
The 1.7-mile-long 16th Street Mall is the longest outdoor mall in the United States. If you don't feel like walking, a free hop-on-and-off shuttle runs the length of the mall.
The Denver Pavilions
The Denver Pavilions is considered the heart of the 16th Street Mall. There are tons of shops, a movie theater, and a bowling alley. Don't miss the I Heart Denver Store for non-cheesy souvenirs and other items made by local artists.
Find up and down escalators on either side of the Denver Pavilions. There's one set of public restrooms on the second floor.
3. Quirky Art: The Blue Bear and More
Denver has a love of substantial blue animals. This piece of public art is titled “I See What You Mean” and comes in at 40 feet high. Sculptor Lawrence Argent created it. This bear is so adorable as he peers into the large front windows of the Denver Convention Center.
Want to see more quirky art? Look for the two huge, white naked, dancing aliens right around the corner from the Denver Convention Center, right behind the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
4. Visit The Brown Palace Hotel
Walking into The Brown Palace Hotel lobby at 17th Street and Tremont is a treat. Fancy wallpaper lines the walls, and a vast circular staircase goes up to the ceiling, with the opening in the center serving as the hotel's lobby. The Brown Palace also serves high tea in the lobby every afternoon. We recommend reservations.
Fun history: President Theodore Roosevelt was reported to be a big fan of The Brown Palace and visited often. There are rumored to be underground tunnels linking the hotel to a brothel so “men of means” could visit them without being seen.
5. Visit the U.S. Mint Denver Facility
Take a tour of the Denver Mint and see money being processed. Reserve tours in advance and check the website for current visitor information.
6. Denver Food Trucks in Civic Center Park
Food trucks park in Civic Center and serve lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. They are set up through the end of September.
7. Ride the #15 Bus
Are you looking for an urban adventure and some active people-watching? Would you like to see some real-life, grittier Denver in action? Then this is just the thing you need. Catch the 15 right outside of Civic Center Station. This bus runs up and down Colfax Avenue. This is the most notorious bus route in Denver.
8. See Denver's Art Scene
Check out the following art museums and other spaces to enjoy art.
Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
Check out the permanent exhibits and special events here.
Denver Art Museum
Clyfford Still Museum
This museum features the abstract art of Clyfford Still.
Denver Art Districts
There are seven art districts in Denver, each with a different vibe. The one closest to downtown is the Santa Fe art district.
9. Check out the Downtown Aquarium
While Denver's Downtown Aquarium is not a free activity, there are bundled prices that can make checking this out more affordable. The Downtown Aquarium is part of Denver's City Pass and kids two and under are admitted free.
10. Eat Breakfast
Here are some of Denver's favorite breakfast spots to check out. Pro tip: To avoid a long wait, go during the week or before 9:30 am on the weekends.
11. See the Sunset From Linger Restaurant's Rooftop Patio
Linger's is a fantastic place to see the sunset over Denver's skyline. It is in the popular LoHi neighborhood, just a short walk from Union Station over the Pedestrian Bridge. The meals at Linger can be on the pricier side, but they have a good Happy Hour food menu.
Fun fact: The building used to house Olinger Mortuaries. The new owner dropped the O when it became a restaurant. They even cleverly turned the word “Mortuaries” into “Eateries” on the massive sign on their amazing rooftop patio. That worked out well.
12. Must Visit Restaurants & Bars in Denver
There's a little bit of everything here, from diners to upscale to great places to get coffee.
- Cuba Cuba Bistro Vendome
- Williams & Graham
- Denver Bicycle Cafe
- Biker Jim's Gourmet Hotdogs
- City O’ City
- Little Man Ice Cream
13. Shopping and More On Broadway and South Broadway
Catch the 0 bus from Civic Center Station to check out:
- Fancy Tiger Clothing and Fancy Tiger Crafts These two shops are side-by-side. The craft Fancy Tiger is a fabric lover's dream.
- Catch an indie concert at Hi-Dive.
- Decade Gifts is stocked full of cute gift items and some vintage furniture.
14. Explore the Cherry Creek Regional Trail
If you need a break from the city, you can check out the Cherry Creek Regional Trail which is part of a massive network of 850 miles of paved paths that run through the city. The Platte River runs along the path, and there are always plenty of people walking, roller-blading, and biking during the day.
15. Ride a B-cycle
The B-Cycles are these bright red cruiser-style bikes and you can ride them for up to 30 minutes for free. You'll find B-cycle stations throughout the entire city.
Pro tip: No bikes allowed on 16th Street Mall.
16. Visit a Local Farmers Market
Mix with the locals and check out fresh produce and other items at one of the area's many farmer's markets. The full list can be found here.
27. History Colorado Center
If you've already fallen in love with Colorado, you can learn everything there is to know at the the History Colorado Center.
18. Explore Denver's Parks
Denver has over 200 city and mountain parks. Local favorites include Washington Park and Cheesman Park, formerly a cemetery. The bodies were removed and relocated so the city could turn the space into a park where people now run and play frisbee. Unsurprisingly, Cheesman Park is rumored to be haunted.
Pro tip: The Denver Botanic Gardens is next to Cheesman Park and is worth checking out.
19. See Colorado Rockies Baseball on the Cheap
The Rockpile is a 2,300 seat bleacher section behind centerfield. The seats are no frills but they're inexpensive and a bargain at just $4 per person. Guests 12 and under or over 55 get $1 tickets.
20. Visit the Animals at the Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo is great for an inexpensive day out. Visitors are allowed to bring their own food in the zoo, which may save you money on lunch.
Pro tip: City Park, designed to be like New York City's Central Park, is right by the Denver Zoo! You can look at the city skyline behind the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which is also worth checking out.
21. Day Trips from Denver
If you have more time, consider planning one of these great day trips:
Red Rocks Amphitheater
See a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater, located just 15 miles from Denver. Check the schedule to see what films and events might be going on. If you visit Denver at Easter, there's a sunrise church service.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Winter Park is a cute mountain town 67 miles from Denver. Winter Park stays busy in both the summer and the winter. Don't miss the Alpine Slide.
Boulder is 30 miles from Denver. Take the “B” bus from Market Street Station. The ride will take approximately 40 minutes. Be sure to check out Pearl Street Mall.
This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks Travel.