Denver, Colorado | The Mile high city
Welcome to Denver, Colorado! The elevation is 5,280 feet, making it the “Mile High City.” Denver is a thriving second-tier city located on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. With more direct flights being added every month into Denver International Airport, the city is quickly growing their international presence, making this western hub a cultural hot spot.
As with any new destination, I always like to find out what the must-see, must-do activities are and where to grab a bite to eat. This listcle is a great starting place, and you can always find more on Visit Denver‘s website!
1. SIXTEENTH STREET MALL
At the heart of downtown Denver is the 16th Street Mall. Packed with restaurants, shopping, and street performers there is always something to see and do in this busy metro area. The 16th Street Mall is dotted with unique pieces of art – seen here is one of the 10 upright pianos from the “Keys to the City” project. Everyone is welcome to play and sometimes you end up hearing a truly lovely musician as you make your way up and down the walking mall.
Denver’s iconic giant, 40-foot tall Blue Bear is at the end of 16th Street by the Convention Center, peeking into a window. A beloved photo op for tourists and locals, be sure to snap a pic!
2. LARIMER SQUARE
Bathed in Colorado sunshine during the day, and warmly lit by a canopy of string lights at night, Larimer Square has become a thriving scene in downtown Denver. Larimer Square is home to some of Denver’s premier restaurants and is constantly bustling with locals and tourists alike.
My personal favorite spot in Larimer Square is the Green Russell – a 1920s themed speakeasy, this bar was founded by a University of Denver grad. Be sure you know the password….the outstanding hand-mixed cocktails inside are not to be missed.
3. DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS
Open year-round, this is a hidden gem. A calm, peaceful place in the center of the city, the Denver Botanic Gardens is a necessary part of your Denver visit. Be sure to check out their calendar, the Botanic Gardens have live music concerts, events, and holiday light displays. A beautiful respite from the bustle of the city, I highly recommend adding this to your itinerary.
BONUS: The Denver Botanic Gardens has a separate garden especially for children! Located directly across the street, this child-friendly oasis has a creek, different vegetation, a giant fake bird’s nest fort, and great spots for a mid-afternoon picnic. The Mordecai Children’s Garden is open March – October.
4. DENVER ART MUSEUM
Home of a stunning Western Art collection, a Contemporary Art Museum, and rotating national exhibits – the Denver Art Museum awaits. Admission for the museum is free for children 18 and under every day of the year! Conveniently located a short walk from 16th Street Mall, Denver Civic Park, and the Denver Capitol Building, take the time to enjoy the masterpieces.
Heads up – the Denver Art Museum is closed on Mondays!
5. WASHINGTON PARK
Located in Central Denver, Washington Park (affectionately called “Wash Park”) is a favorite among locals. The park has walking and biking trails that loop the entirety of the park, a pond with paddle boats, volleyball pits, open grassy areas for playing sports or picnicking, and plenty of large shade trees to relax beneath. Fill your picnic basket, grab a blanket, and enjoy a day in the Colorado sunshine.
Alcohol is not allowed in the park, be smart and leave the booze at home so park employees don’t have to confiscate anything…. Or just put it in a sippy cup like I do? Eep.
6. DENVER UNION STATION
Still a fully-functioning train and bus station, Denver Union Station now boasts 10 restaurants and the stunning Crawford Hotel! The historic train station was given a much needed makeover, turning this beloved Denver landmark into one of the hottest spots in town.
Try the apps at The Kitchen Next Door…yummmmmmmmmm. That’s all I have to say. #DenverUnionStation
7. ELITCH GARDENS THEME & WATER PARK
Do you like fun? Do you like roller coasters? Do you like water parks? Then get over to Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park because they literally have all of that in one place! One of Denver’s iconic attractions and the only downtown amusement park in America, this is one of my favorite summer activities. Don’t love the double-negative, but I have to agree with their slogan…“Not to See Elitch’s, is Not to See Denver.”
Elitch’s is open April – October, including the Halloween Fright Fest that lasts the entire month of October! They will have Haunted Houses throughout the park – every year is different and each house is a different level of scary. With kid activities during the day, they bring out the scary things when the sun starts to set….BOO!
Three Elitch tips for you: 1) Tickets can be pricey, but keep an eye out – they frequently run deals and the Season Pass pays for itself after two visits…so…have fun! 2) NO OUTSIDE FOOD OR DRINKS. None. Period. Don’t even bring water. The guys at security will make you throw away your snack or dump out your water bottle. Bring a reusable water bottle & fill it up once inside. 3) WEAR SUNSCREEN. Colorado is much closer to the sun than most people realize, don’t ruin your trip by getting sunburned.
8. DENVER HIGHLANDS
The Denver Highlands is relatively new to the lively dining and nightlife scene in Denver, but it has quickly become the go-to place for new, hip restaurants and shops for many millennials. A speedy Lyft ride away, Highlands is located just northwest of downtown. Highlands is a very popular neighborhood and hosts an incredible farmer’s market in the spring and summer months (my personal favorite farmer’s market in Denver!).
One of my favorite meet-up spots in Denver is Avanti F&B in Highlands. It’s like a giant warehouse that has been turned into a hipster food court. Or maybe it’s best described as a food truck gathering…inside…with stalls…well anyway, it is wicked fun, inexpensive, and has so many different culinary choices – there is something for everyone!
Ok, we know, Denver has a million neat neighborhoods that are full of delicious restaurants, cool shops, and local breweries….but let me share one more with you! Located next to Sloan’s lake, just west of downtown, is the little neighborhood/town of Edgewater. You can find incredible microbrews, chow down on some great sushi, and sing karaoke all within a three block radius. Eater Denver has a great list of where to eat, check it out.
I might suggest taking a Lyft – the parking is all street parking and can get a little crowded at times. Check out Joyride Brewing Company, one of my personal favorite breweries in the Denver metro area.
10. RED ROCKS AMPHITHEATER
Last for a reason – Red Rocks Amphitheater is one of the coolest places in not just Denver, but all of Colorado…all of the USA! A natural phenomenon, the amphitheater seating has been built into the red rocks, creating outstanding acoustics that will beat any multi-million dollar stadium venue. While world-class bands play live music with fantastic light shows, the sun will set and Denver’s city lights sparkle behind the stage. A magical experience, every music lover must go to a Red Rocks concert at least once in their lifetime.
During the day, the park is open to the public for hiking and exploring. There is a beautiful visitor center that talks about the natural history, as well as the musical history of the location. There are fitness classes held at Red Rocks, including sunrise yoga classes. Be sure to check it out!
My Red Rocks concert list is short compared to some, but it includes everything from String Cheese Incident to the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Check out the calendar to see who is coming and GET YOUR TICKETS EARLY. Almost 100% of Red Rocks’ shows sell out in advance.
*Note: Because She Can – Travel Blog is not sponsored by any of the companies or destinations mentioned in this article. I happen to like them and hope you will too!