Restored red brick buildings, friendly locals, phenomenal food, a buzzing arts scene, and unlimited hiking trails – these are just a few of the things that make Denver, Colorado so special.
Cities like this are especially fun to visit when you know someone who lives there and lucky for me, a friend of mine who lives in Denver invited me for a quick weekend trip. Although I had been to Denver before, I was excited to return to this city again and explore it with a local.
Before my trip to Denver, I was warned to bring my best stretchy pants because in recent years Denver has really stepped up its foodie scene. So I packed all of my finest plaid hipster shirts, put on stretchy yoga pants (in prep of all the food to come), and booked a flight to Denver.
After spending the weekend stuffing my face at brunches, lunches, coffee shops, markets, Speakeasies, and breweries – I could see why this Mile High City is one of the most exciting destinations in the US, especially if you enjoy good food and drinks.
But besides amazing grub, Denver has so much to offer especially if you love the outdoors, nature, and beautiful historic cities.
If you’re planning a trip to Denver, here are 10 fun things to see and do in Denver, Colorado like a local:
- Hang Out At The Union Station
- Visit Red Rocks Park And Amphitheatre
- Roam Through Morrison Town
- Brunch At Snooze
- Walk Around The Dairy Block
- Take A Stroll Through Larimer Square & 16th Street
- Visit Cherry Creek
- Grab A Beer In Highland
- Go On A Food Tour
- Go For Drinks At The Ramble Hotel
1. Hang Out At The Union Station
One of the places that surprised me the most during my visit to Denver was the Union Train Station located in the center of the city.
Designed with the right combination of creativity, vision, and ambiance, the Denver Union Station made me reconsider the potential for train stations as a whole.
Where I live in California a train station is a place that well… almost nobody has probably been to. It sure isn’t a place where people go to hang out. But in Denver, the local train station underwent a major restoration project that turned this historic building into one of the coolest hang-out spots in the city.
The Union Station is not only the main train station in Denver but here you can also find some of the best cafes and restaurants around.
Inside the Union Station’s Great Hall, you can find anything that your heart (or stomach) might desire from amazing brunch spots to cool coffee shops, an ice cream store, a pizza spot, a lounge area, and even a bar and a hotel.
Once you come here, you won’t really want to go anywhere else – which I can personally vouch for since we came to the Union Station on four different occasions during my time in Denver.
Location: Downtown Denver, CO 80202
2. Visit Red Rocks Park And Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Park And Amphitheatre is a popular outdoors area where Denver locals go to escape the city life for the day.
Located just a 40-minute drive outside of Denver, The Red Rock Amphitheatre is one of the most sought stadiums in the world for musicians and bands to play at. But besides being a musical hub, this park is also popular for its natural beauty and the hiking trails that it offers.
In the warmer seasons, Denver locals flock to the Red Rock Stadium to enjoy Yoga On The Rocks event in the morning, do some hiking in the afternoon, and watch musical performances in the evening.
Tucked away in between towering red rock cliffs, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre seats more than 9000 people and hosts concerts all year long, whether the forecast shows sunshine rain, or snow.
What now is one of the most significant open-air stadiums in the United States once was just a simple park. This changed at the turn of the 20th century when Red Rocks Park was bought by a magazine editor who hosted the first connect at this park.
Red Rocks Park experienced the biggest change in the 1930s when it was sold to the City of Denver and a project was started to turn this park into a fully functioning stadium. Over the next few years, the Red Rock Amphitheatre was built and in the process, this project helped boost Denver out of the Depression Era.
If you’re visiting Denver over a short period and can’t catch a concert, no worries – there is still a lot to see and do at Red Rocks Park during the day.
After visiting the concert hall itself, you can take a stroll to its iconic gift shop where you can read more about this venue’s history. Or take a stroll on the Trading Post Trail, a 1.4-mile-long hike that loops through stunning rock formations in this park.
Location: 18300 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465
3. Roam Through Morrison Town
Just 10 minutes away from Red Rocks Park is Morrison Town, a charming little city that’s fun to visit for the afternoon.
Morrison Town was first established in 1874 and named after George Morrison, a local builder who developed a high-quality stone used in many of Denver’s historic buildings. Despite its close location to Denver, Morrison Town over the year remained quite small and tight-knit with a population of less than 500.
We stopped in Morrison Town for lunch and drinks after visiting Red Rocks Park. A few Denver locals recommended for us to check out Morrison Inn, an iconic Mexican restaurant in this city known for serving some of the best margaritas around.
Morrison Town itself is quite small so it doesn’t take very long to explore it. After wandering through its Main Street, we popped into Morrison Inn for a couple of their famous margaritas that almost knocked us out of our seats.
On the weekends you can also catch live music performances on their outdoor patio. If you enjoy a lively atmosphere combined with big, strong, and stiff drinks, Morrison Inn is the place to go!
Location: 301 Bear Creek Ave, Morrison, CO 80465
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4. Brunch At Snooze
You can’t really say that you’ve experienced the food scene in Denver without having at least one brunch at Snooze, one of Denver’s most popular breakfast joints.
Snooze an A.M. Eatery, or as most people call it “Snooze” puts a little twist on a traditional brunch with menu items like Bangkok Bloody Mary and Mediterranean Breakfast Bowl.
Focused on serving budget-friendly plates with yummy drink choices to accompany them, Snooze’s motto is to “make each morning feel like your weekend – no matter which side of noon it’s on”.
Since its establishment in 2006, Snooze has easily become Denver’s favorite breakfast spot. So much so that on our first attempt to come here on a Saturday morning we couldn’t even get a seat in. We decided to return on a Monday morning before our flight when the wait times were more accommodating and I’m sure glad we did.
While Snooze restaurants keep a pretty low-key retro-casual interior, their sweet and savory dishes and service are where they really shine. Both my friend and I tried their Eggs Benny’s and our plates were super fresh and delicious.
There are quite a few Snooze locations throughout Denver, most with almost perfect ratings and thousands of reviews – so no matter which location you choose, you’re guaranteed an outstanding breakfast.
Location: We ate at this Snooze location – 2262 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80205
5. Walk Around The Dairy Block
Denver has a lot of unique neighborhoods and districts, the Dairy Block being one of them.
I hadn’t heard of this area before my trip and it’s no surprise – this is one of Denver’s latest renovation projects that has added a lot of new trendy hang-out spots in the city.
As the name indicates, the Dairy Block is literally a block in Denver’s downtown area but within this city block, you can find indoor food markets, hotels, restaurants, bars, and even a secret-no-so-secret Speakeasy lounge.
At the center of the Dairy Block is a narrow alleyway that displays beautiful art installations and wall murals.
On both sides of this alley, visitors can find a ton of restaurants and places to eat like the Denver Milk Market, an indoor market with 16 vendors serving all types of different foods and goodies. I love going to these types of markets especially with bigger crowds because everyone is bound to find something they like, even the pickiest of eaters.
After exploring the Dairy Block we popped into the Run For The Roses Speakeasy Bar which offers a laid-back atmosphere and great drink choices. Don’t worry, you won’t need a password to get in, just a valid ID and a credit card.
Location: 1800 Wazee St, Denver, CO 80202
6. Take A Stroll Through Larimer Square & 16th Street
Denver does have a section that’s considered to be your “typical touristy area” and it’s the neighborhood around 16th Street and Larimer Square.
This is where I spent most of the time during my first trip to Denver before I knew about the local hangout spots where my friend took us during my second time around.
Larimer Square is the first area that was built in Denver back in 1858. Nowadays this neighborhood has been turned into a historic district full of beautifully renovated old buildings, shops, eateries, bars, and hotels.
Here you can find a ton of food choices and restaurants for any type of traveler from upscale smokehouses and pricier establishments to your traditional chain restaurants and budget cafes.
Larimer Square and 16th Street are especially charming after sunset when cute lanterns and twinkle lights brighten up this district making it feel extra festive and magical.
This is a popular neighborhood for visitors and locals alike to go for a stroll in the evening, do some window shopping, or grab dinner and a few drinks. This area is also where a lot of the hotels are located so it’s quite a popular neighborhood for visitors to stay in.
Whether it’s your first time visiting Denver or you’re coming back for a return trip – you can’t miss 16t Street and Larimer Square. Just make sure to set aside plenty of time to venture into other parts of Denver too!
Location: 1430 Larimer St, Denver, CO 80202
7. Visit Cherry Creek
Cherry Creek is known as one of the most upscale neighborhoods in Denver. And although we spent a whole afternoon here, truthfully all we did in this area is eat, eat and then eat some more!
We had planned to walk around and explore Cherry Creek for the day but before we did so we stopped at Quality Italian Restaurant for brunch (and kind of got sidetracked from doing anything else).
Typically Quality Italian restaurant serves fancy Italian dishes and steaks for dinner, but their brunch game is on a whole different level! With plates like Breakfast Risotto, Polenta Pancakes, and unlimited mimosas & Bloody Marys, 30-something-year-olds flock to the Quality Italian patio for their brunch. My personal favorite was their white balsamic heirloom tomato Maria Capri – if you make your way into the Cherry Creek district, it’s a must!
Although Quality Italian is a high-end steakhouse, for brunch they tone down the fanciness by playing a chill hip-hop playlist with songs from 90’s musicians like TLC and Ludacris. In a strange way, it totally works and we ended up relaxing and hanging out on their patio for hours.
While usually my travel days are packed full of sightseeing and activities, it’s also nice to sometimes slow down a bit and just spend an afternoon hanging out with friends at a fun brunch spot.
Location: 241 Columbine St, Denver, CO 80206
8. Grab A Beer In Highland
Hanging out at a brewery with a craft beer in your hand is probably one of the most Denver-esque things to do in this city.
There are numerous areas in Denver known for having fun breweries, but one of our favorite neighborhoods was Highland, a hip residential area filled with top-notch breweries and bars serving amazing craft beers.
After roaming through Highland’s boutique clothing stores we popped into Denver Beer Co for a few IPAs. If you want to get a photo with the iconic “Greetings From Denver” sign, this mural is located just outside of the Denver Beer Company.
Not much of a beer drinker? If beer is not your thing, there are other ways to relax in Denver. At Habit Doughnut Dispensary for around $3 you can get a cannabis-infused doughnut to satisfy your sugary cravings and chill out at the same time.
Location: Highland Neighbourhood
9. Go On A Food Tour
Choosing a dinner spot in Denver can be a bit overwhelming. The food options are pretty much endless and with new restaurants constantly opening up, you can never run out of places to dine at in Denver.
If you don’t want to spend hours doing Yelp research, you may want to consider signing up for a Gastronomy Tour like this one that will take you to sample some of the best food in town.
My friend took a similar food tour in Denver and from all the spots that they visited on her tour the one place that she keeps returning to is Zoe Ma Ma’s, a budget-friendly restaurant serving Chinese street food.
If you’re in the mood for authentic home-cooked dumplings and noodles, Zoe Ma Ma is the perfect place to cozy up and stuff your face after a full day of exploring Denver.
Location: 1625 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202
10. Go For Drinks At The Ramble Hotel
On our last day in Denver, we stayed one night at the swanky Ramble Hotel in Denver’s up-and-coming RiNo arts district.
Although The Ramble Hotel is on the higher-end pricing-wise, it’s well worth the splurge. Built inside an old renovated industrial building, the Ramble is both “urban glam” and classy.
Ramble’s boutique rooms are decorated with timeless yet modern furniture pieces and thoughtful amenities like comfy robes and a minibar stocked with unique liquors and incredible coffee.
My favorite part of the Ramble Hotel was their bar decked out with stunning chandeliers and a chic interior. If you don’t want to dish out the money for an overnight stay, it’s well worth popping into Ramble’s Bar for an evening cocktail or two.
For the latest Ramble Hotel pricing and availability see here!
Location: 1280 25th St, Denver, CO 80205
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Interested in stepping up your photography game? Here is the camera gear that I carry everywhere I go to create amazing travel photos:
- Main camera: Sony a7c Camera. The Sony a7c is tiny, light, full-frame, and durable – in other words, amazing!
- Polarizer Filter: Hoya 40.5 mm Filter. Polarizing filters reduce glare in water, protect the lens from getting scratched and bring out the best colors when it’s bright outside. Having a polarizing filter is a must-have if you plan to photograph lakes, oceans, rivers, and waterfalls.
- Wide Lens: Sony 16-35 mm F4. Great for capturing wide panoramas, nature landscapes, and cramped city streets. Mounts to any Sony mirrorless camera and features autofocus, image stabilization, and incredibly sharp images.
- Lightweight Travel Tripod: Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Tripod. A good tripod is essential for capturing images in low light conditions, such as during sunset and sunrise, or creating smooth water effects when shooting waterfalls. The Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod is very sturdy, light, and folds small so you can take it on all of your adventures!
- Memory Cards: SanDisk Extreme 256 GB. It’s always good to bring a few extra memory cards on trips. SanDisk Extreme is ultra-fast for capturing high-quality images, bursts, long exposure night shots, and 4k videos. This memory card is also durable and reliable yet very affordable.
- Camera Batteries: Wasabi Power Battery Set. I’ve made the mistake of getting to a location to realize my camera is out of battery. Always keep your batteries charged with this camera charger set.
- Camera Bag: Lowepro adventure shoulder bag. A camera bag is something you should definitely invest in! Without having a proper place to store it I would get my camera scratched, sandy, or even occasionally drop it.
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