Colorado is full of fantastic cities to visit. From Colorado Springs to Grand Junction, you’ll find plenty to keep you entertained across the state. However, Denver definitely takes the cake. As the capital of Colorado, Denver has the best attractions and activities for every type of traveler. Its huge personality and the sheer number of things to do keep it head and shoulders above Colorado’s other cities.
Top Things to do in Denver
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You can stroll past swanky boutique stores in Downtown Denver, book a tasting session at one of the city’s craft breweries, or explore some of the Denver museums. Plus, if you want to escape to nature at some point, the Rocky Mountains are just an hour and a half’s drive away.
Denver attractions are plentiful, so we’ve compiled a complete guide to help you select the best things to do in Denver. These are the best things to add to your Denver itinerary, from city center activities to incredible day trips.
1. See Colorado State Capitol
The State Capitol is the center of the state’s political history and power. Like visiting Westminster in London, you shouldn’t miss stopping by the Capitol building.
Located at the top of Capitol Hill amidst a series of parks, Colorado State Capitol is also beautiful to look at. The architecture is designed to mimic the State Capitol in Washington DC, and the building is cut from eye-catching white granite. As a fancy finish, a gold dome was added to the building in 1908 to commemorate the gold rush. Interestingly, the State Capitol steps are also engraved with Denver’s elevation – creating the nickname ‘mile-high city’ as the thirteenth step is a mile above sea level.
Visitors can picnic outside and admire the building’s exterior. Alternatively, you can head inside for a self-guided tour.
2. Walk around Larimer Square
Denver’s heritage buildings are mostly located in Larimer Square. The square district has lots of history and is a great place to take a walking tour or snap some cool photos. In recent years, the district has been revamped with independent indie shops, bars, and restaurants.
Whether you want to go window shopping or purchase some Denver souvenirs, Larimer Square has a fantastic atmosphere. If you enjoy city walks, this district is the perfect place to spend an hour or two.
The square is linked to Downtown Denver by Larimer Street, which is lined with nightlife venues and restaurants. We suggest walking back via Larimer Street. Why not grab something to eat at the square and then stop for a drink on the way back home?
3. Watch a show at Denver Performing Arts Complex
Love a good show? We do too. The Denver Performing Arts Complex is the best place to watch a performance in Denver, be it opera or broadway.
The complex is split into different venues, including Ellie Caulkins Opera House, The Buell Theatre, and Boettcher Concert Hall. You can choose which venue to attend based on personal preference or last-minute availability, making visiting the complex one of the most flexible things to do in Denver.
The complex is a sight to behold and spread over twelve acres with ten different performance spaces. The building has an overarching glass-domed roof, creating a dramatic atmosphere and giving evening visitors a stunning view of the night sky.
As we said, you can purchase tickets to performances on a last-minute basis. This is an excellent option if you want evening entertainment in Denver. However, we’d recommend that you book in advance if you really want to attend a performance. Tickets sell fast, so don’t window shop and delay if you want to lock in a show for your Denver itinerary.
4. Wander through Denver Botanic Gardens
Fancy an experience in nature but a bit closer to Denver’s center? Denver Botanic Gardens are one of the best things to do in Denver to get up close to nature.
At twenty-four acres in size, you’ll need at least half a day to visit the Botanic Gardens. There is a mix of outdoor and indoor spaces, with a conservatory, natural meadow, and specialized areas like a traditional Japanese garden. The Botanic Gardens also runs seasonal events like the Lavender Festival and music concerts in summer. It is worth checking the Botanic Gardens event schedule to see if any special displays coincide with your visit to Denver.
To explore the Botanic Gardens, you can head out independently or take a guided tour. We’d recommend taking a guided tour if you are knowledgeable about botany and would like the opportunity to deepen your existing understanding of plant life. It can be helpful to to have someone with you to answer immediate questions that pop into your head. Otherwise, walk the gardens independently, as you’ll be able to decide your own pace and relax.
5. Visit Denver Art Museum
Denver Art Museum is a must-visit for any art enthusiast or creative. The museum was established in 1893 and boasts huge art collections from across the centuries. You might see art exhibits from the ancient Americas or the latest, most trending contemporary art. Denver’s Art Museum knows when to move with the times and when to preserve historical pieces.
The Art Museum is well-combined with a visit to the Colorado State Capitol. Both are located in the Civic Center. However, allow at least two hours to visit the museum first, as it is spread across multiple buildings and floors. If you want value for money, the Art Museum certainly delivers. It is one of the largest collections in the USA.
6. Relax at Denver Public Library
Speaking of educational things to do in Denver, the Denver Public Library is a great rainy day activity. The library is located in Downtown Denver, so it is easily accessed on foot from most other attractions.
The library has over two million items in its collection, including an impressively expansive section on Western History and Genealogy. You can browse the shelves and curl up with a book on the comfy seating. Alternatively, attend one of the many one-off events that the library runs. You can check the official website to see if the event schedule has anything that sparks your interest.
As a top tip, the Denver Public Library has a library card that gives you free access to lots of Denver’s museums. If you are staying in Denver for a while, you may wish to sign up for a library card so that you can borrow books and access free attractions.
7. Take a day trip to the Rocky Mountains
A trip to Colorado would not be complete without a day trip to the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies are just an hour and a half drive from Denver, and you’ll have views of the distant mountain range from most areas of the city.
Aside from filling your lungs with delicious Rockies air, there are loads of things to do in the mountains. The Rockies are known for their hiking trails and lookout points. If you love a challenge, Lookout Mountain is a great peak to scale and is lesser-known, so a quieter hike. You are rewarded with expansive views over the National Park at the summit, and, hopefully, you should have the summit to yourself.
Hiking enthusiasts should allocate at least two days to experience the National Park’s hiking trails. While there are lots of hiking trails in Colorado, the Rockies really take the win for outdoor activities and scenic hiking.
8. Spend time along the South Platte River
Sometimes, a day on the river is a much-needed form of self-care. Whether you like swimming, fishing, or kayaking, the South Platte River makes a great activity destination in Denver.
We suggest walking a section of the South Platte River Trail. The path follows the river and is surrounded by lush greenery and riverside wildlife. If fishing sounds good, the Overland Pond Park is a popular fishing spot that you can reach on the trail. The path crosses over a little footbridge and reaches a serene pond where you can relax and cast away.
Further up the river, Denver Outdoor Adventure Company rents kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. You can always rent the water equipment from them if you don’t have any. This way, you can explore the river from the water rather than walk the trail.
9. Visit the Wings and Over The Rockies Air and Space Museum
Any budding astronauts or space enthusiasts, listen up. The museum is built on the old Lowry Air Force Base, which served the USA until 1994. The old base serves a new purpose, educating visitors on US space history, aircraft, and the astronaut lifestyle.
Visitors can view real aircraft up close, enter the virtual reality lounge for a simulator experience, and take in fantastic permanent and temporary exhibitions. The museum has a good balance of kinetic, auditory, and visual learning opportunities – which keeps every visitor engaged, no matter their learning preference.
This museum is easily one of the best things to do in Denver, and we’d highly recommend visiting.
10. Explore the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum
Prefer your sports to your outer space? Denver can cater to that too. The Sports Hall of Fame Museum is in Mile High Stadium, the home ground of the Denver Broncos.
Those on a budget will also be pleased to know that the museum is free to enter – so there is no breaking your budget to experience the hall of fame. The museum pays respects to all the greatest sportsmen and women in Colorado’s history, with permanent and temporary exhibits to take in. From baseball star Bob Gebhard to swimmer Erin Popovich, you’ll realize just how many US sporting elites Colorado has had over the years.
A visit to the Sports Hall Museum is best combined with a tour of the Mile High Stadium. You can book the tour online in advance, although there may be some last-minute spots available on the day.
11. Tour the Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Okay, we may have already covered the Rockies as one of Denver’s best day trips. But the Mount Evans scenic byway stands as an attraction in its own right.
For a road trip experience on a day trip time allowance, driving the Mount Evans scenic byway is a great day out. The route starts at Idaho Springs and covers twenty-eight miles to reach Mount Evan in the Rockies. You’ll pass alpine meadows and lakes such as Echo Lake Park. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife like marmots and mountain goats, as you’ll be cutting through some of Colorado’s most well-populated animal territories.
You can purchase a scenic byway tour or drive the route yourself. If you can, we’d recommend renting a car so that you can choose your own stops. Red Rocks Park, Walter Pesman Alpine Garden, and Buffalo Bill’s Grave are the best stops. But, honestly, you’ll be pulling over regularly to stop, appreciate, and photograph views.
12. Unwind in City Park
We’ve covered a lot of attractions situated in the Denver City Park. You’ll find the Museum of Nature and Science and Denver Zoo in the City Park, but it is worth visiting just to explore on foot.
Denver City Park is 330 acres in size and deserves at least half a day in your itinerary. You’ll find public tennis courts, running tracks, duck ponds, and a boat house. If you want the chance to cherish some inner-city green space, City Park is a great place to start. It is the perfect place to sunbathe with a book, get some exercise in, and just relax in nature. Watch a game at the
The best part about City Park is that it is located just east of Downtown Denver. The proximity to the Downtown area means that you can easily squeeze in a visit, and it fits in well with visiting other popular attractions. And, if you are visiting the zoo or museum at City Park, make sure to save a few hours to enjoy the park as well.
13. Explore Washington Park
One of the best things to do in Denver is to relax in one of the city’s parks, and Washington Park is the best of the best.
Visitors can enjoy an impressive range of recreational facilities. From tennis courts to lakes and rollerblade courts, the park has a lot of outdoor activities to keep you entertained for free. On a rainy day in Denver, you have the Recreation Center to visit. Located in the middle of the park, the center has indoor pools and gym facilities – perfect for staying active but avoiding the wet weather.
The park is over 165 acres in size, so allow at least a few hours to visit but ideally, plan a day here. The park is perfect for letting children run off steam and families spend outdoor time together. In summer, Washington Park gets particularly popular with sunbathers and picnickers.
14. Visit the Denver Museum of Nature Science
To learn about natural history in Denver, look no further than the Museum of Nature and Science. The museum has a mixture of temporary and permanent exhibitions – you could find yourself viewing a wildlife exhibit one minute and then looking at Egyptian mummies the next.
The museum explores everything related to nature and science, including health sciences and outer space. For a thought-provoking and educational day out, the museum is one of the best things to do in Denver. It is also extremely popular on a rainy day, and families will especially appreciate the chance to let children run off steam, stay dry, and learn new things.
We recommend visiting the Egyptian Mummies, Expedition Health, and Prehistoric Life exhibitions. Watching a film at the Imax or visiting the Planetarium is also a highlight of any museum trip and a great way to visualize the information you’ve learned.
15. Learn about conservation at Denver Zoo
Are museums and botany not really your thing? You should meet some animals instead. Visiting Denver Zoo is one of the best things to do in Denver for animal lovers.
Denver Zoo is located in City Park and is very easy to access on foot or by public transport. The zoo is also a fantastic advocate of animal conservation and a good place to visit to deepen your understanding of the animal kingdom. Denver Zoo is affiliated with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and participates in programs like the Species Survival Plan. A massive bonus of visiting Denver Zoo is that you can discover lots of educational information and spot beautiful animals.
Of course, meeting the animals is all part of the fun as well. Denver Zoo has resident penguins, lions, tigers, elephants, rhinos, and even orangutans. Whether you are an adult or child, seeing such amazing animals face to face is a special experience.
16. See what’s on at the Pepsi Center
The Pepsi Center is an esteemed sporting and music event venue in Denver. You might be watching the National Lacrosse League final one night and Machine Gun Kelly performing the next. The center offers a diverse and exciting entertainment schedule.
Check what events coincide with your Denver trip ahead of time, as most admission tickets sell out quickly after being released. Still, it is worth checking for last-minute availabilities if you’ve accidentally left it late.
The Pepsi Center is relatively central and easy to access from Downtown and Central Denver. It is also situated right next to Elitch Gardens, which is a good attraction combination (more on Elitch Gardens later). If you want to make your trip to Denver even more memorable, we suggest definitely incorporating a Pepsi Center event into your itinerary.
17. Visit the Denver Firefighters Museum
When was the last time you sat down and learned about firefighting history? Most people never have.
If you want one of the most unusual educational things to do in Denver, this museum is one for your itinerary. Denver Firefighters Museum is passionate about documenting and celebrating Denver’s firefighting history and promoting fire safety. You’ll find photographs, artifacts, and important historical documents on display across the museum. The museum is also situated in the old Denver firehouse, which was built in 1909.
You don’t need to book and can pay for your ticket upon arrival. Of course, firefighters and ex-firefighters receive an entrance ticket discount.
18. Watch a baseball game at Coors Field
One of the most fun things to do in Denver for sports fans is to watch a baseball game at Coors Field. Coors Field is the home ground of the Colorado Rockies and a hugely famous sporting ground in Colorado.
Most games last for just over three hours – giving you plenty of chance to grab a beer, relax, and enjoy experiencing baseball in Denver. Be prepared for passionate fans and a fiercely competitive atmosphere.
Admission tickets sell out fast in advance, so book ahead to avoid disappointment. If you miss out on watching a game, you should at least take a stadium tour. The grounds are impressive to walk around, and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at the action.
19. Visit the Molly Brown House Museum
Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown is a fantastic figure in history. Molly famously survived the sinking of the Titanic ship in 1912 and was a tireless activist in the aftermath of the disaster. Molly helped row the lifeboat to safety through the night and, on her arrival in the US, raising money to help support struggling survivors.
Now, you can discover her story through displays of artifacts, photos, and documents. There are also several exclusive interviews that you can read. An inspiring and emotional experience, the Molly Brown House Museum is one of the most memorable things to do in Denver. A fascinating humanitarian with a huge story, Molly is one of Denver’s most interesting historical figures. You should allow at least an hour or two to appreciate the museum entirely.
20. Spend a day at Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park
Who doesn’t love a good amusement park? As promised, we’ve got a lot to tell you about Elitch Gardens.
Elitch Gardens is the best amusement park in Denver and has been running for over 130 years. The park features a joined rollercoaster park and waterpark – perfect in summer when you want to cool off after queueing for the big rides. The amusement park has a mixture of family-friendly and adult rides. Like Brain Drain and the Tower of Doom, some require particularly steely nerves. However, like the Ferris Wheel and Carousel, others are perfect regardless of age and confidence.
In the adjoining waterpark, you’ll find slides galore. Whether you want a freefall thrill slide or a family-friendly lazy river, there are lots of ride choices. We’d recommend spending a full day at Elitch Gardens, especially as you have the theme park and water park to enjoy.
21. Visit Stanley Marketplace
If you love a good market morning, visiting Stanley Marketplace is one of the best things to do in Denver.
Stanley Marketplace actually started up as a beer hall venture. However, years later, it has become much, much more. You’ll find over fifty vendors under the covered market – selling everything from food and drink to handicraft products. The market even runs events like movie nights and yoga sessions.
Gone are the dreams of a beer hall; Stanley Marketplace is a thriving community spot. People often visit a market to get a feel of a new place. To embrace Denver and its community, Stanley Marketplace is a great place to start.
22. Play a round of golf at South Broadway Country Club
South Broadway is Denver’s first indoor golf course. Sure, you could venture out to Predator Ridge of one of the city’s other standard golf courses – but where is the fun in that? South Broadway is a fun, novel way to enjoy some golf while on holiday in Denver.
The club uses Trackman simulator technology to emulate a real game. Plus, you can play virtually on courses worldwide, including St Andrews. While you play, you can grab a cocktail or beer from the bar. Indoor golf is relaxing, indulgent, and sociable. It is also not weather dependent, so you can be hitting the golfing green virtually rain or shine.
We’d recommend South Broadway for golfing enthusiasts and newbies. The simulator makes the experience fun for everybody.
23. Spend time at the Downtown Aquarium
An aquarium meets restaurant in Downtown Denver, the Downtown Aquarium has all the innovative coolness you’d expect from one of Denver’s downtown attractions.
The vast complex includes a dining area, aquarium, and entertainment precinct. Visitors can awe at the shark tank, get up-close and personal at the stingray touch tank, or grab a meal to remember at the Aquarium Restaurant. The Aquarium Restaurant is our number one recommendation when visiting, as you dine with floor-to-ceiling aquarium views. You can watch the fish swim as you eat and enjoy the otherworldly underwater lighting.
If you weren’t sold already, the Downtown Aquarium also has mermaids. The ‘mystic mermaids’ put on underwater shows to teach about the importance of caring for nature while interacting with incredible animals like nurse sharks and sea turtles. The mermaids make visiting the aquarium a magical experience for families with young children.
24. Visit the Children’s Museum
Want a special experience for your child? The Denver Children’s Museum is designed to educate and inspire little minds with the catchphrase ‘kid-powered learning’.
No adults are allowed in the Children’s Museum unless accompanied by a child (and vice versa). The atmosphere is designed to be wholly kid-friendly and prioritizes peer social times and engaging educational opportunities.
You’ll find an art studio, adventure forest, fire station, and many more exhibits inside. The children’s museum offers small world, discovery, outdoor, and creative exhibits to meet all the visiting children’s educational needs.
For new parents, it can be reassuring to know that there are designated nursing and changing facilities throughout the museum. There is a café on-site for you and your child to refuel and refresh. You can even drop by the gift shop as you leave to treat them to a toy as a souvenir.
How to get to Denver?
But, first things first, how do you get to Denver? The best way to get to Denver is to fly, as Denver International Airport is conveniently located in the city’s outer suburbs.
While Denver International Airport runs flights worldwide, it also has domestic services. You can reach Denver from most major US cities, including Los Angeles, Austin, and even Honolulu. Flying is the most convenient way to get to Denver if you are traveling from abroad, out of state, or even just from the other side of Colorado.
Of course, you may wish to road trip your way to Denver. In this case, we’d recommend stopping off in smaller cities like Canon City and towns like Grand Lake. You could even book an overnight cabin stay before hitting the city life.
Getting around Denver
Getting around Denver is easy. As a tourist, all of the fun things to do in Denver are in the city center or Downtown, so you can get away with walking everywhere if you want to.
Otherwise, you can catch the light rail or bus between suburbs. If you want to splash out, there are always many taxis on standby, plus a few horses and carriages for a really memorable transportation experience.
Union Station is the transport hub in Downtown Denver. So, if you want to catch transport into the center, Union Station is where you should set your destination.
The best time to visit Denver
Generally, the best time to visit Denver is in spring or fall. April, May, September, and October are shoulder seasons, with fewer tourists and decent weather.
Colorado is famous for its winter activities, but, unfortunately, everyone knows it. Winter in Denver is busy and more expensive, as everyone rushes to enjoy what Denver offers. For a quiet break, plan a visit in spring or fall.
Where to stay in Denver
- Luxury: Clayton Members Club & Hotel. Booking.com / TripAdvisor
- Mid-range: The Slate Denver – Booking.com / TripAdvisor
- Budget: 11th Avenue Hostel – Booking.com / TripAdvisor
These are just a few suggestions. Make sure to check out our full guide on Where to Stay in Denver – Best Neighborhoods and areas for 2022 for a full breakdown of all the top areas to base yourself.
We hope you have an incredible stay in Denver, aka the mile-high city. Denver is packed with things to do and see, so you shouldn’t have any issue creating a perfect itinerary. The Colorado capital will keep you well-cared for and suitably entertained.