A lot of people come to this state for its mountains. Granted, there are a lot of those. But the Pawnee National Grassland is a vast area of flat, seemingly unending grasslands where you can hike along 20,000 kilometres of trails taking in the vast steppes-like, prarie style environment with a few freak stacks dotting the alien landscape for good measure.
Why go? You can either shop for vintage wares, weed or both: These days, SoBo is also called the Green Mile, reflecting the influx of marijuana dispensaries. The quirky shopping experience only gets funkier as you head north into the Baker District, where boutiques like Decade, a source for up-and-coming designer labels, skew as hip as the nearby eateries.
After your afternoon of devouring basically everything in sight, chances are you’ll be thirsty. So why not balance out all that food with a beer or two? Denver boasts some of Colorado’s top breweries and is famous for its craft (and historic) beers. Check out Novel Stand Brewing Company in the Baker area for a tasting session, or head north for Belgian-style brews at hip taproom Bruz Beers.
Figuring out just how to plan your trip to Colorado can be tricky. Ok, so you’ve got a load of things to do, and a ton of day trips in Colorado to keep you occupied, but how do you fit them all in? Good question. And it’s one that we’ll be answering with our handy 3 day itinerary for Colorado to help you organise that schedule of yours with only the best things to do in Colorado.
For an amazing finale to your time in Colorado it’s a 25 minute drive or taxi ride to the wonder that is Casa Bonita. This mad Mexican-themed restaurant-slash-entertainment palace pairs up nicely with the visit to the weed dispensary because, well, it just does. Trust us. Alongside their all you can eat deal, there’s otherworldly treats on offer. Fried ice cream anyone? Stuff your face and watch the cliff divers.
Since you’ve been hiking, you’ll be sweaty. Take a shower then head out again for a bit of glamour at Peaks Lounge at the Hyatt Regency. This isn’t just a fancy dinner and drinks situation because you’ll mainly be here for the views. They are litrerally amazing. Come for sunset and watch the city light up as you sip cocktails. Not the cheapest thing to do in Denver, but definitely worth that skyline vista.
In 1858, a group of American Indians and settlers struck gold at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Their discovery soon spread back to the East Coast, prompting people to pick up and move west. The site of the original pioneer camp (known back then as Auraria) soon grew into the charming area now known as Larimer Square. Although the city has since expanded, this historic neighborhood remains the heart and soul of the Mile High City, and according to some, it's the place to start your Denver experience. It's also a featured stop on many of the best Denver tours. Recent visitors attest that Larimer Square is always buzzing with life, thanks to the area's numerous restaurants, shops and nightlife venues.
When you’re away with kids, the top priority (basically) is to keep ’em entertained and at Denver Museum of Nature and Science, you can do just that. We mean, what pre-teen adolescent doesn’t love space? Or dinosaurs? Because there’s plenty of all that stuff going on here. The planetarium is pretty cool actually. It even makes for one of the best things to do in Colorado when it rains because there’s nothing worse than getting totally rained off indoors with bored, restless kids practically scuttling up the walls of your hotel.
It might not be the cheapest thing to do in Colorado, but heading up to the Peaks Lounge at the top of the Hyatt Regency is definitely one of the best things to do in Denver at night. The view from up here on the 27th floor of the Hyatt building offers up an immense vista of the city skyline. Have cocktails as the sunsets and watch the buildings of Denver begin to glitter in an urban light show that you really should capture to show off just where you are and what you’re doing. To top it all off, Peaks Lounge has great service (as it should) and an awesome ambience. Definitely one of the best things to do in Colorado for couples, actually.
Even if you hate the sound of excess change rattling around your pockets, you'll find a tour of the Denver branch of the United States Mint to be an interesting way to spend an hour or so. Having opened in 1863, its purpose was to transform the Gold Rush's findings into coinage. Today, the U.S. Mint in Denver can produce up to 50 million coins a day.
Casa Bonita is possibly the most famous, most outrageous place to eat dinner in Denver, and is one of the very best things to do in Colorado at night. If you’ve never heard of it, get ready to really, really want to go: it’s a replica of a Mexican village in a strip mall. This crazy restaurant seats 1,000 people at a time, makes like you’re in a fiesta the whole time, features puppets, shoot-outs, and crazy characters, making it a pretty, um, special place to dine. There’s cliff diving and a haunted cave, but you probably remember South Park‘s Cartman telling you that.
If you came to Denver to experience the Rocky Mountains, you'll want to reserve a day to take a drive up to Mount Evans. In this instance, it isn't the destination that travelers rave about – it's the journey. To get to Mount Evans, you'll have to hop on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, a two-lane road known as the "road into the sky" because of the nearly 9,000 feet of elevation change. At the Mount Evans peak, drivers will be 14,264 feet above sea level. Along the way, you'll find a number of lookout points from which you can admire the view of the Rockies.
If you're feeling a little overwhelmed by all the gardens have to offer, consider tagging along on a guided tour. Docent-led tours (which cost $14 for non-members) focus both on the flora and the art found throughout the facility. Recent visitors said the gardens are enjoyable no matter the season, describing them as "stunning" and "mesmerizing." They also highly recommend perusing the gift shop.
A trip to Colorado without hiking is like sacrilege. There’s tons of places you could be getting into the great outdoors here, none quite as spectacular as the Rocky Mountains themselves. Nature trails run for miles and miles past alpine lakes and snow-capped mountains in this rugged natural wonderland. Hiking here is one of the best outdoorsy things you could do in Colorado. Don’t worry: there’s different hikes to suit different abilities. Lily Lake Loop, for example, is super easy and is great for all the views without much of the puff involved.
Why go? Tailgate on the stadium’s south side; stomp your feet to make “mile-high thunder”; join a chorus of 76,000 yelling “Incomplete!”: That’s the way to show your support for the Broncos. On a tour, you’ll learn such stats while visiting the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame Museum and getting a player’s-eye view of the end zone—something even non-fans get a charge out of.
Baseball is a sport that lives off nostalgia like no other, and you can’t get more nostalgic than visiting a museum dedicated to old ballparks. Since the owner, Bruce Hellerstein, decided to display his amazing collection of ballpark memorabilia from the basement of his house, baseball fans from around the country have been making annual pilgrimages to this beloved museum.
Those who have driven to Mount Evans recommend taking it slow and admiring the scenery, especially around Echo Lake Park. Located about halfway between Idaho Springs and the top of Mount Evans, Echo Lake boasts excellent fishing conditions, as well as picnic facilities and hiking trails. You can also stop by the Denver Botanic Gardens' Mount Goliath location, just beyond Echo Lake. But the views aren't the only reason to take your time along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Recent visitors cautioned others to drive carefully and slowly since there are steep drop-offs; they also recommend dressing in layers as the temperatures fluctuate depending on the elevation.
Why not start your trip to Colorado by understanding the history of its capital, Denver? This city is pretty famous for its Old West feel and is full of old architecture and known for tales of gunfighters, crime families and conmen. Go and admire the frontier town atmosphere, take in views of Union Station and other landmark buildings, see what’s going on.
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The 16th Street Mall is to Denver what Rodeo Drive is to Los Angeles. This mile-long pedestrian thoroughfare, which stretches across the southern end of the LoDo district and bypasses Larimer Square, is lined with a variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, making it a popular place to visit at nearly all hours of the day (although some travelers note that the area can feel a bit dicey at night, despite a heavy police presence). Even if you're not looking to give your credit card a workout, recent visitors recommend taking a stroll along the 16th Street Mall, as it leads to some excellent people-watching.