The Coolest Ways to Spend a Layover in Denver

Denver International Airport at dusk with a mountain background


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Airports can make some people anxious or uncomfortable—not everyone enjoys crowds of people rushing around, waiting in lines, undesirable food choices, and crammed seats awaiting them on the airplane. However, if you’ve got a long layover in Denver, Colorado, or you just like to get to the airport early to be prepared for your flight, you're sure to enjoy your downtime in surprising ways at Denver International Airport.

Unwind and relax between flights at Denver International Airport (referred to by locals as DIA, though the actual airport code is DEN), located 24 miles northeast of downtown Denver. The airport is a cool place for the whole family to hang out, grab a bite to eat, and even enjoy some free recreation from ice skating to yoga and pilates classes. Learn about some interesting ways to spend your time waiting for your next flight at DIA.

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Enjoy Seasonal Entertainment

DIA's Ice Rink outside of the terminal
Denver International Airport

The “Events at DEN” series offers a seasonal rotation of fun (and free) events held outside at the airport on the Plaza between Jeppesen Terminal and the Westin Hotel, such as live jazz concerts in the spring.

Summer months allow travelers to rejuvenate on Wellness Wednesdays with zumba dance classes, pilates, yoga, or various other fitness options. From late May through early September, the DEN Plaza turns into a 7,000 square foot park, giving the community and employees a totally new type of airport experience; relax by the native trees and plants, and enjoy activities like lawn games.

For those flying into Denver in the fall, make the airport your first stop on the beer circuit. Coinciding with Great American Beer Festival and Oktoberfest, the airport holds its annual “Beer Flights.” Visitors can pay to taste samples of beer from Colorado’s microbreweries and brew masters, plus take home a souvenir glass and have fun with trivia games and local entertainment.

Then, in winter, the Denver airport opens up a free ice skating rink which is about 40 feet by 60 feet and is located just outside of the security lines. It gets decked out with holiday decorations, has music playing in the background, and offers additional entertainment, like screenings of holiday movies and carolers.

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Eat Like a Local

Smashburger location in DIA
Denver International Airport 

DIA was ranked number one in the nation on the 2017 Airport Dining Scorecard released by RewardExpert, surpassing the other top 20 most-trafficked airports in the United States. You won’t have to settle for standard airport fare, and there are dozens of options—many being local eateries—as well as a specialty coffee shop called The Roasting Plant at the Hotel and Transit Center.

Denver Central Market is a popular food hall in Concourse A which includes restaurants like Vero Italian pizza, Curio Bar, Izzio Bakery, Sushi-Rama, Crema Bodega, and Culture Meat & Cheese. Snarf’s Sandwiches and Breckenridge Brewery are located in Concourse A, as well.

Other popular Denver outposts at DIA include Elway’s steakhouse, along with New Belgium Brewing Sports Bar, both in Concourse B.

In Concourse C, Colorado burger chain Smashburger serves burgers (including veggie burgers), fresh salads, cocktails, and several Colorado beers from breweries like Oskar Blues, Great Divide, and Left Hand. You'll find Root Down, a veggie-centric and green restaurant, in that same concourse.

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Investigate a Conspiracy Theory

Get dressed up for a conspiracy theory party
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Love a good conspiracy theory? DIA is home to several of them, including public art displays that hint at the apocalypse, underground bunkers, rumors of being haunted, secret societies, as well as being a hub for alien communication and the Illuminati. It’s been featured on the TV show “Conspiracy Theory” and provides fodder for plenty of sleuthing conspiracy theorists in online forums.

To have some fun with it, DIA has been known to play along with art exhibits exploring the most pervasive conspiracy theories and even guided conspiracy theories tours in the month of October. The airport has even thrown conspiracy-theory costume parties. “We decided a few years ago that rather than fight all of this and try to convince everybody there’s nothing really going on, let’s have some fun with it,” Heath Montgomery, former senior public information officer for DIA told The Denver Post.

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Catch a View of the Rockies

The Centennial State of Colorado is known for its natural beauty, including mountains with colorful wildflowers, rivers, and deserts, and Denver is no exception, with views of the Rocky Mountains. The Rockies stretch more than 3,000 miles/4,800 kilometers from northern British Columbia, Canada, all the way to New Mexico, Colorado's neighbor to the south.

For a favorable view of the Rockies from the airport, head to gates C23 and C24. The days are often sunny in Colorado, so you have a good chance of seeing the lovely landscape; sunsets are great too.

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