Is it really possible to enjoy an airport layover? In Denver, absolutely! Depending on how much time you have between flights, check out these ideas for experiencing all that Denver International Airport (DEN) and its surroundings have to offer.
Just the Facts
Denver International Airport is one of the most distinctive airports with a roof that resembles Colorado’s snow-capped peaks, an outdoor plaza larger than a football field, and views of where the mountains and plains (not planes!) intersect. With more than 61 million passengers traveling through, the airport is constantly adding new features, services and interesting spaces to make traveling more enjoyable.
With more than 140 shops, restaurants and services, there’s a delectable mix of local flavor as well as national brands you’ll recognize. Have several hours on your hands? Consider taking RTD’s A Line commuter rail from DEN to Denver Union Station in the heart of downtown (37 minutes one way) or get off earlier at 38th and Blake Street station to explore the hip River North Art District (RiNo).
Sip & Savor
In the main Jeppesen Terminal (before security), get a taste of Colorado’s famous craft brewery scene at Boulder Beer Taphouse, which pours a wide selection of year-round beers, seasonal offerings and rotating brewer’s choice specialty beers. Order a taster flight between flights to try a variety.
It’s easy to move between Concourses A, B and C to satisfy hunger pangs and quench a hearty thirst using the speedy underground train. Experience the Denver food scene with some of the newest additions that both happen to be on Concourse A, including Snarf’s Sandwiches, featuring oven-roasted sandwiches on fresh-baked bread, and an outpost of the popular Denver Central Market food hall in RiNo with Culture Meat & Cheese, SK Provisions, Sushi Rama and Vero Italian to choose from.
Other Colorado-based restaurants to consider include Modern Market, Root Down, Denver Chophouse & Brewery and Elway’s. Local places that specialize in adult beverages and have delicious dishes on the menu as well include Crú Food and Wine Bar and New Belgium Brewery's Hub toward the end of Concourse B and brand-new bar and restaurant more centrally located in the same concourse, featuring seating for 125 and a full bar to sip tasters and pints from the state's largest independent brewery.
Guests can enjoy draft pours from a 20-handle tap system anchored by favorites like Fat Tire Amber Ale, Voodoo Ranger IPA as well as seasonal and limited releases, award-winning wood cellar beers, and beer-centric cocktails. Complementing the tap offerings is a menu created by one of Denver’s best Chefs - Paul C. Reilly, executive chef and proprietor of beast+bottle and Coperta.
Or head to Lounge 5280 for premium, hand-picked wine selections from around the world, as well as cocktails, spirits and a beer list highlighting Colorado’s craft brewers. Vino Volo offers wines from Colorado (and around the world), by the glass and in tasting flights as well as locally produced artisan cheeses along with dry-cured meats, pasta and sandwiches.
Bold Soviet-era colors, a white star and delicious coffees with names like KGBlend and White Nights Espresso signal you have arrived at Dazbog Coffee. Brothers Leonid and Anatoly Yuffa immigrated to Denver from St. Petersburg, Russia, in their youth and established this Denver-based company more than 20 years ago.
There are a host of other great restaurants and places to grab a cup of joe, smoothie, fresh juices or other beverages throughout the airport, and look for several new additions once renovations to the Jeppesen Terminal are finished.
KICK BACK & RELAX
A little free time on your hands is perfect for some pampering. Head to A Massage in Concourses A and B for chair and table massages and reflexology treatments, available by the minute. With two locations in Concourse C, XpresSpa offers facials, waxing, manicures, pedicures, hair styling and cuts, and a variety of massage options.
Forgot your cosmetics or want to try something new? Urban Decay is located at the core of Concourse C. For other great products to take care of body and soul, stop by the Body Shop and Kiehl’s.
Don’t forget that even shoes need a little tender loving care while traveling. Make sure to look your best by stopping by Executive Shine, with locations in each concourse.
The rich legacy of Tattered Cover Book Store began in 1971 near downtown Denver, and the business has grown into one of the premier independent bookstores in America. If you like books, spend time browsing all the titles and staff picks at one of several locations in DEN.
Colorado-based brand Topo Designs has opened an airport location in Concourse A that features packs, bags, apparel and accessories. The focus is on travel-friendly products designed to streamline trips. Arts District Market in Concourse C is themed around the various arts districts of Denver. Find a collection of local goods and a unique art program as well as electronic essentials, travel comfort items, fresh grab-and-go food and beverages, gifts and more.
Still needing a few souvenirs or things to bring back for friends and loved ones? Greetings from Colorado has a lot of options or stop by one of two Colorado Limited kiosks that specialize in apparel featuring the Colorado flag logo. Bring home a taste of the American West from Way Out West, featuring Western and Southwestern themed goods as well as regional foods, books and music.
Kids will be in heaven stopping by Kazoo & Company on the mezzanine of Concourse B, near a nice assortment of restaurants if your crew needs a meal. Check out the selection of toys, games, plush animals and more. Don’t forget to stop by Colorado-based Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for dessert!
Two boutiques women will love are Tuleh Ruche, offering diverse women's clothing styles and accessories, and Earth Spirit, featuring handcrafted products such as art glass, sculptures, polished wood jewelry boxes, silk scarves, jewelry and more.
For high-end quality, head to Johnston & Murphy for men's apparel, shoes, luggage, belts and other accessories for business and leisure travelers and the two TUMI locations for luggage, packing cases, briefcases, totes, small leather goods and more. Brookstone is another name most people recognize as an electronics, toys, games and gadgets store.
Traveling internationally? Stop by the Denver Duty-Free locations for perfume, cosmetics, alcohol, confections and fashion accessories.
CLUBS & CULTURE
Want to escape the hustle and bustle of airport strolling and have a space to rest, eat, drink or work for a spell? If you have access, airline clubs operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Delta and United are the perfect solutions for longer layovers. A great option for U.S. military travelers is the United Service Organization (USO) Denver, which provides access to a relaxing lounge, library, family services, food and more.
Through the City and County of Denver’s “one percent for art” program, there are nearly 40 site-specific works of art to look for at DEN, including sculptures, murals and other installations in outdoor landscapes, inside Jeppesen Terminal and on all concourses, as well as the airport’s underground train system. DEN also collaborates with museums, cultural institutions and arts organizations to curate temporary exhibitions.
Don’t miss the additional works of art at the Westin Denver International Airport Hotel, which has won a variety of architectural awards, and the RTD transit center. Both are connected to the airport by the outdoor plaza situated between Jeppesen Terminal and the hotel. During the summer, watch for occasional free events and entertainment on the plaza.
HEAD NEXT DOOR
The Westin DIA offers a quick way to get out of the airport and grab a local brew and meal at the new Tom’s Urban Kitchen & Brewery. This Colorado-based brew-pub restaurant concept is the first restaurant at DEN with an on-site brewery. While sipping on a fresh beer by Tivoli Brewing, watch sports and more on the numerous TVs situated throughout the restaurant.
Other food and beverage options include Grill & Vine, with a farm-to-table menu and signature craft cocktails. For something a bit more casual and interactive, Sky Lounge is a full-service bar in the lobby with a menu of small bar snacks, tapas and sandwiches. Or there is Ingredients, a grab-and-go eatery featuring coffee beverages and light fare.
It can be a gift to have a layover of five hours or more if you want to get out and explore your layover city. The A Line commuter rail that runs every 15 minutes for most of the day from DEN to Denver Union Station downtown makes it especially easy and relatively inexpensive or take a taxi, Uber or Lyft if it makes more sense for a group.
Before getting to downtown, disembark at the last stop before Union Station (the 38th & Blake station) as you start seeing amazing street art that signals you have arrived in RiNo. Located just north of downtown Denver, RiNo features a large number of creative businesses, numerous great places to eat and drink, and Denver’s largest concentration of market halls.
Have the time to head downtown? Don’t miss strolling Union Station, which reopened in 2014 after a major $54 million restoration and is now a major transportation hub and a favorite place to gather with a hotel, restaurants, boutique shops, bars and places to sit inside and out. Just down the street is Coors Field, where you can see a Colorado Rockies baseball game if the timing is right. Board the free MallRide along the pedestrian 16th Street Mall to cover a lot of territory in a short amount of time, including taking the bus all the way to the end to access the Colorado State Capitol and the Golden Triangle Creative District, which contains a treasure trove of museums.
Don’t miss taking a selfie by the huge Blue Bear sculpture peeking into the Colorado Convention Center or strolling down Denver’s most historic block, Larimer Square, which is filled with restaurants, boutiques, and wellness and beauty services. Another quick way to explore is to hire a pedicab.
Photos courtesy of Denver International Airport.