PeaceJoyAustin

Cheap, free, and local-endorsed things to do in beautiful places

Denver

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  • Largest city & capital of Colorado
  • 5,280 ft elevation (The Mile High City)
  • At the foot of the Rockies – a hub for year-round outdoors activities
  • 300 days of sunshine and very little rain

Metro population: 2.8 million (#19 in the U.S.)

When To Visit: Year-round

Climate: Dry & sunny year round. A mixture of cold & moderate temperatures with some snow from October-May.

Denver is primarily known for its location just below the Rocky Mountains – and rightfully so as most of its residents are outdoors enthusiasts (and uncoincidentally the fittest people in the country). But the city itself has much to offer visitors – a beautiful Downtown, popular historic and up-and-coming neighborhoods, and tons of great eats and beer. There’s no shortage of things to do or places to see in this epicenter of the Mountain West and it is sure to excite and surprise any visitor.

Photo: Cheesman Park

Denver Hikes

Click here to read my guide to Denver hikes, including the best waterfall, lake, wildflower, and 14er trails.

Where To Go in Denver

Downtown

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Downtown Denver from 18th Avenue

Denver’s Downtown is bisected by the very long outdoor 16th Street pedestrian mall which has a free bus from end to end and hosts a variety of beautiful, historic, and interesting skyscrapers.

  • Union Station: Renovated in 2014, this historic train station is now so much more than a transportation hub – hosting a hotel, fine dining, coffee and dessert shops, and even bars. The lobby hosts shuffleboard tables, comfortable seating, and prime people watching. Free. 1701 Wynkoop Street (800) 872-7245
  • Larimer Square: This historic block has cool architecture, several upscale shops & restaurants, and The Market, a top local pick for food, desserts, & coffee. The street is usually filled with a display of lights and Colorado flags. Free.
  • Civic Center Park: There’s some sort of festival going on every weekend during summer at this large, bustling park that beautifully connects the State Capitol and City & County buildings. Free.
  • State Capitol: Colorado’s capitol has stunning architecture and sweeping views of the surrounding area; it’s open to the public (including an optional free tour) Monday-Friday. Free.
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Colorado State Capitol

The Highlands/LoHi

This hip neighborhood is packed with trendy food and nightlife and has some of the best views of the Downtown skyline.

  • See Nightlife below

Capitol Hill

Known as the cool area of Denver and the epicenter of the city’s young and single population, this central neighborhood stretches along historic thoroughfare Colfax Avenue and hosts famous music venues and countless bars & restaurants.

  • Cheesman Park: A favorite hang-out spot for locals, this expansive park has views of Downtown and the Rockies and even a neoclassical pavilion. Free.
  • Denver Botanic Gardens: These lovely gardens showcase some beautiful flora from Colorado and around the world and have many peaceful areas in which to hang out. $12.50 adults, $9 students.
  • City Park: Denver’s largest urban park offers some of the best views of the Downtown skyline and contains a lake, a free public golf course, the Denver Zoo, and the Denver Nature & Science Museum. Free.
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City Park

Baker/South Broadway

The long stretch of South Broadway between Downtown and I-25 is dotted with fun bars & restaurants. Walk into the neighboring residential areas and find Denver’s incredibly well-preserved oldest homes – many of which have placards indicating ties back to the 1800s.

  • Washington Park: This large park has two lakes and lots of beautiful open space to explore. It’s surrounded by some of the prettiest historic mansions in the city. Free.

Cherry Creek

The ritziest neighborhood in Denver, home to Denver proper’s only large-scale shopping mall as well as a large outdoor mall abound with swanky boutiques.

  • Cherry Creek Trail: 42 miles in length, this widely-used bike and pedestrian path parallels the creek and can be accessed for a walk of any length throughout the city. It begins in Downtown and runs Southeast through the city. Free.
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Cherry Creek Trail

Denver Cheap Eats

Denver restaurants and fast casual eateries popular with locals where you can get a full meal for under $15. I always highlight some vegan or vegetarian options – cutting down on the amount of meat you eat is by far the #1 way you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute less to animal cruelty.

Sam’s No 3: Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, this diner with super hearty portions dishes out delicious adaptations of classic American dishes and incorporates Colorado-style green chile into many of their offerings. 1500 Curtis Street, Downtown. (303) 534-1927

China Jade: Denver isn’t known for incredible Asian cuisine, but this Chinese restaurant with a Szechuan focus is one of its greatest exceptions. A huge variety of large, delectable dishes and creative twists on popular Chinese dishes dominate the menu. They make a mean mapo tofu! Make sure to order off the large laminated menu for more authentic offerings. 12203 E. Iliff Avenue, Suite D, Aurora. (303) 755-8518

Govinda’s: This homey all-vegan Indian buffet is part of a Hindu temple. The menu changes daily. 1400 Cherry Street, Hale. (303) 333-4000

Angelo’s: A local favorite, this reasonably-priced and delicious Italian spot serves a variety of pastas, pizza, and oysters. 620 E. 6th Avenue, Capitol Hill. (303) 744-3366

Denver Nightlife

Denver bars, lounges, and clubs that are popular with locals and meet one or more of these criteria: A) Unique, unlike anyplace you’ll find in another cityย  B) Fun and lively, sure to be a good timeย  C) Beautiful decor or view

Forest Room 5: This elaborately decorated nature-themed bar has spiral staircases, secret rooms, and a tranquil outdoor area complete with an RV and a teepee. 2532 15th Street, LoHi. (303) 433-7001

Williams & Graham: Denver’s speakeasy complete with a secret entrance, dark lighting, and classic dรฉcor. If you’re looking for nice cocktails, this is a great spot. On weekends, expect a long wait but simply put your name down and go hang out at one of the other bars in the area in the meantime. 3160 Tejon Street, LoHi. (303) 997-8886

Avanti: Upscale, cafeteria-style markets with shops, restaurants, and bars are popping up all over Denver and Avanti is the cream of the crop. A large outdoor rooftop seating area offers supreme views of the Downtown skyline. 3200 N. Pecos Street, LoHi. (720) 269-4778

Mile High Spirits: This large bar distinguishes itself from 99% of other bars in the world by only offering their own distilled liquor. On weekends, you’ll find a DJ and lots of feet on the dancefloor. 2201 Lawrence Street, Downtown. (303) 296-2226

Peaks Lounge: Looking for the best view in town? This upscale bar on the 27th floor of the Hyatt Regency has perhaps the best view of the Downtown skyline and is an excellent place to watch the sunset over the Rockies. 650 15th Street, Downtown. (303) 436-1234

Charlie’s: Wild West meets rainbow at this casual, country-themed gay bar with two dancefloors and a large patio. Check their calendar and try to check out a drag show or free country dancing lesson. 900 E. Colfax Avenue, Capitol Hill. (303) 839-8890

Nearby Side Trips from Denver

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Shrine Ridge Trail

The Rocky Mountains: No visit to Denver is complete without a side trip to the Rockies, 30 minutes west of the city. Click here for a guide to the best hikes near Denver, many of which can be taken year-round.

Golden: 25 minutes west of the city, this idyllic town contains some of Denver’s closest hiking trails, the Coors Brewery, and a Wild West-themed Downtown that sits next to beautiful Clear Creek.

  • Red Rocks Ampitheatre: Situated just south of Golden, this world-famous music venue is renowned for its incredible acoustics and setting amidst natural rock formations. It is often open to the public for exploration and stair workouts when there’s not a show going on. Free. 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison. (720) 865-2494

Boulder: Located just over a half-hour north of Denver, this hippie college town hosts a lively Downtown, the gorgeous CU Boulder campus, and majestic mountain views. Click here for more Boulder tips.

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