Originally founded in 1858 as a gold mining camp, Denver has since become one of the most popular residential and tourist cities in the United States. In this post I’ve compiled a list of the best things to see and do in Denver to help you plan the best trip possible.
Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains exactly one mile above sea level (hence its nickname as The Mile High City), Denver boasts one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes along with all of the metropolitan perks one could wish for when it comes to museums, event spaces, sports fields, shops, and infinite dining possibilities.
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25 Best Things To Do in Denver
1. Take A Day Hike
Thanks to its idyllic location between the Rocky Mountains to the west and High Plains to the east, Denver is the ideal city for day hiking.
The Golden and Boulder trails, Lookout Mountain loop, and Eldorado Canyon State Park climbing routes are all popular excursions to do in Denver
They are so popular thanks to the relative ease of transportation to and from destinations, once-in-a-lifetime wildlife spotting, and plenty of watering holes and welcoming eateries in which to stop, relax, and replenish.
2. Explore The Denver Art Museum
Although the Denver Art Museum (or DAM) proudly spotlights its Rocky Mountain roots, there are nonetheless over 70,000 pieces from around the world and multiple centuries on display at the museum’s civic center location.
From ancient South American artifacts to some of Monet’s most celebrated impressionistic works, as well as an ongoing roster of updated exhibitions, special events, and workshops, the DAM is the perfect place to find your feet while looking for things to do in Denver.
Don’t worry if you work up an appetite while strolling the museum’s vast collection, as the on-site Ponti and Café Gio eateries offer a variety of delicious, award-winning fare.
3. Dine Out At Denver’s Oldest Restaurant
Opened in 1893 by Henry H. “Shorty Scout” Zietz, one of the most colorful and beloved figures of the Old West, Buckhorn Exchange is Denver’s oldest restaurant and an absolute must for history lovers and foodies alike.
Once patronized by the likes of US presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, along with a number of Hollywood legends and famed public figures, Buckhorn Exchange continues to attract hungry diners from around the world.
Enjoy its easy atmosphere and mouth watering menu which includes Rocky Mountain oysters, steaks, ribs, game delicacies, and even grilled rattlesnake. You will not regret it.
4. Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Kids aren’t the only target audience at Denver’s Museum of Nature & Science.
Visitors of all ages are sure to have a blast exploring and interacting with dinosaur skeletons and their life-size remodeled counterparts, mummies, geological treasures and natural curiosities, dazzling planetarium shows, and even a 3D IMAX theater.
Secret Tip: look for the hidden elves in the wall art!
The museum is conveniently located beside City Park, home of the Denver Zoo, making it a worthy addition to the perfect outing.
5. Step Back In Time At Union Station
First opened in 1881, Denver’s Union Station was initially designed as a connecting hub for the region’s major train lines. Although a fire destroyed much of the station in 1894, by 1914 the newly rebuilt (and current) Union Station was fully operational once again.
Paying a visit to Union Station is one of the most popular things to do in Denver, with guided visitor tours available daily and an appealing collection of shops, cafes, and chef-owned restaurants to enjoy after.
6. Sip A Beer At One Of Denver’s Famous Craft Breweries
Denver was one of the earliest American cities to put craft brewing on the map, and today there’s no shortage of specialty brews to offer you a true taste of Denver.
From classic lagers and stouts to innovative new ales, there’s something for every traveler while sipping your way through notable brewing neighborhoods RiNo, Five Points, and Ballpark.
If you find yourself in need of refreshment midway through your day out and about in Denver, pop over to one of the city’s many modern and heritage breweries to cool off the Rocky Mountain way. Organized craft beer tours are available.
7. Stroll Through Trendy SoBo
This stretch of South Broadway has long been nicknamed Antique Row for its Portobello-esque array of vendors dealing everything from fine Victorian furnishings to folk art.
Today the district known as SoBo is a lively setting of vintage boutiques, trendy bars, cafes, and restaurants, music shops, and dispensaries. If you’re looking for the “local” thing to do in Denver, SoBo is a surefire bet.
8. Promenade The Denver Botanical Gardens
One of the loveliest sights to see in Denver, the Botanical Gardens cover over twenty acres of land, with additional indoor space devoted to all things horticultural.
Discover thousands of flower and plant species from around the globe along with their unique habitats, from lush rainforests to arid deserts.
The museum also regularly hosts special art and plant exhibitions, gardening classes, and children’s activities..
Read also: Where to stay in Denver
9. MCA Denver
First founded in 1996, the MCA moved to its permanent 27,000 square foot space in 2007 and now boasts five galleries, a library, cafe, and shop.
If you’re a fan of provocative and thought-provoking work that inspires “understanding and dialog about the art of our time,” the MCA is sure to be one of the most interesting things you do in Denver.
10. Visit The Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Arts
The Kirkland Museum is dedicated to the decorative arts of the late 19th century and 20th century, with exhibits featuring housewares from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, European objets d’art, and Victorian salon-style galleries.
Keep in mind that that museum does not permit entrance for children under 13, so make sure to plan accordingly.
11. Catch A Concert At Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater
The natural sandstone structure of Red Rocks has rendered it a much-loved Denver venue since 1941, with Irish mega-band U2 putting it on the global map with their filmed 1983 performance.
Today the venue hosts bands and musical acts from around the world, along with year-round events and festivals. Even if you don’t plan to take in a show during your stay in Denver, it’s worth checking out the venue space for the breathtaking scenery alone.
If you don’t have a car, join this Foothills Explorer Tour From Denver.
12. Visit Empower Field At Mile High
Home of the Denver Broncos, Empower Field is another sports stop visitors of all interests won’t want to miss.
Whether it’s tailgating on the stadium’s south side or taking a guided tour of the connecting Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum, Empower Field is easily one of the funnest things to do in Denver.
13. Drop In At The Molly Brown House
The home of “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown, made famous for her courageous deeds during the ill-fated sinking of the Titanic in 1912, was thankfully saved from demolition in 1970 and is now one of Denver’s most prominent gems.
Guests can take a guided or self-guided tour of Molly Brown’s elegant Victorian mansion, learn about the trailblazing entrepreneur and activist’s life, and possibly catch one of the special events hosted by the Molly Brown House each year.
These events include garden parties, holiday teas, performances, and campy Gothic horror tours.
14. Visit Coors Field
The 76-acre Coors field is a must-see for sports fans, with the stunning natural backdrop of the Rocky Mountains an added plus for visitors of all ages and interests.
Catch a baseball game, sample Denver’s famous Rocky Mountain oysters, down a cold beer from the onsite Sandlot brewery, and spot the famous row of purple seats marking the Mile High city’s above-sea elevation.
15. Tour The Denver Mint
You don’t have to be an avid coin collector to enjoy the Denver Mint, one of the four national mints. Here visitors can explore the behind-the-scenes mechanics of coin minting by touring the production facilities, with additional interactive videos and 3D models, as well as a top-tier shop.
16. Take In A Show At The Denver Performing Arts Complex
One of the largest multi-venue performance centers in the world, the Denver Performing Arts Complex hosts a multitude of year-round events and performances, from classical and ballet recitals to stadium-size rock concerts, with additional warmer season events taking place in the outdoor Sculpture Park.
17. Play Like A Kid At The Children’s Museum of Denver
Designed for children aged 10 and under (but don’t let that deter you!)The Denver Children’s Museum features over a dozen differently-themed playscapes, along with an interactive fire department, building assembly line, and pint-sized veterinary clinic.
Perfect for young families and the whimsical-minded, the Children’s Museum is one of the more low-key but no less satisfying things to do in Denver.
18. Visit The Denver Zoo
The 80-acre zoological garden that is the Denver Zoo was founded in 1896 and is the most popular paid attraction in the Denver metropolitan area to date.
Frequently cited as one of the most ethical zoos in the world, the Denver Zoo has taken great pains to educate the public on the nearly 4,000 animals and 750 species housed within, with talks, exhibitions, and hands-on activities hosted year-round.
Make sure to set aside at least an afternoon to fully explore and enjoy the zoo’s range of habitats and facilities.
Don´t miss the Toyota Elephant Passage, Harmony Hill grizzly bear exhibit, and aquarium featuring an 18,000-gallon saltwater pool where guests can feed and pet non-aggressive stingrays, sharks, and various aquatic life.
19. Picnic Atop The Graves Of Cheesman Park
For the more macabre at heart, there’s no better picnicking spot than Cheesman Park.
Covering nearly 320 acres of unclaimed graves dating back to 1858, the “Old Boneyard” was emptied of much (but not all) of its bodies in the 1890s when the city repurposed the land.
Needless to say the park is rich with urban folklore and purported hauntings, though by day the space is one of Denver’s most peaceful spots to stroll and relax.
20. Mile High Comics Megastore
This eye-popping warehouse is the largest comic book store in the United States, with plenty of media and pop culture-related toys, memorabilia, and displays to astonish even the hardest to please.
Boasting over 10 million comics from around the world and multiple eras, the megastore also boasts a designated space for conventions, guest panels, talks, and special exhibitions.
21. Drive The Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Of all the sights to see in Denver, you won’t catch a more dramatic view than along the Mount Evans Byway.
Covering the route between Idaho Springs and Colorado’s 14th-tallest peak, the scenic Byway may not be for those fearful of heights or steep inclines but is absolutely worth it if you can overcome your nerves.
The Mount Evans drive will take you through the stunning natural habitats of the region’s elk and bighorn sheep, bristlecone pine forests, and picturesque alpine lakes and meadows, with plenty of options for hiking, picnicking, and fishing.
22. Visit Forney Transportation Museum
One of the largest transportation museums in America, the Forney Museum features an extraordinary collection of over 600 century-spanning transportation artifacts including automobiles, motorcycles, fire engines, steam locomotives, aircraft, coaches, bicycles, and much more.
23. Fifty-Two 80’s
Whether you’re nostalgic for the 1980s or down for a truly unique shopping experience, you won’t want to skip a visit to Fifty-Two 80’s, Denver’s super rad shop dedicated to the fashion, memorabilia, toys and collectibles of the iconic 80s.
As much a museum as a shopping oasis, visitors are sure to get a kick out of this one-of-a-kind store.
24. Visit History Colorado Center
For visitors looking to immerse themselves in the history of Colorado, look no further than the History Colorado Center. It features state-of-the-art interactive and digital exhibitions.
The museum invites prospective visitors to discover what it felt like to descend a Silverton mineshaft, how early 20th century African-American Coloradans forged a mountain haven of their own in the Lincoln Hills Resort, how a 1915 wooden ski jump inspired a generation of Olympic athletes hailing from Steamboat Springs, and so much more.
25. Immerse Yourself In The Old West At The American Museum of Western Art
Devotees of the Old American West will definitely want to pay a visit to the Denver Museum of Western Art, founded in 2010 to house the formerly private Anschutz Collection.
The museum is renowned for its invaluable collection of early American paintings from the Hudson River and Rocky Mountain Schools, as well as examples of American naturalism, expressionism, and cubism.