With snowcapped peaks looming in the distance and promising adventure, as well as a top-notch foodie scene and ever-growing list of craft breweries, Denver has something for every type of traveler.
Outdoor adventurers and city slickers alike will fall in love with Colorado’s capital city.
Epic, heart-thumping adventures? Yep.
World-class dining? You bet.
Lively nightlife scene? Sure thing!
Free things to do? Oh yeah.
There are so many fun things to do in Denver that it can kind of make your head spin as you’re trying to plan a trip.
Denver is a city we’ve been to a handful of times, but usually on our way to other destinations. So we never properly explored it… until now.
Our editor, Amanda, called Denver home for more than 2 years and knows the city well. Like, really well. So when we were planning to stay in Denver for a few days on a road trip, we asked for a few suggestions, and she replied to us with 10 pages worth of suggestions. TEN PAGES!
We decided it would be a shame for our eyes to be the only ones to see her suggestions of things to do in Denver, so we decided to co-author this article to share all the goods with you.
It’s part local insight (Amanda!) and part outsider eyes (us!).
The Denver guide is packed with unique and fun things to do, local tips, best restaurants, where to stay, and a few other important tidbits. We hope this guide helps you plan an amazing trip to the Mile High City, filled with adventure, good eats and a few surprises sprinkled in!
Food & Booze
Free things to do in Denver
Rainy Day Activities
Day trips from Denver
Where to Eat in Denver
Where to Stay in Denver
A Note on Safety
Outdoor Adventures in Denver
Situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains, it should come as no surprise that there are seemingly endless outdoor activities in and around Denver.
We’re sharing some of the best things to do outside in the “mile high city”, from heart-thumping adventures to low-key ways to enjoy some time outdoors.
1. Practice Yoga on the Rocks
If you want to get your downward dog on, you’ll have no shortage of places to choose from in crunchy Denver. But if you want to practice yoga with a twist — literally and figuratively — you might be interested in heading out of town for a morning session.
Yoga on the Rocks is a longstanding Denver tradition, and after hearing about it for years, this was at the top of my “to do” list in Denver.
While it looks quite a bit different lately — people are spaced at least 6 feet apart, advanced tickets are required, and masks must be worn the entirety of the class — it was still a pretty wonderful experience. Plus, it was good to know they’re doing everything they can to keep people safe.
Going through a flow in such a beautiful place with incredible acoustics is, well, blissful to say the least.
Yoga on the Rocks (summer only)
Friday: 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m. & 10 a.m.
Saturday: 7 a.m. & 8:30 a.m.
Sunday: 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m. & 10 a.m.
Admission: $17 per person (annoyingly, when we bought tickets they had all been snatched up by a third party, so we had to pay a bit more money)
Shoutout to our instructor! On a related note, I just have to take a minute to shout out the instructor of our class, Ali Duncan.
She was a fantastic teacher (I’ve never cried at a yoga class until this one!), and she is the founder of Urban Sanctuary, a yoga studio and wellness center. The space looks heavenly, and they offer a wide variety of classes from regular yoga flows to naked yoga (yep!).
And the even cooler part about Urban Sanctuary is that they are focused on creating a space for POC and those who are often left out of the typical “yoga world”. There are PRIDE-only and POC-only classes as well as those open to all. If you have time while in Denver, check them out!
2. Catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater
Speaking of this incredible venue… If you ever have the chance to see an artist you like perform at Red Rocks, DO IT. Make a trip out of it. It is an experience you will cherish, and quite honestly, it will spoil most other concerts for you.
Back in 2011, Ben and I booked a trip to Denver to see our favorite band play at Red Rocks and to this date it is still our favorite concert ever.
Perhaps it was because we got our seats upgraded from row 52 to row 2…
Perhaps it was because we’re both obsessed with outdoor venues…
Perhaps it was because the band we were seeing had just reunited after several years of not touring…
Perhaps it was a combination of all of the above.
There are lots for tailgating and vendors onsite selling everything from Coors to local craft brews. Oh, and food too. Because that’s important.
There is something pretty incredible about the venue — rock formations rising from the ground to create the illusion of an intimate space and nearly perfect acoustics.
It is pretty incredible watching the venue shift from being bathed in afternoon sunshine to cast in a red glow at sunset to becoming an undulating movement of people grooving to their favorite artist beneath the stars. Like we already said, if you have the chance, book a show here. You won’t regret it.
Plus, being that it’s just a quick 30-minute drive from downtown, it’s makes it easy to combine a show into a trip to Denver.
Important Note: Currently, the summer concert series is not taking place at Red Rocks, but keep this in mind for future travels.
Can’t catch a show? Even if you don’t have the chance to see a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater, it is still very worthwhile checking out the venue and the surrounding area (yes, even while empty!). The park is open to the public daily, subject to scheduled events, and is a popular place for early morning grinders (aka stair runs!), hiking and biking enthusiasts, and a great place to catch a sunrise.
3. See an outdoor movie in the summertime
Since we’re still on the topic of Red Rocks, another cool event series they offer in the summer is Film on the Rocks. It’s exactly what it sounds like: movies in an epic outdoor venue… and you can bring your own snacks. Sounds like the perfect date night to me!
But Red Rocks isn’t the only place to catch an outdoor flick during the summertime in Denver. Below is a list of more venues where you can catch a movie under the stars. (Some are even free!)
Founders Green in Stapleton: Starting in June, the Movies on the Green Series is open to the public and free to attend. Come early to snag a seat and enjoy a concession stand with fresh popcorn and food trucks.
Dick’s Sporting Goods Field: Hosts a pop-up drive-in movie theater during the summer time in Lot G at the park. Check the MCA website for dates and details.
Avanti F&B: Every Thursday night at 9 p.m. during the summertime, bring your lawn chair and receive a free beer from Alamo Draft House!
Denver Mart Drive-In: Denver’s outdoor theater with the largest state-of-the-art digital screen, FM audio transmission and a cafe. They show double-features every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
88 Drive in Theatre: Serving the community since 1972, this is the only remaining original drive-in movie theater in Denver. The only thing that’s changed in the last 40 years is the digital project screen. You must have a working car stereo or portable FM radio to hear audio.
There are also plenty of other outdoor movie showings all summer long at venues in the ‘burbs surrounding Denver, so check out Denver’s official website for more information.
Insider Tip: For a an intimate movie experience that’s a twist on the typical theater, check out this backyard movie night from Airbnb Experiences.
4. Float down the River in Golden
If you’re visiting Denver in the summertime and are looking for a refreshing way to escape the heat, keep reading…
Just 30 minutes from downtown, the town of Golden is a great place to spend an afternoon. Straddling Clear Creek, the water is one of the biggest draws to the town when the weather heats up.
There are sections of rapids, so this isn’t a boring float!
Good to know: Water levels vary throughout the season, with the highest levels in the early summer months, making the river run fast. Alternatively, if you’re visiting in late summer, the water levels tend to be quite low and the river is much slower-flowing.
Bring your own tube, or rent one from Adventure West:
Single tube: $20 per day
Double tube: $40 per day
*Rentals include complimentary lifejacket and helmet. (FYI when we visited and the water was low, we didn’t see many people wearing them.)
Insider Tip: If you’d prefer to rent a tube, be sure to reserve your tube online, as they can book out especially on summer weekends. They were fully-booked on the day we visited.
You can put in your tube in at many points along the river, and you’ll want to take out at Parfet Park. Walking with your tube along the river from the take out point, then floating all the way back takes about 1 hour in total, so the great thing is that you can do a couple of laps!
Hungry?! For a super satisfying lunch after a river float, head to Bob’s Atomic Burgers for greasy but super yummy grub and a milkshake. We split one burger, a small set potato fries and small onion petals. Godzilla sauce was a pretty great addition too!
5. Go on a hike near Denver
You don’t have to go far outside the city limits to find yourself surrounded by nature in the beautiful foothills and Rocky Mountains. If you have a car, you will have nearly unlimited options for hiking in every direction. However, plenty of the hikes can be reached by public transportation from Denver as well.
Insider Tip: Download the app AllTrails to find hikes near you along with reviews, photos, elevation gain, and difficulty level.
If you’re interested in hiking while in and around Denver, here are some areas to begin with…
Table Mountain (Golden)
Distance: 2.7 - 7.7 miles
Drive from Denver: 25 minutes
Access the great butte known as Table Mountain in Golden from neither of the North Table Mountain Trail or the South Table Mountain Trail. On top of the vast plateau filled with windswept grass, you’ll have access to a variety of different trail options.
Red Rocks (Morrison)
This shot is from the Red Rocks Trading Post Trail, a 1.5-mile loop not far from Morrison.
Distance: 1 - 6 miles
Difficulty: Easy - Moderate
Drive from Denver: 25 minutes
Red Rocks Amphitheater Park provides access to a number of different scenic trails from easy 1-mile jaunts to the longest Red Rocks Trail 6-mile loop.
Chautauqua Park Royal Arch Trail (Boulder)
Distance: 3.5 miles
Drive from Denver: 30 minutes
While it’s not very far in distance, this hike will take you about 2.5 hours to complete out and back, depending on your pace. Constant switchbacks are rewarded with a giant arched rock formation and sweeping views of the city of Boulder from the peak.
Mount Sanitas Loop Trail (Boulder)
Distance: 3.2 miles
Drive from Denver: 30 minutes
This heavily trafficked hike can be done in about 1.5 hours (or longer for slower hikers) with a lot of altitude gain. Think climbing stairs for almost an hour straight. The loop trail can also be done as an out and back on either the steeper side or the more steady incline side.
6. Spot Bison in an Urban Wildlife Refuge
Comprising more than 15,000 acres of land, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest urban wildlife refuges in the United States. More than 330 species of animals call this land home, including bison, deer, coyote, and hundreds of species of birds.
Follow the 11-mile self-guided wildlife driving route, or get out on the trails with your camera. Being that this refuge is on the way to the Denver airport, it makes a good stop on your way into or out of town.
Free to enter
Open 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., 7 days a week
Currently, the number of cars allowed to enter at a time is capped at 200
7. Learn to Rock Climb
We are low-key infatuated with rock climbers. We’ve gone climbing in a few places with guides or friends, and each time leave itching to do it again.
If you, too, want to learn, Denver might just be a good place to try it out. And if you’re reading this rolling your eyes because you’re already a pro, you likely already know that there is some epic climbing just outside the city.
Denver Climbing Co. offers courses for all skill levels (whether you’re a total newb, or you’re advanced and just want a guide). The great thing is that you won’t be climbing at an indoor gym… you’ll actually learn to rock climb outdoors on real Colorado rocks. They provide all the equipment and a professional climbing guide.
So if you, like us, have been obsessing over trying out climbing, get your booty out there and experience one of Colorado’s favorite outdoor activities!
Food & Booze in Denver
One of our favorite things about traveling is trying local cuisines and checking out restaurants that are known for serving up something special — whether it be a refined, 5-star dining experience, or more often than not, a hole-in-the-wall surprise.
And we also love scoping out cool cocktail bars, happy hour deals, and of course, sampling as many local craft beers as possible.
Come with us as we share some of the best foodie and boozy experiences Denver has to offer…
8. Take a Food Tour
We like… err… LOVE food. Anyone else?!
While traveling around the world, we’ve come to love taking cooking classes and more recently, food tours. Not only do you get to sample some of the best food the location has to offer, but you often get to learn little tidbits that you’d never discover on your own.
Like most major US cities, Denver has a ever-expanding culinary scene and we thought it would be a great destination to let our tastebuds loose. And man, we were right!
When Delicious Denver invited us to join their Downtown Food Tour we knew we’d be in for a good time.
On this food tour, I guess you could say we “ate our way around the world” as we made our way through the city. We sampled pizza, gourmet hot dogs (featured on Guy Fieri’s DDD), quite possibly the best empanadas we’ve had in the US, a twist on street tacos made with Navajo fry bread. And we topped off the tour with gelato, because as I often say, “There’s always room for ice cream… it just fills in the cracks!”
All along the way, our guide shared little pieces of history and insider tips. It was certainly a great start to our time in Denver!
Another cool thing about Delicious Denver is that you can choose from a few different food tour itineraries, depending on what it is your craving:
Downtown Food Tour
Explore historic downtown Denver while sampling a variety of hand-picked dishes.
When: 1 - 4 p.m. Thursdays - Sundays
Price: $65 ($90 with 3 optional drink pairings)
What’s Included: 5 food tastings (a full lunch), 3 optional alcoholic drink pairings, a guided walking food tour
Cocktails & Tastes
If you love a good craft cocktail, this tour through some of downtown Denver’s best cocktail bars will be right up your alley. And don’t worry, it’s not all booze! Drinks are paired with small bites to keep you from getting hangry.
When: 4:15 - 6:30 p.m. Fridays & Saturdays
What’s Included: 5 craft cocktails, 4 paired bites (small plates), a guided walking food and drinks tour
Food & Beer
The River North District (or “RiNo” as abbreviation-obsessed locals call it!) is home to some of Denver’s best breweries and eclectic dining options. Go brewery hopping and learn a little on the way.
When: 1 - 4 p.m. Saturdays
Price: $65 ($90 w/ beer pairings)
What’s Included: 5 food tastings (a full meal), 4 optional beer pairings, a guided walking tour through RiNo
Bonus: We have an exclusive promo code just for you! Use the code TWOWANDERINGSOLES when checking out for $5 off any tour.
Book Your Tour!
9. Grab Happy Hour at a former Mortuary
Was it the word mortuary that caught your eye?
Not gonna lie: That’s initially what intrigued me and led to my eventual dragging of Ben to this Denver institution for drinks.
Located in the Lower Highlands neighborhood (or LoHi, as the cool kids call it), Linger is a trendy restaurant/bar with a rooftop and great happy hour (more on that later), but it wasn’t always such a happy place to be.
I’m gonna be honest, while the whole mortuary thing was what piqued my interest, the real reason to come here is their happy hour. You likely won’t even really notice anything unusual about the venue, and the drinks and food are good enough to make you forget that it was ever anything other than a delightful restaurant.
The name Linger pays homage to its previous name, Olinger Mortuary. And a sign on the roof is pretty much the only reminder that this building was anything other than a hip Denver eatery.
The happy hour deals are fan-freaking-tastic, but it doesn’t last long (just 1 hour!). So our advice would be to get there at the start of HH so you can order a couple rounds.
Happy Hour: 4 - 5 p.m., Monday - Thursday
Signature Cocktails: $6
Craft Beer: $5
Small Plates: $5 - $6
eclectic selection inspired from global cuisines
pork belly bun, lemongrass potstickers, goat cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon, etc.
Check out the whole HH menu here.
Just a heads up: Linger is closed on Mondays.
Other happy hour spots in Denver:
Tacos Tequila Whisky (Highlands, City Park, Cap Hill): Happy hour drinks and bites for under $6! Plus the best tacos in town in my humble opinion…
When: 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, all night on Monday
Ophelia's Electric Soapbox (Downtown): Eclectic “gastro-brothel” fare with $5 craft cocktails
When: 5-6:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 3-5 p.m. Saturday & Sunday (*Temporarily closed for 2020)
Postino Wine Bar (LoHi): “5 ‘till 5 everyday!” means $5 a glass, before 5 p.m., including brunch on weekends! They also have $5 pitchers of beer for the non-wine lovers out there.
When: Everyday until 5 p.m., (+ $25 bottle & a board after 8 p.m. Mon-Tues)
Jax Fish House (Downtown): $5 cocktails and $2 oysters (flown in fresh daily!), what more could you ask for from Denver’s favorite seafood bar?
When: 3:00 - 5:30 p.m., everyday
10. Step back in time at a Speakeasy
We have a growing obsession with speakeasies.
Maybe it’s the intimate, dimly-lit interiors. Maybe it’s the smell of leather and aged books and smoked whiskey. Maybe its the feeling that just for a moment you’d stepped back in time into a mahogany world with secret passageways and moustashed men with pinstriped fedoras who use phrases like, “Hey there, darlin’, what can I getcha to wet your whistle?”
Okay, let’s be real… My obsession with speakeasies is with the drinks.
While researching things to do in Denver, we’d come across a few mentions of Williams & Graham, so we decided to make reservations. (Be sure to do this if you want to get in.)
Situated in LoHi behind a bookstore facade, this intimate, dimly-lit space oozes prohibition-era charm.
Our first round of drinks was chosen from the menu. We tried to choose drinks that sounded interesting and not like what we usually order. They were very good. And beautifully presented.
But for our second round, we ordered a bartender’s choice and told them what liquors and flavors we like, and they NAILED them both.
My cocktail was made with tequila, cucumber, spicy peppers and lime
And Ben’s was with whisky, smoke, passionfruit and deliciousness
Our advice would be to start by telling them what you like instead of ordering off the menu. It is a couple dollars more, but in our experience, super worthwhile. Additionally, we’ve read rave reviews about the food here, but we only ordered drinks on our visit.
Do it yourself: As previously mentioned, be sure to make a reservation. Also, if the “Williams & Graham” door is blocked off (it was on our visit), go straight to the doorman at Occidental and give your name. We don’t want to spoil things too much, but there’s a bookshelf and a secret door involved.
Price: In general, speakeasies aren’t necessarily a very budget-friendly option, as drinks tend to start at $15. That said, if you’re up for a splurge, a speakeasy will be the best place to spend a little more on drinks and atmosphere.
More Denver Speakeasies
If you can’t snag a spot at Williams & Graham, don’t worry because Denver has a handful of speakeasies to choose from:
The Cruise Room is the first bar to open in Denver, after the repeal of Prohibition. Not much has changed in the Art Deco space, bathed in a red glow and located in the lobby of the historic Oxford Hotel. Rumor has it the underground tunnels and secret panels still remain, although those are left to be seen.
Retrograde in North Capitol Hill wins the award for most sneaky entrance. This ‘60s-style speakeasy operates in the back of an ordinary ice cream shop. To enter you’ll have to go inside Frozen Matter, walk to the back to find the unmarked “freezer” door, flip the switch and wait with ID in hand to be let in.
Green Russel will have your feeling like you’ve stepped back in time when you enter this self-proclaimed ‘chef-driven cocktail joint’ hidden behind a pie shop in Larimer Square. Enter through Wednesday’s Pies and tell them you are looking for Green Russel to be escorted into the speakeasy. Be prepared to shut off your phone as Green Russel forbids the use of cell phones except in their designated telephone booth.
Millers & Rossi may look just like your standard art gallery from the outside, but make your way to the back of this trendy RiNo space and you’ll find a hidden doorway that will transport you into the dimly lit lounge.
11. Go brewery hopping
Confession: I’m not a fan of Coors (Denver’s most beloved beer). Please don’t judge.
But lemme tell ya, I am a huge fan of many of the city’s craft brews. And there are lots. Frankly, you could live in Denver and still not sample them all.
Denver has a lot of breweries. And by “a lot”, I’m talking more than 150. I mean, are you surprised? It seems like every major US city has their own craft beer scene, and we are here for all of them.
We visited during the summertime and sought out breweries with cool outdoor spaces. Here are the ones we visited (and loved):
Ratio Beerworks (RiNo)
Zuni Street Brewing Company (LoHi)
The breweries listed below are on our “wish list” of places to visit in the future:
Our Mutual Friend (RiNo)
Recess Beer Garden (LoHi)
Crooked Stave (Highlands)
Denver Beer Co. (Highlands)
Rock Bottom Brewery (Downtown)
Woods Boss (Downtown)
Some of the bigger guys:
New Belgium Brewing (Five Points)
The Great Divide Brewing Company (Five Points)
Odell Brewing Co. (RiNo)
Wynkoop Brewing Company (LoDo)
Pro Tip: Denver’s official website offers this handy Beer Trail Map that will help you plot out your brewery tour by neighborhood!
Not into beer? Here are some other options…
Stem Ciders (RiNo)
Infinite Monkey Theorem (RiNo)
Blanchard Family Wines (LoDo)
Psst! For More info on each neighborhood, jump to the bottom of this article where we have descriptions and explain the abbreviations.
12. Have a play date with Mary Jane
Being that Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana (tied with Washington), it should come as no surprise that many visitors want to give it a whirl… err, puff… while they’re in town.
If you choose to partake, here is some information you should know:
Dispensaries: You can purchase recreational marijuana in the form of flower and edibles. You can simply search “dispensary” in Google Maps to see where they are located around town (there are a lot).
You must be over 21 years of age to enter.
Have your ID ready as well as cash on hand, as dispensaries do not take credit cards. There may be an ATM on site, and some dispensaries accept payment by debt card.
The staff at dispensaries tend to be helpful, so ask questions or tell them what you’re looking for and they can give recommendations.
IMPORTANT: If you are going to use marijuana recreationally on your trip to Colorado, be sure you’re familiar with the laws.
It is NOT legal to:
consume in public
share with minors
drive under the influence
fly with marijuana or bring it out of Colorado
Here are three unique ways to have an extra special time:
International Church of Cannabis
This is not your typical church, that’s for sure!
According to their website, their mission is “…to offer a home to adults everywhere who are looking to create the best version of themselves by way of the sacred plant. Our lifestance is that an individual’s spiritual journey, and search for meaning, is one of self-discovery that can be accelerated with ritual cannabis use.”
The inside of the church has magnificent murals, but what people flock to is the laser light show. Partnered with a guided meditation, this experience is called “Beyond” and happens 20 minutes past the hour, every hour.
We showed up, excited to see the interior of the church, but upon reaching the entrance were told that it was a $25 “donation” to enter. We ended up leaving because we just weren’t prepared to pay $50 to see the inside. However, if this experience sounds like it might be up your alley, we’ve heard from some that Beyond is worth the price.
Photo courtesy of elevationists.org
Friday - Monday: 12 - 6 p.m.
Tuesday - Thursday: 1 - 2 p.m.
Children (under 12): $10 (and yes, we did see a couple kids on the premises, so it seems to be family friendly
Yoga + Marijuana
I had never heard of this trend until researching our trip to Denver. And I’ve gotta say, I can see the appeal.
As ABC affiliate, The Denver Channel, so eloquently put it, this combination mixes “downward dog with doobies”.
A handful of studios (that qualify as social clubs) around the city allow yogis to bring their own marijuana (BYO…M) and even incorporate smoking into the breathing techniques. Some 420-friendly yoga teachers claim that it can help people quiet their minds and focus on their practice.
So where can you get your downward-dog-and-doobie on? Bend & Blaze is the city’s most well-known ganja practice, but there are others too.
*2020 note: Bend & Blaze has paused in-person classes, but are offering virtual sessions for the time being.
Carve your own pipe
If you’re creative and like to get your hands dirty, this might be a perfect activity to add to your Denver itinerary.
Airbnb Experiences are a great way to do something totally unique on your travels — no matter where in the world you might be.
The rave reviews on this particular experience as well as the affordable price ($49) and cool souvenir you get to take with you, make me upset that we didn’t find out about it until writing this article. I guess we might just have to sign up next time!
Learn more here!
13. Eat your heart out at a Food Truck or Food Hall
We love splitting meals because it give us the chance to try more dishes. Anyone else?!
One of the best things about hitting up a food truck pod or an indoor food hall is that you have all sorts of different cuisines at your disposal.
Can’t decide on street tacos or dim dum? Why not get both, and a scoop of gelato for dessert!
Anything is possible at a food hall or pod of food trucks. Plus, it’s also a good solution when traveling with people who all are craving something different.
Food Trucks in Denver
Because of low start-up fees and few regulations, Denver is ranked as one of the top US cities for food trucks to get their start. So it comes as no surprise that you’ll find them parked outside many-a-brewery.
For the most diverse selection, head to the Civic Center where you’ll often find a few food trucks lined up with a selection of different options.
Every summer the Civic Center Conservancy partners with local businesses to put on the annual Civic Center EATS culinary event in Denver. Join the fun on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. where a variety of Denver’s best food trucks gather on the southwest side of the Central Promenade of the historical Civic Center Park.
Insider Tip: Follow @CivicCenterEATS on Facebook to check out the food truck schedule before you arrive and get real-time event updates.
And for a list of pretty much every food truck in Denver, check out Go Truckster for descriptions and upcoming locations.
Food halls in Denver
Food halls are great for finding a variety of different food and drink options all under one roof. As an added bonus, some double as a great co-working space, artisanal markets, or even nightlife hotspots. Denver certainly loves their food halls and there are a few notable ones around the city. Here are a few highlights:
Denver Central Market (RiNo)
With 11 vendors, this indoor market in the RiNo district feels in a way like a marketplace of the past. You can stop in and pick up cuts of meat from the butcher, freshly made bread from the artisan bakery, and specialty chocolates, all to go.
If you’d prefer to enjoy a meal onsite, that’s an option too. Mix and match from the different vendors — oysters, a craft cocktail, a hearty salad and a wood-fired pizza, anyone?! There is plenty of outdoor seating where you can enjoy your bites while surrounded by evocative murals and string lights, or post up inside with your laptop to get some work done while you snack.
Psst! There’s even a second version of this food hall at the airport, so you can grab your favorite eats one last time before leaving the city.
Avanti Food & Beverage (LoHi)
Coined as a Collective Eatery, this modern day food hall is built into a bi-level shipping container and features an eclectic mix of vendors from pizza to sushi. Each of the 6 different restaurant concepts feels a bit like a food stall or permanent food truck with community seating throughout. At night the bar scene comes alive and the rooftop is guaranteed to be a hot spot all summer long.
The Source Hotel + Market Hall (RiNo)
At the base of The Source Hotel are two market halls that feature 25 vendors and artisans. Here, you’ll find Israeli cuisine, pizza, sushi, smoked meats and gelato. A little something for everyone!
Denver Milk Market (LoDo)
Situated on the iconic Dairy Block, the Milk Market is centrally-located and offers varied dining options. From hot fried chicken to fresh pasta to bao buns to lobster rolls, it can be hard to choose! But that’s the beauty of a food hall — you can sample a few different dishes all under one roof.
14. Satisfy your sweet tooth with Little Man Ice Cream
Located on 16th street in Denver’s LoHi neighborhood is the iconic ice cream shop known as Little Man’s.
You can’t miss this place as it’s shaped like a giant milk jug and often has a line forming well down the block. However, the line goes pretty quickly (we hardly had any wait when we were there!) and the small batch homemade ice cream with unique flavors – like Salted Oreo, Horchata and Lemon Lavender – is totally worth the wait!
Good to know: We love the fact that they give back with their “Scoop for Scoop” initiative. According to their website, they match each scoop of ice cream purchased with a “donated scoop of rice, beans, or other essentials to a community in need anywhere around the world”.
15. Get glazed at a craft doughnut shop
Speaking of sweet treats… let’s chat about where to get the best and most creatively-topped fried dough in the city!
If you’re wondering what constitutes a craft donut, let me be the first to introduce you to this delicious hipster invention. Pushing the envelope on flavors with a burst of creativity, craft donuts are far from your average Dunkin.
These delightful craft donut shops are popping up all over the place in hipster towns near you, and Denver has no shortage. Check out some of the highlights below.
Glazed and Confuzed: A Denver original, this stoner-themed shop goes by the motto: “Not Your Daddy's Doughnuts!” Highlights include gluten-free, vegan and even a doughnut made with CBD.
Habit Donut Dispensary: Coined as the ‘cheeky bakery on Platte,’ Habit has made quite the name for themselves in Denver’s doughnut scene with their “boozy injections” and CBD cocktails. Alongside their premium chef-driven doughnuts, they also sell alcohol, cannabis and cigarettes.
Voodoo Doughnuts: After their original location in Portland gained an almost cult-like following, this unconventional pastry shop continues wow-ing with an ever changing and rotating menu of eclectic flavors such as the Bacon Maple Bar, Bubble Gum, and Dirt (aka vanilla frosting and Oreo on a raised donut).
Personal Opinion: To be totally honest, we were disappointed with Voodoo in Portland and don’t quite think it lives up the the hype. But if you’re into quirky flavor combinations, you might love this famed chain.
Other honorable mentions include: OMG Donuts, The Donut House, and City Donuts
16. Have a boozy brunch
Are you a Bloody Mary person or a Mimosa fiend?
Or perhaps you’re both… hey, me too!
Luckily for all boozy-brunch lovers, Denver has a plenty of options for getting your morning buzz on.
Linger (LoHi): globally-inspired cuisine, bottomless brunch and rooftop seating
Snooze AM Eatery (various locations): American breakfast classics with a twist, bloodies, bubbles and coffee cocktails, plus sustainability and community outreach efforts
Root Down (LoHi): trendy farm-to-table fare with bottomless mimosas
Pig & Sprout (LoDo): casual brunch for carnivores and vegetarians alike, plus mimosa flights and brunch-inspired cocktails
Old Major (LoHi): contemporary farmhouse cuisine, bottomless mimosas and outdoor seating
Second Home Kitchen + Bar (Cherry Creek): “Pajama brunch” on Sundays with bottomless mimosas and a DIY bloody bar
Stowaway Kitchen (RiNo): eclectic global cuisine, specialty coffee and brunchy cocktails
Need a break from the booze?
Denver Biscuit Company (various locations + food truck): real southern biscuit creations on steroids (well not exactly, but you should see the size of these things!)
Rosenberg's Bagels & Delicatessen (Five Points, Stapleton): authentic New York City bagels in a classic deli setting
Free & Cheap Things to do in Denver
If you’re traveling on a budget, this section is for you! We’ve rounded up some of the best free and cheap things to do in Denver to help you stretch that dough.
17. Marvel at Denver’s iconic Union Station
Before you’re like, “Why would I want to visit a train station?!” hear us out…
We had the same thoughts, but I’ll be the first to tell you that:
a) the architecture and decor in this place is crazy beautiful, and
b) there are lots of great restaurants and cafes around the premises
Nicknamed “Denver’s Living Room”, Union Station underwent a major remodel in 2012, and today looks like something out of a movie. Think historic charm with a trendy modern twist.
With black leather couches and handsome chandeliers, you might feel like you’ve stepped back in time were it not for the strong AC (a welcomed relief on a sweltering summer day) and the trendy onsite cafes.
We saw people posted up on couches with their laptops and others on coffee dates with friends. So yeah, the train station certainly lives up to its nickname and could even be described as charming… a word I wouldn’t typically associate with a US train station, that’s for sure.
Not only is Union Station a functioning public transit hub in the center of the hip Lower Downtown area (also known as LoDo), this century-old historic building plays host to a myriad of popular Denver eateries and even a luxury hotel.
Even if you’re not passing through on a bus or train, this renovated landmark is well worth a visit. Grab a cocktail at the posh Cooper Lounge on the second level or a quick bite and a beer at the Terminal Bar while you admire the architecture. Browse the curated boutiques for souvenirs or satisfy your sweet tooth at Milkbox Creamery.
Once you’ve taken everything in, find yourself a table at one of the many popular restaurants housed here. There’s something for everyone’s taste from trendy brunch to fine dining:
ACME Delicatessen & Pizzeria: Artisanal deli-style sandwiches and fast-fired pizzas
Mercantile Dining & Provision: Fine dining with high-end ingredients from a James Beard Award winning chef
Next Door American Eatery: Spicy, salty, acidic & tasty food, plus drinks
Snooze AM Eatery: A Denver institution and popular brunch spot – they don’t take reservations and the place closes in the afternoon so there will be a wait on weekends
Stoic & Genuine: Sustainable seafood house, oyster and granita bar
Terminal Bar: Colorado craft beer, signature cocktails, wines and elevated bar food
Ulteria: Tapas inspired by the Iberian peninsula countries of Spain and Portugal along with specialty gin cocktails
Tip: If you’re visiting Denver around Christmas time, be sure to pop into Union Station to see the giant tree and all of the holiday decorations!
18. Rent bikes or scooters to explore the city
Denver has a few different bike share and electric scooter operators available throughout the metro area.
Hop on a set of wheels and make your way through the popular Denver neighborhoods stopping for bites, sips and views along the way!
Important Note: If you plan to bike in Denver, please read the safety note at the bottom of this article!
19. Hunt for street art in the RiNo Art District
If we haven’t already made it clear, Denver locals love their abbreviations. Or shall we say, they love their abbrevs…?
RiNo, or the River North neighborhood, was once an industrial area that was overlooked by many. But as the city’s real estate market boomed, unlikely areas started to be transformed into the latest hot spots. And RiNo is a perfect example.
This neighborhood had its emergence in the past decade and has since become a sought-after area full of trendy restaurants and taprooms. But it is perhaps best-known for its street art.
We once took a street art tour in London and ever since learning about street art culture (seriously fascinating stuff!), we can’t look at it the same. So now wherever we are in the world, we love wandering past murals and graffiti and discussing symbolism and what we see in each piece.
While in RiNo, keep your eyes peeled for creative renditions of rhinos (the animal!). You don’t have to stretch your imagination much to see why this was chosen as the neighborhood’s mascot.
Psst! Denver Graffiti Tours is currently suspending all tours until early 2021, but it sounds like an excellent way to dig deeper into the Denver street art scene if that interests you.
Street Art in RiNo
Honestly, we just wandered around the RiNo district with no direction, but here are some notable works to check out if you want to have a specific destination:
“Larimer Boy and Girl” by Jeremy Burns: Walk one way and see the boy, face the other direction and see the girl, at 27th and Larimer
“Reverberations” by Damon Soule and Justin Lovato: Geometric patterns that depict outer space on Larimer between 25th & 26th
2936 Larimer St.: A women with a head full of buildings painted on the garage door by artists David Choe, Flores, Kreig, and DSTRBO
2668 Walnut St.: The entire building was painted by Vyal One in psychedelic orbs.
Are you a huge art fan? You’ll also love the Santa Fe District. See below for a cool monthly event hosted in this neighborhood.
First Friday Art Walk
While we’re on the subject of art, if you happen to be in Denver on the first Friday of the month (you lucky duck!), try to work the city’s monthly art walk into your itinerary. Head to the Santa Fe neighborhood, which is hailed as Denver’s Art District, to take part in the fun.
Wander the many galleries and studios and chat with artists who have their work displayed on the street and alleyways. Grab a bite at a food truck and absorb the lively atmosphere.
This event takes place year-round — rain or shine (just not during pandemics*).
*2020 Update: All Art Walk festivities are currently being held virtually until further notice. Get up to date info here.
20. Shop local at a Denver Farmers Market
If you’re visiting Denver during the spring or summertime, you’ll likely run into one of the many farmers markets spread throughout the city. While you’re sure to find farm-fresh produce, baked goods and food trucks, these weekly events are not just about the food.
They each take on more of a street fair vibe in their own rights, drawing large local crowds with activities and entertainment.
We loved wandering around the Farmer’s Market at Highlands Square (pictured above), but there are plenty more around the city. Check Denver’s official website for a weekly schedule of farmers’ markets in the Denver metro area.
21. Picnic in the park
The city and county of Denver offer more than 200 outdoor parks totaling over 500 acres of green space for urban recreation. So pack a blanket, a book, a frisbee and a picnic and head to a patch of green space for some relaxation.
Below are some of the most popular parks in Denver:
This peaceful, grassy expanse, which is adjacent to the Botanic Gardens, was built on a former cemetery. The Pavilion is a historical landmark at the center, built in 1910. If you’re lucky, you can catch a free movie screening here on clear summer evenings.
A mix of trees and wide open green space near Uptown and the Denver Zoo, this park plays hosts to a lot of recreational sports leagues and public events. Each summer from June to August, the park puts on a free Sunday concert series called City Park Jazz.
In 2020 they are live-streaming the events so you can watch from home!
In the center of one of Denver’s popular neighborhoods, you’ll find a vast expanse of flat green space dubbed “Wash Park” by locals. Encircled by a 2.6-mile bike-free loop, this park is great for running or picnicking. (Pictured above)
On Google Maps Wash Park looks like it would be something like NYC’s Central Park. I mean, there’s a boathouse and a big lawn and a flower garden and everything. We went out of our way to get here, but honestly, we were left a bit disappointed. The pond was scummy, the flower garden was completely dead and shriveled (maybe it was just the wrong time of year?), and the boathouse was, well, definitely not like Central Park.
Personal Opinion: It’s not necessarily a destination park that you should go out of your way for. That said, if you’re looking for a wide open green space and running trails, this may be just what you’re looking for!
As the name implies, this park is situated on the confluence of two rivers: South Platt River and Cherry Creek. There are some jogging paths, grassy hills, a riverside path, and even a small whitewater park. In early August when we visited, people were tubing and hanging out in the water, though it was really low and smelly.
Safety Note: We’ve heard reports that bikes are often stolen in and around Confluence Park, so be cautious if you have a bike.
22. Learn the city’s history & secrets on a Free* Walking Tour
Often times when we arrive in a new city, we find the best way to get our bearings is to take a free walking tour. These tours give you a good orientation on the neighborhoods and give you the opportunity to learn some of the area’s history and little-known secrets.
Plus, you get the chance to ask a friendly local questions — whether you’re curious about the best restaurants in town, the most lively nightlife, most worthwhile hikes, ask away! You can even ask about rumors you’ve heard like, “Is it true that Denver has underground tunnels?”
Spoiler Alert: Yes, it’s true! One of the main purposes was to allow women to make their ways to the hotel rooms of wealthy men without being seen. But these tunnels are no longer accessible. Sorry to squash your Ninja-Turtle-meets-Indiana-Jones dreams…
Do it yourself: Tours run daily from May - October and begin at 10 a.m. The tour starts from the front steps of the Colorado state capitol building and covers roughly 1.7 miles, lasting 2 - 2.5 hours.
Alternative: Instead of meeting in person at the specified time, you can download an audio tour onto your phone for $10. Choose from three different itineraries and go at your own pace.
*2020 Update: While the name is “FREE Walking Tour”, there is currently a fee for all guests as tour sizes are limited to just 10 people. The fee is $25 for adults and $17 for children, allowing the tour guides to earn livable wages even with reduced group sizes. In the past, you could just show up, but reservations are required for the time being.
23. Cheer on the Rockies at Coors Field
There’s nothing quite like experiencing a baseball game on a beautiful summer day, hot dog in hand, with the Rocky Mountains as your backdrop.