Denver, Colorado is a city where the outdoors and culture meet. The Mile High City, named for being exactly a mile above sea level, offers an environment for someone who needs easy access to nature with all its beauty, but also wants to be close enough so that they can get their daily dose of urban life in downtown Denver.
Everything listed in this post is within a 3-hour drive of Denver and starts off with activities in the heart of downtown Denver then branching out north to the Rockies, south to the Springs, and west to more mountains.
Listed below are 27 fun things to do near or around Denver to get the best of both worlds. Let’s jump in!
Fun fact: I was born and raised in Colorado and in all my travels, I still think Colorado is top 3 of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. This list is close to my heart as I grew up going to all these places. When family or friends are in town – we go to all of these places!
I hope you’ll find something there that sparks your interest in the mile-high city!
27 Adventurous Things to do Near Denver
1. State Capitol Building
The Colorado State Capitol is a beautiful building that was constructed in the 1890s and opened on November 18th,1894. The architect for this project is Elijah E. Myers of Illinois who designed it to look like its counterpart across state lines -the United States Capital Building- made out of Colorado white granite.
Topping off the dome are distinctive gold roofs, which were actually copper panels and then replaced by gilded leaves taken from Colorado’s mines.
The State Capitol is a great view into the history of Colorado. It’s open for free public tours, but you will need to make a reservation if your group is larger than 10 people.
Pro tip: One memorable picture to take here is around the 13th step, it will be marked as being exactly a mile above sea level.
- State Capitol Building | Address: 200 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203
2. US Denver Mint
The US Mint in Denver was opened when the Colorado Gold Rush began in 1858-59, and companies like Clark Gruber bought gold dust from miners only to find that shipping costs were high.
In the late 1800s, this United States mint opened in a two-story brick building on 16th Street near Market. Today you’ll find that coins minted in Denver will be marked with a “D.”
The mint does host a guided tour where they will walk you through the process of creating coins and give you a penny when the tour is finished. It’s so neat to see how our coins are made, which gives me a greater appreciation for them!
Check their website for the re-opening of tours.
- US Denver Mint | Address: 320 W. Colfax Ave., Denver, CO 80204
3. Union Station
The beauty of lower downtown Denver is on display at Union Station. You’ll find a hub for transportation through the Amtrak train and RTD public buses, great restaurants, and the Crawford Hotel with luxurious amenities to stay in.
You can shop from local retail stores while you’re there too! There are so many things going down that it will be hard not to have an amazing time no matter what you choose.
Check the Union Station calendar for local events while you’re in town!
A few of my favorites here are Snooze AM Eatery, a breakfast diner with an amazing menu; Milkbox Ice Creamery with delicious ice cream flavors that can also be made into sundaes or milkshakes; and the Tattered Cover Bookstore, an Indie bookstore with personal staff recommendations.
- Union Station | Address: 1701 Wynkoop, Denver, CO 80202
4. 16th Street Mall
The 16th Street Mall is the best place to visit if you’re looking for shopping, food, and entertainment all in one.
The mile-long pedestrian-friendly mall has dozens of shops that offer everything from clothes to souvenirs as well as restaurants serving everyone’s tastes! If you would prefer to save some steps, the free shuttle bus called the Mall Ride is available to you with easy hop-on hop-off stops.
There are a ton of restaurants to choose from, so here are some of my favorites: Otra Vez Cantina for delicious street tacos; Cheesecake Factory for a sit-down date night dinner; and 5280 Burger for a more casual lunch.
- 16th Street Mall | Address: 1001 16th St., Denver, CO 80265
5. Larimer Square
Located off the 16th Street Mall, Larimer Square is the oldest commercial block in the heart of downtown Denver but now it’s more like any other trendy marketplace.
With restaurants that offer a great variety of cuisines that are chef-owned and local businesses mixed together for your convenience, there are so many options available!
Check out their calendar to see if any events are happening while you’re in town!
When you’re visiting Denver and there is an event at Larimer Square, such as some of the best food festivals or celebrations, there will be directions for parking so you don’t miss out on these exciting events!
- Larimer Square | Address: 1430 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80202
6. Tattered Cover Bookstore
For the avid reader, visit the Tattered Cover Bookstore. They have shelves of books, but you’ll also find cozy corners for reading or meeting with friends; it’s not just about buying new titles any more than at many other booksellers; it’s how they make their customers feel when leaving that matters most here!
As mentioned before, one location is in the Union Station, but for a larger selection of books, visit the standalone store on 16th Street and Wynkoop.
Don’t be afraid to ask the staff for their recommendations or take your time going through each and every row of books. You’ll find so much treasure here!
- Tattered Cover Bookstore | Address: 1991 Wazee St. Ste. 100, Denver, CO 80202
7. Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park
Located in downtown Denver, Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park offers a world-class amusement theme park combined with a cool waterpark.
Known as Elitch’s to locals, you can purchase a ticket for the park, and it includes admission into the water park which is nice when the temperatures are hot!
Atop some of these thrilling rides, view the majestic mountain range. Some of my favorite thrill rides include the Tower of Doom, a 200-ft drop with calm views at the top, the Mind Eraser, and the Boomerang.
There are also family-friendly rides such as the Ferris wheel and an area for kids called Kiddieland.
Food and drink are not allowed inside the park, but there are concession stands for when you’re hungry. Since the park offers re-entrance, you can do what we do and pack a picnic in the back of your vehicle.
- Elitch Gardens Park | Address: 2000 Elitch Cir, Denver, CO 80204
8. Denver Aquarium
The Aquarium in Denver is the perfect place for viewing marine life! Walk through the aquarium and get an up-close look at more than 1 million gallons of extraordinary exhibits. Try out the delicious seafood restaurant, or enjoy fine dining with a view while watching marine life swim by.
The aquarium is also perfect for children of all ages to engage with the marine life and see them up close!
Check out the Aquarium’s website for more information on pricing and opening hours.
- Denver Aquarium | Address: 700 Water St, Denver, CO 80211
9. Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum (DAM) with its iconic Martin Building was designed by Gio Ponti in 1971. DAM is one of the largest art museums on the west coast that features American Indian artifacts and other items from across the world in the art exhibits.
The museum has a free-for-kids program where youth 18 and under can enter for free. Adult tickets range from $10-$13, however, you can check the calendar for free days too. You’ll want to plan 1-2 hours visiting this wonderful art museum.
- Denver Art Museum | Address: 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204
10. Museum of Nature and Science
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is located in the city of Denver and is a resource for nature and science education.
At this museum, you can learn about Colorado history, Earth, and space through the exhibits, programs, and lectures. A few of these exhibits include rocks and minerals, the human body, the age of the dinosaurs, Egyptian mummies, and wildlife both from Colorado and beyond.
The entrance fees for the museum are $20 for adults, $15 for youth, and $17 for seniors. Children 2 and under can enter for free. There are usually free days included in the calendar too, which I recommend checking out before you go!
You will need to reserve tickets in advance so make sure to plan accordingly if you are including the Museum of Nature and Science in your travel itinerary.
- Museum of Nature and Science | Address: 2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO 80205
11. Denver Botanic Gardens
The Denver Botanic Gardens is a beautiful 24-acre oasis in the heart of Colorado. The wide range and diversity of plants make it an interesting place for all ages to visit while connecting people with nature through education about botanical beauty.
While here visitors can see how high altitude has influenced vegetation as well!
If you are visiting Denver around the Christmas season, you’ll find that there are light displays you can pay to see, which are beautiful in the night sky!
Check out the website for fun activities to do at the park throughout the year. Admission into the gardens is $15 for Adults, $11.50 for seniors, and $11 for children and students with ID.
- Denver Botanic Gardens | Address: 1007 York St, Denver, CO 80206
12. Molly Brown House
Molly Brown was an American social activist who worked in many different fields, like women’s rights. She became well known for her work on behalf of children and workers. She was also known for surviving the sinking of the Titanic.
The Molly Brown House Museum in Denver, Colorado tells her story. The historic home was saved from demolition due to a group effort by preservation-minded citizens who joined together during this time.
To visit the Molly Brown House, purchase your ticket beforehand. Currently, the Molly Brown House is only providing self-guided tours to groups of 12 people. Adult tickets cost $14-$16, with youth at $10-$12, and seniors at $12-$14.
- Molly Brown House | Address: 1340 Pennsylvania St, Denver, CO 80203
13. Butterfly Pavilion
The Butterfly Pavilion is a unique concept in the zoo industry with immersive exhibits that are designed to explore nature’s hidden heroes. This will provide guests with hands-on interactions catered towards all ages and abilities, making it fun for everyone!
Meet Rosie the tarantula while you’re here, and enter the Chrysalis room where you’ll see butterflies emerge from their cocoons!
The pavilion is open for general admission. Purchase your tickets and go during your timed entry. Tickets for adults are $11-$13, children are $9, and toddlers 2 and under are free, but you’ll still need to register them.
- Butterfly Pavilion | Address: 6252 W 104th Ave, Westminster, CO 80020
14. Stanley Marketplace
Stanley Marketplace is a bustling and sustainable marketplace within an industrial-looking venue located in Aurora, Colorado, about 20 minutes east of Denver.
It once manufactured airplanes, but is now refurbished by local businesses in the community with over 50+ shops and services! The restaurants here are all only found in Colorado ranging from BBQ to Mexican.
There is no admission fee, but with so many choices you’ll be spending a few dollars here! Some of my favorite restaurants include Comida, a Mexican restaurant with delicious tacos; Maria’s Empanadas; Misaki Sushi; Mondo Market where you’ll find local meats and cheeses; and the local favorite Sweet Cow, a hand-crafted ice creamery with unique flavors.
- Stanley Marketplace | Address: 2501 Dallas St, Aurora, CO 80010
15. Far East Center
The Far East Center is a one-stop-shop for all your Eastern needs. Located on Federal and Alameda, this center is full of cultural diversity from Thailand, Vietnam, Korean, Chinese, to Japanese.
There is a famous Vietnamese Bakery here called Vinh Xuong with delicious fried sesame balls and spicy banh mi sandwiches. You can also visit the Truong An gift shop filled with jade jewelry, bamboo plants, and Asian beauty products.
Across the street is Little Saigon Market, perfect for grocery shopping to make your own Asian dishes.
- Far East Center | Address: S Federal Blvd, Denver, CO 80219
16. RiNo (River North) District
With so many urban neighborhoods in the area, the RiNo Art District is a unique growing local neighborhood near Denver.
Visitors are welcome to enjoy the district’s unique blend of urban charm and historic warehouses and factories turned art galleries and studies.
Keep an eye out for the streets turned to murals and some even changing weekly! The district is also full of local food halls and microbreweries.
Check out The Denver Ear’s post with the ultimate list of things to do in RiNo.
17. Red Rocks Amphitheatre
About a 30-minute drive from Denver is the Red Rocks Amphitheater. At this natural geological wonder, you can see unforgettable evening concerts in the outdoor amphitheater, hike on the Red Rocks Trail, or view an evening film.
Since it’s also a park, this is a popular spot for exercising. You can head on over early to get your exercise in by running up and down the stairs in the amphitheater or signing up for an early morning yoga session.
You can take a day trip here and have a picnic lunch or check out their website for current events (there are so many!).
- Red Rocks Amphitheater | Address: 18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465
18. Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) is located in northern Colorado and is one of the most visited national parks in the US. As one of the most popular attractions in Colorado, RMNP is just 1-2 hours from Denver.
Situated between Estes Park and Grand Lake, RMNP is filled with beautiful views on mountain tops, roaming wildlife, hiking trails, and so much more!
Most visitors enter RMNP through Estes Park at the Beaver Meadows entrance. There are shuttle services to the trailheads, which is usually better as parking lots fill up quickly before 8 AM. Upon entering the national park, you may spot wildlife such as moose, deer, or elk.
A few well-traveled trails include Bear Lake Trail, Alberta falls, and any of the lakes (Emerald, Dream, Hills). Hikers can also trek up to Long’s Peak, a 14er (a mountain peak with an altitude at or above 14,000 feet), and also one of the most difficult hikes.
Consider packing a backpack filled with water, snacks, sunscreen, and insect repellent. A first aid kit can also come in handy for minor scrapes.
Visiting RMNP can be completed in a day. Visitors usually hike 1 or 2 trails and come back down. There is an entrance fee of $35 per vehicle, but your ticket is valid for 7 days so you can always return if you have extra time during your stay.
Read Next: 17 Amazing Day Hikes in Denver
19. Estes Park
Estes Park is a small mountain village in northern Colorado sitting at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. From Denver, it is also about 1-2 hours of drive time.
This tiny town is free to visit before or after your trip to RMNP. I would recommend visiting after your hiking trip to RMNP as this is a great spot to stop here for a late lunch.
You can also shop in local boutique stores including souvenir shops, local art, jewelry made with stones from Colorado, and candy shops. If you would prefer a slower pace after hiking RMNP, you can stop at Lake Estes for a picnic.
20. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
About a 1.5-hour drive from Denver lies the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo located in Colorado Springs. It was founded in 1926 and voted #4 on America’s Best Zoos list.
With its elevation of 6,714 ft above sea level, the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is the highest zoo in North America with beautiful mountain views. The zoo is best known for its herd of giraffes, hopping wallabies, and African lion pride.
Although you could visit the Denver Zoo, I would highly recommend making the drive to see Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for the giraffes and the views!
Check out the Cheyenne Zoo’s website for tickets, feeding schedules, and exhibits. Ticket prices vary depending on peak season, so make sure to check as you plan your itinerary.
- Cheyenne Mountain Zoo | Address: 4250 Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80906
21. Manitou Incline
Located 1-2 hours from Denver is the Manitou Incline with a sweeping 2,000-foot elevation gain just under one mile long!
The incline was originally built to carry materials up on Pikes Peak but ended up becoming more than that when it became an attraction for tourists. The hike can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on your fitness level.
The Manitou Incline is considered a difficult hike, but people everywhere have successfully climbed it to get the beautiful views overlooking Colorado Springs.
The incline is free to the public, but you’ll most likely pay for parking. Make sure to acclimate yourself to the high altitude before climbing and bring water!
- Manitou Incline | Address: 1401 Recreation Way. Colorado Springs, CO 80905
22. Garden of the Gods
The Garden of the Gods Park is a registered National Natural Landmark in Colorado Springs, leaving visitors astounded by its geological wonder.
The 15 miles of trails within this park offer many opportunities for hiking and biking along with horseback riding at 6,000 feet above sea level!
There are also views from every turn that will make your heart soar as you take them on these beautiful paths high up among gorgeous rocks made mostly out of red sandstones or pink limestone layers.
While here, you can do a self-guided scavenger hunt to find popular rock formations. You can view this website for a list of them (my favorite is the kissing camels).
Admission to the park is free for all. There is a large parking lot for visitors and a free shuttle directly into the park.
- Garden of the Gods | Address: 1805 N 30th St, Colorado Springs, CO 80904
23. Cave of the Winds
At Cave of the Winds, about a 1.5-hour drive south of Denver, you’ll have an unforgettable adventure. On their guided cave tours you’ll get to explore the heart of Manitou Grand Caverns and find ancient rock formations, stalactites, and learn about its history.
Above ground, there are high ropes courses for all ages, virtual rides through mountain peaks, and ziplines over the beautiful canyon.
Prices for admission will range depending on which package you would like.
Check out the Cave of the Winds website for more info on your travel planning to Denver!
- Cave of the Winds | Address: 100 Cave of the Winds Rd, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
24. Royal Gorge Bridge and Park
The Royal Gorge Bridge is a must-see for any traveler to Colorado. As the highest suspension bridge in America over the gorge of the Arkansas River, there are exciting adrenaline-inducing activities like sky coasters and ziplining through beautiful scenery.
If you’d rather not get your heart rate racing, you can relax on one of the many ledges with incredible views. There are so many ways you can enjoy this world-class attraction!
If you are an adrenaline junkie (or just love high views!) and are looking for something exciting to do, make the 2-hour drive south from Denver to the Royal Gorge! As always, check their website for hours and admission prices.
- Royal Gorge Bridge and Park | Address: 4218 Co Rd 3A, Cañon City, CO 81212
25. Georgetown Loop Railroad
Located an hour west of Denver is one of the first visitor attractions in Colorado. The Georgetown Loop Railroad was completed by 1884 and was considered an engineering marvel of its time.
As you ride through Clear Creek canyon on one of these train cars, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains as well as old-time mining places.
After taking a ride on the train, you can shop at the shop on location or stroll through the historical downtown of Georgetown where old miners used to walk and original buildings are still kept up.
- Georgetown Loop Railroad | Address: 646 Loop Dr, Georgetown, CO 80444
26. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
The scenic views of Mount Evans are breathtaking. You can make your way up to this 14,264-foot mountain (the highest 14er in Colorado) and drive for 15 miles on its paved road (the highest in North America)!
Stop at Summit Lake Park or the Interpretive area if you want some time to catch sightseeing in nature before starting out again to the Summit of this mountain peak.
Plan to come here during the summers as the roads are closed in the winter usually due to snow. It is a 2.5-hour drive west of Denver, so reserve your timed tickets and make the drive earlier in the day!
27. Hot Springs of Colorado
After all the eating, hiking, and sightseeing in and near Denver, spend some time soaking and relaxing in the hot springs of Colorado. There are so many to choose from, so make sure that you choose one near your stay.
My Colorado Parks has listed out the top 10 best soaking spots. Most of them are within a 3-hour drive from Denver (Don’t go to Ouray or Pagosa unless you want a 5+ hour drive). My favorites are in Glennwood Springs and the Hot Sulphur springs.
Map of Adventurous Things to do Near Denver
Packing for Your Denver Adventure
Denver is known for its unpredictable weather, so you’ll need to pack accordingly. It can be hot and sunny one minute then cold with snow the next!
A light jacket or raincoat will help keep your wardrobe fresh as well as provide protection from sudden changes in temperature. You should also bring hiking boots that are comfortable enough for all-day wear– Denverites love their hikes!
In the summer months, tank tops and shorts are best, while long-sleeved shirts and warm pants are better for winter months. Remember your swimsuit for the springs and a cute outfit for your night out on the town!
Getting Around Denver For Your Adventures
For budget-friendly itineraries, call an Uber from Denver International Airport (DIA) for your stay in Denver. In downtown Denver, you can explore on foot or bike to get around. You’ll also be able to take public transit such as RTD buses (which are cheap) or Amtrak Train service.
I would personally recommend renting a car from DIA if you are planning on driving to the Rocky Mountains or exploring Colorado Springs. You’ll save so much more money than paying an Uber to drive you back and forth and you’ll be able to explore at your own pace.
Where to Stay Near Denver
While there are many areas to choose from in Denver, you’ll want to find a place that is nearby public transit so you can get around or has free parking if you choose to rent a car.
I would recommend finding a place in the RiNo Art District (mentioned above) or the LoHi (Lower Highlands) area. Check out Airbnb for bookings here or my personal favorite, Mariott Hotels.
Places to Eat Near Denver
Some of my favorite local places were mentioned above. Check out the 16th street mall, Stanley Marketplace, the Far East Center, or the RiNo district. Here’s a bulleted list if you like that better (with more options):
- Snooze AM Eatery in the Union Station (breakfast/brunch)
- First Watch in Denver (breakfast/brunch)
- Otra Vez in 16th Street Mall (lunch)
- Comida in the Stanley Marketplace (lunch)
- 5280 Burger Bar in Denver (lunch)
- Seoul BBQ Restaurant in Northglenn (dinner)
- Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant in Westminster (dinner)
- Sweet Cow Ice Cream in the Stanely Marketplace (dessert)
With so many options, you’ll have more meals than you can eat filled with good food!!
Wrapping up 27 Adventurous Things to do Near Denver
One of the main reasons people visit Colorado is to experience its natural beauty. Whether you’re a mountain lover looking for a new challenge or someone who just wants to wander through beautiful scenery, there’s something here that will keep your attention and make you want to come back again and again.
I’ve compiled my list of the 27 best things to do near Denver so let me know what catches your eye on this list!
Comment below with any suggestions I may have missed as well as which activity tops your personal bucket list.
Other travel inspo you might be interested in:
- 17 Amazing Day Hikes in Denver
- A Weekend Guide to the International Balloon Fiesta
- 17 Fun Things to do in Santa Rosa, California
- 18 Spectacular Things to do in Cayucos, California
- 17 Fun Things to do in Santa Rosa, California
- Monterey and Big Sur Itinerary: Plan the Perfect Road Trip
- The Perfect 3-Day Portland, Maine Itinerary
- The Ultimate 10 day New England Road Trip Itinerary [Portland to Boston Drive]
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My Favorite Travel Tips + Resources
Here is a quick glance at all my go-to travel tips and resources that I use to plan every trip! For more information, check out my travel resources page.
- Booking flights: I use Google Flights to check all routes and find the best flights. Then I compare them with Expedia (for reward points) and Skyscanner (for the lowest prices) before I book.
- Accommodations: I love budget-friendly rentals or booking at a hotel where I can earn points. For hotels, I go through Booking.com or book directly with Marriott (for points + rewards). When I travel internationally, I’ll book through Hostelworld for very budget-friendly stays. For vacation rentals, I usually look through Airbnb, but you could also use Vrbo. Expedia also has some great bundles for hotels, flights, and car rentals altogether.
- Transportation: For travel in the United States, I love renting through Expedia with Enterprise or Thrifty. They have been consistent and provide the best customer service. For international travel, I’ll book through Rome2Rio or Eurail for trains or bus fares.
- Travel Credit Card: I book all my travel (flights, hotels, car rentals) through my favorite travel credit card. I also use this card for everything on my trip including dining, excursions, and souvenirs. Apart from earning 5x more points towards free travel, there are amazing benefits: no foreign transaction fees, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement (so I can book worry-free), fraud protection, emergency assistance – it’s really a great deal! Check it out here!
- Vaccines and Medications: Check the CDC website for updates on necessary vaccines to enter a country, including updates on Covid-19 and recommended places to visit. I recommend getting all the vaccines you need before you go!
- Tours + Experiences: I absolutely love my tours! Everything from eerie walking ghost tours to food tours, I’ll usually book something every trip either through Viator or GetYourGuide. I also love LastMinute.com for very affordable tickets to theaters and other experiences in Europe.
- What to Pack: I almost always travel by backpack. For products I like, check out my packing guide page for all the things I take with me on different trips.