Want a vacation that really soars? Then spread your wings and catch a tailwind to check out all the best things to do in Denver, CO! With its fantastic views and lively cultural scene, the Mile High City is a beautiful marriage of outdoor adventure and urban sophistication.
Located on the western edge of the Great Plains, this gateway city to the Rockies boasts stunning natural beauty. Thanks to its mile-high elevation, the skies above Denver are an eye-popping blue, and the stars blaze at night. Surrounding the city, plenty of outdoor activities abound, from ambling along hiking trails to skiing down the slopes at some of the finest ski resorts in the country.
But Denver is more than just a panoramic playground for nature lovers. Chock-full of delicious dining options, bustling craft beer bars, must-see museums, and great art galleries, Denver is the vibrant heart of colorful Colorado. Bring your appetite to enjoy food and drinks at restaurants and craft breweries in cool neighborhoods like Lower Downtown (LoDo). Soak up Denver’s arts & culture scene at popular art museums like the Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum or by catching a show at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.
Ready to experience a Rocky Mountain high? Check out our complete guide to the best places to visit Denver, CO, and prepare for takeoff.
Must-see places to visit in Denver, CO
Denver Art Museum
Want to inject a shot of the finer things into your mountainside getaway? Art aficionados will find their happy place in the Denver Art Museum (DAM). Designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, its varied collections highlight works by artists ranging from Winslow Homer to Vincent Van Gogh.
Denver’s largest art museum, the Denver Art Museum is the vibrant hub of the city’s Golden Triangle Creative District. The DAM is known for both its vast permanent collection—including Monet’s breathtaking Waterloo Bridge, along with one of the world’s finest collections of Native American art—and its cutting-edge contemporary exhibits.
Grab a map at the entrance so you can chart your viewing path. Kids in tow? Let them loose to hunt down the family-friendly activity centers throughout the building. Be sure to drop into the gift shop to browse through a treasure trove of creative gifts and keepsakes.
Denver Botanic Gardens
Looking for a languid oasis that gives you a break from the city center action? Then make your way to the enchanting Denver Botanic Gardens, set in the lush greenery of 80-acre Cheesman Park. Green Thumb wannabes will find their bliss in this lovely 24-acre spot, home to 50 distinct gardens.
Take yourself on a botanical treasure hunt as you stroll through this impressive park. Discover a vivid array of thousands of plant species from around the globe, ranging from rainforest orchids to bonsai trees. Take in the intriguing public art displays and art installations (including glass artist Dale Chihuly’s Colorado) that are set along the garden’s paths.
Up for some mingling with locals and other travelers? The Denver Botanic Gardens is also an active educational and cultural center that hosts special events, including plant shows, art exhibits, and fun activities. Dig in and get your hands dirty in a gardening class!
Hearing the call of the wild? Plan a safari to the Denver Zoo, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Denver. Set in City Park, this 80-acre site is home to over 3,000 animals. It may not be “the wild,” but it’s the next best thing.
Follow its paths for an exhilarating journey that offers up-close experiences with animals in their native elements. Visit the Stingray Cove exhibit, an interactive attraction that lets you feed and touch stingrays. Get a thrilling look at bonnethead and bamboo sharks.
On your visit to the Denver Zoo, also be sure to head up Predator Ridge. This African savanna environment is home to species ranging from spotted hyenas to African lions. Or hike over to Bear Mountain for exhilarating sightings of these massive four-pawed creatures.
Piqued by primates? Look waaay up at Primate Panorama, where you’ll delight in viewing derring-do in the tree branches.
Tip: Visit around feeding time for prime wildlife viewing.
Keep note that entry to the Denver Zoo requires an online timed ticket reservation. Admission to the zoo is $24 for adults, with lower prices for seniors and youth. Children under two are free. Visitors can reserve their general admission tickets up to 10 days in advance on the zoo’s official site.
Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Feeling the need to indulge your inner science nerd? Let it loose at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science! Set in the beautiful City Park, this sprawling structure is meant to inspire awe – and it does!
You’ll feel your jaw drop as you step into the main lobby of one of Denver’s premier museums and are welcomed by a giant dinosaur skeleton towering above you. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science houses artifacts ranging from fascinating prehistoric fossils to Egyptian mummies to the mysteries of outer space. This place is massive, so give yourself plenty of time to explore.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science also hosts special “blockbuster” exhibits that showcase everything from ancient Chinese treasures to the Dead Sea Scrolls, so check out their schedule. Head for the planetarium and the hands-on Space Odyssey area for some mind-blowing “edutainment.”
Stop in at the gift shop for a fantastic selection of unique toys, books, and stuffed animals for the budding science geeks in your life.
Fascinated by underwater wonders? Then dive into the marvels of the Downtown Aquarium. Brimming with over a million gallons of water and hundreds of aquatic species, this spot is a magnet for lovers of sea life.
Gear up for a great mix of family fun, spectacular viewing, and delicious dining. Take in intriguing exhibits that highlight aquatic ecosystems and conservation programs around the world. Enjoy thrilling up-close views of fascinating marine creatures, including turtles, stingrays, and sharks.
And at the Downtown Aquarium, you can do more than just look! Check out the Stingray Reef touch tanks. You can even swim with the fish. Take a plunge in the Shark Cage and take in fantastic views of the 400,000-gallon Shipwreck exhibit.
Worked up an appetite? Hit the Aquarium Restaurant for a truly unique dining experience. You’ll be sitting next to a spectacular centerpiece: a 50,000-gallon aquarium teeming with over 100 colorful fish species. An eating adventure!
Want to visit Denver’s birthplace? Then you’ll want to carve out time to spend in Confluence Park, a beautiful urban oasis that played a pivotal role in Denver’s history. Set at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, this is where a glittering discovery sparked the Colorado Gold Rush of 1858 – and where the vibrant city now stands.
Surrounding this impressive park is Denver’s Lower Downtown (LoDo), a lively neighborhood of renovated 19th-century brick storefronts and warehouses, and the city’s historic transport hub, Denver Union Station. Confluence Park is also a great place to get an eyeful of natural beauty.
Walk, run, or bike the paths that meander along the river. Jump in for a dip to cool off. If you’re a soccer or baseball fan, hit the fields! Feeling daring? Check out the rapids on the whitewater kayak run.
Time to relax on your sightseeing adventures? Just spread out a blanket on the riverbank and enjoy the beautiful view.
Colorado State Capitol
Get an up-close look at one of Colorado’s most iconic buildings by dropping into the Colorado State Capitol. Dating back to 1886, this beautifully preserved structure is set on Capitol Hill next to Downtown Denver. Even if you only have one day in Denver, checking out this famous Colorado landmark is a must.
Colorado’s seat of government, the Colorado State Capitol building is embellished with a spectacular golden dome. Step inside, and you’ll marvel at the 180-foot height from floor to ceiling. Opt for a free guided tour to explore the interior, including the state’s governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices, as well as the Colorado General Assembly.
While in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, travelers should make time to visit the Brown House Museum. This was the home of the “unsinkable” Molly Brown, an early leader of the American suffragette movement, and it’s an intriguing example of Victorian design. If you’re a history buff, you won’t want to miss it!
Ready to take in the Denver pulse? You’ll find its heartbeat in the storied spot known as Larimer Square. Named for pioneering General William Larimer, this was Denver’s first city block, its first commercial district, and the site of its first residence and first city hall.
Larimer Square was also the city’s first designated historic district. Thanks to the preservation and restoration of historic features, this iconic gathering spot remains the heart and soul of downtown Denver.
Home to beautifully preserved Victorian buildings and eye-popping historic architecture, Larimer Square is great for walkers and gawkers. Shop one-of-a-kind boutiques offering unique locally-made creations. Check out a rich array of chef-driven dining options, and treat yourself to a delicious meal. The Larimer Street neighborhood brims with nightlife energy – so stick around and soak it up!
When you’re done exploring the area, venture northeast on Larimer Street to soak up all the cultural goodies in the hip River North Art District (RiNo). Crush your hunger at the vibrant Denver Central Market, which has been feeding Denverites since the late 1800s. Then, wander the streets of RiNo to discover its colorful street art and wall murals.
Visitors can dig into the River North Art District’s nightlife at cool Denver craft breweries like Our Mutual Friend Brewing or the Blue Moon Brewing Company. Finish off the evening by catching a concert at one of the city’s top live music venues, like the Larimer Lounge or the Mission Ballroom.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
Attention, aviation enthusiasts! You’ll want to wing your way to Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Set on the former Lowry Air Force Base just six miles east of Denver’s downtown, this was the first home of the Air Force Academy.
This expansive facility has been named one of the best aviation museums in the world – so get set to be educated, entertained, and maybe even inspired. Take your time to get close-up views of the dozens of historical aircraft and spacecraft at Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum. Browse exhibits highlighting the fascinating story of flight and space science.
You may not be qualified to pilot a plane, but you can experience the next best thing when you hop into the seat of the flight simulator. When you’re ready to come down to earth, hit the gigantic outdoor Lowry Beer Garden for a breezy bite and brew.
Heads up, sports fans! Take in a baseball game while you relish fantastic views of the Rocky Mountains at Coors Field. You can’t beat that!
This 76-acre baseball stadium is home to the beloved Colorado Rockies, who regularly play at home from April to September. Coors Field has also earned a reputation as the “hitter’s park.” Thanks to the thin air at Denver’s high altitude, batted balls fly record distances here. Check out the on-site Colorado Sports Hall of Fame for some striking examples.
Grab yourself a seat at Coors Field for some high-flying action. Check out the row of purple seats marking the stadium’s “One Mile High” point. Or snag a ticket for as little as $7 in the “Rockpile,” a section of bleachers behind center field. After the game, hit the on-site SandLot Brewery to sip some suds.
Four Mile Historic Park
If you’re a history buff, you’ll want to take a trip back in time to Four Mile Historic Park, a landmark place that’s a short drive from Denver’s Cherry Creek neighborhood. Savor a rare chance to experience the Old American West without even leaving town!
At Four Mile Historic Park, you can explore a fully working homestead and farm (complete with kid-friendly animals), an abundant seasonal garden, and a range of historical replica structures representing life in the mid-1800s. Stroll the gardens and grounds, then take a tour of the park’s crowning jewel: the Four Mile House, Denver’s oldest standing structure.
Check out the park’s schedule to get your gang in on some of its fun and interactive activities. Jump into crafty offerings like Eat, Drink, and Make Art. Or how about a session of Goat Yoga? (Yes, really.)
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Feeling lucky? Don your Tilley hat and pan for gold. You might strike it rich!
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
Looking for a creative and cultural experience that sits outside the mainstream box? Then wend your way to the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. This intimate museum is the first site dedicated to contemporary art in Denver.
Originally housed in a fish market in Sakkura Square, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver is now set inside a striking structure just down the street from Union Station. Head for the nearly-hidden entrance to the wall-like door. Your presence activates a motion sensor – and voila!
Cross the threshold, and take in a vibrant interior space that’s illuminated by hidden skylights. A frequent host to touring exhibits, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver packs a powerful punch with show-stopping works spread across five galleries. Savor a diverse array of art forms ranging from video installations to trompe l’oeil collages.
Browse the gift shop for a great selection of locally-made artisanal pieces. Check out the rooftop cafe for a snack, a sip, and an amazing mountain view.
16th Street Mall
Want to check out Denver’s version of Rodeo Drive? Then head down to the 16th Street Mall. This mile-long pedestrian pathway goes right through downtown Denver, and it’s chock-full of shops, eateries, and entertainment hotspots. Plus, it’s a great place for people-watching!
Access this walk-and-gawk hotspot on foot from downtown Denver, or hop aboard the MallRide bus from either end of the 16th Street Mall. (Be ready to give your credit card a workout.)
After sundown, give your feet a break and opt for a horse-and-carriage ride instead. Catch some lively street performances as you roll by.
For even more ways to exercise your shopping muscles, hit the Denver Pavillions, a vast open-air shopping mall. All shopped out? Hit the mall’s movie theatre and forget about that dent in your credit card.
If you want to check out Denver’s world-class creators of heavenly libations, the Mythology Distillery should be on your list of things to do in Denver. Nestled in the city’s popular Lower Highland (LoHi) neighborhood, this destination is a must-see if you fancy sampling some amazing handcrafted spirits while in Denver.
At Mythology Distillery, you can view the behind-the-scenes magic that goes into creating those luscious libations. It’s no surprise that this urban craft distillery and cocktail bar is a popular Denver destination. Take a tour to learn about the distillation and blending processes and about Mythology’s unique, sustainable approach to spirit production.
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Then it’s time to taste! Nibble on goodies from the tasting menu, like apple brie grilled cheese, while you sip samples of Best Friend Bourbon, Hell Bear American Whiskey, and Needle Pig (a dry gin distilled with six natural botanicals).
Ladies and gentlemen, prepare your palates!
Denver Millenium Bridge
Looking for a picturesque Denver attraction that happens to be the first of its kind? Head along to the Denver Millenium Bridge. Just minutes away from Denver’s lower downtown, this is the world’s first cable-stayed bridge using post-tensioned construction.
Take a stroll along this impressive structure and get an awesome up-close view. Connected to the bridge deck and foundation by massive steel cables, the 200-foot-high steel mast rises above Denver’s northwestern skyline. The unique Denver Millenium Bridge takes you right over the city’s railway and light-rail system tracks from one end of town to the other.
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Whether you’re traveling by foot, bike, or vehicle, it’s a great scenic route that connects the popular 16th Street Mall with the Commons Park in the Union Station neighborhood. Enjoy the amazing views, snap some skyline pics, and take in some eye-catching public art displays along the way!
Ready for a break from the city drumbeat? Soothe your senses with a stopover in Washington Park. Developed in 1899 and still surrounded by 19th-century homes, this gem is set in the Washington Park neighborhood – one of the oldest in Denver.
Explore 165 acres of beautiful lakes and lush gardens. (The locals think of Washington Park as Denver’s Central Park.) Meander the wandering paths of Mount Vernon Garden. Settle back on a bench and take in the beauty of this green oasis.
Check out the miles of trails for a mind-clearing jog or bike ride. Hit the tennis courts or soccer fields, or get your serve on at the volleyball nets to work up a sweat. Cool off with a paddleboat ride or a dip in Smith Lake.
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Got kids in tow? Head for Grasmere Lake and let them loose on the playground. After they’re all tuckered out, hit the picnic facilities and just sprawl.
Want to savor a Rocky Mountain high? Navigate your way to Mount Evans, the highest peak in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Towering over 14,200 feet, this majestic feature is a must-see for anyone who wants the full “mountain experience.”
Don’t be daunted by the height. The trail is short and relatively easy, making Mount Evans a popular hiking destination for ramblers and scramblers of every skill level.
Slip on some sturdy footwear, grab your camera, and make the 0.17-mile trek to the summit. You’ll be richly rewarded with stunning panoramic views for miles around.
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To reach the mountainside, cruise along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in the United States.
Relish the breathtaking scenery, featuring alpine lakes and meadows, towering pines, and rural residents like elk and bighorn sheep. Hop out at the scenic lookout points along the way—getting there is half the fun!
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Music fans visiting Colorado’s capital city will never forgive themselves for dodging a side trip to the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre. Just a 25-minute drive from Downtown Denver, this music venue is one of the coolest destinations in the country to watch your favorite artists perform.
The stage at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre appears to emerge from the soaring red rock formations, with its structure carved from red sandstone. The seats likewise sit upon sandstone, perfectly matching the surrounding landscape.
Notable past concerts at Red Rocks have included legends like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, U2, Neil Young, and Stevie Nicks. Check out the events schedules to see what’s on during your trip.