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Must-See & Do Denver
Denver's 16th Street Mall (pictured) is always bustling.
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Denver's 16th Street Mall (pictured) is always bustling.
Denver has one of the most walkable downtowns in the nation. But you can save on shoe leather by riding the free shuttle bus on the 16th Street Mall – it makes everything in downtown easy to reach and stops at every corner. Renowned architect I.M. Pei designed the gray and pink granite pathway to resemble the pattern of a diamondback rattlesnake. This area is home to some of the most popular places to visit in Denver, like Denver Union Station and the LoDo Historic District. You can easily spend a full day sightseeing at these downtown Denver attractions. After dark, horse-drawn carriages clatter up and down the mall.
Victorian buildings house specialty boutiques and unique chef-driven restaurants with one-of-a-kind stores and distinctive fashion and exclusive offerings in this urban shopping and dining district.
Denver's happening historic district is filled with turn-of-the-century warehouses, now home to 90 brewpubs, sports bars, restaurants and rooftop cafes. While you're in Lower Downtown (LoDo), stop by Rockmount Ranch Wear for a snap-button Western shirt at the store where they were invented; or sip a handcrafted beer at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver's first brewpub opened by former Denver Mayor and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Denver Union Station has undergone a massive restoration that transformed the landmark into a transportation, dining, shopping and entertainment hub, and hotel. The historic, Beaux-Arts 1914 train terminal is now a foodie destination, with a dozen restaurants and bars, from farm-to-table favorite Mercantile dining + provision to the Terminal Bar, situated in the station's old ticket windows. A handful of local retailers includes a branch of the popular Tattered Cover Book Store. Union Station is also fulfilling its original role as a major ground transportation hub, serving as an Amtrak, light rail and shuttle bus station with direct rail service to Denver International Airport.
Denver Art Museum recently celebrated the reopening of the Martin Building (formerly known as the North Building). First opened in 1971, the fortress-like structure was designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti and Denver-based James Sudler Associates. The building has been fully renovated with expanded gallery space, plus stunning views of the city skyline and Rocky Mountains. The building showcases Asian art, Indigenous arts of North America, Northwest Coast and Alaska Native, European and American art before 1900, Latin American and art of the ancient Americas, photography, textile art and fashion, and Western American art collections. The museum's other striking building resembles a titanium crystal with peaks and shards designed by Daniel Libeskind.
Meow Wolf Denver's Convergence Station is an unforgettable and transformational experience for all ages. Discover immersive, mind-bending art across the four alien worlds of C Street, Eemia, Ossuary and Numina. Uncover the secrets within. Inside the bustling multiverse transit station known as Convergence Station lies HELLOFOOD, an oasis of combined culinary cultures serving QDOT for 2,500 years and counting! Here, visitors can recharge from their cosmic exploration, and find sustenance in tasty treats and bold brews from local vendors.
Clyfford Still, considered one of the most important painters of the 20th century, was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists. The Clyfford Still Museum, which opened at the end of 2011, was founded to promote the late artist's work and legacy. Still's estate – 2,400 artworks – has been sealed off from the public since 1980.
One of the best museums in Denver is the city itself. 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. See our guide to find out where you can see passionate works by local muralists like Pat Milbery and Detour.
The Colorado Convention Center is home to “I See What You Mean,” AKA the giant Blue Bear that peers into the Center’s interior. Created by Colorado-based artist Lawrence Argent, the curious blue bear stands 40 feet tall – you can walk under it and get a great photo.
The History Colorado Center, one of Denver’s newest cultural attractions, is designed to ignite imaginations of all ages about Colorado history through high-tech and hands-on exhibits, programs for children and adults, and special events.
Stand exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (one mile high!) on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol, then climb to the rotunda for a panorama of snowcapped peaks. It is against state law to block the view of the 200 named mountains visible from the dome. Free tours are available on weekdays.
Surrounded by towering Western buttes, the Colorado Railroad Museum combines a spectacular location with more than 100 narrow and standard gauge locomotives, cabooses and cars. Exhibits include a working Roundhouse, model railroads, photographs and artifacts, much of it housed in a replica of an 1880s-style depot. Train rides every Saturday on the Galloping Goose take guests on a third of mile loop of track, while "Steam ups" and special events including "A Day Out With Thomas" occur throughout the year.
Welcome to the Wild West! Buffalo Bill Cody's exciting story as Pony Express rider, army scout, buffalo hunter and showman comes to life at the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave, high atop Lookout Mountain. 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.
Denver was founded at Confluence Park as a gold mining camp in 1858. Today, the river park is the heart of Denver's bike trail network, and is surrounded by attractions. Ride the Platte River Trolley to the Downtown Aquarium to see stingrays and sharks and The Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, with dozens of interactive "playscapes" for younger kids; eat and drink in the nearby neighborhoods of Riverfront, LoHi and Highlands. Also, see our guide on how to explore the South Platte River by bike.
City Park, Denver's largest park, has several lakes, spectacular mountain views, a public golf course, flower gardens and a hiking/jogging trail that is exactly one mile high. It's also where you'll find Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (DMNS).
Known locally as Wash Park, it's consistently picked by residents as their favorite. The long, rectangular park has two lakes, paddle boat rentals, bike rentals, shade trees, a two-mile jogging path, mountain views and a huge area for volleyball tournaments, but it's the gardens that people like the best. Dogs on leashes are welcome and on most days there are almost as many canines as humans. See our guide for exploring Wash Park.
The only downtown theme park in America is really two parks in one: on one side of Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, experience 53 thrill rides, including looping roller coasters; on the other side, cool off in a wet 'n' wild water park with tubes waterslides and wave pools. The park is open from early May to early November.
From stunning prehistoric fossils to an exploration of outer space, The Denver Museum of Nature & Science never fails to astound and amaze with realistic visions of the past, present and future. The Gates Planetarium is one of the most sophisticated planetariums in the country, giving visitors unparalleled insight into the workings of the cosmos, and the Phipps IMAX Theater features brilliantly filmed IMAX entertainment.
Lions and tigers and bears – and so much more, on lovely grounds make the Denver Zoo one of the most popular zoos in America. Go eyeball-to-eyeball with a gorilla in Primate Panorama or an Amur tiger at The Edge. Predator Ridge recreates the plains of Africa with a pride of lions, while Tropical Discovery is a rainforest teeming with crocodiles and Gila monsters.
Denver Botanic Gardens, a 23-acre oasis in the middle of the city, has 45 different gardens (some 33,000 plants), as well as one of the nation's top 10 conservatories. Relax in the Japanese Garden, climb through the Rock Alpine Garden and explore the new Mordecai Children's Garden. The Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory is the largest single structure tropical conservatory in the U.S., including banyan tree roots and cloud forest orchids.
"Behind the Seams" tours of Coors Field are available during the offseason and provide a behind-the-scenes look at one of the premier ballparks in Major League Baseball. All tours begin at Gate D (20th & Blake Street). Tours last 75-80 minutes and cover a distance of about one mile. All tours are accessible for guests with disabilities. Also, don't miss the Sandlot, a brewery in Coors Field that is open year-round.
Right next door to Coors Field is McGregor Square, which shouldn't be missed by sports fans. It's comprised of three towers that include The Rally Hotel and the Milepost Zero food hall surrounding a 17,000-square-foot plaza that hosts year-round events like concerts, festivals and movie nights. The plaza has a stadium-sized LED screen. Catch a game at Tom’s Watch Bar, get a bite to eat at Carmine's or browse the books at Tattered Cover Book Store.
Come see the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, a free museum honoring Colorado sports legends. Open Thursday-Saturday (summer Monday-Saturday) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Also, visit Empower Field at Mile High. Tours begin each half-hour and are 75 minutes in length. This is your chance to see the 'back of the house" where the Broncos play.
Come to Ball Arena for an All-Access VIP Tour! See where the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Colorado Mammoth call home, plus have backstage access to where the big names in music have performed. Learn about how the venue converts from hockey ice to basketball court and how it successfully hosts more than 225 different events each year.
Recognized as one of the finest baseball collections in the world. Highlights at the National Ballpark Museum include a tribute to Colorado baseball history, seats from the classic ballparks, one-of-a-kind baseball artifacts, autographed jerseys, baseballs, uniforms and bats. Take a personalized tour led by Curator Bruce Hellerstein.
More than 500 department stores, boutiques, galleries, spas, and one-of-a-kind shops grace this browsing paradise – the largest concentration of stores between St. Louis and San Francisco. Cherry Creek Shopping Center is an ultra-upscale mall with Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Tiffany's, while across 1st Ave., Cherry Creek North offers tree-lined streets with cafes, spas and galleries amidst fountains and public art.
Golden, Colorado's first capital, celebrates its Old West history and mountain location with a trendy downtown filled with galleries and recreation shops. Sip a beer at an outdoor café, while kayakers float by on fast rushing Clear Creek.
Carved from towering red rock monuments, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is one of the world's most renowned concert venues and has hosted everyone from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen. Listening to a concert here is on the "bucket list" of every true music fan. When there's no concert, the Visitor Center has a free museum and Performers' Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave in, around and over the colorful red rocks.
"Taste the Rockies!" Coors Brewery, the world's largest brewing site still uses the same Rocky Mountain spring water that Adolph Coors discovered in 1873. Self-guided tours show every step in the brewing process and end with free samples for those over 21.
These two old gold mining towns (once known as the "Richest Square Mile on Earth") have come alive with casino gambling. Central City and Black Hawk offer two dozen casinos rock 24-7 with 10,000 slot machines, poker, blackjack, roulette and craps. The surrounding hills are covered with abandoned gold mines, Victorian buildings and Old West history. Every summer, the Central City Opera Association hosts a season of world-class opera.
Nestled in a steep mountain valley, Georgetown is one of Colorado's most elegant mining towns with 200 Victorian buildings. Ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad over a 100-foot high trestle to neighboring Silver Plume, tour historic homes and shop on the quaint Main Street that has been used in films featuring Clint Eastwood and John Denver.
From I-70 take Exit 240 and then Colorado Hwy. 103 to Echo Lake
Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America, climbs 9,000 feet from Denver, passing through five life zones en route to the 14,264-foot high summit. This is one of Colorado's 54 fourteeners (peaks that climb to 14,000 feet and above), and one of only two in the nation that you can drive up. Stop at Echo Lake along the way for hiking trails, fishing, picnic tables and an unusual eight-sided log cabin restaurant. At timberline, Denver Botanic Gardens maintains a trail that winds through wildflowers. Due to snow, the Mount Blue Sky Highway is generally open to the top only between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Home to the University of Colorado, Boulder has been described as the "the city nestled between the mountains and reality." A recent study pegged it as the "happiest" city in America. You'll find out why when you stroll past the shops, cafes and street performers on the Pearl Street Mall, or take a hike on the city's 200 miles of trails. Nearby attractions include the National Center for Atmospheric Research with a museum on weather and global warming, and towering Eldorado Canyon State Park, one of the most famous technical climbing centers in America.
71 miles west of Denver on Highway 36
Colorado's No. 1 attraction, Rocky Mountain National Park, offers an unforgettable trip into the heart of the Rocky Mountains. More than 350 miles of trails meander to valleys of wildflowers, thundering waterfalls, high alpine lakes and craggy, snowcapped peaks. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous highway in the world with panoramic views in all directions. See elk, moose and bighorn sheep, while hawks and eagles circle overhead. National Geographic named Rocky Mountain National Park one of the top trips in the world in 2014. At the entrance to the park, the historic resort village of Estes Park offers shopping and dining.