Known as the Mile High City, Denver is a picturesque city that perfectly blends natural and urban beauty. Whether you’re searching for an outdoor adventure or a big city experience, you’ll find it in Colorado’s capital city. Find out how to plan the ideal visit to Denver and discover the city’s landmarks, airport, and best places to stay.

Early Morning: Explore Larimer Square and Union Station

If you’re coming from Denver International Airport, the Denver Airport Rail puts you right in the heart of downtown Denver with its stop at Union Station. Built in 1881, Denver’s Union Station is one of the oldest train stations in the West. Today, you can explore the halls of this legendary transportation hub, watch locals on their commute, or catch a train to other areas of the city.

If you’re looking for souvenirs, Union Station has plenty of options, but 5 Green Boxes is one of the favorites, offering locally made goods, crafts, and jewelry. Feeling famished or thirsty? Check out Snooze: An AM Eatery. Started in 2006, this Denver breakfast hot spot has excellent morning staples such as pancakes and coffee, but don’t snooze on their artisan Benedicts, which offer flavors for every palate.

Keep your eyes open for seasonal events at Union Station, such as the farmers’ market and concerts, depending on when you go.

After checking out Union Station, head over to Larimer Square — Denver’s oldest block, situated in the LoDo, or Lower Downtown, neighborhood. Legend has it that General William Larimer founded the first residence here, building the doors to his home with the tops of coffins. This area is now home to trendy restaurants, boutique shops, and Victorian-era buildings transformed into luxury lofts and condos.

If you didn’t grab breakfast at Union Station, Larimer Square has several options, but if you want to eat like a local, hop into The Market. Opened in 1983, this cafe, coffee bar, and bakery was one of the first businesses in LoDo and a huge part of the revival of the Larimer Square area. Quiches, frittatas, and omelets are fluffy and tasty, but the breakfast pocket with eggs, cheese, and bacon in a homemade pastry crust is their best in-house creation.

Want to know more about the history of Larimer Square? Join one of the walking tours that discuss the storied past of the area and little tidbits about several locations.

Late Morning: Shop at the 16th Street Mall

One of the most interesting landmarks in the city is the 16th Street Mall. Stretching in downtown Denver from Union Station to North Broadway, this 1.25-mile strip is a pedestrian-only promenade that’s home to 300 stores, 50 restaurants, and the Denver Pavilions, which has over 40 indoor shops of its own. Opened in 1982, the mall was designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. With blue, red, and white granite lining the path, the walkway is supposed to resemble a rattlesnake, a common sight in the areas outside Denver.

If you don’t want to walk after a heavy breakfast, the free MallRide bus can take you anywhere you want to go for coffee (there are 42 outdoor cafes along the way) or you can just travel along until you find something of interest. On the other hand, walking gives you the unique opportunity to see street performers from around the world. From musicians to magicians, these performers are one of aspects of the mall that make it unique.

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The Colorado State Capitol Building.

Noon: See the Colorado State Capitol Building

Heading south on the 16th Street Mall, you’ll run right into the Colorado State Capitol Building. Constructed in 1894, this government building is an excellent example of neoclassical architecture, and it’s where Colorado’s elected officials pass laws and bills to this day. The most distinctive feature of this building is the ornate gold dome that’s covered with real gold leaf to commemorate the Colorado Gold Rush that lasted from 1858 to 1861. The rest of the building is made from Colorado rose onyx, a stone so rare that all known deposits in Colorado are part of the capitol building.

After exploring the exterior and the Civic Center grounds next door, take a free tour. Monday through Friday, hourly from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., you can go on a guided tour that explains the history of the building. You can also visit the House and Senate chambers from January through May.

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The Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Afternoon: Visit a Museum

Still have a thirst for knowledge after the capitol tour? Head to one of the half-dozen museums within a five- to 10-minute walk. The futuristic-looking Denver Art Museum is one of the largest in the country, offering 70,000 distinct works from around the world, including notable paintings from the Old West and Native American art. Admission is $13 for non-residents and $10 for Colorado residents.

Housed in Denver’s first fire station, the Denver Firefighters Museum offers an in-depth look into the history of firefighting in the city. The museum has six themed areas in the two-story building, including hands-on exhibits for smaller children. Each month, the museum has a new exhibit that includes subjects such as women firefighters, Hispanic firefighters, and the largest fires in the city’s history. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and $5 for children.

If you’ve ever seen “Titanic” or just have a fascination with the ill-fated ship, you need to visit the Molly Brown Museum. Built in the 1880s, this museum was the long-time residence of “The Unsinkable” Molly Brown, a Denver philanthropist and socialite who survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Sold in 1932 after Brown’s death, the home almost became a victim of urban renewal until it was saved by local residents seeking to preserve historical sites within the city.

Ticket prices are $12 for adults and $10 for children and seniors.

Confluence park
Confluence Park in Denver.

Late Afternoon: Walk the City Park and the Denver Zoo

The largest park in Denver, City Park covers 330 acres just east of downtown Denver. It has plenty of walking and biking trails to explore the park that expanded rapidly in the late 19th century. The most famous sites of the park include the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. When the weather’s nice, rent a paddle-boat and explore the park via Ferril Lake or Duck Lake.

Since you’re already sauntering about the park, make sure to take a trip to the Denver Zoo. Built in 1896, the Denver Zoo is now one of the most advanced and visited attractions in the city. It’s won several awards for using renewable energy and going green, and nearly 1.6 million guests visit the zoo annually. In total, the zoo has over 4,000 specimens covering over 600 species.

Dinnertime: Get Some Culture at Tattered Cover

The Tattered Cover is one of the largest independent book stores in the country, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for bookworms. Since 1971, this bookstore has been a favorite of locals and book lovers from around the country, while also hosting famous authors as guest speakers throughout the year. Grab a cup of coffee, a suggested read, and hang out if you have the time.

Late Night: Go to a Show

Want a Broadway experience without the New York prices? Zip on over to the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Covering four blocks and 12 acres, this performing arts venue is the second-largest in the country with 10,000 seats. Regular performers include the Colorado Ballet, Opera Colorado, and the Colorado Symphony. If you have some time to kill before or after the show, head to the southwest corner of the complex to check out Sculpture Park.

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Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Denver Airport Guide

Denver International Airport, known as DIA by locals and DEN by airport code, is the sixth-busiest airport in the country and the 18th-busiest in the world, handling over 58 million passengers per year. The airport is also one of the most popular layover destinations for flights heading both east and west. Discover some of the ways to beat boredom on a layover, find your flight, or head into the city.

Transportation

You have several options to get to and from the airport, depending on your budget and preferences. Cabs to and from downtown cost about $55, while access to the RTD light rail and bus is $9 one-way or for an all-day pass. Ride-share options such as Lyft and Uber are available, and many hotels also offer free shuttles.

Once they enter Jeppesen Terminal (the main passenger terminal) and get tickets, all passengers go through three security gates on Terminal A Level 5, although many passengers head through just two gates. Once they check in, an automated guideway transit system connects passengers to the three concourses of the airport (A, B, and C).

Eat and Drink

Passengers at DIA have drinking and dining options both before and after security. Before heading through security, passengers in the Jeppesen Terminal have some quick snack and fast food options, but the standout is the Boulder Beer Tap House, featuring delicious sandwiches, appetizers, and local draft beers. After security, Jeppesen features dozens of eateries, such as the Denver Chop House in Concourse A, Cru Food and Wine Bar in Concourse B, and Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in Concourse C.

Other Information

Wi-Fi is free throughout the airport, but private lounges may offer their own portals. XpresSpa might also be worth a stop to soothe your muscles before or after a flight.

Coors field
Coors Field in Denver.

Where to Stay in Denver

Denver is a popular destination for both leisure and business travelers, giving you plenty of accommodation options. Select from the best Denver hotels, hostels, and vacation rentals for the perfect trip to the Mile High City.

Top Hotels

A majority of the best hotels in Denver are situated right near downtown. Splurge on a stay at the opulent Four Seasons, which offers well-appointed rooms, panoramic views of downtown, and a prime location for the best attractions in the city.

Another good choice is the Crawford Hotel, located in historic Union Station. Steps away from Coors Field, upscale restaurants, and five-star shopping, this hotel has it all. If it’s cold, you’ll love that the RTD light rail connects directly to Union Station, meaning you won’t even have to go outside.

Best Hostels

Unlike many other cities in the United States, Denver has dozens of hostels for budget-conscious travelers. Perfect for lengthy stays or saving money for other attractions, these Denver hostels also offer unique opportunities to meet other travelers.

With dorm rooms and single rooms, 11th Avenue Hotel and Hostel is one of the most affordable and easy ways to visit Denver. Located just two minutes from downtown and blocks from the museum and arts district, the hostel is one of the most convenient in the city.

Just outside of downtown, Hostel Fish labels itself as the world’s only “upscale” hostel. The owners of this hostel thought of just about everything, offering charging stations at each bed (including dorms), free Wi-Fi, daily housekeeping, a concierge service, pub crawls, and more.

Comfortable Vacation Rentals

When you’re traveling with your family or another large group, hotels and hostels may not have the amenities or the price you want. That’s when you should consider a vacation or private rental. These give you more beds for the price, a kitchen for preparing meals, laundry facilities, and many other perks that make you feel at home.

Live like a successful local with a downtown loft that offers amazing views and nightlife, or head to LoDo for an old-time vibe in restaurants, shops, and more. The Highlands neighborhood is another interesting choice for a vacation rental, offering elegant, Victorian style homes, upscale apartments, and a diverse restaurant scene.

If you don’t mind driving out of the city center or you have business in the suburbs, try a rental in one of the dozens of surrounding cities, such as Aurora, Littleton, or Centennial. In these cities, you can get a large apartment or an entire home for an affordable price.

If you’re ready to plan and book an enjoyable trip to Denver, you can arrange everything from transportation to accommodations and more, right here on GoDoTrip.