Colorado is one state that we had always dreamt of visiting but never seemed to find the right opportunity to go. That was, at least, until a friend of ours reached and said he wanted to go celebrate his birthday somewhere new. We tossed around many different places, but ultimately we landed on visiting Denver and some of the surrounding areas for a hiking-based trip. Needless to say, we had a great time!
From some of the most stunning views we’ve ever seen in the United States to some of the most iconic breweries in the country, to some really trendy restaurants and cafes to a lot of American history, Denver and its surrounding area have a lot to see and do.
Best Things To Do In Denver
Denver is one of the most interesting cities I have visited in the United States. I say this, because there are a lot of really diverse and cool things to do in Denver, but the city itself did not appeal to me at all. This is one of the first places I have been in the United States where I absolutely loved the activities without actually loving the city itself. In some ways, though, that can be a positive. Denver isn’t a place where you really go to walk around and explore the city, as areas are a bit detached from one another and the best things are all pretty much not within walking distance of each other. However, the things on this list all rock, so you’ll have more time to actually do them rather than walking around the city and exploring.
1. Check Out as Many Craft Breweries as Possible
Denver is a beer-lover’s paradise. From local craft breweries to some of the biggest names in the business, Denver has enough beer to last an entire zombie apocalypse. Big name breweries like Blue Moon and Coors Light are located here, alongside countless others that serve up delicious pints. The Coors Light Brewery in Denver is actually the single largest brewery in the entire world.
I recommend taking a tour of the Coors Light brewery simply because it is cool, and I recommend checking out the Blue Moon brewery simply because they sell about 20 beers there that you can’t get anywhere else. They only sell 3 beers in the store! Beyond those, simply look at a map of the area nearby where you’re staying and make a point of going for a little bar crawl.
2. Eat Exotic Western Foods in Morrison, Colorado
Morrison, Colorado, is actually named after my great-grandfather. Well, not really. But it was still really cool to go to a popular town that I share a name with! This town is cool for more reasons than just its name, though.
Morrison, Colorado is where the Red Rocks Amphitheater is, which is one of the most famous and intriguing outdoor concert venues in the world. It is literally an amphitheater carved out of rocks. Everyone who is anyone has performed there, and you can see a breakdown of every single performance by date inside the museum.
In addition to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, Morrison is also where you can find The Fort, which is a really cool Western-Style fine dining restaurant. While the prices are a bit steep, you can try all kinds of classic western dishes here, like rocky mountain oysters, rattlesnake sausage, elk steak, quail eggs wrapped in bison sausage, and more. While Morrison is a solid 40 minute drive from many parts of Denver, eating a dinner at The Fort is worth both the time and the money. Get the appetizer sampler if you want to save some money while still trying the exotic foods!
3. Drink a Coors Light in Golden, Colorado
I touched on this earlier, but one of the best things to do in Denver is to head out to the town of Golden, Colorado, where Coors Light’s brewing facility is. The company offers great tours, where you can see the facility, learn about the brewing process, hear all about the history of Coors Light, and even crack one open at the end. Before visiting Colorado, I never really had much of an appreciation for Coors Light, but after seeing their brewery (the biggest in the world) and drinking a cold one in the adorable town of Golden, Colorado, I’ve become a bit more of a Coors Light guy. Move over, Bud Light. You don’t use fresh water from the Rockies.
4. Explore Around Larimer Square and 16th St. Mall
While I mentioned that Denver is not the most walkable city in the world, there are still a couple of areas that could be worth your time exploring. They are the 16th St. Mall and Larimer Square. Larimer Square is basically the main square of Denver, and it is lined with great restaurants, cafes, bars, and activities. This is a great first place to go if you’re headed downtown and want a solid first impression.
16th St. Mall is a several-blocks-long strip of the best that downtown Denver has to offer. Here you’ll find some of the best restaurants, coolest activities, and prettiest buildings in the city. If you walk it all the way to the end, you will wind up at Union Station, which comes up later on this list. About halfway down 16th St. Mall and down two blocks is where you can find Larimer Square.
5. Try Some Colorado Style Pizza at Beau Jo’s
This is not an activity that you can find in downtown Denver, as all of the Beau Jo’s locations are outside of the city proper. However, stopping in at a Beau Jo’s is absolutely one of the best things to do in Denver, in our opinion. This locally famous pizza chain is known for using honey in its dough, and you are supposed to dip the crusts in honey when you eat them.
While the crust-dipping is what makes them unique, Beau Jo’s cooks a mean pizza regardless. We loved it so much that we decided to make a second pit stop at another Beau Jo’s location to grab some pizza for our ride to the airport.
6. Go for a Hike in the Rockies Outside of the City
Denver is a great city, but the best thing about Denver is its proximity to other, cooler things. While Denver is known as the Mile-High City, it isn’t actually up in the Rockies. It sits at the foot of the Rockies. I highly recommend taking a day and going westward up into the mountains to go for a great hike. While it is a bit far, I hands-down think that Breckenridge, Colorado is one of the most beautiful places in the whole country. You can read all about it in my Breckenridge Travel Guide. It is a long day trip, but not horribly long. The hiking is just incredible, and there are beautiful hikes for all levels. Frankly, I think it’s a crime to travel to Denver and not take a day to go up into the mountains, if you have the time. The snow-capped peaks are just stunning.
7. Grab a Beer or Catch a Train at Union Station
What began as just a train station turned into one of the trendiest places in all of Denver. Union Station is surrounded by great bars, restaurants, and things to do. If you’re taking a train from the city, be sure to get here early to sit down and have a local brew before you leave. If you’re not taking a train, I recommend going here anyway just to walk around the area! Union Station is right off of 16th St. Mall and is perfectly walkable from popular areas like Larimer Square. It is also right by the Colorado Rockies baseball stadium, making this a great area to hit before a game.
8. Take a Tour of the Denver Mint
Have you ever thought about touring one of the United States’ Mints? That is, the places where all American coins and dollars bills are made? The United States currently operates four Mint locations in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Denver, and Westpoint, NY. Touring the Mint is actually a really interesting thing to do, as you get to watch money get made right in front of you. The Mints product millions of dollars per day, and the information that you gather when touring them is invaluable. As of the publication of this post, the Denver Mint is currently still closed to visitors because of COVID-19, but it is worth checking out if it is open when you visit!
How To Get to Denver
Denver is not really all that drivable from other U.S. cities. Unless you are coming from New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Kansas, or Nebraska, you’re probably going to need to fly. That is not so bad, though, considering that Denver International Airport (DEN) is one of the busiest airports in the United States! If you’ve read my post on finding cheap airfare, you know that the biggest airports tend to yield the cheapest ticket prices.
On top of that, Denver is the headquarters of one of the U.S.’s biggest budget airlines – Frontier – and you can almost always land a good deal into Denver flying with them. While many people give budget airlines a bad reputation, I am actually a huge fan. To alleviate any concerns about flying with budget airlines or to learn how to avoid their fees, be sure to read my post on flying with budget airlines.
Denver International Airport is located about 40 minutes northeast of the city by car. If you don’t want to call an Uber or hail a cab, you can conveniently take the light rail train all the way from the airport for downtown for just $10.50 each way. In my opinion, this is definitely the easiest way how to get from the airport to downtown Denver.
How To Get Around Denver
BUS | LIGHT RAIL | UBER
Denver has a pretty decent public transportation system that can get you close to wherever you want to go. Between buses and light rails, the public transportation system connects the city of Denver to its satellite cities, like Aurora, Golden, and boulder. The rail lines use zones to determine the fares. While the fares are a bit steep compared to many other cities, they are still usually much cheaper than taking an Uber. The direct connection to the airport is probably the most useful part of Denver’s transportation system, but the connections to other small cities in the area make it very useful overall.
If you are staying in downtown Denver, you will probably be able to walk to most of the city’s main downtown attractions without much need for transportation. In the event that you want to go exploring neighborhoods of Denver that are a bit outside of walking distance, odds are your best bet will just be to call an Uber.
The Best Time to Visit Denver
Our Airbnb host proudly told us that Denver sees 300 sunny days per year, but that it is a bit of a misleading headline. She said there are days when the sun is shining brightly, but it is still just 10 degrees outside. Denver’s location in the mountains means that its weather is much less seasonal than other cities in the country. When you get to such a high altitude, the summers tend to be a bit less hot and the winters are a bit less cold. Still, being so high up means that winters do, indeed, get cold. The weather in Denver reminded me a lot of the weather in Puebla, Mexico, where summers don’t really get above 80 degrees but winters aren’t nearly as bad as nearby areas, either.
The summer is Denver’s busy season, when everything is packed with tourists and prices are elevated. IF you have the flexibility. I highly recommend visiting Denver in either April, May, or September.
Is Denver Safe to Visit?
Generally speaking, Denver is a very safe city to visit. Like any city, there are areas that are worse than others and you should always use caution, especially at night. However, the general consensus is that Denver is absolutely a safe place to walk around at any time of day or at night, so long as you don’t find yourself in any bad parts of town. Crime rates in Denver are pretty average when compared to the rest of the major cities in the country, so if you feel safe going out at night in Atlanta, Miami, or Seattle, you’re likely going to feel just fine in Denver.
That’s all we have for you about Denver! Hopefully this post is helpful as you start planning your journey to the Mile-High City. I really do think that Denver is worth visiting. Even if the city itself may seem a bit underwhelming, the activities surrounding it justify the visit. We had a great time, and I hope that you do too!
If you’re planning a trip to Denver, let us know by commenting below! We’d love to answer any questions you have.