With its museums, shops, restaurants, and galleries, Downtown Denver is full of possibilities for fun and recreation. Whether you prefer spending your time browsing art, chomping on a hot dog at a baseball game, or enjoying a craft beer and a fine meal, you'll find plenty to enjoy in Colorado's largest city. If you're struggling to come up with ideas on how best to spend your visit, check out our guide to the 20 best things to do in Downtown Denver.
20. Visit the Money Museum
Who doesn't like money? If you like it enough to want to see more of it, be sure to visit the Money Museum while you're in Downtown Denver. Located on 16th Street, it's crammed with, well, money. By the last count, it had a cool thirty million dollars on display. Once you've finished lusting over the dough, check out the interactive exhibitions on the history of US currency. You can also try your hand at designing your own money, or top-up your financial knowledge by watching a video or two. On the way out, remember to collect your free bag of money... it's shredded, but it still makes a nice memento.
19. Bike the Cherry Creek Trail
If you want to escape the busy streets for a few hours, jump on your bike and head for the Cherry Creek Trail. The trail, which runs around the western edge of Denver and is the reason the streets are laid diagonally, is a hugely popular destination for walkers, runners, and cyclists. If you left your own bike at home, loan a bike for the day from Denver Bicycle, the city's bike-sharing program.
18. Enjoy afternoon tea at Brown Palace Hotel
The Brown Palace Hotel was built in 1892, and today serves as one of the most iconic buildings in Downtown Denver. Even if your budget can't quite stretch to a night in one of its luxurious rooms, it's still worth a visit for the afternoon tea. Indulge in a feast of tiny sandwiches, tasty scones, and delicate pastries as a harpist plays soothing music in the background. Available each day between 12 am and 4 pm, it's an absolute must-do.
17. Take a ride on a Pedicab
As The Crazy Tourist says, taking a Pedicab is an amazingly fun and unusual way to see Denver. If you're not familiar with the concept, a Pedicab is a type of electric tricycle. A trained guide will accompany you, leaving you free to sit back in your canopied seat and soak up the sights. Just some of the attractions included in a tour include Larimer Square, the Pepsi Center, and the US Mint. The tour takes just over one and a half hours, and includes lots of opportunities to get out and take some snaps.
16. Get arty
These days, barely a week goes by without another gallery or art exhibition popping up in Denver. If you want to embrace the city's burgeoning art scene, you'll find no shortage of places in the downtown to check out. The Arts Districts (which include the Art District on Santa Fe, the River North Art District, the Golden Triangle Creative District, and the Tennyson Street Cultural District) are brimming with street art, sculpture parks, and unique exhibits. Be sure to check out the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and Denver Art Museum for a more traditional art fix too.
15. Tour the Molly Brown House Museum
If you haven't heard of the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” then 1) make it a priority to rewatch "Titanic" as soon as possible and 2) be sure to pay a visit to the Molly Brown House Museum during your trip to Downtown Denver. The Titanic survivor and women's rights campaigner led a remarkable life, which can now be discovered at her home at 1340 Pennsylvania Street. The house is remarkably well preserved, offering as much of an insight into Victorian architecture as it does the life of its famous former resident. Keep an eye out for the stunning triangular pediment detailing over the porch in particular.
14. Visit the Denver Museum & Science
As tripstodiscover.com says, the Denver Museum & Science is a guaranteed winner with adults and kids alike. With a vast range of exhibits focused on paleontology, health sciences, anthropology, zoology, geology, and space science, it's a fascinating place to visit. Along with the Egyptian mummies, dinosaur bones, and gems, it's also home to 90 habitat scenes and displays on animals from across the globe, making it ideal for would-be David Attenboroughs. If all that wasn't enough to tempt you, it also has a planetarium that hosts daily shows and screenings.
13. Relax at Civic Center Park
If the hustle and bustle of the city is starting to wear on your nerves, beat a retreat to Civic Centre Park. A favorite with locals and tourists alike, it's one of the most relaxing and attractive green spaces in the city. On one side, you'll find the majestic gold-domed State Capito. On the other, you'll find the City and County Building, an equally impressive building topped by a giant eagle (fun fact: the eagle was commissioned by the wife of Mayor Robert Speer after his death, but the creator disliked the former mayor so much, he designed the eagle to look like it was relieving itself). In between the two buildings are 25,000 square feet of flower beds and acres of lawns that are perfect for a stroll or a picnic.
12. Take a historic LoDo walking tour
If you want to get the most out of your visit to Lower Downtown, or LoDo for short, do as katherinebelarmino.com recommends and take a walking tour of the historic district. The tour, which is held each Saturday and led by college professor Kevin Rucker, will fill you in on all the murky details about the district's sordid past. Fortunately, all the brothels and opium dens that used to populate the area are long gone; once you've finished the tour, you'll have the opportunity to check out the numerous brewpubs, sports bars, restaurants, and live music venues that have taken their place.
11. Sip on a craft beer at Great Divide Brewing Co
If you love a cold beer on a hot day, you're in luck. Downtown Denver is crammed with pubs, taverns, and breweries, all of which deserve as much time as you're able to spare them. If you've only got time for one, make it the Great Divide Brewing Co, an internationally acclaimed craft brewery that boasts a stonking five World Cup Beer awards and an even more impressive 18 Great American Beer Festival medals. Offering a selection of 16 seasonal and year-round beers, it's a great place to relax over a glass of something frosty.
10. Catch up with friends at Union Station
Union Station might be a train station, but it's a train station with a difference. A favorite meet-up spot for locals, the turn-of-the-century terminal is now one of the best places in the city to catch up with friends over a meal or a drink. Grab a cocktail at the glamorous Copper Longer, indulge in some seafood at the Stoic and Genuine, or enjoy some farm-to-table dining at the Mercantile Dining & Provision.
9. Meet the elephants at Denver Zoo
If you've got a free afternoon and nothing to fill it with, why not pay a visit to Denver Zoo? Home to over 4,000 animals from 750 species, it promises a fun-packed day that the whole family can enjoy. Just a small sample of the animals you can expect to meet include Asian elephants, polar bears, orangutans, lions, reptiles, and butterflies. All of the animals are kept in naturalistic enclosures rather than cages with bars (in fact, it was the first zoo in the country to do so), giving you the chance to watch them in habitats that are as close to the real thing as it's possible to get.
8. Enjoy a meal at the Avanti Food and Beverage
In the interests of transparency, we should point out that, technically, Avanti Food and Beverage is just outside of Downtown Denver. However, considering it's only a matter of minutes away, and considering just how awesome it is, we're going to include it anyway. Once you visit, you'll see why... a hotspot for foodies, the food hall has combined two equally fabulous concepts (the food truck and European food markets) to come up with something fabulous. The idea is simple: simply walk around the hall, figure out what you want to eat, place your order with your chosen vendor, pay, collect your notification device, then take a seat at one of the communal tables and wait for your food to be cooked up and served. While you wait, a waiter will come around to take your drink order. It's different, delicious, and a great way to meet like-minded foodies.
7. Visit the Downtown Aquarium
As Only in Your State notes, with over one million gallons of spectacular exhibits and over 500 species of animals, the Downtown Aquarium guarantees a once-in-a-lifetime marine experience. As you'd expect of the largest aquarium between Chicago and California, it offers no end of fascinating things to see and do - check out the interactive Stingray Reef touch tank, watch the mermaid show, or even enjoy a bite to eat in the Aquarium Restaurant, which houses a 50,000-gallon aquarium filled with more than 100 species of tropical fish.
6. Stroll around 16th Street Mall
If you like shopping, you're going to love 16th Street Mall. With hundreds of brand-name stores and local, independent shops to check out, it's a great place to indulge in a little retail therapy. Key stores not to miss include Rockmount Ranch Wear, which invented the snap-button shirt and now keeps stars like Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen in western apparel, and the Tattered Cover, one of the best places in the state to pick up some rare and collectible books. If you get tired of shopping, you'll find dozens of cafes and bars with pavement terraces to grab a drink at.
5. Visit the Colorado Convention Center
You don't have to be attending a conference to visit the Colorado Convention Center. As deliciousdenverfoodtours.com points out, the main reason to visit the center is the world-famous big blue bear at its entrance. Standing 40 feet tall, the sculpture, which was designed by local artist Lawrence Argent as a way of reminding people of Denver's proximity to the Rockies, is crying out to be photographed. If you end up scratching your head over why the bear is blue, you're not alone. The answer is pretty simple - it was originally intended to be sandstone, but after a printout was accidentally done in blue, Argent decided he much preferred the look and decided to stick with it.
4. Catch a show at the Denver Performing Arts Complex
As Time Out says, Downtown Denver contains one of the largest multi-venue performance centers in the world. If you want to enjoy a ballet, symphony, opera, or even a touring Broadway show, the Denver Performing Arts Complex should be on your itinerary. It's also a great place to enjoy a locally produced play or even a rock show. Visit in the warmer months, and you might be in with a chance of catching one of the seasonal festivals in the adjoining outdoor space, Sculpture Park.
3. Make a splash at Elitch Gardens and Water World
If you're visiting Downtown Denver with the kids, don't miss the chance to visit Elitch Gardens and Water World, the only downtown theme park in the country. Little ones will love the chance to take a spin on the 75-year-old carousel, while the whole family will get a kick out of the Mind Eraser roller coaster and Ferris wheel. Once you're finished enjoying the park's 50 plus thrill rides, head on over to the adjoining water park to cool off among the slides, tubes, and wave pools.
2. Browse the boutiques on Larimer Square
Larimer Square is Denver's oldest block, boasting buildings that date all the way back to the 1800s. The architecture is incredible, but there are more reasons to visit the strip than to simply marvel at the buildings. Home to a vast array of restaurants, comedy clubs, bars, and boutiques, it's one of the best places in town to grab a meal, buy a few souvenirs, or simply spend a few happy hours soaking up the atmosphere over a coffee.
1. Take a tour of Coors Field
As luxurydenvercolorado.com says, Coors Field is about more than baseball (although if you happen to be in town for game night, be sure to watch the Colorado Rockies on their home turf). Widely considered to be one of the most attractive stadiums in the country, its downtown location offers spectacular views over the Rocky Mountains and a wealth of things to do. Packed with gift shops, boutiques, burger restaurants, craft beer bars, and even an onsite microbrewery, it's a great place to while away an afternoon.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn