Denver is the capital city of Colorado and has a population of just over half a million people. There are so many things to see and do in this beautiful city, it makes the perfect tourist destination.
Whether you are in town for a weekend or longer, here are some of the must-see things you need to add to your itinerary.
Explore the Rocky Mountain National Park
Denver rests at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, some of the most majestic structures in nature. No trip to Denver would be complete without getting to see these in all of their glory.
If you’re keen to make the most of the Rocky Mountains, it’s best to go around June – September. The hiking trails will be open, and most of the snow will be melted. You’ll get beautiful views of the scenery, and this will be the safest time to explore.
As this is coincidentally also the summer holiday, it will also be the busiest period for the Rocky Mountains. If you prefer solitude, it is recommended that you come just outside of these times.
The weather might be a little cooler and some trails might be closed due to snow, but you will still have an amazing time. Of course, if you want to go skiing or experience the snow in all of its glory, then you should arrive around October – May.
The national park is open 365 days a year and will guarantee breathtaking views no matter when you arrange your trip to Denver.
Eat a cheeseburger in its birthplace
Denver claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger. Although there is some argument surrounding where and when cheeseburgers first came into existence, Denver local Louis Ballast trademarked the term in 1935.
Ballast’s restaurant, the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In no longer exists, but you can still visit the spot. The city of Denver created a stone plaque in its honor, so you can stand right where this iconic piece of Americana was first served.
Although you can’t grab a bite to eat at the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In anymore, burgers are still a major source of pride for Denver.
There are a number of other establishments around that are known to provide great tasting burgers, and all of them taste amazing. A great Denver classic you should try is My Brother’s Bar. This is currently the oldest bar that the city has, and they serve great burgers (allegedly the best in the city).
It is a family-owned establishment, that has been perfecting their burger since they opened in 1873 This bar was frequented by the likes of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassaday back in the day, so you’ll be able to say that you were in great company.
Visit the Denver Art Museum
If you love art, then you don’t want to miss the Denver Art Museum (DAM). The DAM is home to over 70,000 pieces of work and is comprised of 7 stories. Known specifically for their large collection of Native American Indian art, it also houses works from all over the globe.
The uniquely-shaped Frederic C. Hamilton Building was created in 2016, and currently houses some of the museums’ collections. This building itself is a sight not to miss, with its large sloping titanium planes and angles.
Check the DAM’s website for more information on events that they are hosting when you plan on being in town. There are artist residencies, games for children, summer camps, tours, and lectures. Whether you are a family with younger children or a group of adults who just want to learn more about art, the DAM has resources for you.
Stroll through the Denver Botanic Gardens
If you want to experience tranquility and nature but the Rocky Mountains is a bit too far, then perhaps the botanic gardens would be a nice compromise. The gardens are full of local flora, as well as beautiful plants from other areas of the world.
Take the time to truly admire all of the beauty that nature has to offer as you stroll around the grounds. The Denver Botanic Gardens are not just about pretty flowers but they also host a number of science and art exhibits. These allow guests of all ages to learn more about nature and appreciate it from an artists’ perspective.
If you really want to make the most out of your visit, you can also check out their calendar. This is full of special events that you might be interested in, from sunrise yoga to children’s backyard bird counts.
The botanic gardens strive to create events for all ages so that everyone can learn more about nature. There are usually multiple things happening on a daily basis, so no matter when you plan your trip to Denver, there is probably something exciting happening here.
Shop around Downtown Denver
If you love to immerse yourself in a fast-paced city, then spend the day in Downtown. This is the major business district, but you can also find so many things to see and do around the hustle and bustle. 16th street is a great open-air mall for all of the shopaholics.
There is no auto traffic, so you don’t have to worry about cars as you walk along (especially if you are with children). Window shop down the length of the mall which is a mile and a quarter long, and try and score some bargains.
If you get tired, there are free shuttles that can ferry you back and forth. There are always street performers out entertaining, and beautiful areas where you can sit and rest.
While you’re in the area, check out Larimer Square for some refreshments. Larimer Square is the epicenter of the original city of Denver. This was the block that the rest of the city was initially created around, and it has retained a lot of useful characteristics.
It hosts a great range of restaurants that offer local and international cuisine, and more shopping if 16th street didn’t tire you out. If you’re still around at night time, the square comes alive with great bars, party spots, and even a comedy club.
Enjoy the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
This destination is slightly out of town, so it is perhaps only a good idea if you have your own form of transport, and slightly longer in the city. But if you do manage to reach it, the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is definitely worth the effort.
There are always concerts and events happening at this venue, and there is something special about listening to live music in an open-air amphitheater. Even if you don’t get the chance to see anyone perform, it’s a worthwhile stop during the day as well.
In the sunlight, you can see the true beauty of the red rocks that surround it, giving it such a fitting name. Take a moment to sit down and enjoy the view.
If you prefer to be on the move, Red Rocks Park is also a great place to workout. If you’re going to exercise, you might as well enjoy the scenery!
Many people enjoy biking and running in the area, not just for the natural beauty, but for the added challenge of being at an altitude of 6,400 feet. Push yourself just a little harder, or go for a more relaxing hike.
Have a meal at Denver Union Station
For those who love trains, history and good food (or any of the three), Union Station should be on your Denver bucket list. This train station was originally built in 1881 and was burned to the ground in 1894.
It underwent massive renovations in 2012, to get it to the place that it is today. This station is still fully functioning as a transit stop, and it might have been your first experience of Denver if you arrived via public transport.
But Union Station is far from just another bus stop. You can find a range of gourmet eateries and beautiful stores selling artisanal crafts and trinkets. If you have time to kill before transit, you definitely won’t be bored.
Most nights there is a musical event on, so you can listen to beautiful music as you dine in one of the restaurants dotted around. It’s also super close to 16th Street and Larimer Square, so you can easily hop from one to another.
The Crawford Hotel is built inside Union Station and offers a classy and convenient place to stay for the duration of your Denver trip. Aside from total comfort, they also offer tours of Union Station, so you can learn more about the history of this building that is over 100 years old.
Make a splash at Water World
If you are traveling with kids in the summer, then you definitely don’t want to miss this attraction. This is the largest water park in the United States and guaranteed to keep your family happy for the whole day.
It boasts over 50 different attractions and caters to children (and adults!) of all ages. Older children can go for the thrill-seeking slides and attractions, while younger children can have fun splashing around in shallower areas. If you want to relax, you can also hire a private cabana.
Of course, Water World is going to be best experienced in the warmer summer months. They are only open for part of the year, from Memorial Day to Labor Day anyway, so you can’t visit if you’re in Denver in winter. You don’t need to worry about unseasonal bad weather during this time, as the water is always heated for your comfort.
Check out the Downtown Aquarium
Have you got an affinity for all things that live in the water? The Denver Aquarium is the best place to get up and personal with anything and everything that lives in the sea.
This aquarium is home to over 500 different live species from all over the world. The aquarium is separated into different exhibits, to replicate different sea environments for you. You can check out the sea life in shallow waters near the beach, the fish that populate coral, even a desert exhibition, where animals have adapted to no water.
If that’s not enough for you, you can also purchase special passes that provide admission to some of the aquarium’s other experiences. These include a 4-D theater show, a stingray-feeding event, and climbing coconut trees. If you have young ones, you can also opt into a face-painting and soda combo.
The aquarium is great for all ages and is just as fun for adults as it is for children and families.
Enjoy sunset at Sloan’s Lake Park
If you want to relax in nature without going too far out of the city, then relax for a moment in Sloan’s Lake Park. This is the second-largest park in the city and offers so many great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors.
There is a trail for biking, running, and hiking, which goes all the way around the lake. You can go boating and jet-skiing on the lake, for those who enjoy an adrenaline rush. You can also try your luck at fishing, and who knows, you might even catch some dinner.
The park around the lake is equally as beautiful and designed to cater to the needs of everyone. There are softball/baseball and soccer fields, basketball courts, to play a few games with friends.
The park also has a few playgrounds for younger children to enjoy, and picnic areas for families to sit down and have some lunch. It is highly recommended that you stick around until sunset, so you can watch the sun fall behind the beautiful Rocky Mountains and Denver skyline.
Make the most of your time in Denver
No matter how long you are staying or what time of the year you are coming, Denver is always welcoming. There are so many great things to see and do, you will never feel as though you have enough time. Make sure that you plan ahead and get as much fun as you can out of your trip, whether you go alone, with friends, or with family. You’ll have so much fun you’ll definitely want to come back!