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Denver is an outdoor city with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and plenty of urban adventures for all ages. Founded in 1858 as a gold mining camp, Denver is located at the base of the majestic Rocky Mountains, 5,280 feet (1,609 meters) above sea level – exactly one mile high. Explore The Mile High City’s 300 days of sunshine, chef-driven cuisine, local breweries serving craft beer and unique live music venues like the famous Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. Visit the Denver Art Museum with its famous Indigenous art and Western art collections, see the giant blue bear public art sculpture, shop at Cherry Creek or get an authentic western shirt at the iconic Rockmount Ranch Wear. Denver combines historic Victorian brick buildings in Larimer Square and LoDo (Lower Downtown) with the bold architecture of today, all within a laid-back, walkable city center.
Day One: Walking & Shopping in Downtown Denver
Getting into the city center is easy with direct rail service from Denver International Airport to Denver Union Station. The 37-minute trip costs $10.50 each way.
Suggested Walking Tour of Downtown Denver
- Denver Union Station – Having celebrated its 100th anniversary with a multi-million dollar renovation in 2014, Union Station is now a large part of Denver’s energy. With numerous local restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as plenty of public space and one of the most hip new hotels in the city – The Crawford – there’s plenty to do and see.
- Rockmount Ranch Wear – Home to the original snap front western shirts, this is a third generation, family-owned business started by Jack A. Weil in 1946. Be sure to check out the museum in the upper loft and the celebrity gallery around the store.
- Tattered Cover Book Store – Denver’s largest indie bookstore and café, Tattered Cover has been a Denver mainstay since 1971. The store’s original owner, Joyce Meskis, was one of the guiding forces of independent bookselling in the country and a stubborn advocate for the rights of readers, literacy and free expression in America.
- 16th Street Mall – Built in 1982, this mile-long, pedestrian-friendly mall is packed with shopping, restaurants and attractions. Free shuttle buses stop for passengers at every intersection, so it is easy to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.
- Denver Pavilions – The Denver Pavilions, a one-of-a-kind retail/entertainment center is located in the heart of downtown Denver on the 16th Street Mall. Denver Pavilions provides a "critical mass" of 40 stores, restaurants and entertainment venues. The I Heart Denver Store, located inside the Denver Pavilions, features souvenirs made by more than 135 local artists and designers.
- Larimer Square – Denver’s most historic block is also the heart of its urban shopping and dining district. Victorian buildings house specialty boutiques and unique, chef-driven restaurants.
- Denver Performing Arts Complex – The Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC) is the largest performing arts complex under one roof, and the second-largest center of its kind in terms of number of venues and seating capacity. The DPAC houses ten performance spaces on its four-block, 12-acre site.
- Big Blue Bear – Stop by one of the iconic sites in Denver – our beloved Blue Bear. Formally named “I See What You Mean,” the 40-foot bear peeking into the Colorado Convention Center symbolizes the natural Colorado surroundings and curiosity of its residents and visitors alike. A can’t-miss photo opp.
- VISIT DENVER Tourist Information Center – Stop by the downtown Tourist Information Center. Inquiries about lodging, tours, attractions, dining and shopping are welcomed by a knowledgeable staff that can help visitors discover Denver by foot, car, tour or public transportation. In addition to offering brochures, the TIC features interactive screens to guide visitors in everything to see and do in Denver, as well as carrying AAA tour books, maps and even transit passes.
Afternoon Exploring the Golden Triangle Creative District
Explore the spectacular Denver Art Museum and a neighborhood brimming with galleries, restaurants, music venues, theatres and remarkable architecture.
- Clyfford Still Museum – Clyfford Still is considered an originator of the Abstract Expressionism movement. With more than Still 3,000 artworks, the award-winning Clyfford Still Museum is home to his life’s work.
- Colorado State Capitol – Find the three Mile High Markers (where the elevation is exactly one mile above sea level, and where Denver gets its nickname, “The Mile High City”), including one on the 13th step in front of the building. Free tours are offered hourly on weekdays. Be sure to get a look at the dome made of real gold, one of only a few in the country, and check out the view from the dome of more than 200 named mountain peaks.
- Denver Art Museum – The Denver Art Museum's Frederic C. Hamilton Building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, and the adjoining fortress-like structure from Italian architect Gio Ponti will change the way you experience art and architecture. Explore the Museum's galleries, renowned traveling exhibits, children’s exhibits and more.
- History Colorado Center – The History Colorado Center's hands-on and high-tech exhibits take you back in time. Be sure to walk through the Denver A to Z exhibit for some background on the places you’re visiting.
- Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art – Colorado artist Vance Kirkland’s original studio serves as part of this unique museum. Featuring more than 4,400 works spanning from the 1840s to the present, the museum displays the works of Kirkland, his Colorado and regional colleagues and one of the world’s largest collections of international decorative art.
- Molly Brown House Museum – Visit the home of Titanic heroine, the unsinkable Margaret "Molly" Brown, a woman of extraordinary courage. All tours are guided and last 45 minutes.
- U.S. Mint – Learn how U.S. currency is created at one of only two mints in the country that is open to the public. The Mint produces 50 million coins a day, each one stamped with a little "D" for Denver. Free tours show every step in the process of turning a dull, blank, metal slug into shiny pocket change.
Day Two: Book a Sightseeing Tour & Explore Denver’s Creative Side
Explore your way with a boutique tour catered to your interests. Some unique options include:
- Beer & Brewery Tours – Thanks to its wide array of microbreweries, brewpubs and beer cafés, discerning beer drinkers are making pilgrimages to The Mile High City to sample some of the world's greatest brews. Tour operators offer walking, biking or chauffeured bus tours, among other options, to some of Denver’s local craft breweries. For a self-guided experience, VISIT DENVER’s Denver Beer Trail features must-try local breweries, both new and well-loved, arranged by neighborhood.
- Street Art Tours – Denver street artists have been busy brightening (and enlightening) the urban landscape for decades by making canvases of the city’s alleyways, building exteriors, warehouses, garage doors and storefronts. Now, as a result of various public art initiatives around the city, Denver has developed a concentrated and thriving street and public art scene, leading AFAR magazine to name it the “Street Art Capital of the Country.” Denver Graffiti Tour offers a guided walking tour of some of the RiNo neighborhood’s top murals; and many people explore on their own – discovering art in unexpected places all around the city.
- Culinary Tours – The Mile High City has long been at the forefront of the U.S. culinary scene – and in the past decade, it has become an award-winning culinary destination with nationally renowned hotspots, and unique and innovative concepts. There are a variety of guided culinary tours available, from themed excursions to general overviews of the city’s offerings. Denver’s gourmet marketplaces and food halls are also excellent options for discovering food from several of Denver’s top chefs in a concentrated space.
- Biking, eTuk or Sidecar City Tours – Denver prides itself on being a walkable city, but there are some other fun ways to explore more of the city in less time. From unique transportation options – like the made-in-Denver eTuks (electric tuk-tuks) and scooters or sidecars – to bikes, exploring The Mile High City on wheels does not necessarily mean exploring by car.
Afternoon Exploring one of Denver’s Diverse Neighborhoods
Denver has several exciting neighborhoods, each with its own personality and must-see attractions to offer. Take time to get to know the city through its fun and unique neighborhoods. Below are some neighborhoods throughout the city; for a full guide to Denver’s neighborhoods, please visit our neighborhood guide.
RiNo (River North) – RiNo is “where art is made” – a hotspot for creative types, with several uniquely renovated spaces that provide room for culinary and industrial creativity.
- Denver Central Market – A gourmet food hall and grocery market, showcasing 11 of Denver's top chefs and food purveyors. Buy select local products, or sit and enjoy a cocktail at Curio Bar matched with food prepared for you from any of the kitchens. Featuring Curio Bar, SK Provisions, Izzio Bakery, High Point Creamery, Tammen's Fish, The Local Butcher, Crema Bodega, Temper Chocolate, Culture Meat and Cheese, Green Seed Produce and Vero pizzeria.
- Explore some local breweries with the Denver Beer Trail – Denver is home to one of the largest concentrations of craft breweries in the country, and RiNo is the best place to have a sample or two.
- CRUSH WALLS – Throughout the District you will find murals, created by local, national and international artists and sanctioned by the neighborhood and city during CRUSH WALLS, Denver’s annual international street art festival. Taking place every September, the festival has now grown to feature more than 100 artists from around the world and nearly 150,000 spectators.
- Galleries – It's impossible to have RiNo Art District without the art, and thankfully there's no shortage of it. The neighborhood is home to more than 25 galleries and studio spaces open to the public.
- Boutique Stores – There are numerous boutique stores from Colorado artisans and high-end retailers throughout the neighborhood.
Cherry Creek/City Park/Uptown – Denver’s premier shopping and dining neighborhood, approximately 15-minutes’ drive from Downtown.
- Cherry Creek Shopping Center is home to Neiman Marcus, Tiffany & Co., Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren and the RH (Restoration Hardware) flagship store, among 160 other stores, restaurants and a movie theater.
- Cherry Creek North – A charming 16 block outdoor shopping and dining district, home to galleries, boutiques, restaurants, spas, meeting spaces, and more. A must see for the savvy shopper, art lover, or foodie.
- Cherry Creek Bike Path – This paved trail begins where Denver was first founded and runs along the creek all the way through the city. It is one of the most popular trails in Denver, and one of the prettiest.
- City Park – Adjacent to Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science, City Park features several large green spaces and one of the most spectacular city skyline views with the Rocky Mountain background. It also features a hiking/jogging trail that is one mile above sea level.
- Denver Botanic Gardens – Just north of Cherry Creek, the Denver Botanic Gardens entertains and delights with beautiful displays of flora and fauna from all over the world.
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science – For more than 100 years, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science has been at the heart of cultural experience in Denver. Explore the cosmos in its planetarium, uncover dazzling gems and minerals, watch a showing at the IMAX theater and see various traveling exhibitions at the fourth largest museum in the U.S.
- Denver Zoo – Denver Zoo spans more than 75 acres and is home to more than 4,000 animals including rare Amur leopards, okapi, elephants, orangutans, Komodo dragons and more.
Highlands – Victorian-era homes and buildings; lush gardens and parks; hip independently owned shops; art galleries; and restaurants, all make the Denver Highlands neighborhood a great destination for visitors. There are three diverse districts to discover here: Highlands Square, Tennyson Street and Lower Highland (LoHi).
- Highlands Square – Boutique stores, cafés, wine shops and bookstores, as well as popular restaurants and bars radiate out from this micro-neighborhood.
- Tennyson Street Cultural District – Visitors can spend an afternoon browsing antique prints, photographs and paintings from Colorado artists, plus find live music venues and a variety of ethnic foods.
- LoHi – Characterized by a mix of old and ultra-modern architecture, some of the city's most innovative restaurants and bars, and incredible views of the Highland Bridge and downtown Denver.
Day Three: Take a Day Trip to a nearby town or attraction in the Rocky Mountains
- Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre: Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a world-famous outdoor music venue just 30 minutes west of Denver and is the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. The free Visitor Center features interactive educational displays, a short film documentary on the venue’s geologic and musical history, a Performers’ Hall of Fame and a restaurant, Ship Rock Grille. Red Rocks is recognized for its star-studded concert roster, natural acoustics and ambience, as well as its awe-inspiring hiking and biking trails and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame.
- Rocky Mountain National Park: Located 90 minutes northwest of Denver, Rocky Mountain National Park features 350 square miles of scenic beauty, including Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the world, which crosses the Continental Divide at higher than two miles above sea level. The park has two information centers, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, tranquil lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and horseback riding. Estes Park is a resort town on the edge of the park with restaurants and shops.
- Golden: Located at the base of the foothills, Golden was the territorial capital until 1867 and remains one of the most historic towns in the state. An arch spanning the street proudly proclaims that Golden is "Where the West Lives!" The legendary Coors Brewery – which calls Golden home – can brew up to 22 million barrels and package up to 16 million barrels annually, making it the biggest single-site brewery in the world. Take a tour highlighting the malting, brewing and packaging processes and ending with a sampling of Coors fine products and shopping in the gift shop.
- Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave & Denver Buffalo Herd: Enjoy the ongoing and permanent exhibits and displays at the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave. The exhibits include memorabilia from Buffalo Bill's life and Wild West shows, American Indian artifacts, antique firearms and other Old West artifacts. The historical complex on Lookout Mountain includes the museum, Buffalo Bill's grave, the Pahaska Tepee gift shop, and a children's activity area. From high atop Lookout Mountain visitors can enjoy views of the snowcapped Rockies in one direction, the Great Plains in the other.
For those with strong nerves, drive to the museum on the hairpin Lariat Loop Drive, then continue to I-70, exit 250, to see a live herd of buffalo. The City of Denver maintains a herd of buffalo in a natural setting located 20 miles west of downtown; the Denver Buffalo Herd are descendants of the last wild herd left in America.
- Mount Evans: Mount Evans has the highest paved auto road in North America, snaking its way to the 14,260-foot (4,346 m) summit. The road ($10 for a three-day pass) is open only from the Friday before Memorial Day through the first Monday in October, and frequently has snow on it, even in August. The view from the top takes in the entire Front Range. The summit is 60 miles (97 km) from downtown Denver.
- Georgetown: Located just 45 minutes west of Denver, Georgetown is a delightful Victorian village set in a spectacular mountain valley with 200 restored buildings from the 1870s. The main street has shops and restaurants, and many of the old homes have been turned into antique stores. The Georgetown Loop Mining & Railroad Park operates in the summer months with narrow gauge steam locomotives curling down a mountain ledge, at one point crossing over a 90-foot (27 m) high trestle with optional tour of a silver mine.