As a child I would talk my mom into going to Casa Bonita every chance I could because it was one of the most fun things to do in Denver I knew of at that point. She always complained about the food, but she sure seemed to like the margaritas!
Three decades later, that little boy is now a recovering Denver lawyer turned professional travel blogger. I have spent the past five years traveling the world while living out of a backpack. While I was off adventuring to over 70 countries, my city has grown into one of the trendiest travel destinations in the entire USA.
So, when the pandemic sent me scrambling home to Denver from Argentina, I took it as an opportunity to explore and show off the city I know best: Denver, Colorado.
I’ve spent the summer re-connecting with my favorite attractions in Denver, and discovering new Denver hotels, activities, sites, and points of interest that have sprung up while I was abroad. Oh, and I documented and photographed it all, so I could write up this ultimate list of the best things to do in Denver.
I hope this list helps you enjoy the best of Denver, and I hope you love Denver with as much passion as I’ve put into curating it for you!
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support my work by purchasing through the affiliate links on this page, which may earn a commission for this site. Thank you!
58 Best Things to Do in Denver
Arguably the most spectacular outdoor concert venue in the entire United States, the Red Rocks open-air amphitheater is situated among several 300-million-year-old protruding angular red sandstone formations. With seating for 9,525 and fantastic views over the Front Range, Red Rocks is truly a can’t-miss destination for any visitor to Denver.
The venue draws A-list musical talent from around the world, and also hosts the Film on the Rocks movie night series plus the popular weekend morning Yoga on the Rocks workout session. Check the official calendar of events to see what is on during your visit. Even if you can’t snag a ticket, it’s still worth stopping by for a (free) visit during a non-event day just to witness the grandeur of the Red Rocks.
⛰️ Local Trivia: Even though it’s the undisputed number one thing to do in Denver, did you know that Red Rocks isn’t even located in Denver? It’s actually situated 10 miles west of the city in Morrison. But, weirdly, it IS owned by the City of Denver.
Located on Larimer Street between 14th and 15th, Larimer Square is easily the coolest block in town and the place to be see and be seen for the Colorado glitterati. Window shop at any one of the boutique stores (care to try on a $800 hat?), dine at high end restaurants like Rioja or Osteria Marco, or grab a drink at my favorite Denver speakeasy, The Green Russel. Oh, and be sure to stop by for a macaroon at The Drunken Bakery, whose eclectic interior is arranged with the floor and ceiling flipped!
👉 Love to Explore? Check out our post on the best day trips from Denver for inspiration!
A century ago, this historic train station served as an important stop for supply shipments coming out west. Since it’s refurbishing in 2014, Denver Union Station has become the cultural heart of the Mile High City — and the most popular points of interest in Denver. Dine at one of the excellent restaurants housed in the station, grab a cocktail at the Terminal Bar, or challenge your friends to a game of shuffleboard inside Union Station’s giant refinished lobby.
🛏️ Need a Hotel in Denver? The Crawford Hotel is a magnificently ornate property located right in Union Station, and an excellent place to stay (if you can afford it). It’s one of the amazing hotels I review in my full article ranking all the best hotels in Denver.
Denver Botanic Gardens
A serene escape from the city just east of Cheesman Park, the incredible 23-acre Denver Botanic Gardens includes various themed gardens, an enclosed conservatory, and a public amphitheater which hosts a popular summer concert series. Featuring flora from around the world, you can grab a beer by the Japanese tea garden or take your own picnic to enjoy on a sunny Denver day.
The gardens also have a second location in Littleton, Denver Botanic Gardens Chatfield Farms, which features the historic Hildebrand Ranch, a butterfly farm, and a children’s play area. It’s a great thing to do in Denver with kids!
This city block near Coors Field, previously home to Windsor’s Dairy, has recently been transformed into a cosmopolitan micro-district. The cornerstone establishment is the Denver Milk Market, an expansive space home to 16 scrumptious food and drink establishments (my favorite: Kachina Catina).
In the middle of Dairy Block you’ll find one of Denver’s most Insta-worthy alley, where wine bars, boutique shops, and art galleries blend together to create an atmosphere with a decidedly European feel.
🛎️ Looking for a place to stay? The Maven Hotel, which anchors the Dairy Block, is my pick for the best all-around hotel in Denver. It’s actually pretty reasonably priced considering the perfect location and gorgeous modern rooms.
Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Up for a mountain day trip from Denver but don’t feel like hiking? Just 60 miles from the Mile High City, you can drive the highest paved road in North America to the top of one of Colorado’s 54 famous “fourteeners” (Rocky Mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation).
The 28-mile-long Mount Evans Scenic Byway winds its way up the 7,000 foot climb to the top of Mount Evans, where you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountain Front Range. But, seriously, you might actually have your breathe taken away – air is thin at these altitudes – so avoid this activity if you have respiratory issues.
👉 Local Tip: As of summer 2021, Mount Evans has a timed entry system which requires an advance reservation to be made here.
Denver Art Museum
Sporting a futuristic angular exterior, the Denver Art Museum is an easy walk from downtown or Capitol Hill. Inside you’ll find several stories with rotating exhibits featuring modern and contemporary artists from around the world.
When I went recently, I was impressed by the display From Paris to Hollywood, featuring stunning fashion items from the wardrobes of Gregory and Veronique Peck. The Denver Art Museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily.
🎟️ Admission: $10 for Colorado residents, $13 for non-resident, free to youth age 18 and under and during the Denver Art Museum’s periodic Free Days.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey Tour
It’s hard to believe that Colorado only opened it’s first distillery in 2004, but Stranahan’s has done its best to make up for the lost time by leading the charge in the state’s recent distillation-boom. These days, taking a tour of Stranahan’s Denver facility is a must-do activity when visiting Denver.
The only problem with the hour-long informative tour of the distillery is that it ends with a whiskey tasting of samples so generous that is likely to lead you to forget everything you just learned. But, hey, it’s all in the name of fun right?
🎟️ Details: Tours starts at $20 per person, and tickets can be booked here. Note that the Sunday 5 PM tour is free for Colorado residents and their guests, as is the Monday 4:30 pm tour for first responders and healthcare professionals.
River North Art District (“RiNo”)
For better or worse, Denver has changed dramatically over the past decade. And nowhere is the city’s evolution more on display than the River North Art District, known locally as “RiNo.” Today this former industrial hub’s warehouses and factories have been converted to a hip arts district sporting funky breweries, trendy restaurants, pumping bars, boutique shops, and colorful street art adorning nearly available patch of brick or concrete.
RiNo makes for a great self-guided walking tour, especially along the stretch of Larimer between 25th and 32nd streets. Be sure not to miss the vibrant alley behind the Denver Central Market.
👉 Local Tip: Need help figuring out which neighborhood to base yourself in Denver? Check out my mega guide to where to stay in Denver for a rundown of my top picks for the best areas.
Take a Craft Beer Tour
With over 150 breweries, many located right downtown, Denver is nirvana for craft brew aficionados. The city even plays host to the annual Great American Beer Festival, which is a must if you are visiting Denver when the fall event returns. No matter the time of your visit, you can organize your own beer crawl by stringing together a few local favorites near Coors Field.
I’d suggest starting at Wynkoop Brewery (whose founder John Hickenlooper went on to become Mayor and later Governor), then working your way north to Jagged Mountain and Great Divide, before ending at my personal pick for the best brewery in Denver: Our Mutual Friend. Alternatively, consider joining one of many organized craft beer tours on offer in town, such as this one with over 300 positive reviews.
🍺⛰️ Prefer to sip your brews outdoors? Check out the “brews and views” tours from Viator, which combine beer with visits to Denver-area mountain destinations!
Museums and Culture
History Colorado Center
This is an incredibly important museum, whose several floors highlighting different eras in the state’s history are all remarkably well curated. I appreciate that the curators do not sugar coat the darker sides of Colorado’s history (the state was once a KKK hotbed), and that the exhibits really make efforts to place the stories of Colorado’s Native, Black, and Latino communities front and center. Be sure not to miss the exhibit featuring 100 objects from Colorado’s history (one really stands out in my memory: an original ballot box from the 1893 elections, which was the year women were first granted the franchise in Colorado).
National Ballpark Museum
If you’re a baseball fan, then you MUST stop by this small but incredibly well-cared-for museum. Located just steps from Coors Field, every single inch of the National Ballpark Museum is crammed with remarkable memorabilia celebrating the nation’s pastime, including seats from all 14 of the original classic ballparks. The volunteers and staff who run the non-profit museum are passionate and eager to pass on their knowledge.
🎟️ Admission: Adults – $10, Seniors – $5, Children & active duty military – Free.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
I have many fond memories of childhood visits to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, which is an excellent thing to do in Denver for families, kids, or anyone who acts like one. The expansive City Park museum is filled with dinosaurs, mummies, an IMAX theatre, a planetarium, and fascinating exhibits galore. Open 9 am – 5 pm daily.
Admission: $19.95 adults, $14.95 youth (IMAX, planetarium, and special exhibits extra).
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
The Lowry neighborhood in Denver sits on top of what used to be Lowry Air Force Base and, at one point, the initial home of the Air Force Academy. After the base was decommissioned, one of the hangars was converted into the host space for the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Inside you’ll find dozens of historical air and spacecraft, rotating exhibits, and a virtual flight simulator. It’s definitely a top thing to do in Denver with kids, veterans, history buffs, or anyone who loves aviation. After your visit, be sure to stop by for a bite or brew at the gigantic outdoor Lowry Beer Garden.
🎟️ Admission: $16.95 for adults, $9.95 for children.
Denver Performing Arts Complex
The Denver Performing Arts Complex is a large downtown campus hosting several different performance venues, the most prominent of which are the excellent Buelle Theatre and the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. During non-pandemic times, programming included touring plays, concerts, performances, and art exhibits. The Lion King and Hamilton are currently slated to return in early 2022. Check the official website for the latest information.
Santa Fe Art District
This is the place to be if you want to check out cool art galleries, hipster hangouts, or unique museums like the Museo de las Americas. The monthly First Friday event brings out a crowd as patrons hop from gallery to gallery to watch performances and imbibe. If you’re in town for the first Friday of the month, it’s a can’t-miss thing to do in Denver!
Molly Brown House
The Unsinkable Margaret Tobin Brown survived the Titanic, and her gorgeous Capitol Hill mansion survived thanks to a 1970s preservation effort that turned it into a fascinating house museum. Entrance for a one hour self-guided tour starts at $16 USD per person. It is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Denver!
Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
Featuring more than 30,000 works of art across its three principal exhibits, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art gets its name from storied 20th century Colorado painter Vance Kirkland , whose work forms one of the three main exhibits at the museum. The museum is currently on temporary closure due to a water main burst, with a planned re-opening in August, 2021. Note that, due to the fragile nature of some of the art, admission is limited to visitors age 13 and up.
Forney Museum of Transportation
If you love vintage vehicles, you’ll be awed by the collection at Denver’s Forney Museum of Transportation. Among other items on display, the museum hosts Amelia Earhart’s Kissel Gold Bug Speedster, a Denver Cable Car dating to 1888, a “Big Boy” locomotive donated by Union Pacific, and an awesome collection of Ford Model Ts. The Forney Museum is open Thursday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm (opens at noon Sundays).
Denver Museum of Contemporary Art
Situated just south of Union Station, the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art is an underrated Denver museum offering thought-provoking, sometimes shocking, displays. Don’t miss the excellent rooftop cafe and bar, which somehow seems to never be crowded despite the pleasant views of downtown.
🎟️ Admission: $10 for adults, free for children 18 and under.
Clyfford Still Museum
Clyfford Still is widely considered one of the most influential artists in American history and, upon his death in 1980, his will stipulated that his body of work be forever housed in only a single location in a city willing to build a dedicated museum. Denver stepped up to the plate in 2004, and today this popular Denver museum is the only place to find 95% of the work of the trailblazing abstract impressionist.
🎟️ Admission: Tickets are $10 for adults, free for youth 17 and under.
Sites and Points of Interest
Colorado State Capitol
Located right next to downtown, the golden dome of the Colorado State Capitol is one of the most iconic images of Colorado. Free tours were offered on weekdays before the pandemic, but as of summer 2021, they are still on pause. If you can’t make one, you can still snap great photos of the building’s famous golden dome. Look out for the marker on the 13th Capitol step for the exact location of the altitude of 5,280 feet above sea level — which gives Denver its moniker as the Mile High City.
Denver City and County Building
Address: 1437 Bannock St, Denver, CO 80202
Though it’s upstaged a bit by the Colorado Capitol, which is faces across Civic Center Park, the Denver City and County Building is an important Denver point of interest in its own right. It’s worth at least a quick walk by the exterior to see the Greek revival columns, which at night light up in spectacular fashion during holidays.
Tattered Cover Independent Bookstore
An iconic independent Denver bookseller, Tattered Cover was saved from closing during the pandemic when it was purchased by a new investment group. The new owners recently moved the iconic downtown store out of its previous historic LoDo location into prime real estate in the newly opened McGregor Square. Located right next to Coors Field, it’s the perfect place to pop in for a bit of peace and quiet during a Rockies game. You can also check out Tattered Cover’s other locations around town, including a store located in the historic Bonfils-Lowenstein Theater at 2526 E. Colfax and a smaller outpost within Denver’s Union Station.
Daniels & Fisher Clocktower
Once the tallest building in the Mountain West, this historic clocktower at 16th and Arapahoe remains a Denver icon a popular spot for local wedding ceremonies. At night, it lights up with a variety of date-specific colors (such as Rockies purple during baseball games). At the base of the clocktower you’ll find Skyline Park, which often plays hosts to seasonal events like ice skating rinks. In the basement is a modern cabaret show.
The more than a million gallons of water at Denver Downtown Aquarium are home to over 500 species of marine and animal life, plus a (controversial) tiger habitat. It’s a kid friendly thing to do in Denver that also hosts a highly-reviewed restaurant where diners can enjoy a meal surrounded by a 150,000 gallon marine aquarium.
🎟️ Admission: adults (12-64 years) $23.50, seniors $22.50, children (3-11 years) $17.50
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
The main cathedral for Colorado Catholics is worth a quick visit even if you’re not an adherent for the beautiful soaring interior and stunning stained glass work. The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is located in the downtown area near The Brown Palace, and is open to visitors for short periods most evenings (check the official website for hours coinciding with your visit).
16th Street Mall
The 16th Street Mall is a 1.25 mile outdoor pedestrian mall that forms Downtown Denver’s main artery. Here you’ll find hundreds of shops and restaurants, plus the Denver Pavilions (a more traditional “mall”, where you can also catch a movie or go bowling). Unfortunately the pandemic hit the mall pretty hard, since most of its foot traffic came from downtown office workers. As I write this, I’m staring out from my apartment over a virtually empty stretch of 16th street. Thankfully, plans are underway to revitalize the 16th Street Mall and, even in the meantime, strolling the mall definitely remains one of the top things to do in Denver. If you get tired of walking, free shuttle buses run the length of the mall.
Food and Drink
Denver Central Market
Denver Central Market is located right in the middle of the uber-hip RiNo art district. Inside a shared roof you’ll find 11 artisan vendors serving up everything from chocolates to pizza to ice cream. In true River North spirit, the building and the alley behind it are adorned in head to toe street art. It’s a great place to stop in for a break while touring the district by foot, or to start you’re evening before hitting the area’s lively nightlife.
I used to live a few blocks away from Little Man, Denver’s iconic ice cream spot which is housed inside a larger-than-life milk can. My gym was next door to the shop, which meant that every time I finished my workout I’d have to gather my will to avoid ruining all my gains with one of Little Man’s delicious scoops of the creamy stuff. The only thing that saved me is Little Man’s popularity, which means that there is pretty much always a line out front. On a hot day, be prepared to wait for a half hour or more. Totally worth it, though.
The Source is a RiNo-based community marketplace featuring 25 vendors slinging everything from flowers to haircuts to craft beer. The anchor tenants here are the celebrated restaurants Safta, which offers Middle Eastern fare, and bellota, a Mexican-inspired joint that spun-off from the now-closed Acorn. You’ll also find one of Denver’s trendiest hotels, The Source Hotel, which features a stylish rooftop pool and bar, plus an outpost of New Belgium brewery.
The Cruise Room
Get dressed up and grab a drink at Denver’s original Prohibition-era speakeasy. Located inside The Oxford historic hotel, the art deco windowless interior of The Cruise Room was inspired by the Queen Mary. Stepping inside will transport you back in time to the 1920s, when this bar illegally served up gimlets and martinis to Denver’s elite.
I still remember the mania that swept over Denver’s hipsters when Voodoo Doughnuts opened their first location on Colfax in 2013. It took weeks for the lines outside to calm down enough for me to dare to finally brave waiting that long for a donut. But the Portland-based company has built a cult-like following for their sweet and sometimes curious creations, offering unique flavors like their Spicy Margarita Cannolo, the Bacon Maple Bar, or (my personal favorite) the Captain Crunch-topped Oh Captain My Captain. In addition to their Colfax flagship, Voodoo has also recently opened a second location on South Broadway.
Just over the Denver-Aurora border, Stanley Marketplace is a single-roof community marketplace where you can find over 50 independent Colorado businesses, including restaurants, bars, shops, salons, and more. Grab some Mexican fare at Comida, a pint at Cheluna Brewing Company, an ice cream cone at Sweet Cow, an empanada at Maria Empanadas, or a bowl of ramen at Qi-Lin (seriously, their ramen is legit!). When you’re done, browse the many stalls and help support Colorado-owned local businesses!
If I had friends visiting town and could only send them to one Denver restaurant, it would be Kachina Cantina. Serving a modern take on Mexican fare inspired by the USA’s Four Corners region and Baja Mexico, Kachina offers an energetic, but not too loud, atmosphere and an epic location right in the middle of Dairy Block. There is a large and beautifully decorated dining room, several outdoor tables, and a huge fun bar that with seats both indoors and outdoors. Executive chef Cesar Tamariz’s spin on Southwestern fare is sure to leave your mouth watering for me. Kachina is a great place to grab dinner after a Rockies game or before a night out in downtown Denver, or if you’re looking to impress clients (or a date!). Be sure to book reservations in advance, as they have been consistently busy every time I’ve walked past.
Dinner to die for is on offer nightly at Linger, a gigantic former mortuary that once housed the remains of Buffalo Bill. Today the space has converted into one of Denver’s most stylish places to eat, but the new owners kept many touches from the building’s ghastlier days. Water is served from formaldehyde, for example, and the giant “O’Linger mortuaries” sign was converted to read “Linger eatauries.” Oh, and the food is delicious to boot (it’s one of my personal favorite restaurants in town!).
Address: Tennyson Street Between 38th and 46th Ave | Website
Tennyson Street is the main shopping and dining artery of Northwest Denver’s Berkeley neighborhood, and it’s fulfilled that role for over a century. If you have a shopping freak in your family, be sure to watch their credit card, because this is the best place to go window shopping in Denver. If all that retail therapy gets you hungry, stop by for a sandwich at The Grateful Gnome or high-end Mexican cuisine at El Chingon.
Fun and Family
If you’re a baseball fan, it’ll be pretty easy to check off this thing to do in Denver. Though it’s one of the younger MLB parks, the Rockies’ home has made a name for itself as the “hitter’s park” becuase the Colorado altitude helps batted balls fly record distances. One of the things I personally love about Coors Field is the affectionately named Rockpile, a section of bleachers behind centerfield where you can find Rockies tickets for as little as $7 per person. Sure, you’ll have to squint to see home base, but personally I think it’s a steal considering the epic views of Denver’s skyline you’ll get in the background.
Empower Field at Mile High
I still remember how sad my family was when the Denver Broncos moved in 2000 from their prior home in the storied Mile High Stadium to what is now named Empower Field. But today I appreciate the new venue, as not one of the 76,125 seats at Empower Field offers a bad view. In addition to hosting the Broncos, Empower Field also frequently hosts concerts from A-list performers (check the schedule here). Tours of the stadium are offered through the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame (on pause due to covid, but slated to resume soon), with tickets costing $25 per person.
As a kid, one of my favorite things to do in Denver was to spend a day at the Elitch Gardens theme park. Located just south of downtown Denver between Empower Field and the Pepsi Center, “Elitch’s” offers six roller coasters, dozens of other rides, and a water park. I am still traumatized by childhood memories of my cousins trying to force me onto the terrifyingly rickety Twister II wooden coaster. Definitely something to check out if you’re a thrill seeker!
🎟️ Admission: General admission to Elitch Gardens starts at $44.99, and the park is open from April to October.
With outposts in Thorton and Centennial, and a third set to open in Colorado Springs, the Top Golf driving range and social hub is a fun thing to do in Denver for golf fans, families, or anyone who needs an excuse to drink. Much more than just a driving range, Top Golf offers all sorts of games that involve hitting targets, collecting points, and trying to one-up your friends. Come in the morning for $15 unlimited gameplay, or on “Half Price Tuesdays.” And never worry if you have a non-golfer in the family: Top Golf’s patio is the perfect place for your party to hang out, eat, and drink.
Ever heard of archery dodgeball? It’s a new concept involving two teams battling it out from across an arena with bows and foam-tipped arrows. Archery Games is a small locally-owned business that has created something of a viral stir in Colorado, with guests absolutely raving in their reviews.
You can sign up for public matches on their website to dip your toes into the world of archery dodgeball. If you have kids, they offer family-specific hours. You can also book a private session for larger groups, birthday parties, bachelor(ette) weekends, or corporate team building events. It’s definitely one of the most unique and fun things to do in the Denver area!
Unique and Cool
Few places to see in Denver are as storied – or as controversial – as Casa Bonita. Any Denver local will tell you that the food at Casa Bonita is not the reason you come (which is probably why they force every entrant to purchase a meal). Instead, children adore Casa Bonita becuase the interior is a magical adventure park, complete with cliff divers, an indoor waterfall, and costumed performers. Nearly put out of business by the pandemic, Casa Bonita was saved when locals rallied with a viral fundraiser. As of my most recent visit in early June, the building still had an “opening soon” sign posted, so hopefully it opens soon!
📺 Local Trivia: Casa Bonita is the main subject of The South Park episode bearing its name. Definitely worth a watch to understand this Denver’s institution’s unique appeal! The way Cartman describes Casa Bonita in the start of the episode could very well have been words coming out of my mouth as a child.
Visit a Dispensary
Colorado became synonymous with cannabis when it became one of the first places in the world to legalize sale for recreational purposes. This has led a boom of cannabis tourism and, even though other states have followed suit in the years since, many tourists still make a pilgrimage to Colorado just to check out one of the state’s licensed dispensaries. You won’t have to walk far to find one – just look for the telltale green cross and you’re there. There are many to choose from, but I always recommend that Denver tourists visit the LoDo Wellness Center at 1617 Wazee Street because you can take a photo in front of their greenhouse of cannabis leaves. Post it on the ‘gram and I’m sure you’ll make your mom proud!
International Church of Cannabis
Speaking of cannabis, the Elevationists’ technicolor-themed place of worship bills itself as the “spiritual home for cannabis lovers.” Located near the stretch of bars on South Broadway, the church is open to the public for visits during the afternoon and evenings, and display the Beyond Laser Light Experience at 20 past the hour (purchase tickets ahead of item at a cost $10-$25). Beware that marijuana consumption on premises is prohibited during the show, but arriving after consuming most certainly is not.
🌿Mile High Trivia: Truly hardcore cannabis aficionados – or those engaged to them – can even get married inside the International Church of Cannabis!
Yes, this is the third cannabis-themed thing to do in Denver in a row, but after all this is the Mile High City. Imagine what would happen if the Molly Brown House could take edibles, and you’ll have a pretty vivid picture of what to expect at this Capitol Hill mansion, which serves as an event space dedicated to the celebration of grass. You can also buy a ticket which lets you roam the mansion and take snapshots for 30 minutes. Anything for the ‘gram, right?
Afternoon Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel
Feeling like having a fancy afternoon? Go for high tea at the Brown Palace, a historic Denver hotel serving up this unique experience in its ornate lobby Tuesday through Sunday from 12 pm to 4 pm. Space is limited so reservations are suggested. The signature tea package starts at $36 per person, and is certainly one of the fanciest things to do in Denver.
Levitt Pavilion Summer Concert Series
This extraordinary outdoor amphitheater in the Ruby Hill neighborhood hosts a popular summer free concert series, which is run by a local non-profit. It’s a great thing to do in Denver for families, and makes for an awesome socially-distanced night out.
Throw on your boots, button up those pearl straps, and get ready for a honky tonk night on the town. Few live music venues are as unique – or as expansive – as Denver’s iconic country music hall Grizzly Rose. Be sure to try your hand at the mechanical bull, if you dare. And, of course, be sure you have a plan to get home safely without drinking and driving!
Punch Bowl Social
Punch Bowl Social is basically Elitch’s for adults. Inside you’ll find bowling, ping pong, arcade games, karaoke, Jenga, multiple bars, a restaurant, and more fun things to do than I can name in this post. It’s a great place to kick off a night out on South Broadway, or a fun thing to do on a rainy day in Denver.
The Bluebird Theatre has been a Colfax mainstay since its opening in 1913, when it initially served as a movie house. In the 1990s it was remodeled into a music venue, and today it is one of the best places in Denver to catch an indie music act. Note that the Bluebird is currently in the process of re-opening post-pandemic.
Playboy magazine once famously dubbed Colfax the “longest, wickedest street in America.” Or maybe it didn’t. Either way, there’s no denying that the 50-mile long street hold a special kind of charm. In the stretch around Capitol Hill you’ll find dive bars, LGBT bars like X Bar, cheap eats, and historic theatres like The Fillmore, The Ogden, and The Bluebird. Strolling Colfax Avenue is still one of my favorite local activities, though do be aware that after dark parts of it can feel less secure at times.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal
Watch bison, and other wildlife, roam at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. Situated between downtown and DIA, this former chemicals weapons manufacturing center has made a stunning recovery and is now one of the country’s largest urban wildlife refuges. The arsenal offers more than 20 miles of hiking trails, plus fishing during the summer. The best thing to do here, however, is to take your car through the excellent 11 mile Wildlife Drive, a route which will give you the opportunity to spot bison, deer, hawks, waterfowl, and all sorts of other wildlife from the comfort of your car.
Denver has a truly impressive public park system, but my favorite park in Denver has to be Cheesman Park. Located next door to the Denver Botanic Gardens, Cheesman offers expansive views of the Rocky Mountains from the neo-classical pavilion located on its eastern edge. You’ll find miles of running trails and loads of space to spread out a picnic blanket and relax with friends.
Address: 701 S Franklin St, Denver, CO 80209
Another one of Denver’s top parks, located in the neighborhood that bears its name, Washington Park is bustling on most days with runners, bicyclists, and picnickers. But the best thing to do here is to get your serve on at Washington Park’s volleyball nets. All summer long you’ll find organized and impromptu games throughout the park. Plan ahead by reserving a net or bringing your own, or just plan to make some new friends.
Address: Google Maps
The biggest park in Denver, City Park is home to the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and several lakes where you can find swan-like paddle boats for rent. In warmer months it also hosts City Park Jazz, a community event where thousands gather to hear local bands and gnash on fare from lines of food trucks.
Cherry Creek Trail
Address: Google Maps
Looking for a place to get in a run or a bike ride? The Cherry Creek Trail is the perfect place to workout for free in Denver. The 40 mile trail runs straight through the heart of downtown and ends at the spectacular Commons Park, which is a perfect place to watch the sunset in Denver.
Confluence & Commons Parks
Address: 2250 15th St, Denver, CO 80202
Right downtown you’ll find two of my favorite parks stacked back to back. These parks sit right where Cherry Creek spills into the South Platte River. Here you’ll find several bridges over the rushing water, expansive green space, and spectacular views. A personal favorite thing to do in Denver is to take a picnic blanket to the top of the hill and watch sunset over the Rocky Mountains. For additional things to do, check out the Denver Skate Park on the north end, or the giant REI outdoor equipment store on the south end.
Congrats for making it all the way to the end of this mega list of the best things to do in Denver! Be sure to check out all my Denver travel articles for tips on things like where to stay, the best day trips, and more.
What did you think? What were your favorite things? What did I miss? Scroll down and leave a comment!
Enjoy your visit to Denver!
Editor’s Note: Due to the ongoing health crisis, tours of the Denver Mint, which I would normally include high on this list of Denver activities, are not being offered to the public. I’ll endeavor to update this article once Denver Mint tours are offered again.