Denver. The Mile High City. The gateway to the majestic Rocky Mountains and a city with more sunshine days per year than Florida (and zero humidity – thank the Lord). Denver was once home to Wild West sensibilities – steakhouses and cowboys – but now it is more like the Austin or Portland of the Rockies. These days, Denver is hip and happening.
Denver may not be an obvious choice when looking for a US City to visit, especially next to the likes of San Francisco, Chicago, New York etc., but Denver has so much to offer a visitor. Especially a visitor who, like me, loves good beer and outdoor adventures. You should definitely visit Denver.
With its amazing and inventive beer, a young and vibrant population, some of the best Mexican food outside of Mexico, loads of biking and hiking trails, a downtown full of historic red brick buildings, and a world-class outdoor concert venue nestled amongst striking red rocks, I’m pretty sure you are going to love Denver.
It was really hard to narrow it down, but I have put together a three-day itinerary for what I consider to be the perfect weekend in Denver, which includes all of my favorite things like craft beer, delicious food, and lots of outdoor time.
If you make it a week you will be able to head into the mountains as well for a few days of touring around – Colorado really is an incredibly beautiful state that is home to a vast wilderness of stunning mountains and charming mountain towns, including my favorite, Telluride.
Hold on to your seats folks, and get ready to get excited to visit Denver!
Itinerary for the Perfect Weekend in Denver
Start your day off reasonably early with breakfast at a Denver Institution, Snooze, in historic Union Station.
After you have stuffed yourself with their famous pancakes, Eggs Benedict, or whatever else you chose from their extensive menu, it’s time to explore LoDo – or Lower Downtown for you out of towners.
LoDo is home to the massive behemoth of a bookstore, Tattered Cover, where you can pick up a new or used copy of pretty much any book your heart desires. Next head to Larimer Square to check out the stores there, but mostly to ogle at the restored red brick warehouses strung with fairy lights that are now home to various stores, restaurants and bars.
Heading further into downtown, walk or catch the free bus down the pleasant 16th Street Mall, where there are street performers in summer. If you want to do any shopping during your visit, this is the place to do it. At the other end of downtown is Civic Center Park and the State Capitol which you can visit on a free tour.
There are loads of options for lunch but I would recommend grabbing some excellent Mexican food at either Illegal Petes or D’Corazon, or if you find yourself in Denver between Tuesday and Thursday, check out Civic Center Eats at Civic Center Park – a gathering of food trucks with seating and live music, where you can get anything from Ethiopian and Polish food through to Southern BBQ and Cornish pasties. Mmmmmm.
After a morning of awesome eats, it’s time to burn it off. Grab a city bike from one of the many bike docking points around the city and hit one of the bike trails that follow the river – I would recommend the Cherry Creek trail or the South Platte River trail from Confluence Park.
Denver may not be by the sea like San Francisco, or on a lake like Chicago, but I think seeing a raging, wild river that flows through the heart of the city is pretty special. Stop along the way to rest in the shade on the river banks or in one of the many green spaces around the city – Denver summers are hot!
If you are feeling brave, wade into the waters of the South Platte river at Confluence Park to cool off then sit in the sun to dry off on the small beach. For you outdoor adventure lovers, don’t miss the giant REI just across the river from the park which has its own climbing wall and you may even be able to try out a kayak on the river if you time it right.
After a busy day, you will probably want to chill out for a bit back at your accommodation before heading out to dinner.
You have a couple of options for dinner. You could either go to the excellent Russell’s Smokehouse in Larimer Square which is also home to a speakeasy bar Green Russell or if you are craving something a bit more exotic, Biju’s Little Curry Shop in RiNo is a great choice for fresh and tasty South Indian curries.
After dinner it’s time for some brewery hopping! RiNo – or River North Arts District near LoDo is home to a plethora of fantastic breweries with tasting rooms – my favorites are Epic Brewing Company (try their Brainless Raspberries), Great Divide Brewing Barrel Bar and don’t miss The Source – a converted warehouse that is now home to an artisan food market, including Crooked Stave brew bar that specialises in sour beers – my favorite.
Your second day in Denver begins with breakfast in Old South Gaylord where you can get great coffee and pastries at Devil’s Food Bakery. Wander this pleasant shopping district then make your way on foot or by over to Washington Park – or Wash Park as it is known by Denverites – for a walk.
It takes about an hour to walk around pretty Wash Park, where there are views over to the Rocky Mountains and a couple of lakes. The park is a peaceful spot that is popular with locals and you will see lots of them running and power walking around the park on sunny mornings.
From Wash Park, head to another pretty shopping precinct, South Pearl, where you can browse the boutique shops, and then grab lunch at Kaos Pizzeria which does some of the best pizza in Denver. If you are visiting on a Sunday, don’t miss the weekly Farmers Market.
After lunch you could either relax back at Wash Park, or if you are still feeling adventurous, get the train down to Littleton which is a lovely little town on the outskirts of Denver.
There are more great boutiques here, as well as a Tea Cafe, iN-TEA, that has a massive selection of teas from around the world to choose from, and a couple of bars if you are craving an afternoon beer. There are also a number of short riverside hiking trails here.
After freshening up back at your hotel, head out to South Broadway for dinner. South Broadway is full of eclectic shops, dive bars and so many great places to eat. You can get excellent sushi at Go Fish or gastro diner food at Punch Bowl Social where there is also an arcade and bowling alley.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is the end point of your night if you planned in advance and got a ticket to an outdoor concert or movie there and believe me, you don’t want to miss this.
Red Rocks is a highlight of any Denver itinerary and is truly special. The sound quality is amazing and watching the sky turn pink and purple as the sun sets over the city is a fantastic experience.
If you aren’t able to attend an event at Red Rocks then head up there in the afternoon instead, to do a short hike and to admire the view. It’s a truly beautiful spot whether you visit during the day or at night.
Your last day in Denver will see you visiting one of my absolute favorite spots: Golden!
Golden is a historic gold rush town in the foothills of the Rockies that is surrounded by mountains and has a river, Clear Creek, running through it. Grab a breakfast burrito or Huevos Rancheros once you get to Golden at Los Marcelos then its time to choose your own adventure!
There are a number of activities to get you out in nature here, including tubing the rapids of the Clear Creek (don’t let the tame name fool you) – just buy a cheap tube and follow the crowds, hiking one of the trails around Golden including Mt Falcon and North and South Table Mountains, or mountain biking one of the many trails along the front range – there are a few shops in town where you can hire a bike. Ask at the Information Centre for more ideas and logistics.
Once you are adventured out, head back into Golden for lunch at one of my favorite Denver restaurants, Sherpa House, for their delicious Nepalese/Tibetan buffet. It is very affordable and so tasty.
The historic main street of Golden is a lively place for a stroll and there are a range of antique and second-hand stores to browse with all kinds of bric-a-brac. If you are interested in Mountaineering, make sure to visit the American Mountaineering Museum, or if you are into Coors Beer, you can tour the Brewery.
Golden also has a few excellent little craft breweries so you could (should) spend a couple of hours trying out some of the inventive brews that Colorado is famous for – I love the orange creamsicle wheat from Barrels and Bottles Brewery.
After freshening up (or taking a nap), it is time to head on over to the Highlands – Denver’s hipster capital and home to sooo many great places to eat and drink.
The Highlands is made up of a few great shopping districts so choose one: Highlands Square has Detroit style pizza at Blue Pan Pizza, Tennyson Street is home to a Cat Cafe (kitties!) and Vegetarian Restaurant Vital Root, and Sloan Lake has its namesake lake, the excellent Joyride Brewing Company and traditional British Fish and Chips at GB Fish and Chips.
If you want something closer to the city, head to LoHi where you can find the massive bar and restaurant with roof terrace that is Avanti, inventive beer including Graham Cracker Porter at Denver Beer Company, and some of the most insanely delicious donuts at Habit Donut Dispensary.
You can definitely squeeze in a couple of different districts if you have the time/inclination.
Then it’s time to fly home and sleep for at least 24 hours to recover from your action packed, beer soaked long weekend in Denver!
So have I convinced you to visit Denver?
This is just a fraction of the things to do in Denver, I didn’t even mention gritty and exciting Colfax, affluent Cherry Creek, quaint Olde Town Arvada or happening City Park which has free jazz on Sunday evenings in summer.
Then there’s the sports events you could attend, all of the hikes on the outskirts of the city, the museums downtown, and all of the weed you can smoke if you are that way inclined (it’s legal here!)
There is so much to explore in Denver and the longer I am here, the more I realise this fact. It was an undiscovered gem for a long time but slowly and surely, people are starting to realise how cool it really is.
I will be releasing a massive list of my favorite things to do, eat, drink and see in Denver at a later date but I hope this three-day Denver Itinerary will help you in the meantime.
Viva la Denver!
Where to Stay in Denver
When it comes to where to stay in Denver, I would recommend LoDo or the Highlands for ease of access to the city and beyond. In LoDo, if you really want a worthwhile splurge, consider staying in the historic Oxford Hotel which is supposedly haunted, otherwise stay at Hostel Fish, which may end up being the coolest hostel you have ever stayed in with its beautifully decorated and themed rooms, and great location.
In the Highlands, your best bet is to stay in an Airbnb – there are so many to choose from.
There are also loads of great Airbnbs in other areas of Denver and some cool areas you should consider staying in are Washington Park, City Park, Golden and Arvada. If you haven’t signed up already use this link to get $25 off your first stay.
How to Get Around in Denver
Although there is public transport in Denver, everything is quite spread out. The easiest way to get around in Denver would be to hire a car, but alternatively you can get around Denver by train and bus. Uber and Lyft are also prevalent in Denver and you never have to wait long for a ride.
Getting from the airport to Denver’s downtown is easy. There is a train that connects the airport to Union Station in LoDo, with further trains branching out from there.
So, do you want to visit Denver now? And for all you Denverites and Denver lovers reading this – do you agree with my itinerary? What would your perfect weekend in Denver look like?