A Rocky Mountain megastar, Denver is a thriving city that blends its rich Old West history with a modern, cosmopolitan vibe. Here you’ll find dynamic arts and cultural options woven with a booming food, craft beer and cannabis scene. And with endless sunny days, green spaces galore and a spectacular mountain backdrop, outdoor play is always part of the local ethos. Whether it’s your first visit or your fiftieth, you’ll find Denver is buzzing with activity.
Here are its top things to do.
1. Eat, drink and play in Union Station
Enjoy a drink or a fancy meal at Union Station, an iconic landmark and beautifully restored 19th century train station. Sure, it’s Denver’s main transportation hub – local buses, light rail and cross-country trains use it – but this Beaux Art beauty also is home to tony restaurants and cocktail bars, a place locals come for a night out on the town.
Local tip: If you need a sightseeing break, chill out in the Great Hall, a waiting area and chic lounge with leather couches, shuffleboard and wifi. It’s all free and open to the public – no need to buy anything.
2. Cheer on the Rockies
Join baseball fans at Coors Field in downtown Denver, one of the MLB’s most hitter-friendly ballparks (thank the thin air for all the homeruns). Eighty home games mean lots of opportunities and with tickets in the Rockpile (aka centerfield) starting at just US$1, it won’t break the bank. Come decked out in your purple, black and silver best to fit right in.
Detour: If you’re a die-hard baseball fan, cross the street to the National Ballpark Museum, which is jam-packed with memorabilia from the country’s 14 classic ballparks.
3. See masterpieces at the Denver Art Museum
The crown jewel of the Mile High City’s art scene, the Denver Art Museum houses an eclectic collection of some of the world’s greatest works of art, from Old Master painters to modern contemporary artists. It includes a stunningly rich collection of Native American art, integrating both historic and contemporary work, with signage that prioritizes Native perspectives. The complex itself is a work of art – the titanium-paneled Hamilton Building with its jutting angles connected by bridge to the newly-renovated Martin Building, a fortress-like structure covered in millions of glittering glass tiles.
Local tip: No need to hesitate about coming if you’re traveling with kids – there are loads of interactive art stations and activities throughout the museum plus two eateries for mid-visit treats. Admission is free for everyone 18 and under too.
4. Take in back alley street art
Nowhere has street art more transformed a neighborhood in Denver than the one-time-industrial-wasteland-turned-hipster-enclave of RiNo (aka River North Arts District). Unexpected and ever-changing, the streets and alleys are draped in hundreds of murals covering every sort of surface, from parking lot walls to transformer boxes. Walking through the neighborhood, the art stops you in your tracks, the images speaking to the city’s diversity, politics and day-to-day life.
Local tip: If you want a bit more structure to your mural walkabout, check out RiNo’s own mural map. For an even deeper dive into the art, take a guided tour with Denver Graffiti Tour, a two-hour stroll past notable works, including details on the artists and their historical context.
5. Go to a Red Rocks concert
There’s something almost primal about attending a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater: the sounds of instruments enveloping you, the sight of people dancing under an umbrella of stars and the iconic 300ft-high red sandstone monoliths standing guard on either side. Renowned for its natural acoustics and stunning beauty, Red Rock has been a rock 'n’ roll venue ever since 1964 when The Beatles played there. Today, Red Rocks is synonymous with big name bands of all genres – even symphony orchestras – and a place where memorable albums are often recorded. For many, it’s reason enough for a trip to Denver. Concerts are held all summer long.
Detour: If a Red Rocks concert isn’t in the cards, the venue and its surrounding 816 acres are free to visit during the day, including several hiking trails that wind through the red rock landscape. The amphitheater also hosts other events like early morning yoga and movie nights.
6. Have a flight at Great Divide
Colorado takes its beer seriously, raising craft brewing to a high art. And with over 150 breweries in Denver, you certainly won’t go thirsty in this town. For an OG experience, head to the downtown brewhouse of Great Divide Brewing Company, a small brick building housing one of the most decorated breweries in the country with a whopping 18 Great American Beer Festival medals and five World Beer Cup Medals to its name. Weekend evenings bring wall-to-wall crowds but stop by on a weeknight for a seat at the bar and a flight of Great Divide’s exquisitely bold and balanced brews. If you want to go all in, geek out on a behind the scenes tour to learn how their magic sauces are made.
7. Take a selfie with the Blue Bear
Stop for photos with the playful and ever-curious symbol of the city, a 40ft-tall sculpture of a blue bear entitled I See What You Mean. Located in Downtown Denver, the bear stands upright peering into the Convention Center – the artist Lawrence Argent’s riff on a local newspaper’s photo of a bear looking into a home (a not unfamiliar occurrence in the state). The bear’s color represents the famous Colorado skies.
8. Spark your sense of wonder at Meow Wolf
Step into Denver’s most immersive art experience at Meow Wolf Denver, an extension of the renowned art collective started in New Mexico. Here, wander through a multi-story building that tells a story of the convergence of four worlds through 70+ fantastical art installations. Enter dark tunnels and tipping hallways, man towering spaceships and touch psychedelic coral reefs, and keep your eyes peeled for the live performers who somehow creep onto the scene. It’s wonderfully bizarre and totally unforgettable.
9. Catch a show at the Denver Performing Arts Complex
Denver is home to the second largest theater complex in the country: the Denver Performing Arts Complex, a four-city-block-wide collection of stages connected by a sky-high glass canopy, with large-scale art pieces dotting its walkways and green spaces. Weekends bring thousands to the complex, a river of people flowing into its different venues to see everything from Broadway shows to experimental theater. Join the crowd! While big ticket shows sell out fast, there are enough venues to almost guarantee a seat most nights.
Detour: If homegrown theater is more your speed, head to nearby Curious Theater. Housed in a repurposed church, this award-winning theater company stages thought-provoking plays with a social justice bent. Stay afterwards for the talk-backs, when actors engage with the audience about everything from the plot to the set.
10. Float through Denver
Float down the South Platte River, taking in the downtown skyline as you dip your toes into the cool, gentle water. A historic waterway, gold was found along its shores way back in 1858, sparking the Colorado Gold Rush and the founding of Denver itself. Today, the South Platte winds its way through the center of the city, popular pedestrian walkways and small sandy beaches following its path. Ask about tube and kayak rentals at Confluence Kayaks near Confluence Park.
11. Meditate in the International Cannabis Church
You don’t have to be high to feel the full effect of the light show at the International Cannabis Church (in fact, onsite cannabis use is technically prohibited by the public). Every day of the year, the one-time Lutheran church turned multi-colored Elevationist sanctuary comes alive in a spectacular 3D video mapping show while a guided audio meditation leads visitors on a journey towards self-discovery. People leave feeling at peace, happy and well, high on life.
Local tip: Come early to take full advantage of the old school arcade, complete with Galaga and Ms. Pacman machines plus Mario Kart projected onto a 26-foot movie screen, all included in the price of admission.