Denver, the capital city of Colorado, has everything a visitor could need or want for an amazing trip. Unparalleled outdoor recreation opportunities, generally mild weather year-round, a home team for every professional sport, incredible bars, restaurants, and more. All that’s missing is a beach. But once you experience the glory of the majestic Rocky Mountains just to the west of Denver, you may find yourself not even missing a beach!
There are so many options of things to do that 3 days in Denver is simply never enough!
Best Time to Visit Denver
First things first – Denver offers enough experiences to keep you entertained throughout the year. The best time to travel to Denver will depend largely on what you want to achieve from your trip.
- Summer (July, August, and September) – perfect for outdoor activities, especially water-based ones, summer in Denver is a great time to visit the bustling city
- Fall (October, November, December) – arguably the best time to explore the city and its beautiful surrounds as the weather is temperate and the attractions less crowded
- Winter (January, February, and March) – while the colder months can be snow-filled, the world-class winter sports, beer culture and frequent warm days make a winter trip to Denver enjoyable regardless
- Spring (April, May, and June) – Denver is beautiful during this season and sightseeing appears to be more vibrant while the weather is pleasant
Keep an eye on Denver’s annual climate to make sure that you visit at a time that best suits your interest.
Denver Itinerary: Day One
Enjoying your first day in Denver is like taking the first bite of a sweet, crispy apple – new and refreshing! Make sure you are well-rested to dive right into all the possibilities. Today we are going to focus our discovery on the downtown core of the city. These activities should get you started on an exciting ride.
Explore the Outdoors on Bike
There’s a reason that travelers flock to Denver from all over the world for its natural beauty. It would be a sin not to enjoy this beauty on your first day. To get acquainted with the stunning setting, hop onto a bike and pedal around the city.
There are plenty of bike docking points scattered throughout Denver, and wonderful trails to follow along the South Platte River through downtown. Some of the best include those around Confluence Park and the Cherry Creek bike path. The city is easily accessible via bike, and this is a great way to see more of it while getting some exercise and fresh air at the same time.
Lovingly known as LoDo, Lower Downtown is a great place to start your discovery of Denver. Striking the balance between hip trends and historic allure, LoDo offers a great introduction to the largely outdoor city by sharing a glimpse into the day-to-day life.
Browse restaurants set in old Victorian buildings, visit the Blue Bear public art sculpture, and pop your head in at the renowned Tattered Cover book store. Other vital stops in the area include Larimer Square, Union Station, the Denver Art Museum, and Denver’s famous 16th street pedestrian mall. The mall is a little touristy, but can’t be missed. It’s filled with many of the city’s best shops, bars, restaurants and (my favorite) people watching.
Visitors to the “Mile High City” will also appreciate a quick stop at the Colorado Capitol Building. Here you can take a commemorative photo exactly one mile above sea level. Just find the steps and look for the marker – you can’t miss it!
Sip Cocktails on Rooftop Bars
What better way to relax after your first jam packed day in Denver than sipping on a few refreshing cocktails at one of Denver’s stylish rooftop bars? Hitting these bars is a favorite activity for locals and travelers alike!
From Viewhouse Ballpark in downtown Denver, to Linger which is located in an old Mortuary – there is a selection of fantastic rooftop bars offering stunning views and delectable drinks. The hardest part will be deciding which bar to choose!
Denver Itinerary: Day Two
Now that you’ve enjoyed a taste of the city, it’s time to dive in deeper. Today will focus on attractions outside of the main core of downtown and give a little break from the hustle and bustle. Be sure to take your time to soak up these sights and that your camera is fully charged.
Wander Washington Park
Double up your breakfast outing with a visit to Washington Park, also known as Wash Park. Although not located anywhere near the American destination of its namesake, Washington Park offers a capital experience.
A walk around the park can take an hour, during which time you can expect peaceful moments in a serene, natural environment tucked away in the city. If you’re an exercise enthusiast, then you can even increase the pace for a heart-pumping jog.
Fitness while on vacation not quite your thing? No judgement here! Wash Park is just as well known for fun as it is for fitness. Visit on a warm weekend day and you will find plenty of opportunities for BBQs, volleyball (and other sports), music and more! Just be sure and do your part to take care of our lovely parks – no glass allowed, and pack out what you packed in.
Discover River North Arts District
Keep the same relaxed mindset from Washington Park along with you for the short drive to the River North Arts District. Locally known as RiNo, the colorful area offers a fantastic experience of local artistic discovery. RiNo is a beloved hot spot for locals, and the perfect place for visitors to discover Denver as a local.
Take your time to explore the street art, pop in and out of local boutiques, and taste the local craft beer at the many local breweries. Make sure that you stop by Epic Brewing and Great Divide Brewing Company, which are two of the best. RiNo is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat, with local favorites including Park Burger, Barcelona Wine Bar, and the Denver Central Market (where there’s many options to choose from).
Enjoy Red Rock Parks and Amphitheatre
This free attraction is the perfect spot to go for sunset and indulge in amazing views of the Rocky Mountains. Located approximately 20 miles from RiNo, the Red Rock Parks offers a choice of hiking trails – so make sure that comfortable walking shoes are on your list of essential travel items.
Keep an eye on the amphitheater’s event calendar in case you decide to spend the night and enjoy a show before heading back to your accommodation. Many argue Red Rocks is the country’s best outdoor amphiheatre, but there’s only one way to know for sure – experience it yourself!
Denver Itinerary: Day Three
Your final day in Denver should have you feeling fulfilled, but maybe a tad exhausted. But today is exciting nonetheless, and will feature activities across many of Denver’s most beloved activities. Just be warned that you may find yourself not wanting to leave!
Head Down to Golden
Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Golden is a nostalgic wild west gold rush town that shows a peek into the past. The area boasts beautiful hiking trails, quaint shops, and the chance to go tubing on the rapids of Clear Creek.
Beer lovers will especially appreciate a stop at the world’s largest single-site brewery located right here in Golden – Coors Brewery. And history fans will geek out at the chance to visit the Buffalo Bill Museum to learn wild west history and even see Wild Bill Hickok’s grave site.
And when it’s time to tame your grumbling stomachs, there are several delightful restaurants to enjoy a tasty meal and refuel after a dynamic time on the likes of Mt. Falcon. Some great spots to bookmark include Woody’s Pizza and Sassafras American Eatery.
Visit the International Church of Cannabis
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. Some visitors choose to partake while in Denver, others do not (and both are fine!). But whether you smoke or not should not have an impact on your decision to visit this attraction. A visit to the International Church of Cannabis (ICC) is an informative and stimulating experience all will enjoy.
Located in an old church, the ICC is only open to the public at select hours, and entry is granted with the purchase of a $15 ticket. Once inside, you can expect a laser show, colorful walls, and some of the quirkiest displays in Denver. It’s a fun (and drug-free) way to experience a little slice of Denver cannabis culture.
Indulge in Dinner in South Broadway
End off your third day in the eclectic area of the South Broadway neighborhood. This area beautifully captures the atmosphere of the city and features a wide range of fabulous restaurants for a full taste experience. Some of the best restaurants to try include Beatrice and Woodsley, The Hornet (a local favorite), and Postino Broadway.
And if you still have energy left at the end of your busy day, then this is also a fantastic area for some local bar hopping. You’ll find a tasteful mix of everything from dive bars to trendy spots. Some of the best bars to try include Adrift Tiki Bar, Canopy, and Punchbowl Social.
Additional Experiences to Enjoy in Denver
If you end up extending your stay in Denver, Colorado (which you may very well decide to do), then keep the following activities and sights in the front of your mind.
- Plan a day trip to the Rocky Mountains for incredible views, hiking, and scenic drives
- Visit the luscious Denver Botanic Gardens and explore 24 acres of collections and exhibits
- Indulge in an organized, small group brewery tour where you don’t have to do any of the planning
- Tour Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey distillery where they hand produce their whiskey in small batches made from Rocky Mountain water
- Check out the Denver Milk Market for an all-local mix of dine-in and take-away restaurants and bars
- See some of the country’s best comedians at Denver’s premier comedy club – Comedy Works
Denver Travel Tips
When visiting a new city, you definitely want to set yourself up for success to have the best trip possible. And when spending 3 days in Denver, these are the important travel tips to keep in mind.
- Altitude sickness is a real thing, especially if you live closer to sea level – be sure to prepare in advance so you don’t feel “off” while in Denver
- If you get lost, just find the mountains – they are locals’ favorite landmark and will always indicate which direction is west
- Smoking (of any kind) is not allowed indoors anywhere in Colorado
- Denver does not have an impressive public transportation system, but the light rail (above ground train) helps
- Weather in Denver can be quite unpredictable – layers are best to help manage these swings
Bio: Kara is the one-woman team behind Destination: Live Life, a travel blog. After fleeing small-town life in Wyoming, she has called Denver, CO home for the last 12+ years. When it comes to travel, she appreciates traveling like a local, and never paying full price for a trip. And when she isn’t living that travel life, she can be found petting every dog that will let her, and laughing (loudly) at any opportunity.