Denver, Colorado is a sprawling urban destination at the feet of the Rocky Mountains that offers something for everyone to enjoy. It is one of the fastest growing cities in the US and with that growth comes an expansion of everything that a tourist would be looking for —public transportation, restaurants, breweries, street art, cultural attractions —there is just so much to do in the Mile High City!
If you are only visiting Colorado for a weekend, Denver is the best place to explore and the convenient new airport light rail connection makes renting a car unnecessary. If you’re traveling to Colorado for longer than a weekend, consider my one week travel itinerary for suggestions on how to make the most of your time in Colorado.
Morning: Union Station
The airport light rail will drop off new arrivals at the recently rehabbed Beaux-Arts style Union Station in the heart of central Denver. Dating back to 1914, Union Station has served and continues to serve as Denver’s stylish transport hub but the renovations also welcomed in a new wave of shops, restaurants and a boutique hotel into the space. A quick coffee at Pigtrain Coffee or a filling breakfast at Snooze AM Eatery are the perfect way to start your first day exploring Denver. If you happen to arrive later in the afternoon, grab a burger or made-to-order sandwiches from Acme Delicatessen.
Wander across the street from Union Station to Tattered Cover, one of the US’s largest independent bookstores. There are quite literally thousands of books in this massive shop, and it is easy to lose track of time as you peruse the rows of books in this storied (see what I did there?) bookstore. My favorite thing about this shop is the handwritten staff notes that adorn the various shelves, giving you personal recommendations in every literary category.
Early Afternoon: Exploring LoDo
Continuing your tour of the LoDo neighborhood in downtown Denver, make your way over to the stylish Larimer Square shopping district. Larimer Square is a historic area of Denver that is full of independently owned boutiques, ranging from women’s clothing to vintage jewelry to dog accessories. The charming Colorado flags and rope lights hanging over the street are a perfect Instagram backdrop for your shopping adventures!
From there, wander a few blocks north to the 16th street pedestrian mall. Spanning several city blocks, the 16th street mall is a dense commercial area with countless shops, bars and restaurants to meander through. Most of the restaurants and shops are chain companies at this point, but there are a few independent shops to be found. Rockmount Ranch Wear is a fun stop to get you looking straight out of country Western movie or indulge your childhood sweet tooth at Rocket Fizz Candy Shop. Be aware that there tend to be a lot of homeless people in this area.
Your final stop in LoDo is the Dairy Block, a newly opened development built on the same location as the historic Windsor Dairy Company (hence the name). This mixed use space offers 15 shops, over 20 restaurants and bars, and even a boutique hotel over the main food hall space. Specializing in up-and-coming local brands and chefs, the Dairy Block has a trendy vibe all of its own where you are sure to discover a Denver brand that you’ll love.
Late Afternoon: Beer at Street Art in RiNo
Probably the trendiest of all neighborhoods in Denver right now, River North (shortened to RiNo by locals) is a perfect place to end your first day exploring the Mile High City. This is the neighborhood that I keep coming back to when I travel in Denver because it is full of my favorite things like street art and delicious restaurants.
Make sure to arrive in RiNo while there is still daylight since there is such an abundance of street art to explore. You absolutely cannot miss it because there are murals on literally every corner and alley in this area! The highest density of murals can be found in the alley between Larimer and Walnut.
RiNo is also home to some of the best taprooms and breweries in Denver. One of my favorites is First Draft Taproom, which offers 40+ Colorado microbrews that you pour yourself to ensure you get exactly the amount you want. Another great option with a stellar patio is Ratio Beerworks, where I seem to spend hours and hours every time I come to Denver. Only a few doors down from Ratio is Our Mutual Friend whose inviting exterior mural and branding welcomes you into their taproom to sample an assortment of IPAs and funky brews.
Evening: Dinner in RiNo
After several beers, you’re probably ready for some food which RiNo offers many options for dinner. To sample several different things, Denver Central Market food hall has vendors specializing in wood-fired pizzas, hand-crafted sandwiches or sweets like ice cream and chocolate. Need dessert in Denver? My favorite spot is Little Man Ice Cream on the other side of the highway from RiNo. It is open fairly late and has AMAZING ice cream, including my favorite flavor: Salted Oreo.
Osaka Ramen’s underground shop dishes up some of the best ramen in the city (along with creative dishes like the karaage chicken and mochi donuts) while Work & Class maintains its reputation for a buzzy global atmosphere and killer fusion food. A lot of the restaurants in RiNo close early, so if you happen to be out later, don’t miss Meadowlark Kitchen which creates a constantly changing New American menu that always offers a decadent burger that shouldn’t be missed.
If day one in Denver was all about seeing the latest and greatest that the city has to offer, day two is all about appreciating the long-standing attractions that continue to draw visitors to Denver. Once you’re done with your walk, don’t miss breakfast at one of Denver’s most iconic brunch joints, Denver Biscuit Company. Serving up a bevy of biscuit options, DBC’s portions are generous and their serve-yourself coffee bar will have you ready to take on the rest of your Denver adventures.
Early Afternoon: City Park Neighborhood
Start your second day in the City Park neighborhood. Named after Denver’s largest park, this increasingly trendy area runs along the spine of the park. Grab a coffee at Lula Rose General Store, a stylish yet tiny coffee shop on Colfax Avenue. Head into the park for a walk around the well-maintained walking and biking paths which will take you around several lakes and offers stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. You can also find the Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature and Science inside the park. If you have time, explore some of the local shops along this stretch of Colfax such as Lawrence & Larimer Clothing Supply for cozy unisex clothing or Little LulaRose for a beautifully styled selection of plants.
Late Afternoon: Museum Hopping
Denver sits on the pulse of art and culture in Colorado with a variety of museums to entice people of all interests to explore a more historic side of Colorado. Depending on your travel style, these tours could take all day or just a few hours. Start with a quick tour of the Colorado State Capitol building whose gleaming gold dome offers sweeping panoramic views of the city.
The beautifully designed Denver Art Museum has an excellent permanent collection, including an exceptional assortment of Native American art. Denver is one of the few cities in the US that has a functioning Treasury Mint which happens to be open to the public! Learn about how billions of coins are produced onsite each year on their free, guided tour.
Evening: Red Rocks or Rockies Game
End your last night in Denver at one of the city’s two memorable event venues—Red Rocks Amphitheater or Coors Field. Red Rocks is one of the most famous naturally occurring concert venues in the country with amazing acoustics to suit all types of music. There are almost nightly concerts throughout the summer or you can simply visit for a tour during the afternoon.
The Rockies play at Coors Field in downtown Denver, which is regularly rated as one of the most scenic fields in all of baseball thanks to its views of the Rocky Mountains. They recently went through a renovation to update the offerings of restaurants and bars in the stadium, ensuring that their customers eat and drink well while cheering on the Rockies!
Where to Stay in Denver
As the largest city in the state, it is probably unsurprising that Denver has an abundance of great accommodation options. You can find hotels for all price ranges and styles. For a hip option in a great location near Coors Field, The Rally Hotel is a lovely option. The Crawford Hotel is a refined choice located in the historic train station with easy access to the shops & restaurants inside Union Station. I really like the industrial-chic vibes at The Ramble Hotel near RiNo Arts District. It also has an excellent restaurant inside.
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