If a Jeep or other 4×4 just won’t cut it for you, and you’re actually more of an outdoors person who likes to be in it rather than just drive through it, how about climbing? Garden of the Gods also has some absolutely awesome climbing routes (Montezuma’s Tower is ah-mazing) and makes for one of the best adventurous things to do in Colorado. We mean, how could you not get better views of this stunning location without climbing up high? It’s not just for veteran climbers: people with different experience levels can get on board with this one.
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.
Begin your Colorado trip in Denver – that’s the best base, we’d say – by learning about the history in the capital of Colorado itself. The sights here date back to the Old West era and a good place to start is Union Station: it’s not just a transit hub, it’s a vibrant landmark in itself with loads going on. Feels (looks) like Europe. From here walk 10 minutes to the oldest part of the city, Larimer Square.
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With galleries showcasing more than 70,000 works by famed artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Winslow Homer, the Denver Art Museum houses one of the most impressive collections of art between Chicago and the West Coast. Spread across two buildings, the museum's holdings range from pre-Columbian artifacts to contemporary displays with such mediums as painting and sculpture represented. One of the highlights of a visit to the Denver Art Museum is its extensive assembly of western American art, which includes paintings, sculptures and works on paper related to the West going back two centuries.
With its excellent views of the Rocky Mountains, miles of hiking trails and cinnamon-hued sandstone cliffs, Red Rocks Park is a big draw for outdoors enthusiasts. Occupying 700-some acres, this impressive park offers visitors the opportunity to experience the fascinating geographic transition between the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains. If you only have a short amount of time here, stretch your legs along the Trading Post Trail; this nearly 1 ½-mile-long path weaves through the rust-colored buttes, making for some spectacular scenery. Before you head out, travelers recommend stopping by the visitor center, which features information on the parks history and trails.
Start your day the right way at Denver Diner. This is a classic, classic place that’s open 24 hours a day and offers up a huge speciality breakfast (one is called “Stoner’s Delight” FYI). Suitably stuffed, roll yourself for 6 minutes to Denver Mint. Opening at 8am, this place is literally the only place that still produces American coinage. Pretty cool to see it all happening. Tip: it’s closed Fridays and the weekend.
Why go? Peep iconic modernist furnishings (see: Irving Harper’s marshmallow sofa and Pierre Paulin’s ribbon chair) and exquisite Art Nouveau and Art Deco housewares. Located in the studio of its late namesake, Vance Kirkland, the collection is displayed salon-style—which means that you’re surrounded on all sides by irreplaceable objet d'art as you wander through the galleries. (For better or worse, children under 13 are not admitted.)
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.
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Another big draw is the expansive amphitheater, which has hosted such headliners as the Beatles, Tom Petty and John Denver. You'll soon find (and hear) that the theater – geologically formed by the red rocks – boasts amazing acoustics and an enjoyable atmosphere. But many recent visitors said that no matter the show, the majestic atmosphere makes it a good time. Even if you can't fit a concert into your schedule, many travelers agreed that the theater is worth a stop for the photos alone, while the park's visitor center features displays dedicated to past acts.
Why go? In 1983, a little-known Irish band happened to film a performance at what you might call nature’s own music hall—and the rest, as U2 fans know, is rock history. Of course, it also serves as one of the world’s most breathtaking gyms, where runners get super-sweaty attempting to tackle the seemingly endless staircases and hikers hit the trails through the surrounding 868-acre park.
It’s not every day you get to go see how actual money gets made, so why not head on over to Denver Mint? And thankfully the only cash involved is the stuff you’ll see being made: you have to part with anything because it’s free. It ain’t just about money though – it’s history. Dating back to 1792, Denver Mint is the sole manufacturer of all those dimes and dollars in your pocket. That’s a huge claim to fame and makes it easily one of the most interesting, and most unusual, things to do in Colorado. If you’re a history fan, or if you’re looking for stuff to do in Denver when it’s raining, this is a must.
Boulder – Boulder is Denver’s neighbor city, well-known for its liberal-minded and affluent population. The town itself is smaller and pretty quiet compared to Denver but is much closer to the Rocky Mountains. Some of the best attractions near Denver are located around Boulder including the Flatirons, Eldorado Canyon, and Isabelle Lake. Visit Boulder for a chance to get outdoors and play around a bit.
Colorado is home to over 80 wineries spread out across the state, including the highest altitude vineyards in the US! Visits to the wine country are normally a two or three-day affair and a pleasant experience. But, if you don’t have the time to head out of town on your Denver itinerary, then you’ll be pleased to know that many of the wineries have cellar doors right in the city!
Why go? Possibly nerve-wracking and definitely slow-going yet breathtaking in every sense of the word, Mount Evans Scenic Byway takes you past alpine lakes and meadows, through bristlecone-pine stands and the habitats of elk and bighorn sheep; along the way, you can hike, fish, picnic and even snowshoe. The summit itself is accessible only in summer—and even then the weather can turn nasty without warning.
With exhibits featuring everything from dinosaur bones to Egyptian mummies, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science inspires learning in the young and young at heart. This impressive facility houses artifacts pertaining to a variety of scientific areas, including anthropology, zoology, geology, health sciences, paleontology and space science. Some of the more popular displays include the wildlife exhibit, which includes more than 90 habitat scenes containing information on animals from around the world, from Alaska to Australia. Meanwhile, the hands-on Space Odyssey area introduces travelers to the outer reaches of the galaxy and beyond.
Have you heard of The Shining? If you’re a fan of the film, of Stephen King, or of spooky sh*t in general, we definitely recommend going to the place where it all began: the Stanley Hotel. It’s here where King got the inspiration for the book, after apparently experiencing some weird stuff going on at night in room 217. For one of the best things to do in Colorado at night, book a room here, stay the night, and see what the heck’s going on.
At Seed & Smith, Denver’s premier cannabis facility, you will be able to view the production process from seed to end product. Every stage of cannabis production is seen through glass windows, which mimics the company’s philosophy of transparency. See the grow room, extraction lab and packaging center, and learn everything there is to know about the health benefits of the cannabis plant.
Rocky Mountain National Park is arguably the most accessible park in the Western USA, being only a few hours away from Denver. It is also one of the most impressive national parks in the entire nation and receives a boatload of visitors. Spend a day exploring this park, either renting a car to drive the superlative Trail Ridge Road (summer only) or via one of the many trails.
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.
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.
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