With so much to do in Denver, it's hard to choose where to start in this well-known Colorado city. Some of the top must-see tourist attractions include the indoor grace of the Denver Art Museum and watching a concert or hiking while soaking up the outdoor beauty of Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. There is something for everyone—including kids—in the usually sunny Mile High City that's home to one of the country's most popular skate parks. Downtown Denver is very pedestrian-friendly: Within a mile radius, tourists can enjoy art and history museums, a theme and water park, and numerous restaurants.
More than 250 million years in the making and located at 6,450 feet above sea level, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre features natural acoustics that lend themselves to unique outdoor concerts. Red Rocks—just 15 miles (24 kilometers) west of Denver in Morrison—also has various hiking and biking trails with spectacular views.
Stop at the Trading Post shop onsite for some souvenirs and head to the Ship Rock Grille in the Red Rocks Visitor Center to enjoy amazing vistas while you dine.
The iconic 1881 building—referred to locally as Denver’s living room—reopened in 2014 with a full slate of restaurants and shops, in addition to serving as a transit hub downtown. Stay overnight at the Crawford Hotel located above Union Station and explore town on one of their electric bikes, or just enjoy a drink at the Terminal Bar while people watching.
During the summer, the fountains outside the station provide a respite from the heat for children of all ages, and visitors can catch free cooking demonstrations on Saturdays at the Farmer's Market outside of Union Station.
The Denver Zoo opened its doors in 1896 with the donation of an orphaned black bear named Billy Bryan. Covering 80 acres in the historic City Park neighborhood, the popular attraction receives more than 2 million visitors each year. The zoo houses almost 3,700 animals from across the world, including a range from African lions to Asian elephants and Malayan Tapirs.
Various programs educate visitors about the zoo's creatures, including Up-Close Animal Encounters, which provides guided tours and an intimate look at animals and zookeepers.
The Denver Art Museum is known for its African, Asian, Latin American, American Indian, and Western American art, among other collections such as design, photography, and architecture. The museum also has exhibitions such as "The Light Show," which explores light in the natural and spiritual world through a reflective narrative. "Treasures of British Art: The Berger Collection" features approximately 60 paintings of Britain’s cultural history, dating from the 1400s through the late 1800s.
Colorado's dry climate challenges gardeners across the state, but the Denver Botanic Gardens always provide inspiration. The gardens contain 24 acres, including numerous arid gardens that require little water. International gardens include plants from South Africa, the Tropics, Japan, China, and other parts of the world. Popular flowers such as roses, daylilies, and irises live in the ornamental gardens. There are also shady and water gardens to enjoy, while a children's garden with six ecosystems is sure to delight the little ones.
Various guided tours are available.
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science, founded in 1900 by local naturalist Edwin Carter, offers educational fun for all ages. The collection is home to more than 1 million objects from around the world, like natural history and anthropological materials, archival resources, and more.
The family will also love the Phipps IMAX Theater for checking out movies, and the Gates Planetarium has fun shows like "One World, One Sky," featuring Sesame Street's Big Bird and Elmo exploring the night sky with a friend from China.
Take a stroll through Denver's 16th Street Mall, a mile-long outdoor shopping and dining center in the Mile High City. Dozens of restaurants and boutiques join chain stores such as the Banana Republic and Sephora for a one-stop attraction. Lucky Strike bowling alley, Regal UA Denver Pavilions 4DX & RPX movie theater, and Coyote Ugly bar also provide nighttime entertainment. Stop by Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for some Colorado-made treats.
Designed in the 19th century by architect Elijah E. Myers, the Colorado State Capitol Building echoes the classical lines of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The inside features Colorado Rose Onyx (a rare rose marble) and beautiful stained glass windows. The Denver building is exactly one mile high at 5,280 feet (1,609 meters), leading to the city's nickname of the "Mile High City."
The capitol houses the Colorado General Assembly and the offices of the governor, lieutenant governor, and treasurer. Check out the building on your own, or reserve a free weekday tour that takes less than an hour.
Elitch Gardens, located downtown, truly has something for everyone in the family, from thrilling rollercoasters like the Mind Eraser—entailing dives and double spins going faster than 50 miles per hour—to fun ferris wheels and balloon races. The water park has big slides and mellower rides for little ones.
You'll also find several spots for shopping, dining, and games, plus summer movies and concerts.
Washington Park, one of Denver's finest parks, covers 155 acres and features one of the most popular running and biking trails in Denver, drawing fitness enthusiasts and dog walkers from across the city. Two scenic lakes and the city's largest flower garden add to "Wash Park's" bucolic charm.
While you're there, check out the nearby charming South Pearl Street and its restaurants—ranging from sushi to Cajun to pizza—plus shops, galleries, and wine and cocktail bars.
If you are looking for a nice mountain hike, try Echo Lake, just 33 miles (53 kilometers) west of Denver. The lake—listed on the National Register of Historic Places—is located at the base of the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in the U.S., which reaches 14,260 feet (4,346 meters) above sea level. Visitors will have great views of snowy peaks, along with opportunities for fishing and having a picnic or cookout.
The 1926 Echo Lake Lodge houses a restaurant with buffalo chili and beloved pie and a gift shop that sells handmade Native American jewelry, glassware, collectibles, and other items.
Craft beer is big in Colorado, and the curious (age 21 and up) will enjoy a guided walking tour of 2-3 hours dedicated to the alcoholic beverage. The tour takes place in the Historical Lower Downtown (LoDo) District and includes more than 10 beer samples and fun city history and trivia. Attendees will learn about the brewing process, stop by a popular brewpub that turned into a nationwide franchise, relax in the city's top craft beer bar, and visit a brewery founded by the governor.
If you have a few days (or more) to spare, it's just about 40 minutes by car to reach Boulder, a small but lively city at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains that is home to the University of Colorado, the state's biggest university. Boulder is a fun and scenic getaway: Explore the pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall downtown, where you'll find restaurants, cafes, shops, galleries, and street musicians.
You can eat global cuisine at the gorgeous Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, a popular attraction that was constructed in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and sent to its sister city of Boulder, where the pieces were reassembled.
Denver is proud to have one of the most popular skate parks in the country, the Denver Skatepark in LoDo, which is open daily and has free admission. The large area has 60,000 square feet of concrete with bowls for boarders, bikers, and bladers of all skill levels.
You will need to bring your own gear, as there are no rentals onsite; helmets are required.
Coors Field baseball stadium opened in 1995 in the lower downtown/Ballpark Neighborhood. Serving as home base for the Colorado Rockies Major League Baseball team, the stadium holds more than 50,000 fans. Those in the first-base and right-field areas will catch great views of the Rocky Mountains.
Stop at the Wazee Market behind section 137 on the main concourse if hunger strikes; enjoy pizza and other ballpark traditional foods in a courtyard area.