Denver Trip Planner: City Sights and Nearby Adventures

Denver | Introduction

Denver is the capital and the largest city of Colorado, located on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in the Midwest of the United States. Originally a prosperous gold mining town, Denver is situated at the heart of Colorado and serves as the gateway to surrounding mountainous areas and natural attractions. People often use Denver as the starting point for a Colorado road trip, heading to Rocky Mountain National Park or exploring the Grand Circle. Actually, the city of Denver itself is also a place worth visiting. If you find yourself in Denver, consider staying for a day or two to explore the city.

Denver | Itinerary

Downtown Denver Day Trip

If you only have one day, spend it in downtown Denver. In the morning, you can visit the Colorado State Capitol, see the Big Blue Bear at the Denver Convention Center, and if you have time, visit the University of Colorado museum. Then head to Union Station in the city center and find a restaurant in the area for lunch. In the afternoon, stroll through 16th Street Mall and visit the historic Larimer Square. In the evening, you can find a small bar to enjoy some local beer.

Denver 2-Day Tour

If you have more than two days, I would suggest splitting the one-day tour into two days and including Denver's latest Meow Wolf immersive art exhibition and a suburban attraction in the itinerary. For example:

  • Day 1: In the morning, visit Meow Wolf. After that, head to the Union Station area. In the afternoon, explore the 16th St Mall and the historic district of Larimer Square. Finally, go to Denver Convention Center to see the Big Blue Bear.
  • Day 2: In the morning, visit the Colorado State Capitol and then head to the Art District for a stroll and lunch. After lunch, head to Red Rocks Park and enjoy an evening outdoor concert. (You can check the concert schedule and book tickets on the Red Rock official website)


  • Day 2: In the morning, head to the Garden of the Gods to admire the nearby red rock landscapes. In the afternoon, visit the Colorado State Capitol and see the Big Blue Bear at the Denver Convention Center.

Trips of more than three days

If you have more than three days, you can plan a self-driving route outside the city, such as a one-day to one-week trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park. If you have more than a week, you can take a trip to the Grand Circle or choose to visit some of the Colorado national parks for a great adventure.

Denver | Accomodation Options

If you don't have a car and are staying for several days, finding accommodation in a convenient location means staying in the city center, around Union Station or Larimer Square. The transportation in this area is convenient, making it the most hassle-free choice for travelers. If you are considering staying a bit further out for cheaper room rates, the Capitol Hill area has more affordable prices and good public transportation. If you plan to explore by car or have a vehicle, there are many more lodging options around Denver. There are many hotels within a fifteen-minute drive west of the city center that offer good parking and are not far away, making them a high-value choice for those with cars.

Find a stay in Denver:

Denver | Downtown Attractions

Colorado State Capitol

The Colorado State Capitol is one of Denver's landmarks, built in 1894, and is a rather grand structure. Its design integrates Romanesque architectural styles, and during working hours, there are guided tours available for the legislative chambers and the library. The most striking feature is undoubtedly the gold-plated dome, which is said to symbolize the history of the gold rush.

Denver Convention Center | Big Blue Bear

The Denver Convention Center is a large convention center located in downtown Denver. It serves as the main venue for many significant events and exhibitions held in Denver. Nearby are well-known tourist attractions such as the 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square. For visitors, the highlight of coming here is seeing the big blue bear peeking through the glass window next to the convention center. This bear stands at 40 feet tall and three stories high. Its playful appearance has made it the most popular attraction in downtown Denver. It is a public art piece created by artist Lawrence Argent, titled "I See What You Mean."

Larimer Square | 16th St Mall

Larimer Square is a historic district located in downtown Denver, between 14th and 15th streets. This area is considered the origin of the city of Denver, so the architecture is quaint and unique with a long history. The 19th-century red brick buildings attract many tourists. The area has numerous shops, restaurants, and bars, making it one of the most popular shopping and leisure districts in Denver.

Keep walking forward to 16th St and you will reach the 16th St Mall, which is a pedestrian shopping street. Those who enjoy shopping can come here. Strictly speaking, this shopping area stretches all the way to Union Station, spanning a length of 1.25 miles.

Union Station

The historic Union Station, a monument built in 1881. The station was renovated ten years ago, and now it houses modern restaurants and cafes. If you take the light rail, you will definitely pass through here.

There are many good places to explore around the station. If you head towards Coors Field, you'll pass through McGregor Square and Dairy Block, both of which are bustling with shops and great spots for dining with a lively atmosphere.

Coors Field

Coors Field is the home stadium of the Colorado Rockies in Major League Baseball. If you happen to be there during the season, why not catch a game?

River North (RiNo) Art District

RiNo Arts DistrictLocated in the north of the city center, it is a relatively new business district. Originally, this area was a warehouse and factory, and the security was not very good. In the past ten years, the city government has promoted the transformation of this area into a new art district, with a lot of graffiti art on the streets, which is like an outdoor art gallery. Nowadays, there are many specialty restaurants and bars. When you come to this area, you can visit Denver Central Market, where there are many specialty stores for cocktails, oysters, ice cream and beer tasting.

Meow Wolf Denver

Meow Wolf is an American arts and entertainment company that creates immersive interactive entertainment experiences, with several locations across the United States. If you, like me, have no idea what this is, why not come and take a look? Essentially, entering a Meow Wolf venue is akin to stepping into a life-sized, interactive game world where visitors explore richly crafted artistic scenes, gradually collecting and understanding the storyline. Each venue has its own unique theme, scenes, and stories, so there's no need to worry about repetition even if you've visited another Meow Wolf location before. The Denver location's theme is called Convergence Station, but I won't spoil any more for you.

To manage the crowd, the experience is divided into sessions. It is recommended to buy tickets in advance, preferably for the morning sessions. According to reports from some visitors, certain mechanisms and equipment might malfunction in the afternoon due to excessive use. Of course, this issue might improve as the exhibition becomes more refined.

The story has a main storyline and many subplots. If you have limited time, it is recommended to focus on the main storyline. Before our departure, we heard a strong recommendation from friends. They arranged a three-day trip to Denver, and because it was their first time there, they didn't complete the main storyline. They even spent an extra morning buying tickets to come back and finish it, which shows the allure of this interactive entertainment. We concentrated on tackling the main storyline and it took us about two and a half hours.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is an open-air music venue located approximately a 20-minute drive from downtown. Situated on the hills of Red Rocks Park, it is surrounded by red rock formations and is renowned for its spectacular natural scenery. The design of the amphitheatre is quite unique, featuring an open-air stage and seating that can accommodate nearly 10,000 attendees. By utilizing the local rock structures, two massive rock walls are used to create an exceptional music venue with perfect acoustics.

You can check the concert schedule and book tickets on the Red Rock official website.

Denver | Nearby Attractions

Garden of The Gods

Garden of the Gods is located in Colorado Springs, only a half-hour drive from the city center. It is a spectacular natural park featuring numerous massive rock pillars. These pillars were formed by the accumulation of limestone over millions of years. The shapes of the pillars vary, each one more impressive than the last. In 1859, two surveyors from Denver discovered this place and, marveling at its breathtaking beauty, considered it to be a masterpiece of nature, thus naming it the Garden of the Gods.

If time permits, it is best to park the car at the visitor center and walk, because although there is a loop road for driving around, it is too popular and often congested. The park has numerous trails, making it convenient for visitors to explore and enjoy the natural beauty.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is about an hour and a half drive from Denver. The drive offers a journey from endless forests to alpine tundra, making it one of the most popular national parks in the United States. If you have more than three days in Denver, a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park is a must. The park's scenery changes with each season; spring and summer are perfect for viewing flowers, autumn for enjoying the fall foliage, and winter for witnessing magnificent snow scenes.


Located about a 30-minute drive northwest of Denver, the small town of Boulder was originally a college town. Surrounded by vast mountains and valleys, it is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and is famous for its beautiful natural scenery and healthy lifestyle. Boulder is ideal for a day trip from Denver or as a stop

Denver | Food & Bar

RiNo Art District | Work and Class

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 
  • Price: $$

Work and Class is reportedly a Latin American cuisine restaurant; however, after trying it, we believe it to be a fusion of New American and Latin American flavors. Regardless, this chef-driven restaurant is worth a visit, as the food is quite delicious, and the atmosphere, which promotes an "Everything for share" concept, is excellent. The restaurant is quite popular locally. We arrived just before opening and queued up outside; shortly after we entered, the place was fully packed. It happened to be Happy Hour, so we took the opportunity to order a variety of foods and drinks at a discounted price.

For the drinks, we initially ordered a Long Island Iced Tea and Work and Class Mule. Later, we added house cocktails, including Grapefruit Habanero Rosemary and Blueberry Pomegranate Thyme flavors, all of which were very good.

For the food, we ordered their Sunday special, Special Fried Chicken, Tempura Broccoli, Spicy Chicken Pot Pie, Chickpea Fries, and a 1/4lb of lamb. Every dish was incredibly tasty, with the signature fried chicken and chickpea fries being particularly impressive.

Larimer Square | TAMAYO

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Price: $$

Located in Larimer Square, TAMAYO claims to be the best Mexican restaurant in Denver. The atmosphere and service in the restaurant are excellent, and there are a wide variety of food options. The best dish is their Mahi Mahi Tacos.

Milk Tea People

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Price: $

Located between Union Station and Larimer Square, Milk Tea People is a trendy matcha beverage shop with a great atmosphere. It's refreshing to come here for a cup of tea after a long day of shopping!

Epic Brewery

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Price: $$

Denver is actually a great place for beer tasting, and one of the well-known breweries is the Epic Brewery located in the RiNo Art District. We arrived late, around 8 PM, and it was close to closing time, so we only tried one flight. However, we quite liked the beers here. It was rather surprising that the bars here close so early, so make sure to come early.

Great Divide Brewing Co.

  • Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
  • Price: $$

Great Divide Brewing Co. is not a large establishment. When we arrived in the afternoon, there were only a few tables occupied. It was quiet, with some people leisurely reading at the bar. Describing it as a beer bar, it might actually feel more like a library. However, it is actually one of the most recommended beer bars in Denver. After trying their beer, we also felt that it was our favorite among all the beers we tasted throughout Colorado.

Further reading

More Colorado Further reading

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