19 Best Things to do in Denver
I see you. Sitting there behind your screen, attempting to find some activities in Denver that are actually worth the hype.
You’ve come to the right place, my friend!
I’ve learned a lot in my 5ish years of living in Denver.
The good. The bad. Tips to save you cash and time. All of it.
Using this knowledge, I’ve compiled my favorite list of things to do in Denver.
I truly hope you find it helpful and enjoy your time in the mile-high city!
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Seasonal Bucket List Freebie
If you’re looking to fill your free time with even more fun activities, be sure to snag this great free seasonal bucket list free printable!
Denver Packing List – Please Don’t Forget to Pack These!
No matter your length of stay in Colorado, here are some items you won’t want to forget to pack:
- High-Quality SPF 100 Sunscreen – You WILL get a sunburn from very little time in the sun on a cloudy day due to the high elevation…
- Polarized UV Sunglasses – Similar high elevation thinking here… protect your eyeballs! Plus, this pair are cute and cheap
- Chapstick – this will be the first thing you grab for if you’re arriving from out-of-state… you’re welcome.
- Electrolyte Powder Mix – to help stay hydrated at this high of elevation, you’ll need some extra electrolytes (my favorite is Liquid IV)
- Comfortable Walking Shoes and Hiking Boots
- Packable Hiking Day pack (these bags are so cool and perfect to travel with)
- Dress in Layers – The range in temperature you will experience here is always unexpected, and the forcast can change drastically, here are some ideas per season:
- Winter: Heavy winter coat, fleece jacket, thermal undershirt, thermal lined jeans or leggings, merino wool socks
- Spring/Fall: You’ll probably need both warm and cool weather clothes such as a weatherproof jacket, fleece jacket, light travel T-shirt or tanktop, shorts and pants options (or be like me, and just bring travel convertible pants), merino wool socks, and thin sock options
- Summer: Watherproof jacket, rain jacket, light T-shirts, tanktops, shorts, thin socks
If you plan on hiking, don’t forget to pack the ten hiking essentials!
The Ultimate List of Things to Do in Denver
I cannot say enough great things about the Denver Zoo. So many wonderful animals, educational experiences, conservation efforts, and more. They even host themed events (such as Zoo Lights and food festivals) and offer free admission several times throughout the year. If that weren’t enough, they have a massive renovation project in the works that, once completed, will most likely make it the best zoo in the US.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
This museum contains exhibits on dinosaurs, minerals, wildlife, culture, and so much more. Such a fun experience!
Tip: This museum is located next to the Denver Zoo, Denver City Park, and the City Park Golf Course, in case you want to tack on a few other attractions in a single day. They also offer free admission days and evening hours throughout the year.
Denver City Park
When you search for Denver on the web, many of the photos that pop up are of this park. It features a lake (with paddleboats), a view of the skyline, a trail along the backside of the zoo, and plenty of trails.
Fair warning: there are often a lot of geese in the area, give them some space if you encounter them. I may or may not have been chased by them on several occasions…
Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum is… I can’t even think of a word to do it justice. Just go, you won’t regret it. There are so many exhibits, you’re bound to find something you love: modern art, sculptures, classic pieces from nearly every continent, architecture, photography, furniture, murals, textiles, fashion, and so much more. In fact, they have over 70,000 works of art!
Tip: The museum is HUGE. Plan for at least 3 hours (probably more) to just walk through the entire space (wear good walking shoes). Free admission days are also available, as well as heavily discounted bundle tickets if you wish to visit other museums and attractions in the area.
Civic Center Park and Colorado State Capitol
The Colorado State Capitol building is a quick, easy, free, and beautiful destination to explore. Civic Center Park lies between the state and city government buildings. Here, you can enjoy free walking tours and great food along the way.
Tip: This area is close to the Denver Art Museum, so it would be easy to pair together.
Union Station is a historic building that serves as the main train station for Denver. It also houses restaurants, shops, a hotel, and seasonal events (farmers markets, holiday vendors, etc.). If you’re visiting from out of town, instead of using a ride-share service, I always recommend just taking the RTD train from the airport to Union Station to get to the city. It will get you straight into downtown, is a fair price, and is a well-known location to catch other cheap/free forms of transportation (like the Free Mallride, RTD Light Rail lines, and more). You also won’t have to worry about parking and can rent a car if needed.
There are so many great things to do around Union Station, here are some of my favorites that are within easy walking distance:
- Union Station Building (Shopping and Restaurants)
- The Dairy Block (Shopping and Restaurants)
- Coors Baseball Field
- McGregor Square (Shopping and Sports Bars accross from the Baseball Field)
- The 1UP Arcade Bar
- Wynkoop Brewing Company
- Commons Park
- Littleman’s Ice Cream
- Confluence Park and REI Denver Flagship
- Larimer Square (Historic Shopping District)
- Museum of Contemproary Art
- Tattered Cover Book Store
- Howl at the Moon Denver Piano Bar
The Denver Mint is one of the only Mints in the United States that can be toured by the public. Tours are free but do fill up fast and are not always available. Definitely check their website before visiting.
Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park
If you are a theme park fan, then Elitch Gardens is a must-add to your list. It’s a moderately-sized, moderately-priced park that features several rollercoasters, theme park rides, games, food vendors, and a water park. We randomly purchased a season pass one year and probably spent over 10 full days at the park. Worth it.
Haunted Pub Tour
There are several companies that offer haunted pub tours in and around downtown Denver. I don’t remember exactly which one we went on, but it was fantastic! I’m sure they all are. We spent the evening learning about the history of Denver, local ghost stories, and visiting incredible pubs around town.
Brown Palace Hotel
If you’re looking for a more high-class experience, you’ll want to visit the Brown Palace Hotel. You actually don’t have to be a guest to visit the hotel (though, that would be fun); you can still tour the historic building, enjoy a fancy afternoon tea, spend a day at the spa, or dine at any of their many restaurants.
Tip: Rumor has it that when political leaders and celebrities come into town, they stay at this hotel… so keep an eye out!
Denver Botanic Gardens
Spend a day exploring 50+ themed gardens, including a tropical conservatory, science center, and tea house. You’ll definitely want to bring your walking shoes!
Tip: There are a few garden locations around Denver, the York Street site is the most iconic. Oh yeah, you can also attend for free on their Free Day events!
If you’re a South Park fan, you’re probably already familiar with Casa Bonita. It is… an experience that cannot be missed! Some describe it as “the Disneyland of Mexican restaurants,” they aren’t wrong. Go in with no expectations and you will have the time of your life.
Tip: The creators of South Park recently purchased Casa Bonita… I can’t wait to see what they do!
The Denver Aquarium is another must-see adventure. There is really no explanation needed, it is an aquarium where you can visit fish… and a tiger (I’m not joking, there is actually a tiger there). The aquarium is a great size and offers many great experiences, food options, and more. Although the aquarium does not participate in “Free Days,” I do believe they offer discounted tickets throughout the year.
Littleman’s Ice Cream
Littleman’s Ice Cream is among the top food-related bucket list-worthy stops in Denver. They are expanding to various locations across town, but the most famous (and one I recommend visiting) is their 16th street location.
Tip: You can easily walk there from Union Station. Also, if you are in need of more food, Avanti Food and Beverage is right around the corner, it is a popular Denver food location (lots of great vendors all in one place).
Molly Brown House Museum
Remember Kathy Bates’ character in Titanic? You know, the woman who actually helped Leo and tried to save people? Yeah, that character is based on a real person: Molly Brown. She had a house in Denver, it’s actually a fun place to explore!
This city park is surrounded by great restaurants and offers a fantastic view of the city skyline.
Meow Wolf Denver
The Meow Wolf Convergence Station in Denver is considered a 4-story immersive art exhibition… it’s like a theme park but with art instead of rides… super cool!
Attend any (or all) Local Sporting Event
In Denver, you have some amazing options for sports: Football, Baseball, Hockey, Basketball, and more. A few tips to keep in mind: the baseball stadium is basically next door to Union Station, so there is plenty to do before or after the game. Also, the indoor sports arena is next door to Elitch Gardens! All major sporting centers can easily be accessed by the light rail system, and I would recommend using it!
Here are the links to Denver’s pro sports teams:
- Colorado Rockies Baseball Team
- Denver Broncos Football Team
- Colorado Avalanche Hockey Team
- Colorado Rapids Soccer Team
- Denver Nuggets Basketball Team
- Coloraado Mammoth Lacrosse Team
Go Shopping at a Historic Location
Both the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square are great places to shop, relax, and truly experience what downtown Denver has to offer. They are also walking distance away from each other.
Tip: The best way to get there? Take the free bus from Union Station.
BONUS: Go on a Dayhike
There are so many incredible day hikes near Denver. SO MANY. In fact, I wrote an entire blog post highlighting all of my favorites, be sure to check it out if you’re interested in getting outdoors (don’t worry, the list includes the top hikes in the area for all skill levels).
Denver’s Honorable Mentions:
- Cheeseman Park
- Visit a Speakeasy
- Any Rooftop Restaurant or Peak’s Lounge
- Denver’s Convention Center and Blue Bear
- Clyfford Still Museum
- Adventure Golf & Raceway
- Hammond’s Candy Factory Tour
Here are some similar blog posts that you also might find useful:
- Top Ten Day Hikes Near Denver, CO
- The Ultimate Utah Mighty 5 Road Trip Itinerary
- A Complete Itinerary for Yellowstone National Park
- The Ten Hiking Essentials – What You Can’t Forget on the Trail
- The Ultimate Road Trip Packing List
Well, there you have it! My ultimate list of things to do in Denver, CO. I hope you enjoy your time in the city… happy travels!