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You don’t have to break the bank to have a great time in Denver. Throughout the city, there are countless attractions and activities that will cost you absolutely nothing, including museums, festivals and tours.
Denver's Golden Triangle Creative District neighborhood brims with more than 30 innovative art galleries and artists' studios showcasing the innovative wares of nationally renowned talent and regional up-and-comers. First Friday Art Walk, a shuttled gallery tour that takes place the first Friday of each month, is a terrific way to tour art marts like Walker Fine Art (300 W. 11th St.). The Golden Triangle art galleries are bordered by Speer Boulevard, Colfax Avenue and Lincoln Street. Shuttle tours begin at the Osage Street Light Rail Station.
The Colorado State Capitol, modeled after the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., is a stunning spectacle embellished with stained glass depicting events and people inherent to Colorado, coupled with gorgeous Colorado white granite, rose onyx and yule marble. To see if you've got what it takes to adjust to the altitude, climb the 99-step spiral staircase to an open-air deck affording jaw-dropping views of the city skyline and Rocky Mountains. The Corinthian-styled building, famed for its gold-plated dome rising 272 feet above the ground, offers temporary exhibits, visitor galleries and complimentary tours, Monday through Friday.
No visit to Denver would be complete without a journey through the Tattered Cover Book Store, one of the top independent booksellers in the country. This astounding literary marvel boasts several Metro Denver locations, but the newest store, in the renovated Lowenstein Theater on a burgeoning stretch of East Colfax, is the talk of the town. Grab a latte from the in-house java joint, plop down in one of the overstuffed chairs or sofas to wrap your hands around the latest bestseller, or attend a free book signing or author lecture from big-names like John Gray, Al Gore, Annie Leibovitz and Garrison Keillor
To see where your currency is conceived (sorry, no free handouts), follow the money trail to the Denver U.S. Mint. The free, 45-minute tours are led by knowledgeable guides and provide a fascinating look into the history of coinage. Both kids and adults will love getting up close and personal with the shiny pocket change that streams off the production lines. Tours are available Monday through Thursday (excluding Federal holidays). All visitors must be 7 years and older. See the mint's latest policies.
Denver Central Library has an impressive art gallery on the seventh floor. The library is best known, perhaps, for its Western History Collection, which covers the earliest explorations, Spanish land grants, Native American history, the gold rush era and the present day with a particular focus on the Rocky Mountain West.
Denver's festivals are fun and often completely free. You'll be exposed to only-in-Denver sights, sounds and tastes. Don't miss the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, held every summer, or the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival in Sloan's Lake Park in July. Learn more.
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts - home to the Newton Auditorium, Temple Buell Theatre, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Garner Galleria Theatre and a wealth of smaller stages - hosts several free performances throughout the year. There are rules, of course: No advanced reservations are accepted; seating is general admission; children under six-years-old are not allowed; and tickets are only available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the performance. Despite the regulations, it's worth braving the lines to experience some of the best theater in the country.
Carved from towering red rock monuments, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is one of the world's most renowned concert venues. When there's no concert, the free Visitor Center has a museum and Performers Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave in, around and over the colorful red rocks.
Nearby Boulder is the home of this dream spot for tea lovers - the world's most advanced tea production plant. Free hour-long tours, offered every day, will take you through the intricate processes behind Celestial Seasonings' delicious concoctions. Of course, free samples are offered at every turn.
Anyone with even the smallest sweet tooth will love this free tour, which gets you behind the scenes at Hammond's, a company that has been making candy in Denver since 1920. You'll come away with a newfound respect for the candy industry, plenty of free samples - and maybe a cavity or two.
For more than 20 years, the bandstand at City Park has played host to some of Denver's greatest live jazz performances - and they've all been completely free. During the summer months, bring out your beach chair or picnic blanket and get ready for a foot-tappin' good time.
Children can do it all at the Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus. They can scramble through a 3 ½ story climber, step inside a 6-foot bubble, sculpt a clay masterpiece or power a hot air balloon. There is always something new to explore! During Target Tuesdays, the first Tuesday of each month is free from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
There's nowhere else you're going to see a pair of inflatable, 16-foot-tall rubber bunnies, right? One of the Mile High City's most fascinating art locales, The Dikeou Collection is a private collection of contemporary art, with photography, drawings, sculptures, and installations by more than 25 artists from around the world. Free and open to the public, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by appointment.