Back in 1991, Warren Zevon’s catchy tune “Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead,” pretty much summed up the extent of Denver’s attractions and events. The downtown area was still floundering, LoDo was just getting established, there was no Coors Field or Pepsi Center, and the Mile High City was still pretty much a cowtown.
Fast forward to over 25 years later; the landscape has changed dramatically. The Rattlesnake (Cafe) Grill may no longer be around but there are plenty of places to “roll around all day.” Be it culture, sports, recreation or nightlife that grabs your attention, Denver is the complete package when it comes to diversity of activities designed to refresh and regenerate your soul.
As the population has boomed and neighborhoods have been revitalized, so have the number of things to do in the city. From the historic Coors Brewery to the revamped Union Station to the art scene of RiNo, there is an incredible array of sites and events to explore in Denver. Whether you only have a day, a weekend or are lucky enough to live here and enjoy unlimited access, the city is ready to show you a good time.
Check out some of highlights of the Mile High City:
TOP 9 LANDMARKS IN DENVER
Originally built in 1881, almost destroyed by fire in 1894 and completely renovated in 2012, this building has had many lives but remains the focal point of Lower Downton. Re-opened in 2014, Union Station Denver is not only a transit center for RTD and Amtrak but is also home to the Crawford Hotel, numerous restaurants, and many events throughout the year.
Almost as famous as the Rocky Mountains themselves, the Coors Brewery remains a lasting symbol of Colorado. Brewing beer in Golden since 1873, its brewery tour is a favorite attraction for locals and visitors alike.
Colorado’s state capitol building, with its distinctive gold leaf inlay dome, commemorates the Colorado Gold Rush of the mid-1800s. The beautiful building features stained glass windows, white granite and rose marble, and is part of the National Historic Landmark District.
Located across the street from the capitol, Civic Center Park is a favorite gathering place for festivals and concerts. The Greek amphitheater, flower beds and benches make for a wonderful respite for lunch hour or weekend activities.
Since 1982, people have been enjoying the 16th Street Mall. Served by the free RTD shuttle bus, this one-mile long pedestrian mall features retail shops, outdoor cafes, restaurants, historic office buildings and special events throughout the year.
What began as Bear Mountain in 1918, is now the acclaimed Denver Zoo. Helping create lasting memories for individuals and families for a century, this Denver institution is only one of four zoological institutions and the only one in the western hemisphere to achieve the highest international distinction for its environmental, health and safety management systems.
This 24-acre venue presents a wide range of gardens, plants and flower collections that illustrate an ever-widening diversity of vegetation from all corners of the world. Open year-round, the Denver Botanic Gardens offers both indoor and outdoor gardens that define and celebrate our Western identity and unique high altitude climate.
What’s a visit to Colorado without experiencing a train ride? Slow down, take in the views and enjoy the mode of transportation that was key to Colorado’s development.
Since 1892, the Brown Palace has been attracting guests in search of opulent accommodations, impeccable service and savory food. Renowned for its downtown location, amenities and, of course, high tea, the Brown Palace continues to impress over a century since its inception.
Kids aren’t required to enjoy the amusement and water parks in Denver. Become a nostologist and check out these parks that are a vital part of Denver’s history and are enjoyed by all ages.
Going strong since 1890, Elitch Gardens is a theme and water park, and entertainment center all packed into one. With thrilling rides, water slides, concerts and special events, Elitches is the place to visit from spring to fall.
Little has change in this amusement park since it was opened over a century ago. As a result, visitors are treated to a step back in time with inexpensive admission, throwback rides and a slower pace. Many of the Lakeside buildings from 1908 are still standing and functional, as are the vintage carousel and miniature train that delight people of all ages.
Snuggled up against the foothills, Heritage Amusement Park is open in the spring through September. There is an assortment of rides, a zip line, go karts, and paddle and bumper boats
What it lacks in size, it makes up for in fun. This outdoor water park has water slides, a dump bucket, lazy river, leisure pool and more. PIrate’s Cove is part of the city of Englewood.
Denver has a surprising assortment of respected museums that feature art, nature and science, history and other wide-ranging topics.
With over 70,000 pieces of art, the Denver Art Museum has risen to one of the largest art museums between Chicago and the west coast. Stunning exhibitions and collections are always ready for viewing.
One of Denver’s newer museums, MCA explores popular art and culture, and is at the forefront of displaying contemporary art in the area.
The Clyfford Still Museum opened in 2011 and is the newest addition to Denver’s burgeoning Cultural Arts District located adjacent to the Denver Art Museum in the city’s Civic Center Cultural Complex. The museum strives to feature innovation and unique exhibits.
Promoting the public’s understanding and appreciation of art depicting the American West from the early 1800s through present day is the mission of the American Museum of Western Art. The art presented is intended to give the public a better understanding and appreciation of the character, history, and beauty of the American West.
Located in the heart of the Santa Fe Arts District, Museo de las Americas is the premier Latin American art museum in the Rocky Mountain region. Museo is dedicated to educating the Denver community about Latino art and culture.
The new facility, newly opened in March of 2018, features three distinct collections: An international decorative art collection from 1875 to 1990, Colorado and regional art collections featuring 7,000 works by more than 700 artists and a retrospective of Colorado’s distinguished painter, Vance Kirkland (1904–1981).
Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe (ADSF) is a nationally known arts and cultural district, encompassing hundreds of artists, galleries, studios, theaters and creative businesses along Santa Fe Drive.
The Belmar Arts Council was founded in 2004 as a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving the quality of life for Lakewood residents and visitors by helping the arts prosper. The Council provides diverse experiences in both the visual and performing arts for people of all ages.
This eclectic area in northwest Denver has a full calendar of events that includes anything art related. From photography to music, antiques to art galleries, you’ll find it in RiNo.
Located at 1560 Teller Street in Lakewood, 40 West Arts serves as the creative hub for 40 West Arts' 140+ artist members. 40 West Gallery holds exhibitions and openings, events and experiences, and much more.
The Madden Museum is committed to make art accessible to residents of Greenwood Village and businesses operating in the Denver Tech Center through varied exhibitions and educational offerings.
One of Colorado’s treasures, the roots of this museum date back to 1868 when Edwin Carter began studying Colorado birds and mammals, and collecting flora and fauna in Breckenridge. His collection was eventually purchased and put on display in Denver in 1908. From wildlife to Egyptian mummies to gems and minerals to space, the present day museum explores every aspect of science and nature, and so much more.
This dynamic historical site enhances Denver’s unique identity by telling the story of Margaret “Molly” Brown’s activism, philanthropy and passion through educational programs, exhibits, and stewardship. Regular tours of the home and truly unique events can be had at the Molly Brown House.
The Mizel Museum is Denver’s only museum that addresses today’s social justice issues through the lens of Jewish history and values. It offers programs, events and exhibits that help expand cultural diversity and understanding.
The History Colorado Center opened in 2012 in Denver’s Golden Triangle Museum District. An award-winning tourist destination and a hub for learning and entertainment, it’s also a place to shop and dine.
Targeting young children through age 8, the Children’s Museum strives to create an environment where kids can learn through hands on interaction. Exhibits, workshops, story time and an assortment of other learning experiences await you and your child.
Considered one of the top three firehouse museums in the nation, the Denver Firefighters Museum offers not only outstanding exhibits on the history of fire fighting in Denver, but innovative and exciting hands-on activities that allow visitors to interact with the traditional exhibits.
This air and space museum boasts more than 182,000 square feet of hangar space full of iconic aircraft, space vehicles, artifacts, military uniforms and much more. Visitors can also experience thrilling flight simulators, discover Wings Aerospace Academy, our enrichment program for students, and participate in dozens of exciting museum sponsored events.
The mission of this unique museum is to provide educational and cultural services to the greater Rocky Mountain region through the preservation, exhibition, collection and interpretation of the visual arts using miniatures, dolls and toys.
Whether you’re a beginner, searching for trails in the foothills or are a seasoned veteran scaling 14,000 foot peaks, Colorado is known for its incredible hiking opportunities.
Urban Trail System
Perfect for walking your dog, jogging or cycling, trails abound in the Denver metro area. You don’t have to travel far to reach any section of these trails. Here are a few of the favorites: Cherry Creek Trail, South Platte/Mary Greenway Trail, High Line Canal and Clear Creek.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Often the reason people initially come to Colorado, the 28 ski areas in the state keep skiers and snowboarders coming back. Six of those areas -- Arapahoe Basin, Echo Mountain, Eldora, Keystone, Loveland and Winter Park -- all are within 1 ½ hours of Denver.
The Denver area is laden with spectacular public golf courses. From par 3, to 27 hole layouts, flat to rolling terrain, the Front Range has a little bit of everything for every ability level. Many of the courses are city operated and provide discounts for residents. Best of all, the high altitude assures your ball will travel further than ever!
Denver and its suburbs have truly special park systems that range from block long places of respite to hundreds of acres for your enjoyment. Add the many Colorado State Parks, mountain parks and open space, there is plenty of outdoors for the taking.
Normally considered a winter sport, ice skating is enjoyed year-round in the Denver area. Yes, there are plenty of outdoor rinks to enjoy when the snow is flying but indoor facilities allow for ice skating regardless of the temperatures. Ice Center at the Promenade (Westminster), Ritchie Center at DU, Family Sports Ice Arena (Centennial), South Suburban Ice Rink (Centennial), Edge Ice Arena (Littleton), Big Bear Ice Arena, and Ice Ranch (Littleton) are open year-round.
From urban trails to single-track mountain bike paths, the Denver area is loaded with escapes for two-wheeled enthusiasts.
Unique boutiques, traditional malls, neighborhood shopping districts and kitchy shops are just a few of the shopping experiences that await you in Denver. Whether you are looking for high end fashion or handmade items, numerous venues have what you’re looking for.
Located in the heart of Denver, this shopping area features 40 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.
A quick 10 minute drive from downtown Denver, the Cherry Creek Mall is a favorite among Denverites. You’ll find your favorite brand name stores along with upscale boutiques and an array of dining options.
North of the Cherry Creek Mall is this popular neighborhood and shopping haven. Walk along the 16 blocks of sidewalks and peruse the 600 local and international stores and boutiques.
Serving the south metro area, Park Meadows is known for its accessibility from I-25, C-470 and the RTD light rail. You’ll find all the big retailers here along with an awesome food court.
This mecca along South Broadway is chock-full of antiques, vintage collectables and more.
Located on the east side of Denver’s venerable Washington Park, this quaint neighborhood is a favorite getaway when you need a bite to eat or a shopping fix.
This is one of Denver’s most historic, charming, and popular shopping districts. Stretching from Buchtel to Jewell Ave., the tree-lined blocks are the antidote to the modern mega-mall.
Situated just west of downtown along 32nd Avenue, Highland Square features quaint architecture and unique shops and restaurants. Locals and visitors can shop for everything from contemporary fashion to rare books, and foodies can choose from an assortment of varied cuisines,
This is a traditional flea market, open to anyone who wants to sell. You’ll find a four-season farmers market, new covered shops, kids rides zone, food and beer stands, live music and much more. Open every weekend year-round, the flea market attracts over 2,500 weekend sellers and more than a million visitors each year.
There is nothing better than fresh produce during the spring, summer and fall, and Denver offers plenty of opportunities to “buy local.” Fruits, vegetables, honey, jam, eggs and a multitude of other products can be found at neighborhood farmers’ markets.
From musicals to plays, symphony music to ballet, Denver has it all. If you love live performances, you’re going to love these venues.
The pulse of Denver’s performing arts community is found in this complex which houses seven separate theaters and venues.
The award winning Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities has grown to become one of the nation’s largest multidisciplinary arts centers, devoted to all aspects of the arts.
What began as a nickelodeon movie house in 1912, the Bug Theater is now dedicated to live theater, independent films, forums and workshops.
Established in 1997 by a vanguard artistic company, Curious brings the best new theatre to Denver, producing thought-provoking plays designed to challenge ideas, stir emotions, and leave audiences thinking and talking for days.
Located on the University of Denver campus, this theater is dedicated to presenting diverse artists, music and dance, and providing education and arts programming to all ages
Located on the Colorado Free University campus in Lowry, this theater offers an exceptional variety of performances for a reasonable price.
Small theater that features diverse performances including improv, comedy and a wide range of interesting topics.
Su Teatro’s mission includes the promotion, production, development and preservation of cultural arts, heritage, and traditions of the Chicano/Latino community. This is the third oldest Chicago theater in the United States, operating for over 40 years.
The King Center is a modern performing arts complex located on the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver. It houses six performing arts spaces.
The National Western Stock Show, established in 1906, is the premier livestock, rodeo, and horse show in the nation, serving agricultural producers and consumers throughout the world. The Stock Show, one of Colorado’s preeminent tourist destinations, is held every January for 16 days. A nationally recognized western heritage and entertainment event, the stock show hosts one of the world’s richest regular season professional rodeos, one of the country’s largest horse shows and Colorado’s largest western trade show, attracting over 650,000 visitors each year.
Throughout this historic event, the National Western strives to strengthen American agriculture through enrichment programs and youth education in livestock, equestrian, farming, ranching, animal awareness and appreciation.
Every year towards the end of February, Denver residents and visitors are treated to outstanding deals at hundreds of restaurants in the metro area. Hundreds of Denver’s top restaurants offer multi-course dinners for three tasty prices $25, $35, or $45.
One of Denver’s finest parades, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebrates everything Irish, and invite the non-Irish honorary status for the day. Enjoy great pipe and drum bands, floats and much more.
Cinco de Mayo, celebrated by Latinos and non-Latinos across the country, commemorates the victory of the outnumbered Mexican army over French forces in 1862. Cinco de Mayo is a celebration of freedom and Latino culture. Experience the paradr and numerous activities at Civic Center Park including live music, food court, carnival and much more.
Every Memorial Day, Colorado celebrates running, the outdoors and the Bolder Boulder. Since 1979, this annual road race has attracted thousands and now boasts over 50,000 entries, the third largest running race in the United States.
The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is a free three-day, world-class and award-winning celebration of the visual, culinary, and performing arts and enjoys an annual attendance of 350,000 visitors. Special exhibits, educational and interactive family activities on Artivity Avenue complement the festival experience.
Every Labor Day weekend, food enthusiasts take over Civic Center Park and the adjoining streets. More than 60 restaurants provide delectable fare, and there is live music, arts and crafts, vendors and special events to keep you entertained.
The Great American Beer Festival is the American brewing industry’s top public tasting opportunity and competition. Tasting sessions will offer attendees the opportunity to tour America’s brewing landscape, one ounce at a time, with access to more than 3,500 different beers from over 800 of the nation’s finest breweries. The GABF gathers practically every type of beer from all of the regions of the country, and are arranged geographically in the festival hall.
Every year, the City and County Building of Denver and Union Station are ablaze in lights for the holidays. Along with the Parade of Lights, this is a magical time to be in Denver.
From coffee shops to pizza joints to brewpubs, Denver has an eclectic array of eating and drinking establishments. Check out these popular Mile High neighborhoods and a few of the favorite restaurants you’ll find in the vicinity.
Colt & Gray, 1553 Platte St.
Brider, 1644 Platte St.
Wayward Denver, 1610 Little Raven St.
Menya Ramen & Poke, 1590 Little Raven St.
Bistro Barbes, 5021 E. 28th Ave.
Oblios, 6115 E. 22nd Ave.
Chop Shop, 4990 E. Colfax Ave.
Tables, 2260 Kearney St.
Red Sauce, 2230 Oneida St.
Blunozer, 1475 Ivy St.
Neighbors Park Hill, 2202 Kearney St.
Phoenician Kabob, 5709 E. Colfax Ave.
9Thai, 4122 E. Colfax Ave.
The Abbey Tavern, 5151 E. Colfax Ave.
Reiver’s Bar & Grill, 1085 S. Gaylord St.
Washington Park Grille, 1096 S. Gaylord St.
Devil’s Food Bakery, 1004 S. Gaylord St.
Homegrown Tap & Dough, 1001 S. Gaylord St.
Max Gill & Grill, 1052 S. Gaylord St.
Plimoth, 2335 E. 28th St.
Denver Biscuit Co., 3237 E. Colfax Ave.
Atomic Cowboy, 3237 E. Colfax Ave.
Denver Bicycle Cafe, 1308 E. 17th Ave.
Tacos Tequila Whiskey, 1514 York St.
Humboldt Farm Fish Wine, 1700 Humboldt St.
Olive and Finch, 1552 E. 17th Ave.
Paxti’s Pizza, 1598 E. 17th Ave.
Vine Street Pub, 1700 Vine St.
Govnr’s Park Tavern, 672 Logan St.
Jelly, 600 E. 13th Ave.
Charlie Brown’s, 980 S. Grant St.
Sexy PIzza, 1018 E. 11th Ave.
Park Tavern & Restaurant, 931 E. 11th Ave.
Table 6, 609 Corona St.
Stoney’s Bar & Grill, 1111 Lincoln St.
Potager, 1109 Ogden St.
Bones, 701 Grant St.
Mizuna, 225 E. 7th Ave.
Lala's, 410 E. 7th Ave.
Prohibition, 504 E. Colfax Ave.
Highland Tap & Burger, 2219 W. 32nd Ave.
Park Burger, 2643 W. 32nd Ave.
Tony Ps, 2400 W. 32nd Ave.
Duo, 2413 W. 32nd Ave.
Old Major, 3316 Tejon St.
Truffle Table, 2556 15th St.
El Camino Community Tavern, 3628 W. 32nd Ave.
Mead Street Station, 3625 w. 32nd Ave.
Root Down, 1600 W. 33rd Ave.
Avanti, 3200 N. Pecos St.
Fire on the Mountain, 3801 W. 32nd Ave.
Blue Pan, 3930 W. 32nd Ave.
el Camino Community Tavern, 3628 W 32nd Ave
Mercantile Dining and Provisions, 1701 Wynkoop St.
Wewatta Point Seafood, 1607 Wewatta St.
Citizen Rail, 1899 16th St.
Aloy Thai, 2134 Larimer St.
Backcountry Deli, 1617 Wazee St.
FreshCraft, 1530 Blake St.
ChoLon, 1555 Blake St.
Kitchen Next Door, 1701 Wynkoop St.
Urban Farmer, 1659 Wazee St.
Avelina, 1550 17th St.
Venice, 1700 Wynkoop St.
Vesta Dipping Grill, 1822 Blake St.
Rioja, 1431 Larimer St.
Tag, 1441 Larimer St.
Rupert’s at the Edge, 2045 Sheridan Blvd.
U.S. Thai, 5225 W. 25th Ave.
Providence Tavern, 5280 W. 25th Ave,
Ohana Grill, 2045 Sheridan Blvd.
Tap & Burger Sloans Lake, 1565 Raleigh St.
Cherry Hills Village
Cherry Crest Seafood, 5909 S. University Blvd.
Wooden Table, 2500 E. Orchard Rd.
Venice Ristorante, 5946 S. Holly St.
Parry’s Pizza, 5970 S. Holly St.
Garlic Knot, 2553 S. Colorado Blvd.
Cochino Taco, 3495 S. Downing St.
Undici Ristorante, 1200 E. Hampden Ave.
Whether you’re looking for something to do after a Rockies game or a night on the town following a theater performance, you’ll discover great nightlife in Denver. From microbreweries to clubs, you’ll find niche for your after dusk activities. Check out some of these popular hangouts:
Grizzly Rose, 5450 N. Valley Hwy.
Nocturne Nightclub, 1330 27th St.
El Chapultepec, 1962 Market St.
Herb’s, 2057 Larimer St.
Crimson Room, 1403 Larimer St.
Live at Jack’s, 500 16th St. #320
Dazzle, 1512 Curtis St.
Stoney’s Bar & Grill, 1111 Lincoln St.
La Rumba, 99 W. 9th Ave.
Beryl’s Beer Co., 3120 Blake St.
Epic Brewery, 3001 Walnut St.
Ratio Beerworks, 2920 Larimer St.
Our Mutual Friend, 2810 Larimer St.
14er Brewing, 2801 Walnut St.
10 Barrel Brewing, 2620 Walnut St.
Great Divide, 2201 Arapahoe St. and 1812 35th St.
Denver Beer Co., 1695 Platte St.
Tivoli Brewing, 900 Auraria Pkwy., #240
Renegade Brewing, 825 W. 9th Ave.
Grandma’s House, 1710 S. Broadway
Platt Park Brewing, 1875 S. Pearl St.
Declaration Brewing, 2030 S. Cherokee St.
Post Brewing, 2200 S. Broadway
Hogshead Brewery, 4460 W. 29th Ave.
Station 26 Brewing, 7045 W. 38th Ave.
Vine St. Pub, 1700 Vine St.
Joyride Brewing, 2501 Sheridan Blvd.
Call to Arms Brewing, 4526 Tennyson St.
Wynkoop Brewery, 1634 18th St.
Mockery Brewing, 3501 Delgany St.
Little Machine Beer, 2924 W 20th Ave.
Blue Moon Brewing Company, 3750 Chestnut Pl
Posted by Pat O'Connor
Pat O’Connor has dual citizenship in both Wisconsin and Colorado, having been born and raised in Wisconsin Dells, but later adopted by the Centennial State. A graduate of the University of Colorado (B.S. Journalism, 1980), O’Connor began her career as a sportswriter at the Boulder Daily Camera under the tutelage of the venerable Dan Creedon. Her experience also includes stints in public relations at Aspen Highlands Ski Area, the Colorado Trial Lawyers and the Colorado Division of Wildlife. When she isn’t piecing together sentences, the self-proclaimed “Cheesehead” enjoys traveling, running, playing golf, hiking 14ers, horseback riding and skiing. During football season, she can be found cheering for the Buffs and "whooping it up" when the Packers win. She loves talking sports and giving recommendations on cheese curds.Facebook LinkedIn Twitter