After a spring of quarantine and staying at home, Denver — a city known for its vibrant arts and culture, booming culinary scene and plentiful urban outdoor recreation — is cautiously returning. As part of a deliberate, phased reopening, several of the city’s top attractions, restaurants and recreational activities are welcoming visitors, as well as new exhibitions and creative outdoor dining options, all with rigorous precautions and procedures in place. Through this gradual reopening, The Mile High City hopes to provide some reprieve from cabin fever and to inspire people to enjoy what the city has to offer in a safe, but fun, way.
Currently, Colorado is under the second phase of its reopening plan, dubbed “Safer-At-Home and in The Vast, Great Outdoors,” and Denver has followed suit. Denver lends itself well to a measured reopening thanks in great part to its position as an outdoor city with plenty of sunshine and space. Both Denver and Colorado continue to follow the latest guidance from health officials – masks are required in indoor public spaces and social distancing is strongly recommended wherever possible. Full details about Denver’s mandates, recommendations and resources can be found on the City & County of Denver’s website, with even more information on VISIT DENVER’s Clean & Safe Resource Guide.
Below are a few options that are currently available for people to do while they are in Denver. Guests are encouraged to check directly with any businesses, venues, events or activities for specific, up-to-date details before visiting, as information changes regularly.
Attractions & New Exhibitions
Denver is the cultural hub of the Rocky Mountain region. While many of the city’s award-winning cultural facilities were closed for some time, their innovative spirit and creativity is shining through once again with creative ways to experience indoor and outdoor spaces and new exhibitions.
Denver Botanic Gardens – As one of the top botanical gardens in the country, Denver Botanic Gardens is an ideal destination for calm, distanced fun. The spectacular 24-acre site offers an unforgettable experience for the whole family, as well as a living laboratory for education and plant conservation programs. For reopening details, visit the Gardens’ website.
Denver Zoo – As an almost entirely outdoor venue, the Denver Zoo was one of the city’s first attractions to reopen. The more-than 80-acre space is home to 4,000 animals and a new outdoor exhibition this summer - Nature Connects®, Art with LEGO® Bricks; and it is an excellent activity for families of all ages. For a full list of Denver Zoo’s safe reopening practices in video or PDF format, visit the Zoo’s website.
Nature Connects®, Art with LEGO® Bricks, through November 1, 2020
Featuring more than 15 nature-inspired creations by artist Sean Kenney, this award-winning exhibit invites guests to connect to nature and the world’s rarest species through life-size and larger-than-life plant and animal sculptures, placed throughout the Zoo and made entirely of LEGO® bricks. The sculptures – which feature a number of vulnerable, threatened and endangered species – took nearly one million LEGO® bricks to create.
History Colorado Center - The History Colorado Center is an experiential museum that makes history fun and interactive. Guests can explore their permanent exhibitions, as well as visit their new one, Forty Years on the 'Fax. The museum reopened on June 22, and a full list of new protocols can be found on the History Colorado website.
Forty Years on the 'Fax, through December 31, 2021
Take a nostalgic ride down Colfax Avenue, once dubbed "America’s longest, wickedest street." with stops at the quirky and memorable places that gave the street its worldwide reputation. From its birth as US Highway 40 in 1926 until I-70 diverted traffic away from it in the ’60s, Colfax boomed with hotels and motels, swanky restaurants and drive-ins, and all forms of shopping and entertainment, from amusement parks to nightlife.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science – Having kicked off 2020 by announcing one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of all time – displayed in a new exhibit, After the Asteroid: Earth’s Comeback Story – Denver Museum of Nature & Science was eager to reopen on June 22. In addition to the new discovery and regular collection, this summer the museum will feature The Art of the Brick. For new policies, hours and more, visit the museum’s website.
The Art of the Brick, through January 24, 2021
Renowned contemporary artist Nathan Sawaya has taken LEGO® bricks from beloved toys to artistic marvels. Sawaya’s original artworks and his reimagined versions of famous masterpieces from art and culture, such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night and the Venus de Milo, have impressed visitors worldwide.
Denver Art Museum – The Denver Art Museum reopened to the public on June 26, including many of its regular gallery collections as well as a brand new exhibition, Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom. For a detailed list of the new protocols, including timed entry tickets, visit the museum’s website.
Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom, through September 7, 2020
Renowned 1940s illustrator, Norman Rockwell, was a preeminent artist behind President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms.” Focusing on critical themes that made Rockwell stand out from his contemporaries, this exhibit presents how the artist and his contemporary illustrators became important storytellers who advanced important civic ideas through their creative advertising and imagery.
Denver’s culinary scene has been booming and gaining national recognition over the past several years; and, this year, five Denver chefs, makers and restaurateurs have been named Nominees for the prestigious 2020 James Beard Awards. Denver is determined to keep the culinary momentum going. While plenty of restaurants are still offering to-go and delivery options, many of them are opening for dine-in service, and taking full advantage of Denver’s 300 days of annual sunshine with creative new patio options.
Larimer Square – Denver’s most historic block is also one of its most popular shopping and dining districts. In order to comply with the most updated guidelines from health officials, the city has closed down the street for the full block to allow extended patio dining for some of Denver’s top restaurants. Now, diners can enjoy award-winning meals from places like TAG, Rioja and Bistro Vendome under the stars and the twinkling lights of Larimer Square.
The Source Hotel & Marketplace – Denver’s first market hall is taking the experience outdoors this summer. What was the parking lot is now an outdoor dining and lounge area with geodesic domes, patio chairs, umbrellas and cocktails and food from one of the artisan marketplace’s six restaurants, cafés and bars.
Denver Central Market – This gourmet food hall showcases 11 of Denver’s top chefs and culinary artisans. Located in RiNo (River North) Art District – one of Denver’s hippest neighborhoods – the marketplace has extended its outdoor dining options to the adjacent parking lot – with tents and picnic tables for people to enjoy the myriad of offerings it boasts, from salads and handcrafted cocktails to an oyster bar and chocolatier. The parking lot is surrounded by striking murals created during the neighborhood’s annual international street art festival, CRUSH WALLS, and some of the local artists have even adorned the tables with their work.
Glenarm Place – Glenarm Place at Denver Pavilions was one of the first street closures approved as part of Denver’s temporary patio expansion program, which permits restaurants and bars to take advantage of adjacent outdoor space — including streets — to expand sit-down service. The location, branded as the Glenarm Patio, became the first communal outdoor dining area in Denver. The Glenarm Patio, located between 15th & 16th Streets in upper downtown now serves as additional, socially-distanced patio seating for both locally-owned and national restaurant tenants at Denver Pavilions.
It’s Always Patio Season in Denver
Notwithstanding all the new outdoor options springing up around the city, Denver is no stranger to patio dining. With the city’s temperate climate, 300 days of annual sunshine and sweeping Rocky Mountain views, rooftop patios abound throughout the city – and many of those are perfect, socially distanced options for dining at some of Denver’s top new and longstanding hotspots.
Of course, Denver is also known for its craft beer scene — and many of the city’s more than 100 breweries boast patios of their own. From Denver Beer Co. in the heart of downtown to Great Divide Brewing Co.’s Barrel Room in RiNo, summer in Denver is still the perfect time and place to enjoy a cold one on a warm day.
Free Outdoor Parks, Activities and Recreation
Street Art - As a result of CRUSH WALLS — an annual, international street art festival held in Denver — and various other 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.” Visitors can take self-guided walks and tours to check out murals and works of public art in the city’s diverse neighborhood, from RiNo Art District to the Art District on Santa Fe and more. For a full list of neighborhoods, go to the VISIT DENVER website.
Parks & Rec – The Mile High City boasts more than 4,000 acres of traditional parks and parkways, which include 2,500 urban natural acres, more than 300 acres of designated rivers & trails and an additional 14,000 acres of spectacular mountain parks, plus many miles of paved, off-street bike trails. Whether visitors create a picnic feast or select their favorite recreation activity (kayaking, paddle boating, running and more), there is no shortage of outdoor, distanced space to enjoy for free or very low cost.
Base Camp: Denver – Denver also serves as the gateway to the nearby Rocky Mountains; and it is a perfect base camp for a day trip to experience the outdoors. Nearby Rocky Mountain National Park is open to visitors on a reservation basis and features 400 square miles of scenic beauty, including Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the world — crossing the Continental Divide at over two miles above sea level. The wilderness area includes 359 miles of hiking trails, 150 lakes, 60 mountains taller than 12,000 feet, and the opportunity to see elk, bighorn sheep, and moose.