No one will deny that Denver, Colorado, is becoming one of America’s most popular cities. A full-service metropolis nestled next to some of the country’s greatest outdoor adventures, Denver provides far more than a weekend’s worth of fun. World-renowned museums, endless kegs of craft beer, a thriving art scene, and cuisine to satisfy every taste—all set on the backdrop of the beautiful Rockies—Denver should certainly be on your list of vacation destinations.
10. Wacky and Whimsical Meow Wolf
(image via Meow Wolf Denver)
For those who love the wild and wacky, the experience of Meow Wolf—based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but expanding across the nation—will be memorable at the least. “Convergence Station” in Denver is Meow Wolf’s newest location and is an immersive, mind-bending experience of a psychedelic and science fictional nature. Endlessly hard to describe, Meow Wolf is, simply put, weird—in the best way possible.
9. Enjoy an Iconic Show at Red Rocks
(image via Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre)
One of the country’s most well-known music venues, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre maintains a full calendar of concerts at a variety of price points. Set to the west of Denver, nestled amidst striking rock formations, the open-air theater touts musicians from all genres, film festivals, stand-up comedians, and more. Enjoy a show under the stars with Denver’s twinkling city lights in the background. Can’t make a show? Red Rocks is also full of hiking trails for visitors to enjoy the scenery any time of day.
8. Peruse the Quaint Downtowns of Golden and Littletown
(image via Visit Golden, CO)
While Denver isn’t known for its quaintness, its suburbs and surrounding communities provide the small-town vibes that make for peaceful afternoons of walking, shopping, and eating. Take a quick 20-minute drive west to Golden, known for being the home of Coors beer and the Colorado School of Mines, this little community is nestled at the base of the Rockies and is surrounded by gorgeous natural features. Plus, its city center is full of unique shops and restaurants.
A bit closer to Denver, enjoy Littleton’s historic downtown and ample nature trails. Check their calendar for community events like their well-known Candlelight Walk the day after Thanksgiving.
7. Visit Historic Larimer Square
(image via Larimer Square)
Denver’s original downtown, Larimer Square, is a historic district that is now vibing with life. Deemed the “beating heart and creative soul of Downtown Denver,” the Square is a mix of history and modernity. There is ample eating, drinking, and shopping with something for everyone. Throughout the year, there are regular live music events and street fests.
Grab a bouquet for your hotel room or Airbnb at Buckley House of Flowers or shop the local’s used clothes at Garage Sale Vintage before grabbing a bite at the well-known Bao Brewhouse‘s Chinese street food locale or Tamayo‘s modern Mexican cuisine.
6. Snack and Shop on South Pearl Street
(image via South Pearl Street)
Hop down the road to another historic district in South Pearl Street. Where Larimer Square might feel a bit more high-end, South Pearl offers a more grounded, local scene. Don’t miss the popular Sunday farmers market and be sure to grab a cute pastry (or three) at Tokyo Premium Bakery.
Consignment clothing lovers will be sure to find a good buy at Common Threads, a well-curated spot for high-quality used clothing. Kao’s Pizzeria is a great stop for groups of all sizes and ages, and Sushi Den is a well-loved spot for fresh fish, but diners should plan ahead here and make a reservation.
5. Arts Districts Abound
(image via RiNo, River North Art District)
With hundreds of galleries, Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe is the creative hub of the city. With a First Friday Art Walk each month, the Art District’s mission is to further culture and community through arts of all types. The area is also known for its international cuisine, featuring Jamaican and Mexican establishments, and is loaded with local breweries.
Head also to RiNo, short for River North Art District, which, in addition to creativity, is known for its food halls and collection of craft beer spots. When you’ve had your fill of craft beer, visit French 75 at happy hour for their famous 75-cent prosecco. It’s located in between the two arts districts.
4. Shop Black-Owned Businesses
(image via Shop at MATTER)
In a city not particularly known for its racial diversity, Denver has a thriving community of Black-owned businesses that are all worth going out of your way to visit. Start at Shop at MATTER in the Central Business District, where you’ll find a fantastic selection of progressive books, art, and gifts for kids and adults alike. If you’re lucky, the resident artist will be there to share about his printmaking, and you can pick up an affordable piece of his art.
Make your way to Lawrence & Larimer for some street clothes or handmade candles with quirky scent names like Gin & Juice and I’m A Whole Vibe. Check their Instagram for info on live DJ-ing in their shop on the weekends. To find more Black-owned businesses around Denver, check 303 Magazine’s list of suggestions.
3. Museum Hopping for All
(image via Denver Art Museum)
Denver’s museum scene leaves nothing wanting. No need to have kids in tow to enjoy the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, but if you do have little ones, definitely do not skip this stop. With a huge section of dinosaur skeletons, an IMAX theater, and rooms of massive, sparkling crystals, this museum offers hours of fascinating education and entertainment.
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) has everything the modern art lover could desire, while the Denver Art Museum, which is worth going to see the architecture of the building alone, offers seven stories of art from the ages to now. If you know you’re going to be visiting multiple attractions, a Denver City Pass may be worth it. One ticket will get you into three, four, or five attractions, depending on the level you choose.
2. Stop and Smell the Roses (and More!)
(image via Denver Botanic Gardens)
Once of the city’s most loved spots for tourists and locals alike, Denver’s Botanic Gardens is a 23-acre park offering indoor and outdoor gardens in both natural settings and modern-designed spaces. Visitors can learn about the science and environmental aspects of the gardens while oohing and ahhing at the colorful and unique collection of plants, trees, and flowers. A truly peaceful way to spend an afternoon in Denver, the Botanic Gardens is perfect for everything from an outing with the kids to a romantic evening stroll—either way, be sure to make reservations online in advance.
1. Omnivores Thrive, Vegans Rejoice
(image via Watercourse Foods)
There’s no doubt that if you ask a Denverian what to do while in their great city, they’re going to start by rattling off a list of restaurants. You’ll probably hear about Linger, Americana fare in a historic building that used to be a morgue, or City, O’ City, a bar, cafe, and full-service restaurant serving a hip take on comfort food at all times of the day.
An incredible city for dining and drinking, Denver is also a hub for vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Grab an indulgent vegan meal (that you won’t believe is vegan) at Watercourse or just eat donuts for dinner (traditional or vegan) at Voodoo Doughnuts. Track down the Vegan Van, which recreates fast food with vegan ingredients—from McDonald’s fries to Taco Bell’s chalupas.
As you can see, Denver has a lot to offer everyone. If you are looking to do more in the surrounding area, check out other weekend trips from nearby Denver, Colorado.
These areas are perfect for a quick day trip or a long weekend getaway. Explore our favorite things to do or peruse some pre-built itineraries.