Top 7 Things to Do in Denver
Say "Colorado," and you probably think hoppy craft beer, fast skiing and some of the most liberal-minded folks in America (after all, they did vote to legalize marijuana in 2013). But "yeah, brah" stereotype aside, the state really inspires residents and travelers to embrace an active, healthy and interesting lifestyle. And Denver is the cultural capital at its epicenter.
Greater Denver, a sprawl of nearly 3 million people, stretches along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains. Though the region is front row to a mecca for adventure sports enthusiasts, Denver itself boasts metropolitan variety and Western charm—2 things in short supply elsewhere in Colorado. City parks and botanical gardens, art museums and the hipster-filled downtown district barely scratch the surface for those itching to further explore the city's cultural attractions. Here’s our short list for the best things to do in Denver.
1. Stroll through Downtown
Denver’s downtown blends both a Wild West and urban chic vibe. Hit up the 16th Street Mall to browse decades-old bookshops like Tattered Cover and buy cowboy apparel at Rockmount Ranch Wear. Rockmount is the notorious inventor of the snap button shirt, a favorite of music legends like Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. Thirsty or hungry? Head to Denver's LoDo (lower downtown) district and peruse the 28 square blocks of restaurants, sports bars and brewpubs. You'll stumble upon live music in various bars and restaurants every night of the week here.
2. Visit the Aquarium
It might seem oddly placed in a city surrounded by mountains and desert, but Denver’s Downtown Aquarium doesn’t disappoint. Over 1 million gallons of underwater exhibits highlight freshwater and oceanic ecosystems that are home to over 500 species of sea life. An interactive touch tank where it's possible to pet stingrays wins our vote for coolest exhibit. Other favorites include the coral lagoon and shipwreck. Grab a bite at the aquarium's restaurant, which is surrounded by a 50,000-gallon tank of brightly colored tropical fish from the Caribbean, Hawaii, South Pacific and Indian Ocean.
3. Browse the Botanic Gardens
You may recognize this Denver green space from Woody Allen’s film Sleeper and it’s as pretty in person as it is on camera. With 3 different locations across the city, the Denver Botanic Gardens feature a large amphitheater used for summer concerts, a conservatory, themed gardens and rotating exhibits. Whether you’re a nature lover or just like to escape the concrete jungle without leaving city limits, the Gardens are a must-visit.
4. Feed Your Intellect
Stretch your mind and spend a 1/2-day with the kids at one of Denver’s museums or art galleries. Brush up on your dinosaur knowledge at Morrison National History Museum (plan to spend an hour here) or visit the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to see an IMAX movie or watch an astronomy demonstration at the planetarium. While at the museum, don’t miss the Great White Shark 3D exhibit. Tap into your creative engines at the Denver Art Museum, featuring international work and extensive 19th-century photography showcasing the American West.
5. Catch a Game at Coors Field
Watch the Colorado Rockies hit homeruns at Coors Field—the park with the highest elevation in Major League Baseball. It’s a fairly new and ever-expanding venue in Denver. The current construction project: a 38,000-square-foot, double-decker rooftop area with a VIP terrace and 52 craft beers on tap. Below, Coors Field ballpark is also home to The Blue Moon Brewing Co.
6. Float the Lazy River at Water World
One of America’s largest water parks is located less than 10 miles north of Denver, and in the hot summer months visiting it is a must. Water World sits on 67 acres of land and features dozens of slides and rides for all ages with varying thrill levels. Our favorite? The long Lazy River is a perfect, low-key summer distraction for the family. Don’t forget to wear sunscreen—the sun is stronger at high altitude.
7. Indulge Your Inner Foodie at The Source
Imagine San Francisco’s Ferry Building, and put an organic-centric Colorado spin on it. Voilà, you have The Source—a 26,000-square-foot, 19th-century warehouse on Brighton Boulevard which was converted to a brand-new marketplace in 2013. The Source features a handful of local brewers, bakers, butchers, specialty grocers and craftsmen all under one roof, and is well on its way to becoming the city’s hottest destination for foodies.