The Local’s Guide to Denver Colorado in 2024

City skyline – The Local’s Guide to Denver Colorado – Best things to do and see there

Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver, Colorado is a fast-growing city attracting visitors from near and far. Each of Denver’s neighborhoods is unique in its own way, whether it’s the hip and urban RiNo (River North) Arts District or the charming green space known as Wash Park. 

Interested in the arts, cuisine, or craft beer? Denver has it all. And the best part? You’re likely to wake up to sunshine and clear skies almost every day! 

Aside from its unique array of neighborhoods, you’re just a short drive from some of the most famous mountains in the country. Hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and snowmobiling await. 

As someone who has lived in Denver for years now, I can attest to the city’s warmth and friendliness, so unique and beautiful it’s hard to find elsewhere. There’s truly something for everyone in the Mile High City!

PRO TIP: Before we get going, remember that the elevation in Denver is much higher than you’re likely used to! I’d recommend giving yourself at least a day or two to acclimate before doing any strenuous activities or hikes. 

Best Areas in Denver

Downtown Denver

Downtown Denver is the most convenient place to stay in terms of convenience and things to do in one central location. It’s home to the city’s Union Station, which serves as a hub for Amtrak and Denver RTD. 

Trains and buses run through here, making it easy to get around. There’s even an easy train from the airport to Union Station, with a 37-minute trip costing just $10.50 one way. The area also offers convenient access to popular mountain destinations like Vail, Breckenridge, and Winter Park. In the winter, Amtrak offers separate weekend access to and from Winter Park. 

Additionally, downtown Denver offers sports stadiums such as Empower at Mile High for football and shows and Coor’s Field for baseball and concerts. 

You’ll find a plethora of restaurants, bars, and shops lining every street, with easy access to nearby fun areas like LoHi and RiNo.

Downtown Most Popular Attractions: 

  • Coor’s Field Baseball Stadium 
  • Empower Field at Mile High Football Stadium
  • Meow Wolf
  • Sightseeing like Mile High Steps, Big Blue Bear, and Larimer Square
  • Eat at the Milk Market 

LoHi (Lower Highlands) 

Foodie paradise! A quaint little town just a mile from downtown Denver, LoHi is the perfect spot for couples and young adults looking for a walkable neighborhood a little farther from downtown. 

It’s a nifty residential area with plenty of rentals and a few hotels. Trendy bars and upscale restaurants await! 

Can’t Miss in LoHi

  • Turn your frown upside down at Happy Camper! 
  • Explore the Avanti Food Hall
  • Taste wine at Postino
  • Enjoy licks at Little Man Ice Cream 

RiNo (River North) 

RiNo, also known as River North, is Denver’s most artsy neighborhood. This Art District is filled with hip breweries, hidden dive bars, and eccentric restaurants – including a bar that serves hot dogs with caviar

This is the place to be if you want endless nightlife options and love local brews. 

RiNo’s Most Popular Attractions

  • Go for a hole-in-one at the Puttshack 
  • Hit the breweries
  • Taste something new at Stem Cidery 
  • Check out the street art 

Capitol Hill 

One of the most historic Denver neighborhoods, Capitol Hill, was home to Titanic survivor Molly Brown. Capital Hill comes with a rich history – literally and figuratively. It used to be home to Denver’s wealthiest residence, which used to reside on Millionaire’s Row. 

Historic homes and museums can be found throughout the area. Capitol Hill is also home to many festivals, such as the Cinco de Mayo and Pride parades. 

The downtown 16th Street free bus begins in Capitol Hill, making it an easy trip to and from downtown. 

Capitol Hill’s Popular Attractions

  • Denver Art Museum 
  • Broadway Market
  • Brown House Museum

Things to Do in Denver

Most Popular 

1. Sightsee through downtown’s major attractions

Think: Larmier Square, standing one mile high at the Colorado State Capitol, Big Blue Bear, stroll through art museums, and Union Station. Sightseeing through downtown is easily walkable. There’s also a free 16th Street bus that can transport you around! 

2. Get lost in Meow Wolf

Trust me, you will get lost. This convergent station will have all of your senses tingling! You can leave a few hours to wander around this immersive experience and you still won’t make it through it all. 

3. Find the bar above Union Station 

Make your way up the stairs by the Amtrak ticket counter to find this hidden gem. Take in the wine and craft cocktail list – it’s one of my favorites in town!

4. Steal some laughs at the Denver Comedy Club

Pro tip: start your night with an espresso martini and laugh until you can’t breathe 

5. Stroll through the Botanic Gardens

Grab a seasonal pass if you love city escapes and wildflowers. 

6. Shop til you drop at Wash Park or LoHi

Both neighborhoods are filled with cute boutiques to window shop or find local gifts and souvenirs. 

Budget Attractions 

7. Have a picnic at the parks 

Check out the green space and mountain views from Wash Park, Commons Park, and City Park. 

8. Catch a ball game at Coor’s Field 

They’re [usually] not great, but the tickets are cheap and the views are spectacular! Ask for the Rock Pile tickets at the counter for the cheapest option.

Pro tip: the sunsets from the stadium will blow your mind! 

9. Zip down the Cherry Creek Trail on a bike or scooter 

40 miles of trails?! You read that correctly. Denver is a bikeable city, and this is one of the best! Ride along the South Platte River. It’s as close as I can get my Caribbean heart to a beach downtown. 

Near Denver

10. Go camping

You’re 1-4 hours away from dream-worthy dispersed camping sites. Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, Vail, Rio Grande National Forest, and Telluride are just a few of the coveted camping destinations you have to see to believe. I like to camp near reservoirs and lakes – it’s the closest I can get to feeling like I’m on a beach in Turks and Caicos in Colorado.

11. Ski and snowboarding in Colorado’s famous mountain towns 

Winter Park is the closest mountain town to Denver – there’s even an Amtrak train that runs to and from the mountain on the weekends in the winter months. 

Breckenridge, Vail, Copper Mountain, Keystone, A-Basin, and Steamboat Springs are all 2-3 hours from the city. There are tons of transportation options to the mountains from the airport and downtown. 

12. Soak in the hot springs 

Looking for an Instagram-worthy day out? Steamboat Spring’s Strawberry Hot Springs is situated just outside of downtown Steamboat. You can make a trip up to the springs or spend the night in one of their coveted cabins. 

Pro tips: Reservations need to be made ahead of time. If you don’t have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you can purchase a round-trip shuttle to take you to the hot springs from downtown. 

13. Catch a show at Red Rocks

The most visited venue in the world, Red Rock Amphitheater is a high bucket list venue for artists from all genres. Catch a variety of performers here every summer, from Big Wild, to Sublime and Sting to Wiz Khalifa.

You can even catch a few coveted comedy shows at the historic venue. 

What time of year should you visit Denver?

Four seasons, four completely different experiences in the Mile High City! 

Summer

If you’re a fan of hiking, camping, breweries, and sunshine, summer in Denver is frequently overlooked! The parks in Denver are filled with green grass, volleyball games, and cookouts. 

Restaurants open their patios and rooftops for you to enjoy the daily sunshine. Although it can get hot with 95-degree days, there is very little humidity – and even better, very little rain – which is one of the perks of visiting Denver in the summer.

While the heat isn’t too bad, having a pool at your hotel or rental is a great perk. 

What to pack in the summer: hiking shoes, active shorts, and lightweight shirts, raincoats for afternoon showers, sundresses, hats, and plenty of sunscreen (the sun hits harder in Denver!)

Fall

Fall is known as a rainy season in many areas, from the West Coast to the Caribbean. However, fall is the absolute best time to visit Denver! The sun is still shining, the heat is cooling down, and the summer crowds disappear. 

But the real beauty of fall in Denver lies in the changing aspen leaves – the mountains turn into a shimmering golden paradise. 

It’s my favorite time to go camping and hiking, even though the nights get super chilly. To top off the perfect weather, there is almost no rain in the fall, even in the mountains, making it an unbeatable season in Denver. 

What to pack in the fall: hiking gear, lightweight shirts, and pants, 1-2 pairs of shirts for hot days, a light sweater or jacket for chilly evenings. 

Winter

Winter is when I prefer to run to the islands, but is arguably the most popular time to visit Denver. 

When it comes to mountain towns around Denver, both locals and visitors are drawn to the area’s renowned ski resorts. Colorado offers a wide range of winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, and snowmobiling.

It’s worth noting that this is the priciest time to visit, with skyrocketing prices in the mountain towns and increasingly expensive ski passes.

Nevertheless, despite the expense, people continue to visit for good reason.

What to pack in the winter: all your heavy stuff! Puffer coats, hats, gloves, waterproof ski jackets and pants, skis, snowboards, and sweaters 

Spring

The spring air is hard to beat, but unfortunately, spring has turned into Denver’s rainy season over the past few years. 

While it’s still less rainy than many spring destinations, Spring is a big shoulder season in Denver. When it’s not rainy, the weather is warm and great for hiking and strolling around Denver’s neighborhoods. 

Shoulder season also means cheaper prices and fewer crowds. Spring is the perfect time for exploring the city’s history and culture, bar hopping, and tasting the city’s famous brews. 

What to pack in the spring: a mix of cool and warm clothes, raincoats, light jackets for the evenings, and hiking gear. 

Getting Around Denver

Public Transportation

Public transportation is available to and from the DEN airport to downtown Union Station. The 16th Street bus is a free service that will get you around downtown. 

Shuttle Bus Companies and Amtrak

Several bus companies have routes to and from multiple mountain towns from the airport and Union Station. These need to be reserved ahead of time, but are great ways to avoid renting a car to get to the mountain towns. 

If you don’t plan on staying at the ski resort, towns like Breckenridge have bus services to get you to the ski resorts from certain areas. 

Rental Cars

A necessity if you’re planning on visiting more than one area or town. However, the mountains in the winter require a 4-wheel drive or all-wheel drive vehicle with snow tires. Keep this in mind when budgeting. 

In the summer, if you want to go on hikes, parks, and camping, you’ll obviously need your own car to get around. 

Ubers, Bikes, and Scooters

Ubers, bikes, and scooters are an easy option for navigating around Denver and its neighborhoods. Bikes and scooters, of course, aren’t the best option in the winter when the roads are slick! 

Visiting Denver FAQ 

How many days do you need to visit Denver?

If you want to only visit downtown Denver and its neighborhoods, I’d suggest visiting for 3 to 4 days. If you want to visit downtown Denver and its nearby outdoor activities and mountain towns, 5 to 7 days will allow you more time to acclimate and explore. 

What you need to know before going to Denver

The most important thing to know before going to Denver is that the elevation and cause some odd symptoms and you may need 2-3 days to acclimate before doing any strenuous hiking or activities. 

Is it worth it to go to downtown Denver?

Yes – it is absolutely worth going to downtown Denver. Downtown Denver is a central location filled with sports and some of the city’s most popular attractions, restaurants, and bars. It’s also where you’ll want to be for sporting events and concerts. 

Is Denver a walkable city for tourists?

No, Denver is not very walkable. Unless you’re staying directly downtown and don’t plan on visiting any surrounding neighborhoods, you’ll need a car, scooter, or Uber to get around. 

Summary: Your Complete Guide to Visiting Denver

There you have it! Hopefully, this guide gives you everything you need to know to explore Denver and its beauty. Whether you’re visiting first time or a repeat Denver traveler, there is so much for you to explore.

Denver doesn’t just cater to skiers and snowboarders. There’s a town and activity for you whether you want great views, thrilling adventure, low-key brunches, history, or more. 

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Rachel Grenis is passionate about encouraging you to stop waiting and start exploring. When she’s not exploring in the Caribbean, she’s hanging out in the mountains near her hometown of Denver, Colorado.

She took the photos for this article.