Planning an epic Colorado road trip? Make sure to squeeze in at least one day in Denver, CO. Colorado’s biggest city and capital, the Mile-High City is famous for its outdoor lifestyle, trendy cultural districts, and endless breweries.
Stop to explore Denver in 24 hours on your way to the Rockies for a big dose of history. Gold was found in Confluence Park in 1858, kickstarting the Colorado Gold Rush and giving birth to the city’s long history.
On your Denver itinerary, you’ll encounter several distinct neighborhoods, including the Golden Triangle Creative District and Lower Downtown (LoDo). Delve into the city’s thriving art scene at the Denver Art Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and its history with a tour of the Colorado State Capitol. Maintain your energy along the way at quirky coffee shops, independent restaurants, and craft breweries around Larimer Square, Union Station, and in the River North Art District.
Not sure how to get the most out of your first 24 hours in Denver? Design the perfect travel plan with this complete one-day Denver trip itinerary!
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Where to go in Denver in one day: A complete itinerary
Fuel up with breakfast and coffee in the Golden Triangle Creative District
Kickstart your 1-day Denver tour with breakfast in the Golden Triangle Creative District. This artsy area is home to some of the top-rated attractions in Denver. It’s one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods, offering a great mix of cute townhouses and modern design.
We all know that creative areas are home to some of the best independent coffee shops. Pick up lattes with funky flavors like CBD and lavender at Roostercat Coffee House. The colorful café has a big patio, locally roasted beans, and a small selection of tasty breakfasts.
Head to Sky Tea (Drip Denver) for a varied selection of teas and chai or matcha lattes. Or check out the original Metropolis Coffee, now a major chain across Denver. They’ve partnered with Revolution Bakeshop to bring you the tastiest sweet and savory treats alongside exceptional coffee.
You should now have a caffeine boost and a belly full of food to fuel a day of discovering everything Denver offers!
Get inspired at Denver Art Museum
Even if you don’t go inside the Denver Art Museum, you should start your day here just to see the impressive Hamilton Building. The contemporary structure is inspired by the peaks of the Rockies and the crystals found at their base.
Nestled in the Golden Triangle Creative District, the Denver Art Museum is home to 700,000 works of art from around the world. Take time to browse its African textiles, Asian ceramics, and the indigenous traditions of North America.
Not had your creative fix yet? Across the street from Denver Art Museum is the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. Showcasing over 150 years of artwork, the art museum arranges pieces in a salon-style to make your experience more interesting. Alternatively, you can head to the neighboring Clyfford Still Museum for a deep dive into abstract expressionism.
Before reaching your next stop, take a quick wander through Civic Center Park. It’s bordered by the Colorado State Capitol and is fragrant with 25,000 square feet of flower beds.
From 11 am to 2 pm, Civic Center Park has food trucks and live music; it’s a vibrant stop to get your first views of the Colorado State Capitol.
Marvel at the Colorado State Capitol
The Colorado State Capitol is a quintessential part of Denver’s skyline. Construction of the impressive building started in 1886 and didn’t finish until 1901. It’s dripping with opulence, with rose onyx, yule marble, and a 200-ounce gold dome.
If you only have one day in Denver, visiting the Colorado State Capital should be top of your list. Not only is it an architectural marvel, but it’ll also help you gain an in-depth understanding of Colorado’s history and culture. Marvel at the stained-glass windows depicting significant events and people that shaped the history of Colorado, including Chief Ouray and James William Denver.
Make sure you’re not fooled by the One Mile Above Sea Level engraving on the 15th step. Researchers reviewed this in 2003 and discovered that the 13th step is the real one mile above sea level!
Jump on a free tour if you’re here on a weekday, but arrive with lots of time to spare as they’re limited to 20 people per tour. You’ll climb 99 stairs inside the dome so you can admire the majestic architecture up close.
Window shop at Larimer Square in Lower Downtown (LoDo)
Larimer Square is one of the coolest places in Denver. The creative hub of Downtown Denver houses some of the city’s original businesses. Today, it’s alive with bars, restaurants, craft breweries, and entertainment spaces.
On your way to Larimer Square, you’ll pass through the Central Business District. Also known as Upper Downtown, this buzzing area is the place to be if you want to see some of Denver’s top skyscrapers.
As well as smartly dressed employees rushing to their meetings, you’ll spot fancy hotels and great shopping. Drop off any shopaholics in your travel group at 16th Street Mall. With over a mile of shops and cafes & coffee shops, though, you might find it difficult to convince them to leave!
Larimer Square is the heart of the Lower Downtown (LoDo) district. It’s one of the first places of settlement in Denver, so you’ll find a fun combination of the old and new at every turn. Denver’s trendy LoDo area is full of Victorian buildings that have been upscaled into fancy boutiques, bars, and restaurants.
While exploring the neighborhood around Larimer Square, shop for handmade Peruvian knitwear, custom dog collars for your pooch, or one-of-a-kind vintage items. Or grab a drink outside and soak up the colorful atmosphere.
Grab lunch at Dairy Block or Union Station
With such a great start to your 24 hours in Denver, you must have worked up an appetite. Luckily, Lower Downtown offers fun and original ways to fill your stomach. Find some of the yummiest food in the city at Union Station or at the Dairy Block.
Stunning Union Station is a train station that was built in 1914 and has been renovated into a shopping and dining destination. Choose from 10 chef-owned restaurants and enjoy your feast in an elegant Beaux-Arts setting.
For a lunchtime party, eat at Snooze, an A.M. Eatery. This Denver original is all about serving funky brunches and making sure everybody is having a great time. Or kick back at Hopdoddy Burger Bar, known for its creative twists on handcrafted burgers and fries.
Channel your inner hipster at the Dairy Block. Just a 4-minute walk from Larimer Square, this groovy micro-district contains unique shopping, art, and food options.
For wholesome creations, book a table at Foraged Restaurant. The chef likes to focus on local, seasonal produce and ingredients found in nature. The menu changes daily, so you’ll never get the same thing twice.
If you’re in the mood for street food, you’ll find lots of options at Denver Milk Market. Nibble on fresh seafood, poke bowls, and artisan pasta in a casual setting.
Unwind at Confluence Park
Walk off your delicious lunch with a stroll through Confluence Park. It’s a 13-minute walk from Union Station and is the destination that ignited the Colorado Gold Rush of 1858. It then went on to become the birthplace of the city of Denver. It was named Confluence Park as it’s the point where the South Platte River and Cherry Creek meet.
Confluence Park stretches across the river, making it the perfect place for hiking, kayaking, or a cooling afternoon swim. Sit back on the waterfront and watch the locals getting out with their dogs and families or have fun exploring the bridges and canals.
If you have time, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is on the way to Confluence Park and is worth a stop if you love immersive modern art. The small gallery has no permanent exhibits, so every visit is a new experience. You could discover anything from video installations to creative collages to 2D sculptures.
Browse Denver Central Market
The Denver Central Market is a gourmet marketplace that sells artisan produce. Housed in a 1920s warehouse, the venue has a laid-back, upscale feel. It’s based in the River North Art District, which oozes urban cool.
The market is a slightly longer walk, but it takes you to your last Denver district of the day. If your feet are starting to hurt, you may want to take a bus or taxi here.
Admire the street art style murals decorating the outside of the Denver Central Market before making your way inside. Pick up cute presents or local produce to fuel you for the rest of your trip. Buy pretty bonbons from Temper Chocolates and Confections, fresh pastries for your morning road trip from izzio Artisan Bakery, or tasty pasta sauces from Vero Italian.
If you’ve had your shopping fix, why not stop for a pre-dinner cocktail? Curio is a classy drinks stall that often has happy hours until 6 pm. Try to resist sampling all the food vendors, as your next stop will involve a delicious meal.
Enjoy dinner and drinks in River North Art District (RiNo)
Now that you’ve successfully completed your one-day Denver itinerary celebrate with dinner and drinks in the River North Art District (RiNo). This is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Denver thanks to its eclectic revamp of old industrial buildings. An innovative arts scene and regular lively events make RiNo the perfect area to wrap up your day in Denver.
Sink your teeth into award-winning burgers at Park Burger RiNo. The casual spot offers beef, buffalo, turkey, and veggie burgers, always made from the highest quality ingredients.
Or, go for a traditional barbeque at Smok Barbecue. The locally-owned restaurant serves huge portions of a succulent selection of meats with a cocktail menu designed to complement its smoky flavors.
Want to take a trip to Japan? Osaka Ramen serves authentic Japanese cuisine and new dishes with a creative twist. The restaurant has a minimal Japanese casual dining feel and is a great place to unwind after a busy day.
The nightlife in River North Art District has an alternative feel, making it a more interesting place to drink than in neighboring Downtown. Kick off your night out in a typical Denver brewery. The Blue Moon Brewing Company has over 20 rotating beers. Take a booth inside a giant beer barrel and enjoy a cold beer in a post-industrial setting.
Is beer not your drink of choice? The Barcelona Wine Bar is a cozy tapas bar with an excellent selection of wines from Spain and South America. Their bottles originate from 70 different regions and have a choice of over 400 different wines. Order a glass, sit at the wooden tables, and enjoy the rustic Spanish atmosphere.
More Denver itinerary ideas
Denver Botanical Gardens
Got more time to spare? Take a refresh from the busyness of the city at Denver Botanical Gardens. One of the top botanical gardens in the country, this 24-acre oasis awaits in Cheeseman Park, just north of the affluent Cherry Creek neighborhood.
Wander thousands of plants from different continents and keep an eye out for quirky art displays along the way.
Four Mile Historic Park
Get deeper into Denver’s history with a trip to Four Mile Historic Park. Located 15 minutes by car from the city center, the 12-acre park has a working farm where you can meet the chickens and pigs.
One of the top-rated Denver day trips, Four Mile Historic Park is home to Four Mile House, the oldest standing structure in the city. Take a guided tour and discover replicas of life in the 1800s.
Umi by Daniel Popper
Looking for a quirky stop on your way to Denver International Airport? Take a short detour through the Aurora Highlands master-planned community to check out its two-mile-long art park. While the park’s full artistic vision is still in progress, it already has one stand-out art installation: Umi by Daniel Popper.
Umi was completed in August 2023 by world-renowned artist Daniel Popper, known for his large-scale, figurative artwork. Umi stands 21 feet tall and depicts a woman holding her womb. The stunning sculpture is already creating quite a buzz, with travelers venturing to the Aurora Highlands on their layovers to check out the installation.
LOCAL PERSPECTIVE: When asked about Umi, Denver local Liz Kotalik explains, “We all knew people would love her, but we didn’t realize how much. Umi has become a MASSIVE deal. People travel from all over the state and the world to visit her and take pictures/videos. (Just search Umi on TikTok, and you’ll see what I’m talking about!) News has spread so wide that people are stopping to see Umi on their layovers since she’s so close to the airport. The last time I was at the sculpture, I even met a woman from New York!”
The Beer Spa
Sample more of Colorado’s craft beers at The Beer Spa. Inspired by the beer spas of Eastern Europe, they have created the perfect blend to unlock hair, skin, and wellness benefits.
Unwind in beer baths, infrared saunas, and rain showers, or sample the latest flavors in the self-serve tap room.
Santa Fe Art District
Browse the colorful Santa Fe Art District for friendly galleries and quirky coffee shops. It’s home to over 30 galleries and has a culture of bringing creative people together.
The vibrant buildings in the Sante Fe Art District reflect the area’s Hispanic heritage, which you can explore further with a trip to Museo de las Americas.
Where to stay with 24 hours in Denver
For most travelers, the best areas to stay in Denver on a time crunch are the Central Business District, the Golden Triangle, and Lower Downtown (LoDo). These neighborhoods are home to most of the city’s top hotels, with accommodations to suit all travel styles.
Located just 650 feet from Union Station, the Oxford Hotel is the perfect choice for foodies visiting Denver in one day. Although the hotel offers perks like an onsite bar, fitness center, and 24-hour room service, the prime location means you’ll likely spend more time exploring the area’s trendy restaurants, cafes, and bars than at the lodgings.
With its ideal central location, you can’t go wrong with a night at the Hyatt Centric. The rooms at this hotel are spacious, bright, and modern, many offering excellent city views through floor-to-ceiling windows. After your day of sightseeing, be sure to peer upon the city from above at the hotel’s rooftop terrace.
With its mid-century modernist decor, the Kimpton Hotel Born is one of the city’s top accommodation options. Besides the comfortable rooms, the boutique-style hotel features a terrace with dramatic mountain views and a location just steps away from the Ball Arena, home to the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. Other amenities include a fitness center and an on-site restaurant.
When to visit Denver
The best time to visit Denver is in the spring, between March to May, and in the summer, between June and August. During the spring and summer months, you’ll enjoy the year’s finest weather, letting you dig into Colorado’s fun outdoor activities and beautiful natural landscapes.
In spring, visitors can marvel at Colorado’s lovely wildflowers with mild and pleasant weather. The spring also falls outside the tourist high season, meaning smaller crowds and cheaper prices on flights and accommodations.
Although the fantastic summer weather draws many to Denver, it’s also the busiest time of year in the Mile High City. If your travel plan is pinned to the summer months, be sure to make your reservation well in advance.