Denver

Plenty to do around this mile-high city. (©Heath Alseike/Creative Commons)

Top Things to Do in Denver

By Kimberly Gunning on 06/03/15, updated 05/26/16
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Coloradans don’t mean to brag (well, maybe sometimes they do) when telling you they live in the best state. Maybe it’s the high altitude that’s compromising their attitude toward their surroundings; maybe it’s the majestic mountains beneath sunny, clear skies that act as hypnosis over anyone around; or maybe it’s the seemingly endless list of things to do. 

One can watch a concert at one of the world’s best music venues, tour where future Olympians train, drive (or ride) the highest paved road in North America, see home runs fly while seated a mile high or wander the three-story Denver Museum of Nature & Science, all in the same weekend.  

No matter the time of year, Denver offers plenty of entertainment to keep visitors and residents engaged, and boundless outdoor adventures call to thrill-seekers, too. Start with this list of the top 18 things to do when visiting Denver and create your own itinerary of must-sees. 

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

(©Jessica Sheridan/Creative Commons)

Attractions

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Big-name performers regularly take the stage at this concert venue nestled among the red rocks. The sparkling city of Denver can be seen in the distance as concertgoers sway to unbeatable acoustics. You can also catch a movie here during summer months or run the stairs for a grueling workout during the day.

Denver Art Museum's Hamilton Building

(©Denver Art Museum)

Attractions

Denver Art Museum

The building exteriors are just as artistic as what’s inside of them, including the seven-story, angular North Building designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti. Contemplate new rotating exhibits during each visit to the downtown art hub and bring the kids—children 18 and under are free!

Denver Botanic Gardens

(©Dave Dugdale/Creative Commons)

Attractions

Denver Botanic Gardens

The gardens are surrounded by tree-lined neighborhood streets and lush Cheesman Park. Though it’s just a couple miles outside of downtown, it feels worlds away when wandering the peaceful lawns, Japanese garden and greenhouses. A three-acre children’s garden sits atop the parking structure.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

(©Cheyenne Mountain Zoo)

Attractions

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo

Don’t expect a flat walking path at the mountainside, 146-acre zoo in Colorado Springs. The Mountaineer Sky Ride takes visitors on a tour through the zoo from above for those who prefer less of a hike. Get up close and personal with the giraffes and feed the elephants or rhinos during special feeding times.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

(©Jessica Sheridan/Creative Commons)

Attractions

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

The park’s paved road takes drivers through the red rock formations for quick-viewing access. For those who have more time to spend in the area, stop by the visitors center and plan a hike, mountain-biking trip, guided horseback-riding tour or rock-climbing adventure.

US Olympic Training Center

(©Tom Kimmell)

Entertainment

US Olympic Training Center

Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls train and live on-site at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, one of three centers in the country. Gymnastics, swimming, triathlon, wrestling and shooting are among resident sports, and visitors are often able to see athletes training during the hour-long tour of the facility.

Mount Evans

(©Wally Gobetz/Creative Commons)

Areas to Explore

Mount Evans

One of Colorado’s 14ers (53 mountains reaching higher than 14,000 feet) has a paved road reaching just steps away from the summit. The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is a popular test of leg strength for cyclists, and there are several areas to stop and explore the trails for those who don’t have time to hike from base to summit.

Manitou Incline

(©Steve W./Creative Commons)

Activities, Areas to Explore

Manitou Incline

This onetime cable car route turned hiking challenge attracts thousands of visitors each year. Park in the Barr Trail parking lot for $5 (or along designated streets) and begin climbing straight up the side of the mountain. Views of snow-capped mountain peaks and Colorado Springs await at the end of the mile-long strut to the top.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

(©Denver Museum of Nature & Science)

Attractions

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Don’t underestimate the time it will take to explore this expansive museum on the east side of Denver’s City Park. Three floors of health, animal, dinosaur, geology, space and other permanent and temporary exhibits are joined by a planetarium and an IMAX theater. If you do find yourself with extra time, take a stroll through the park.

Colorado State Capitol

(©Steve Mohlenkamp)

Attractions

Colorado State Capitol

East of Civic Center Park, the Colorado State Capitol Building’s recently renovated gold dome shines brightly. The beauty of the outside continues on the inside with Colorado rose-onyx interior and stained-glass windows (free tours Monday-Friday). Stand on the Western entrance’s 15th step and you’re exactly one-mile high.

Sports Authority Field at Mile High

(©Jessica Taves/ Denver Broncos)

Attractions, Entertainment

Sports Authority Field at Mile High

If your NFL team is in town, proceed to Broncos’ home territory with caution—these fans bleed orange and blue and the well-known “in-com-plete” chants may pop a vein. But it’s just a game, right? And what a place to see one! The Denver Outlaws Major League Lacrosse team also calls this stadium home.

Coors Field

(©Max and Dee Bernt/Creative Commons)

Attractions, Entertainment

Coors Field

Home runs often fly higher here at the home field of the MLB Colorado Rockies. One-mile high is marked with the row of purple seats and, if seated on the east side of the stadium, you’re in for one of the best sunset views in town. If the timing of your visit works out, attend one of two fireworks games (summer and end of season).

Pearl Street Mall

(©beautifulcataya/Creative Commons)

Shopping, Areas to Explore

Pearl Street Mall

Hipster and hippie styles fit into the atmosphere of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. The pedestrian-only section stretches from 11th to 15th Street, but the eclectic mix of apparel, gift and local merchant shops and praised-about restaurants stretch past these borders. Expect street performers often and great nightlife always.

16th Street Mall

(©Kent Kanouse/Creative Commons)

Shopping, Areas to Explore

16th Street Mall

A free Mall Ride bus is the only automobile allowed along downtown’s 16th Street, between Wewatta Street and the intersection of 16th Avenue and Broadway. Street performers are often witnessed while browsing the storefronts of Denver Pavilions, admiring Lannie’s Clocktower or choosing a place to stop in for a meal.

MillerCoors

(©Creative Commons/Mike Allyn)

Attractions

Coors Brewery Tour

The Golden Brewery Tour is a 30-minute self-paced tour of different sections of the brewery, including 21-and-older samples. This brewery is the perfect gateway to the dozens of craft breweries in and around Denver that also offer tours, including Great Divide Brewing Co., Breckenridge Brewery and Avery Brewing.

Washington Park

(©Steve Mohlenkamp)

Attractions

Washington Park

Popular activities at this city park include jogging the 2.5-mile path, renting a pedal boat or a stand-up paddleboard to navigate around the lake, or a two-, three- or four-wheel ride to spin around the paved park road. Races are held here regularly and the best time to see expansive flowerbeds is between May and September.

Union Station

(©Jacqueline Poggi/Creative Commons)

Shopping

Union Station

Historic Union Station, at the north end of downtown, was renovated in 2014—a project led by well-known preservationist Dana Crawford. Now, visitors are found dining at Snooze and Stoic & Genuine, shopping at Bloom and the Tattered Cover, and spending the night at the Crawford Hotel before taking the train to their next destination.

Larimer Square

(©Jeffrey Beall/Creative Commons)

Shopping

Larimer Square

Another well-preserved historic district thanks to the help of Crawford, Larimer Square is the city’s oldest block. Upscale shopping destinations line the sidewalks, and restaurants and nightlife include Euclid Hall Bar & Kitchen, Cru A Wine Bar, Tamayo, Bistro Vendome and Comedy Works.

Map of Top Things to Do in Denver