If you’re looking for free things to do in Denver, then you’re in the right spot. I’m a Colorado local and a mama of four, whose longtime motto has been “If it’s free, it’s for me!”
In this article, we’ll take a look at the free things to do in Denver all year long, plus some free seasonal activities and how to get into some paid attractions for free as well. There are so many awesome things to do in Denver, might as well keep your wallet happy as you explore.
Come along, my fellow frugal fun lovers, and let’s take a look some great ways to see Denver on a budget.
Table of Contents
- 21 Free Things to Do in Denver
- 16th St Mall
- City Park
- Colorado State Capitol Building
- Union Station
- Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
- Free Museum Days
- Colorado Music Hall of Fame
- Cherry Creek Trail
- Hammond’s Candy Factory
- Civic Center Park
- Tattered Cover
- Downtown Denver Ice Rink
- Denver Central Library
- Santa Fe Arts District
- Take a Hike
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
- U.S Mint Tour
- Hudson Gardens
- Children’s Museum Free Days
- Geocaching in Downtown Denver
- Carson Nature Center
- FAQs About Free Things to Do in Denver
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21 Free Things to Do in Denver
16th St Mall
Window shop and people watch along downtown Denver’s pedestrian mall.
The 16th Street Mall runs from Denver Union Station at one end to the Colorado capitol building at the other. It’s lined with shops, cafes, and interesting buildings.
If you can view the mall from above, you’ll even notice that it looks like a Navajo rug, a fun fact about Denver. If you get tired as you walk, grab the MallRide shuttle back to your car – it’s completely free as well.
Rose gardens, lakes, and summer jazz make this a treasured spot.
City Park is home to two lakes where, if you did want to spend a little money, you could rent a pedal boat in summer. The park has lakeside paths to walk, a small rose garden area, and fountains where kids can splash when it’s warm out.
Summer also brings special free things to do in Denver like City Park Jazz, where you’ll be treated to concerts by great musicians.
Colorado State Capitol Building
Learn about Colorado’s government and admire the gorgeous architecture of this building.
Visiting the Colorado State Capitol building is an awesome way to learn about our fabulous state.
Free tours are available at the Colorado State Capitol building, where you and your family can learn about the materials used for the building that were mined right here in Colorado – including gold and Colorado Rose Onyx. You can even take a dome tour.
People-watch and admire the history inside this 128-year-old building.
Union Station is busy throughout the day and night, and is a great place to get the lay of the land and people watch.
Sit on one of the wooden benches and take in the history of the building. Browse the shops inside the train station and the Tattered Cover bookstore. Sometimes, bands play in the lobby area. The holiday decorations are always wonderful to witness as well.
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
Hike and enjoy the views at this famous concert venue.
Red Rocks Park & Amphiteatre is one of the most iconic things to do in Denver, and unless there’s a concert, admission is free.
The Trading Post trail is a good, easy hike with beautiful views of the Front Range. You can also exercise on the amphitheatre steps. Be sure to stop in at the Visitor Center at the top to learn more about the amphitheatre, too.
Free Museum Days
Visit lots of popular Denver attractions for free.
Feel like visiting Denver museums on the cheap? Then you’re in luck! The Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Denver Art Museum, and other historic and cultural attractions participate in a program known as the SCFD Free Days.
Each of these places has several free days throughout the year, where locals and visitors alike can enjoy the facilities.
Colorado Music Hall of Fame
Learn how Colorado impacted many famous musicians.
The Colorado Music Hall of Fame is at the Red Rocks Trading Post, near the amphitheatre. You’ll see displays for many musicians including John Denver (of course), Judy Collins, and Dianne Reeves, and learn about places like the Caribou Ranch recording studio.
The studio in the Rocky Mountains hosted big names in the 70s and 80s rock including Elton John and Chicago.
Cherry Creek Trail
Exercise along a creek running right through downtown.
The Cherry Creek Trail is almost 25 miles long and begins in downtown Denver. The trail starts at Confluence Park near REI, and heads all the way to Parker. It passes the Cherry Creek Mall, Four Mile Historic Park, and lots of Colorado scenery along the way.
Hammond’s Candy Factory
Channel your inner Willy Wonka with a candy tour.
Hammond’s Candies have been a colorful Colorado treat since the 1920s. Learn how the ribbon candy, candy canes, and other confections are created in the Hammond’s Factory.
Fair warning, the tour ends at the gift shop, and although the tour itself is free you’ll be sorely tempted to leave with some edible souvenirs. You won’t be sorry.
Civic Center Park
Admire the Capitol from Denver’s only National Historic Landmark.
A National Historic Landmark, Civic Center Park hosts events throughout the year, including a Christkindl Market in December, Civic Center Eats food truck events, and free fitness classes in warmer weather.
The park is especially pretty in late spring and summer, when hundreds of flowers are in bloom.
Browse this locally-owned bookstore chain.
The eight Tattered Cover bookstores in Denver and Colorado Springs are great places to lose yourself for an hour (or longer!)
Comfy chairs invite you to sit and check out local authors or one of the bestsellers recommended by staff at the store. While shopping here isn’t free, there are free events like storytimes and book clubs for a variety of genres so you can connect with your people.
Downtown Denver Ice Rink
Skate under the skyscrapers.
From November to February, the Downtown Denver Rink has outdoor ice skating available. Skate rentals do cost, but the use of the rink is free and you can bring your own skates.
The rink also provides free skate rentals to 4th graders.
Denver Central Library
Visit the largest library between Los Angeles and Chicago.
Browse millions of books, play games with kids, or settle in for storytime at this impressive downtown library. The library has many free classes, events for kids when school’s not in session, access to 3D printers and laser cutters, and other creative spaces. It also hosts community services like lunch programs and legal aid.
Santa Fe Arts District
See a variety of art forms in the galleries, studios, and other venues.
The Santa Fe Arts District shares the work of hundreds of artists in art galleries, co-ops, studios, theaters, museums, and street art along Santa Fe Drive. The year-round First Friday Art Walks are a great way to enjoy an evening of art while grabbing food from nearby restaurants or food trucks.
Take a Hike
Enjoy some of the best views in the world for free.
Lots of the best hikes near Denver don’t require a parking pass, so they make awesome free things to do in Denver. One of our favorite completely free activities for kids is to visit the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and take the short hike nearby.
Adults can challenge themselves with a 13er near Loveland Pass.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Enjoy wildlife just miles from downtown.
The Rocky Mountain Arsenal is one of the best day trips from Denver, because it’s such a unique place to see wildlife.
This spot, between downtown Denver and the airport, is most famous for its bison herd. However, there are more than 300 different species of animals, plus birds and fish that live here. You can take a car tour through the refuge, or hike and fish in the area.
U.S Mint Tour
Tour a historic building and learn about the mint’s importance in Denver and the U.S..
During the gold rush era in Colorado, everyone needed a place to produce coins from that gold. The Denver Mint now produces all the coins to serve the western half of the country.
You’ll also learn about the architecture and art in this building from the 1800s. And to answer every dad who cracks a joke on the tour – sorry, there are no free samples!
Wander through beautifully cultivated gardens.
Visiting the Hudson Gardens is one of the best things to do in Littleton, and is a quick trip from Denver.
Although the gardens do host concerts and events like A Hudson Christmas that cost money, access to the gardens is free every day. You’ll find a rose garden, vegetable gardens, and an outdoor model train area that’s always a hit with kids.
Children’s Museum Free Days
Kids – and their imaginations – run wild at the Children’s Museum of Denver.
The Children’s Museum of Denver is one of my favorite things to do in Denver with kids.
Kids can climb, explore bubbles, paint, build, and try tons of activities that secretly help them learn as well (shh!). Kids under one are always free, and everyone else is free Tuesday evenings, once a month.
Geocaching in Downtown Denver
Look for small caches and tiny treasures all over Denver.
It’s helpful to know what kind of caches you’re looking for ahead of time, however. In some cases, you’ll find a small trinket and you’ll want to leave something small like stickers or a keychain in return. In other cases, you simply sign a register and add your name to the list of people who discovered the cache.
Carson Nature Center
Learn about local plants and animals and ride the bike trail.
The Carson Nature Center looks out onto views of the foothills. It has displays about plants and animals native to Denver and the surrounding area. Kids will love experimenting with the water table in the back room.
The nearby Mary Carter Greenway Trail is an 8-mile bike path along the South Platte River, and the park next to the nature center is a fun place to look for wildlife.
FAQs About Free Things to Do in Denver
What is there to do in Denver when you’re broke?
If you’re on a budget, then going on a hike near Denver, walking along the 16th Street Mall, visiting the Capitol Building, and admiring the architecture of the Denver Central Library are all great things to do.
Denver also has lots of beautiful parks and bike trails. Be sure to stop in for free City Park Jazz on warm summer nights, or spend an afternoon admiring the historic Denver Union Station building and browsing the Tattered Cover bookstore on-site.
Hopefully this list has given you plenty of ideas for free things to do in Denver! If you’re looking for more great ideas, then check out our full list of things to do in Denver.
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