Denver makes a great starting place for travelers venturing into the Rockies; those looking for a mountain experience can spend a day driving along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. But be sure to devote some time to all that the Mile High City has to offer: Denver is home to numerous museums, galleries, and restaurants. Here are the Best Things To Do in Denver you should not miss when traveling there.
Best Things To Do in Denver
Museum of Nature & Science
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science sits in City Park’s southeast corner and is one of Denver’s top cultural attractions. From stunning prehistoric fossils to an exploration of outer space, The Denver Museum of Nature & Science never fails to astound and amaze with realistic visions of the past, present, and future. The Gates Planetarium is one of the most sophisticated planetariums in the country, giving visitors unparalleled insight into the workings of the cosmos, and the Phipps IMAX Theater features brilliantly filmed IMAX entertainment
Denver Botanic Gardens
Set on 24 acres in the tree-lined Cheesman Park neighborhood, the Denver Botanic Gardens is a peaceful oasis that’s perfect for a one- or two-hour stroll. Gravel and stone paths meander through dozens of different types of gardens, from drought-tolerant xeriscaping to a traditional Japanese garden. Don’t miss the rotating exhibits that showcase internationally recognized artwork peeking out from behind the plants, a socially distanced alternative to the city’s museums. Also, be on the lookout for a giant orange- and red-glass Chihuly sculpture and a minimalist horse sculpture by Deborah Butterfield. Plant lovers won’t ever want to leave.
Union Station, Denver’s so-called “living room,” sits in the center of Lower Downtown. It’s a busy transit center with an outdoor play fountain, patio-filled restaurants, and boutiques. But this is all new; for decades the historic Beaux-Arts building—first constructed in 1881 before several fires required renovations in 1914—was a desolate and run-down train station. A $54 million restoration and a dedicated train to the airport changed all that, and the station’s Grand Hall has returned to its glory days. Tourists and locals alike come to gawk at the historic architecture, linger over drinks, or enjoy community events, including a weekend farmer’s market. Grab a farm-to-table dinner at Mercantile Dining & Provision, then finish the night slinging cocktails at the Terminal Bar.
Modeled after a Kenyan nature preserve, the Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals, including tigers, black rhinos, kangaroos and orangutans. Sprawling across 80 acres of City Park, this impressive facility boasts a number of ways to view our furry, feathered and reptilian friends. Head to Predator Ridge, the recreated African savanna, to see hyenas, lions and African dogs roam, watch monkeys swing from tree branches at Primate Panorama or catch a glimpse of colorful critters like Panamanian golden frogs and green tree pythons at the Tropical Discovery center. You can also overload on cute during a visit to the nursery and take on a ride on the zoo’s train and carousel.
In 1858, a group of American Indians and settlers struck gold at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Their discovery soon spread back to the East Coast, prompting people to pick up and move west. The site of the original pioneer camp (known back then as Auraria) soon grew into the charming area now known as Larimer Square. Although the city has since expanded, this historic neighborhood remains the heart and soul of the Mile High City, and according to some, it’s the place to start your Denver experience. It’s also a featured stop on many of the best Denver tours. Recent visitors attest that Larimer Square is always buzzing with life, thanks to the area’s numerous restaurants, shops, and nightlife venues.
Before venturing to Larimer Square, you may want to pay a visit to the Larimer Square website. Here, you’ll find a listing of all the local businesses and upcoming events, not to mention maps that can help orient where specific dining, shopping, and entertainment options are.
In Denver’s industrial River North neighborhood, between the breweries and hip restaurants, the walls are covered with color. A gritty back alley has the requisite dumpsters and chain link fence, but there are also giant murals everywhere you look. This isn’t just amateur graffiti, it’s a part of Crush Walls, an annual art event that brings local, national, and international artists together to give a fresh coat of paint to the RiNo Art District. It’s an urban spectacle that is the perfect location for a stroll. The best way to see the art is to use the Crush Walls map from on their website. If you’re on foot, it’s easiest to group the murals geographically, focusing either on the murals between 24th-29th street to the south or choosing to see the murals to the north around 35th street. If you have a bike, you can tackle the whole neighborhood.