All the BEST Things to Do in Denver! (By a Local!)

**Note from Anna: The above mini paintings are so cool! You can get them for yourself through Kirsten’s Instagram: @artbykirsteneva

And, get your bearings on all the neighborhoods I’ll be talking about with Kirsten Eva’s Denver Neighborhoods poster.

Now… let’s talk about Denver!

I’ve lived in Denver AKA The Mile High City for 21 years! It’s been a little bit since my other post, The Insider’s Guide to Things To Do in Denver so it was time to give you the newest “locals” info scoop!

Since my last post SO much has changed! Denver continues to grow and flourish and so many people continue to move here every year.

I live in Central Denver so most of my recommendations will be for the heart of Denver since I know this area the best. I’ve also lived in the Lower Highlands area for a little bit but find myself smitten with Cap Hill because of the energy and walkability of the neighborhood. There is always something happening with people running, walking their dogs, or just enjoying the sun in the parks.

Denver is a city that is full of life and energy. Colorado is a fun, clean, lively and active state so no matter what you’re into: arts, music, sports…  and no matter if you’re on the younger side or older side of life there’s something here for you.

Denver’s real estate market and cost of living is at an all-time high and it’s one of the cities where the real estate didn’t get hit by the Great Recession in 2008. (Properties didn’t increase in value during that time. Instead, they held steady, not losing value.) And, there are a lot of people are moving to Colorado from California because of the (relative) lower cost of living.

Denver is probably most-recently well known for electing the first openly gay governor, Jared Polis. For being one of the first states legalize both medical and recreational marijuana use and, it’s obviously got a reputation for being super snowy.

First, I’ll break down the biggest Denver stereotypes and myths then I’ll tell you ALL the things you need to know about and exactly what you need to do when you come to visit Denver (or what you’ve got to start checking off your list after you move here).

Myth #1: Everyone’s “Stoned” in Denver

Okay, so the weed thing. It is a little weird to live in a state where marijuana is legal because you’ll be walking around the city and just get a whiff of weed (people aren’t supposed to smoke outside or in public but I think it drifts out of windows). Apart from occasionally walking to a cloud of smoke, seeing the weed shops around town and having a super busy ice cream aisle at the grocery store:P, not much has changed, practically speaking.

Myth #2: Denver’s SO SNOWY OMG

You might be surprised to hear that we get 300 days of sunshine so the snow that we do get melts super fast. It’s not nearly as snowy as you might expect it to be!

Now, let’s get into ALL THE THINGS TO DO IN DENVER!

I’ve organized my recommendations based on the neighborhoods they’re in so you can do multiple things while you’re in each area. At the end of the post I’ve also included some close to Denver Day Trip ideas. Also, my recommendations aren’t necessarily inexpensive things to do in Denver, they’re just the best things to do!

I hope this list helps you have an absolutely amazing time whether you’re visiting Denver or if you’re new to town! And if you’re new to town, Welcome!

Things to Do in Denver

Neighborhood – Central Denver/Capitol Hill (Cap Hill):

  • Stand on the capitol steps at 5280 feet above sea level. There’s even a “One Mile Above Sea Level” marker you can get a selfie with.
  • Capitol Hill (Cap Hill)  – Cap Hill is a dense and super-walkable neighborhood. It tends to be where most people move to when they’re new to town.
  • Poets Row – This is a row of apartment buildings in Denver’s Cap Hill neighborhood that are all named after poets.
  • Washington Park (Wash Park) – Is a park where people bike, roller blade, and dodge lots of geese poo.
  • International Church of Cannabis
  • Cheesman Park – Cheesman Park has quite the history! If you can believe it, it used to be a HUGE cemetery! While I’ve never personally experienced any ghosts there, I have often experienced my fair share of odd cold pockets of air in weird spots. On any slightly warm day, people swarm to the park to lay in the sun or play yard games in the park.
  • The Pavilions at Cheesman park – Is a spot within Cheesman Park where people converge on warm days and practice all their busker-y talents.
  • The Denver Botanic Gardens – This is a neat place to go year-road. If you’re in town before Christmas try to see the Blossoms of Light where they decorate the whole place with A TON of lights.
  • Civic Center EATS – Food trucks in Civic Center
  • Jelly – This place is always busy so plan on having a wait. Get the donut holes.
  • Thump – A great place to work. I highly recommend the North Fork coffee and smashed avocado toast with egg. Just a warning, the coffee is super strong!  
  • Cherry Creek Mall – A luxe mall with super high-end retailers and soft leather couches in the common areas. Definitely check out Restoration Hardware. It’s a 4-story gallery/flagship store and it’s gorgeous!
  • Denver Cruiser Ride – Wednesday night bike ride (in the warm months)
  • Moonlight Classic – Midnight bike ride
  • City O City – Vegan food
  • SubCulture – We like these subs and eat here quite a bit. I get the Vegan Reuben (and I’m not even vegan). Aaron gets the Fiat and my little sister really loves the Bangkok.
  • Snarfs – We only get 1 thing when we go to Snarf’s and that’s the 7” Italian on White. I get it with everything. It’s so good I’ve never even considered ordering anything else. Highly recommend.
  • Mici – Get the DiGirolomo. Right up there as some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in Colorado!
  • Colorado Pot Guide
  • The Mint

Neighborhood – South Broadway (SoBo)/Baker:

  • The whole South Broadway is a super cool district of town that’s got lots happening. Bars, restaurants, and shopping.
  • Sweet Action Ice Cream – They have a rotating list of ice cream with flavors like: Peanut Butter Chip, Salted Butterscotch, Chocolate Hazelnut and Caramelized Pear.   
  • The Mayan Theatre – This is an independent theater that was built in 1930 in the art deco style. The chairs aren’t the most comfortable but it’s a must-see when you come to Denver.
  • Beatrice and Woodsley – A restaurant that makes you feel like you’re nestled in a warm Aspen grove. Um, always a good thing.
  • Fancy Tiger Clothing and Fancy Tiger Crafts – Two super cute spots owned by the same folks.
  • Sputnik – The last time we went to Sputnik we had their fried brussel sprouts and we always get their grilled cheese. Both are great! The real reason we find ourselves at Sputnik though is because they have a legit, old-school chemical and paper photo booth. While it’s finicky and only works some of the time, it’s worth a try.
  • Mutiny Now – Bookstore + reliable (!) vintage photo booth + record store + pinball = awesome.
  • The Wizard’s Chest  – Basically a kids paradise. The exterior looks like a castle and it’s full of costumes, games and toys.

Neighborhood – Santa Fe

Neighborhood – Colfax:

East end

  • Voodoo Doughnuts – My favorite is a fresh Buttermilk doughnut. It’s understated and not flashy but trust me, it’s really good. Especially heated in the microwave for 15 seconds and with a coffee. When my brother and sister-in-law come downtown they always make a stop at Voodoo because it’s that good. Their approach is to find out the most popular donuts of the day or they go with the Special because they say those are the freshest. Pro tip: They only take cash so bring cash
  • The #15 bus – An adventure on wheels. People-watching at its finest. You can get the RTD Tickets app to get your tickets in advance to avoid fiddling with change and paper tickets on the spot.
  • Pinche Taqueria – Get the fried chicken tacos.
  • Pete’s Kitchen – This is a greasy-spoon type of diner. Great place to still get inexpensive breakfast without the crazy-long lines that come with the “trendier” breakfast places in town.
  • Denver Biscuit Company
  • Piehole Pizza

West end:

  • Paco Sanchez Playground – I’ve never seen a playground like this one before. One time when we were there I overheard some of the playground planners that were on site saying that “it’s the most complicated public playground in existence in the United States”. It’s Henry’s favorite playground in town by far!
  • Casa Bonita – The food is gross and everyone knows it. However, if you want in, you buy your slop and move along. The food ends up being your admission price (skip it and pay $15 instead). Casa Bonita is probably the kitschiest place on the face of the earth, it was built in the 70s, and hasn’t been changed since. It has a 30 foot waterfall, cliff diving, old arcade games and skeeball, sopapillas, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch the gorilla chase skit. Also, the creators of South Park are from Colorado and featured Casa Bonita on the show. You can see it here: Casa Bonita South Park episode
  • Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design – Now an art college, this used to be a Tuberculosis hospital. Cool historic buildings on the campus. Here’s more about RMCAD’s history.
  • Get Pho on Federal Boulevard

Neighborhood – Downtown:

Neighborhood – Lower Downtown (LoDo):

  • Union Station – Smells like waffle cones and has been gloriously remodeled (Here are before and afters: union station denver before and after). Try to get up on the 2nd floor to get a view from above.
  • Milkbox Ice Cream – The source of the waffle cone smell in Union Station? This place. Any of the “salted” flavors will do ya right: Salted PB Cup, Salted Maple Pecan, Salted Oreo.
  • Union Station Light Rail/Train Station – While it’s easy to get intoxicated by the smell of waffle cones inside Union Station don’t miss the chance to see behind Union Station (downtown denver union station). Go to the far right side and take the steps up to get the best view of the “loopy” station.
  • The Crawford Hotel – Built on the upper floors of Union Station, it’s super cool!
  • Terminal Bar
  • HopDoddy – Best Burger Ever in the History of Ever: The Magic Shroom
  • Snooze – There will always be a wait at all their locations. Recommended: The pancake flight and the Pineapple Upside Down pancakes are super good.
  • MCA Denver
  • Double Daughters – Really unique bar
  • The Alley at The Dairy Block + Milk Market
  • The Oxford Hotel
  • The Cruise Room – It opened the day prohibition lifted and it has been changed since. It’s authentic art deco amazingness. Must see.
  • The 1up – Arcade + bar. Most the games are just .25

Neighborhood – Platte River:

Neighborhood – Lower Highlands (LoHi)/ Highlands/Berkley:

  • Linger – The building this restaurant is in used to be called Olinger Mortuaries. Go there for Brunch. Be sure to make reservations OR go there in the summertime and sit by the huge open windows. If you can go on a night that there’s swing dancing happening down below at Little Man Ice Cream, you’ll be winning at life.
  • Little Man Ice Cream – Made into the shape of an old milk-jug. The ice cream is great but the ambience is vibe is really what they’re super great at. Little Man Ice Cream on a warm day is really fun. Oh! And, they are super thoughtful with how they sell the individual packets of Lactaid pills right there at the counter! ;) (says this lactose-intolerant ice cream lover)
  • Forest Room 5 – Isosceles triangle shaped interior. Go at night and sit outside by the campfire.
  • Root Down Denver – Make reservations. This is an old gas station that’s been converted and it’s super hip.
  • Avanti Food & Beverage – A Collective Eatery
  • Tennyson Street
  • Wendell’s Breakfast
  • Lakeside Amusement Park – This is such an amazing “vintage” amusement park. Here are some old pictures of Lakeside from back in the day.
  • The Inventing Room
  • Denver Beer Co – A good
  • Bacon Social House – All bacon all the time
  • Hydrate IV Bar

Neighborhood – River North (RiNo):

  • RiNo Art District
  • Denver Central Market – A collective of eateries. Go to the right corner of the market and get yourself an almond croissant at the Izzio Bakery Cafe. Hands down the best croissant I’ve had in my life.
  • Topo Designs – Get yourself outfitted at this very “Denver” place
  • Crema Coffee – Cool coffee shop. FYI – there are 2 Crema locations in RiNo. Get a selfie in front of the stunning circular mural that was created by artist, Gemma Danielle (the mural is outside the free-standing location at 2862 Larimer)
  • Crush Walls – Mid-September is when the action happens  
  • Samana Float – I love this place. It’s like a refuge from the busy neighborhood. You can even get $15 off your first float by using this referral code: mf-686841
  • The Source Hotel and Market Hall – Collective of eateries and shops
  • Zeppelin Station – Collective of eateries and shops (Are you noticing a theme here?;) “Collective eateries” is the newest thing Denver’s been loving lately. Those, breakfast, beer, and ice cream are mainstays around these parts.)
  • The Meadowlark Kitchen   
  • Stowaway Kitchen
  • Hop Alley

Neighborhood – Uptown:

  • City Park – Modeled after New York City’s Central Park
  • Waffle Brothers  – Sugar waffles. They’ll tell you they don’t recommend the syrup on their original waffles but I’m here to tell you the waffles are better with the syrup.
  • Tallulah Jones – Cute kids store
  • Ace Eat Serve – Ping pong and food

Neighborhood – Park Hill:

Neighborhood – Stapleton:

DAY TRIPS – Close to Denver:

Arvada:

  • Apex Center – This place is wild! I’ve never seen a rec center quite like this one before. It’s got an indoor water park, 2 ice rinks, kids play area, a workout area, an indoor track, and an indoor rock climbing wall, among other things. This rec center is so cool we even considered moving to Arvada to be able to go more often!

Aspen:

Black Hawk/Central City:

  • Check out the old mountain-town vibes and go gambling

Boulder:

Brighton:

Colorado Springs:

Commerce City:

Estes Park:

Evergreen:

  • Evergreen Lake – In the summer, walk around it. In the winter, rent some skates right there at the Boat House and then ice skate on the lake. There’s also a great sledding hill right by the lake that’s super fun!
  • Beau Jo’s Pizza
  • The Crystal Garden – I like this place

Georgetown:

Golden:

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – It’s always been incredibly windy every time we’ve visited so bring something to protect your face and eyes from the blowing sand. It’s beyond gorgeous and a unique wonder of the world! Before heading out check out the Sand Dunes current conditions

Idaho Springs:

Morrison:

Salida:

Skiing Close to Denver:

Winter Park:

  • In the summer, take a ride on the super fast Alpine slide. Man, I love that thing.

WEEKEND TRIP – Close to Denver

Glenwood Springs:

Hit all of these in one weekend:

MISCELLANEOUS PLACES TO CHECK OUT IN/NEAR DENVER:

  • Boondocks and Spider Monkey – Great place for kids to get energy out
  • Blue Mustang AKA Blucifer – It has blazing red eyes and it killed it’s creator when it fell on him during its creation! You can see it as you approach or leave the Denver International Airport
  • Best Wedding Venues in Denver – If you’re looking for a spot to get married at in Denver or in Colorado you’ll want to check out this list of venues
  • Denver Brewery Tours
  • Denver Flea Market  – Location varies
  • To get from Denver International Airport to central Denver, take the speedy light rail (the A Line) and get off at Union Station. It’s just $10.50 each way and it’s quick-ish! (It takes just 37 minutes to get from Denver International Airport to Union Station.) You can download the RTD Tickets app to buy the ticket online or get them at the kiosk.Here’s more info about the A-line. Tip: There are ALWAYS officers checking for valid lightrail tickets so while you technically can get on without a ticket, there’s a 99.9% chance you will get busted so it’s definitely not worth the risk!

Did I leave anything off the list that NEEDS to be included? Tell me in the comments!

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