Denver from above

The Travel Guide to Denver



March 14, 2024

11 min read

Table of Contents

Welcome to Denver

All around the country you’ll find locals who are loud and proud to hail from wherever it is they hail. New York over everything, they say. The West Coast is the best coast, argue others. Don’t even get us started on how Texans talk about Texas. Colorado dwellers are no exception, but there’s a sort of quiet dignity to their pride; denizens of Denver are well aware they live in the best state in the country, but they don’t really mind whether or not anyone else knows its greatness. The result is a sense of pure, uncomplicated happiness that permeates the rarefied air of the Mile-High City. 

Denver is energetic, unique, unpretentious, and adventurous—and it’s just as great for a family trip as it is for a bachelorette party or a home base between climbing excursions. After all, who cares that it's a landlocked state when the land is such a beaut to behold?

Who’ll love Denver

Lovers of the great outdoors (regardless of age or skill level), long weekends with the squad, holiday getaways, young professionals considering a move, craft beer lovers

How to budget for a trip to Denver

Denver isn't the least expensive city in the country, but it’s a far cry from the price points of more ritzy urban destinations. Meals and accommodations are somewhat comfortably situated in the $12-$35 and $200-$350 ranges, respectively. 

Where things really start to add up is out there in the wild blue yonder, depending on your sport of choice. If you’re planning to snag any lift tickets or rent outdoor equipment, a little research can go a long way. Mountain bike rentals range from $50-$150/day, and lift tickets can come as cheap as $35 if you pick a small resort.

Safety considerations

Like most cities in the country, the average crime rate in Denver is well above the national average, but the overwhelming majority of crimes are property-related and not violent. Denver is largely liberal, which is reflected in its overall good nature towards individuals who might be statistically vulnerable based on gender, race, and orientation. Even so, it’s important to keep your wits about you, particularly if you’re out solo after dark, and keep an eye on your valuables.

Weather in Denver

Denver has a semi-arid climate with low humidity and lots of sunny days. It gets hot in the summer and cold in the winter, with a mild spring and fall. Summer temps average around 86-92°F from June through August, while winters dip into the high 40s most days and low 20s at night. While snow is concentrated mostly from November to March, it can happen as early as September and as late as May. 

When to visit Denver

April, May, September, and October are the best months to visit as temps tend to be mild and prices are lower (just try to avoid times when there are large events happening). Summer is also lovely if you don’t mind heat, but it can be crowded. Despite Denver’s proximity to ski resorts, it doesn’t get very busy in the winter, but in exchange for fewer crowds and lower prices, you may have to deal with some very cold weather and snowy days. 

Money saving tips

Get free admission. The US Mint and Colorado State Capitol are always free, while attractions, including the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver Zoo, and Botanic Gardens, offer free days on select days of the month. 

Take the train. The train from the airport costs around $10 and once you’re in the city you really don’t need a car, so only rent one on the days you’ll be heading out of the city. 

Take advantage of happy hour. Many bars and restaurants offer discounts on food and drinks from 4-6pm on weekdays. 

What to see, do, and eat in Denver

Denver Union Station

Top 10 things to do in Denver

  1. Spend a day at the Denver Art Museum
  2. Catch a show at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater, or go during the day for a unique workout
  3. See Union Station, both a transportation hub and a gorgeous building that’s home to a number of unique dining options
  4. Tour one of the many area breweries, like Great Divide or Wynkoop 
  5. Stroll the River North Arts District (RiNo), full of art galleries and street art, live music, and restaurants and bars
  6. Go to the 16th Street Mall, a full mile of open-air dining, shopping, and people watching
  7. Take a relaxing stroll through the Denver Botanic Garden’s 24 acres of flora
  8. Catch a pro game at Coors Field (MLB’s Rockies), Empower Field at Mile High (NFL’s Broncos), or Ball Arena (NBA’s Nuggets, NHL’s Avalanche, NLL’s Mammoth)
  9. Snap a photo of the gigantic statue of a blue bear peeking through the windows of the Denver Convention Center
  10. Head to Larimer Square for a sampling of Denver’s history, plus shopping, dining, and nightlife

The local picks for top attractions and activities in Denver

outdoor fun in Denver

  1. Visit Confluence Park for a fun day outdoors spent swimming, kayaking, or on the bike path
  2. Head to TheBigWonderful for food trucks, live music, and craft beer every Saturday at Belleview Station
  3. Catch a show and dance the night away at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom
  4. Take a hike at the one-of-a-kind Rainbow Falls, also known as Graffiti Falls thanks to the massive collection of murals and other art forms
  5. Go to Washington Park, Denver locals’ favorite place to take a picnic, paddle, or get in on a pickup game of soccer or volleyball
  6. Take a self-guided brewery crawl through the RiNo District
  7. Visit the Forney Museum of Transportation, a quirky museum with displays like Amelia Earhart’s car and Herbie the Love Bug
  8. Have a family outing or date night at the Dairy Block, full of small-batch, handmade, and boutique goods, eats, and drinks
  9. Get out on your skis (or snowboard) at Echo Mountain, a small, low-key spot close to town, for a few quick runs
  10. Spend a night at The 1up, an arcade, bar, and music venue that’s always full of fun locals

What to eat and drink in Denver

restaurant in Union Station in Denver

Denver has a venerable bevy of dining options that run the gamut from date-worthy to family-friendly, with new, exciting spots opening up on a constant basis. There may not be a trademark cuisine, but there’s plenty of delicious things to eat (and drink—Denver loves great beer).

  • City O’ City has brunch, coffee, lunch, dinner, and late-night food and drinks in a lively atmosphere (it’s all vegetarian, but it doesn’t skimp on flavor or style)
  • Angelo’s Taverna is a good option for afternoon and late-night happy hour every single night, including pizza, ravioli, and a raw bar
  • Domo is a rustic Japanese eatery that defies expectations, from sushi to noodle bowls and much more
  • La Loma serves up good Mexican food on a nice patio, a safe bet for some afternoon margaritas with friends
  • Smith+Canon is a stylishly minimalist, Black-owned ice cream spot; try the Thai tea flavor for one of our favorites
  • Crema Coffeehouse is a cozy spot to get your caffeine fix, featuring good pour-overs and a variety of food options 
  • Terminal Bar is a unique, approachably swanky spot in Union Station to enjoy a cocktail and elevated bar
  • Hogshead Brewery is a Black-owned microbrewery with a solid lineup of flagship beers and a longer list of rotating ales, with a taproom open every day
  • Mile High Spirits offers a fun atmosphere to enjoy local, small-batch spirits

Where to stay in Denver

Denver hotels run the gamut from small and charming to large and business-friendly. You can snag a solid room for around $150-$200, and even less if you stay near the airport (though the savings likely aren’t worth the cost of commuting to the city each day). Vacation rentals abound as well and it’s easy to find something nice in the $100 per night range. 

Top Denver neighborhoods for visitors

RiNo in Denver

The downtown core is, unsurprisingly, where the majority of good hotels reside in Denver, which is all well and good, but if you want to get a real feel for the city, check out what’s on offer in RiNo (short for River North Arts District) and Capitol Hill. The former is a new-ish neighborhood of converted warehouses, so it’s full of unique murals and great dining and shopping. The latter is one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods and a great way to get a glimpse of how longtime locals live.

  • Hotel Teatro (~$182/night): Stylish rooms in a historic building downtown 
  • Magnolia Hotel (~$199/night): Comfortable and inviting rooms in a 1910 building
  • The ART (~$207/night): Bright and colorful rooms with rooftop dining 
  • The Crawford Hotel (~$300/night): Elegant but modern rooms in a landmark building above Union Station

Getting around in Denver

Public transportation options in Denver

Denver’s rail system (RTD, as it’s known to locals) is impressive, with its 12 rail lines and 113 miles of track. Getting to popular destinations like the city center and the sports arenas is a cinch with the RTD, so the decision of whether or not to rent a car is mainly a determination of how much time you plan to spend hiking, camping, or skiing outside of town. If you prefer to use the rail and/or hoof it sans vehicle, just remember: you’re at high altitude! If you find yourself a little winded while climbing a moderate incline and simultaneously talking, we promise you aren’t alone. 

Denver airports

Denver International Airport (DEN) is often referred to by its acronym of DIA than its official airport code of DEN. It’s about a 25-mile drive from the airport into downtown Denver. DIA is a hub for both United Airlines and Frontier Airlines as well as a base for Southwest Airlines.

How to get to Denver from Denver International Airport (DEN)

There’s a rail line connecting Denver’s airport with Union Station downtown. The trip on the A Line Commuter Train takes less than 40 minutes. The city bus system also connects to the airport via several routes, with trips taking up to an hour (depending on your destination. Both the bus system and the A Line train use the same tickets, which cost $10.50 (a day pass) to or from the airport. Taxi service to downtown Denver has a flat-rate fare of just over $56, and Lyft and Uber are both available at the airport. Rideshare fares to downtown usually start around $35.

Where else to go from Denver

mountains near Denver

Day trips from Denver

Check out the untapped Front Range playground of Morrison, about 30 minutes away, where you can work up an appetite with a big hike (a small one is great, too) before enjoying some tasty food, ideally on the deck of the Morrison Inn.

Head 90 minutes away to the world-renowned Rocky Mountain National Park, full of incredible mountainous terrain and tons of outdoor pursuits, from water sports to hiking, mountain biking, and backcountry skiing.

Make the ambitious trek up Pikes Peak, about 2.5 hours away, perhaps Colorado’s most famous “fourteener” or simply go explore the Cave of the Winds, a huge, interconnected series of caves you can visit with the help of a guide.

Drive the Mount Blue Sky Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in North America. It starts about 40 minutes from the city. 

Gear up and get out to Summit County, home to some of the best skiing in the Denver area, thanks to resorts like Breckenridge, which is about 90 minutes from the city. 

Head to Boulder, about 40 minutes away, to Climb Mount Sanitas, the best part of Boulder’s Front Range, for some quick elevation and a great view of the city, from the Flatirons to the plains. Or, get some fresh air at Boulder’s Chautauqua Park

Where else to go from Denver

Drive 2.25 hours west to Vail, the timelessly charming mountain town home to luxury shops and excellent ski resorts.

Take a one-hour flight (or a five-hour road trip) to Taos, New Mexico, known for its happy, outdoorsy locals, gorgeous vistas, burgeoning brewery scene, and another great ski resort.

Hop on a one-hour flight to Moab, Utah, for an otherworldly landscape of canyons, red rock formations, and not one, but two national parks.

Fly a little over an hour to Jackson Hole, a wonderland of epic proportions for cowboys, skiers, campers, and fans of small-town yet upscale living.

Books, movies, and tv shows set in Denver

Not a lot of stories have been set in Denver itself, but Colorado has been the setting for countless tv shows, movies, and books. Check out  How the West Was Won, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, or True Grit for some classic cowboy action, watch Catch and Release for stunning shots of the scenery around Boulder, or revisit The Shining for some snowy scenes of the countryside. 

The Quick and the Dead, Plainsong, and Kings of Colorado each explore life in Colorado at different times.

Previous cheap flights we've found to Denver: 

  • Los Angeles nonstop to Denver for $97 roundtrip
  • Missoula nonstop to Denver for $117 roundtrip
  • Salt Lake City nonstop to Denver for $58 roundtrip

Find your next flight cheap flight to Denver—or anywhere—with amazing deals delivered right to your inbox.

Published March 14, 2024

Last updated May 30, 2024

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