Top 10 things to do in Denver
Gateway to the Rocky Mountains and the Great American West, Colorado’s capital is undoubtably a desirable destination in its own right and well worth a few days of your holiday itinerary. Nowadays, this former gold mining camp tempts with a booming foodie and arts scene, perfect parks for biking and hiking, fabulous shopping streets, over 150 breweries, six professional sports teams, and a backyard teeming with outdoor adventures. Best of all, it’s sunny here 300 days a year! So here are our top picks for a stay in the Mile High City.
Indulge at the city’s one-of-a-kind boutiques
Where: Across the city.
What: While the 160-strong Cherry Creek Shopping Center and the mile-long 16th Street Mall both have plenty to attract shoppers, Denver’s independent boutiques definitely up the ante. Head to Larimer Square - Denver's urban shopping and dining district and the city's most historic area. Complete with glittering lights strung over the entire block, Victorian buildings house specialty boutiques and one-of-a-kind stores with distinctive fashion and exclusive offerings. You’ll also find some great boutiques and fun bars in the charming Dairy Block.
Highlights: Make your way to Rockmount Ranch Wear to stock up on their famous snap-button Western shirts. A true Western icon, invented here by “Papa” Jack Weil in the 1940’s, you can also admire the Rockmount building - a historic landmark built in 1909.
Take an afternoon stroll in the stunning City Park
Where: At 2001 Colorado Boulevard.
What: enver has more than 200 parks, making it one of the largest city-park systems in the USA. But it’s the 330-acre City Park that gets all the love; not least because it comes with flower-filled gardens, two lakes, tennis courts, sports fields, picnic sites, and two playgrounds. There’s also a public 18-hole golf course built by Tom Bendelow (nicknamed "The Johnny Appleseed of American Golf") in 1913. Here you’ll find steeply angled tree-lined greens, long par three holes, consecutive par fives, a putting green, a driving range, and some of the city’s best skyline views.
Highlights: Located on City Park’s eastern edge, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science has a planetarium, IMAX cinema, and awe-inspiring permanent exhibits including Egyptian Mummies, North American Indian Cultures, Space Odyssey, and the award-winning Prehistoric Journey.
Visit the world famous Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Where: Located 30 minutes south west of Denver, with views of downtown Denver and the surrounding foothills.
What: Red Rocks is the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world, and it’s well worth a visit even if there isn’t a concert to enjoy. The free visitor centre features interactive educational displays, a short film documentary on the geologic and musical history and a Performer's Hall of Fame. You can also enjoy some south-western favourites for lunch at the Ship Rock Grille.
Highlights: You can tie in your visit to this unique venue with a beautiful hike. Either take a short stroll along the Geologic Overlook Trail for some beautiful views, or build up an appetite for lunch on the Trading Post Trail which is 1.4 miles through spectacular rock formations, valleys and a natural meadow. For those with plenty of time and energy the Red Rocks Trail loops through 6 miles of gorgeous landscapes
Hit the Great Hall’s Terminal Bar at Denver Union Station
Where: At 17th and Wynkoop Streets in the LoDo district.
What: Denverites couldn’t be prouder of their iconic station (nicknamed the “Living Room”) that was given a £40-million facelift in 2014. Originally built in 1881, this gleaming travel hub serves the city with its FasTracks light rail line, Amtrak train and RTD bus route. But a visit here is more about the glam restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques that line the 12,000-square-foot Grand Hall than the transportation options. Most standout is the Terminal Bar housed in the restored old ticket station, not least for its 30 regional draft beers and distilled-in-Colorado spirits.
Highlights: The Crawford Hotel is part of the station and even if you’re not staying there, it’s worth a look for its rail-themed accommodation - especially the art deco Pullman Rooms modelled after the luxury sleeping cars of old. Also excellent is the Union Station Farmers Market that runs on Saturdays (9am to 2pm) from the beginning of June to the end of October. Here you can stock up on Colorado-made goodies from 40 different vendors, including fruits, vegetables, artisan cheeses, freshly-baked breads, beauty products, and much more.
Check out Denver’s five transportation museums
Where: Across the city.
What: For planes, trains, automobiles, and more, Denver is home to five major museums. Head to the Forney Museum of Transportation for its giant collection of cadillacs and one-of-a-kind vehicles (including Amelia Earhart’s yellow 1923 Kissel Speedster), and then visit Wings Over The Rockies Air & Space Museum for its historic airplanes and space vehicles (including the B-52 Stratofortress, 1926 Eaglerock “Longwing”, and X-Wing fighter). Equally cool is the Cussler Museum in nearby Arvada for its 100-plus antique autos, including the 1906 Stanley Steamer.
Highlights: Housed in a replica of a 1880's-style depot, The Colorado Railroad Museum is a train-filled wonderland that tracks the history of the state’s flamboyant railroad era with exhibits, displays, and 15 acres of sprawling grounds filled with over 100 narrow and standard gauge locomotives, cars, and other rolling stock. Also excellent is the free-to-enter United States Air Force Academy campus just 45 minutes outside the city for its Top Gun-style aircraft, self-guided tours, visitor’s centre, and not-to-be-missed Cadet Chapel, Honor Court, and Falcon Stadium.
Watch a Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coors Field
Where: At 2001 Blake Street.
What: Given the Mile High City has six professional sports teams (including basketball's Denver Nuggets, ice-hockey’s Colorado Avalanches, lacrosse’s Colorado Mammoths, and football's Denver Broncos), so there are games played throughout the whole year and all the grounds offer tours. For Major League Baseball (MLB) fans, nothing beats watching the Colorado Rockies hit homeruns at Coors Field - the huge downtown ballpark with a 50,445 capacity and purple-painted seats in the 20th row of the upper deck to mark its elevation of exactly one mile (5,280-feet) above sea level.
Highlights: The addition of a new 38,000-square-foot, two-storey, multi-million-dollar party deck known as the Rooftop has had a huge thumbs up from fans and you can visit getting a credit for food and drink. It comes with a long terrace overlooking the ballpark, downtown Denver and the snow-capped Rocky Mountains as well as a burger restaurant with a show kitchen that’s open on all four sides. There’s also a bar measuring exactly 52 feet and 80 inches long (it offers 52 craft beers on tap).
Discover why Denver is considered one of the best beer cities in the world
Where: Across the city.
What: enver brews more beer than any other US city and is sometimes nicknamed the "Napa Valley of Beer", with 150 brewpubs, breweries and taprooms. The reason for this great focus on beer dates right back to the gold rush - beer didn't travel or store well, so brewers had to make their stock locally and on-demand.
Highlights: Wynkoop is Colorado’s first brewpub, established in 1988 and is now known for its innovative brewers who will put just about anything in their beer, including Rocky Mountain oysters, gummy bears and green chillies. Or you might prefer the “bold and assertive beers” of the Great Divide Brewing Company's Brewery and Tap Room. If it’s a nice afternoon you might want to include Raices which has the only riverside patio in Denver.
Escape from the city at the peaceful Denver Botanic Gardens
Where: At 1007 York Street.
What: Most famous as one of the filming locations for Woody Allen’s 1973 classic, Sleeper, these lovely themed gardens in the Cheesman Park neighbourhood feature a conservatory, a sunken amphitheatre for summer concerts, year-round educational and research programs for green-fingered types, and rotating exhibits. There’s actually three locations that make up the Denver Botanic Gardens collective: York Street (main site and formal garden), Chatfield (natural meadow and riparian areas), and Mount Goliath (alpine wildflower garden and hiking trails).
Highlights: In the main site at York Street, the gardens fall into five categories: Gardens of the West, Internationally Inspired Gardens, Ornamental Gardens, Shady Gardens, and Water Gardens. Further highlights include the magical three-acre Mordecai Children’s Garden for experiencing the plant life and natural environment of six different Colorado ecosystems, and the Science Pyramid for interactive technology (touchscreens, light, sound, video) and a more scientific view of the world of plants.
Savour the Denver culinary scene
Where: Across Denver.
What: From fine dining eateries, casual cafes and beer-centric restaurants to food trucks, farmers markets, wine bars, cocktail lounges, taverns and just about everything in between. For eats & drinks with a view, visit the 54thirty Rooftop in downtown, Izakaya Den comes well recommended for sushi and Asian eats, and Denver chef Bo Porytko recently added to his repertoire with the opening of Molotov Kitschen and Cocktails in January 2023, offering Eastern European dishes.
Highlights: The 2023 MICHELIN Guide Denver includes details on the 26 Denver restaurants that were recognized in this inaugural guide. In addition to Michelin-starred Bruto, The Wolf’s Tailor and Beckon, Denver is now home to eight out of nine Bib Gourmand restaurants and 15 out of 30 Michelin-recommended restaurants.
Tap into the city’s mighty art scene
Where: Across Denver.
What: Given that Denver is a city with art at its heart, there’s no shortage of incredible places to visit; from the futuristic-looking Museum of Contemporary Art for modern masterpieces, to the RiNo Art District for street art and independent galleries. And while you don’t have to go to a museum to see it (there’s murals, whimsical sculptures and public art city-wide), it would be a shame not to. Three of the best include Denver Art Museum for Native American art, the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Arts for every 20th-century art genre ever invented, and the Clyfford Still Museum for rule-breaking works by one of the first ever Abstract Expressionists – all located near to downtown and walkable from downtown hotels.
Highlights: Meow Wolf Denver opened in 2021 to rave reviews. Meow Wolf, the artist collective responsible for Santa Fe’s immersive art exhibit the House of Eternal Return, added a permanent installation in Denver a couple of years later. The Denver venue features the work of 110 Colorado-based artists on four floors of colourful rooms, as well as a 450-person capacity music venue, café and shop.