The Colorado State Capitol, one of the top attractions when doing Denver on a budget

Denver on a Budget (How to Eat, Stay, & Do It Cheaply)

Denver’s reputation as a trendy, art-loving, outdoorsy city means it can be an expensive city for a trip if you let it! However, visiting Denver on a budget is possible – if you know how to do it cheaply!

I’m a Colorado local, and a mom of four, so I’ve been focusing for a long time on how to find budget friendly things to do in Denver! It’s definitely possible to see the essential sights of Denver, eat well, grab a great drink, and even take in a show on the cheap. 

Ready for a few insider tips from a (cheapskate) insider?

What’s in this guide (click to jump around):

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5 Tips to Do Denver on a Budget

Visit Denver in the Off-Season

The best time to visit Denver for cheaper prices is post-Labor Day weekend through November, or in January and February. 

You may also find great rates here in spring. We call it “mud season” in the mountains, but if you’re willing to overlook a little dirt, you can have a great time exploring the many fun mountain day trips from Denver.

Check Out Museum & Attraction Free Days

Dinosaur bones displayed inside the Denver Museum of Nature and Science
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Thanks to Colorado’s respect for the arts, there are a bunch of museums, gardens, zoos, and other area attractions that offer free days throughout the year. 

The Denver Zoo, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Denver Museum of Nature and Science all have free days, or you can try out a less-popular (and less-crowded!) attractions like the Clyfford Still Museum or Four Mile Historic Park. 

Get Outdoors

The author's daughter smiling for a photo during a hike in Mt. Sniktau
My 11-year old getting ready to summit Mt. Sniktau

Some of the best parts of Colorado – the amazing views of the Rocky Mountains – are already free! 

There are tons of great hiking trails near Denver, and most are free or have a nominal parking fee. Pack a picnic lunch and hit the trails to not only see the great views, but possibly meet some Colorado natives like elk, pikas, marmots, and other wildlife.

Use Denver’s Public Transportation

Denver has a great public transportation system, and if you’re staying right downtown you may not need a car at all. There are lots of ways to get around Denver

If you’d like to save on rental car fees, the light rail and bus systems are inexpensive and go all over downtown. You can even take the train from Denver International Airport for under $11 each way. 

Sign Up For Emails

The author with her son in Denver Performing Arts Complex
The DCPA has several theaters with great shows!

If you’re interested in a specific Denver activity like seeing a show at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, or going to a Rockies game, or visiting a museum, sign up for emails from the place ahead of time. 

Sometimes, companies will email out coupon codes or the best deals that you can only find in their newsletters. I’ve also gotten snail mail flyers on occasion, with alerts to upcoming shows or discounts. 

5 Cheap & Free Things to Do in Denver

Below are 5 epic but free things to do in Denver. For more activity inspiration, see our full list of more than 50 things to do in Denver!

Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum from the outside
(photo: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (720) 865-5000 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, open til 9 pm Tuesdays | Entrance: $19, adults, Free under 19

The Denver Art Museum has at least one free day a month, and often two. Although it’s $19 for non-Colorado residents, it is free for anyone 18 and under. It’s also $15 if you live in-state. 

16th St. Mall and Union Station

The illuminated Union Station sign at night

📍 Google Maps | Website 

There are lots of shops and restaurants along the 16th St. Mall in downtown Denver. After window shopping, take the free mall shuttle to Union Station at the end of the line. 

The train station was built in 1898, and now houses shops, a bar, and a central area that sometimes has live music or shuffleboard. You can also just sit, peoplewatch, and enjoy Denver.

History Colorado Museum

A blue bear displayed inside the History Colorado Museum

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 447-8679 | Website | Hours: 10 am – 5 pm daily, Closed holidays | Entrance: $15, adults, Free under 19

The History Colorado Museum is a great place to get an overview of the history of this beautiful place you’re visiting! Kids will love the hands-on exhibits and Makerspace. Adults can learn about the weather, politics, and unique factors that shaped Denver and Colorado. 

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

People wandering at the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
(photo: Radomir Rezny / Shutterstock)

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (720) 865-2494 | Website | Hours: One hour before sunrise – one hour after sunset daily, access is limited during concerts

Red Rocks is a great venue for seeing a concert, but there are lots to do there during the day as well! There are hiking trails around the amphitheatre, and many people exercise on the amphitheatre steps. There is also a visitor center, and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame is next to the Trading Post within the park boundary. 

Access to the park, visitor center, and Music Hall of Fame are all free. Prices for events like concerts and the Film on the Rocks series vary.

Colorado State Capitol

View of the Colorado State Capitol Building from the outside
The Colorado State Capitol

📍 Google Maps | Phone: (303) 866-2604 | Website | Hours: 7:30 am – 5 pm Mon – Fri, Closed weekends | Entrance: Free

The Colorado State Capitol building has free tours every weekday, at several times during the day. The tours are first-come, first-served. Learn about the gold leaf that adorns the Capitol dome, and other fun facts about the building. 

Where to Stay in Denver on a Budget

Capitol Hill is probably the best area in Denver to stay if you’re trying to save money! 

However, there are several other areas that offer affordable hotels as well. You can also cut costs by staying in a hostel like the popular Hostel Fish (conveniently located downtown).

Or if you prefer private rooms, renting an apartment or VRBO home for a bigger group. 

Capitol Hill

The Molly Brown House Museum from the outside
The Molly Brown House, an icon of Capitol Hill

👉 Best Area For Money-Saving Travelers | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: The Art Hotel Denver

Capitol Hill is near the Capitol Building and other downtown spots. It’s also near the free shuttle down the 16th St Mall, so you’ll not only save on accommodations but on transportation expenses. 

You’ll also find affordable but incredible restaurants and craft breweries so you can save on eating and drinking as well!

Union Station / Lower Downtown (“LoDo”)

The Union Station building with lights at night

👉 Best Area For First-Time Visitors | ✨ Best Budget Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn Denver Union Station

There are some seriously upscale Denver hotels here, but there are also less-expensive options like the Hilton Garden Inn. 

You’re close to Coors Field, where you can see a game cheaply. You’re also near art galleries, shops with old books and vintage clothes, and other fun spots. You’ll also save on transportation since many places are walkable or easy to get to with public transportation.

Cheap Eats in Denver

The Mile High City has some great spots for cheap, delicious food! In fact, I didn’t have room here to write up all our favorites – for more suggestions, be sure to check out our guide to the best restaurants in Denver

El Taco de Mexico

Mexican 

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: ($)

A bare-bones restaurant with solid, authentic Mexico City-style tacos. Be ready to wait a bit – a place this tasty almost always has a line!

Vinh Xuong Bakery

Vietnamese

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: ($)

A bakery already has a leg up on banh mi sandwiches, since one of the most important parts is the fluffy, crispy bread surrounding your meat or tofu! 

This shop is one of the local favorites, where baguettes are baked fresh each morning, then piled with barbequed pork, tofu, chicken, or other delicious options. Have a Vietnamese iced coffee while you’re there, too. 

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs 

American 

📍 Google Maps | Website | Price Range: ($)

These aren’t your grocery store Oscar Meyer wieners…Biker Jim’s is known for dogs that incorporate exotic meats like ostrich, elk, rattlesnake, and rabbit. It’s an inexpensive but adventurous option for a downtown Denver lunch!

FAQs About Visiting Denver on the Cheap

View of buildings in Denver at night

How can I go to Denver on a budget?

You can go to Denver on a budget by looking at several factors. Check for inexpensive flights into the city on a website like Expedia. The website even allows you to set up price alerts, so you’ll be notified when there is a price drop on a flight. 

If you want a car to get around, use Discover Cars, which compares rental car deals across several car rental companies to get you the best price. You can also take the airport train downtown to save on transportation.

When you plan things to do in Denver, consider free activities like hiking or walking downtown. You can also check out the free days at several Mile High City attractions. 

There are many other museums with inexpensive admission prices. You can also find cheap Rockies’ tickets if you’re willing to sit in the Rockpile –  bleacher seats behind the centerfield backdrop. The seats get even cheaper if you want to wait until a few hours before the game to buy them. 

Is Denver an expensive city to visit?

Denver can be an expensive city for a trip. However, Denver has many inexpensive things to do for families or solo travelers. There are also plenty of restaurants that won’t break the bank, and if you do a little research, you can even find inexpensive hotels in Denver

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Hopefully, this has given you some guidelines for how to visit Denver on a budget! 

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