How would you like to spend 3 days in Denver? If it is a destination you haven’t previously considered, let me change your mind with this detailed Denver Itinerary.
During the pandemic, make sure to follow all rules related to COVID, including mask wearing in businesses and social distancing.
Some of the attractions and restaurants/bars mentioned may not be open at this time, or are only open for takeout, so make sure to check their websites before visiting. Travel safely!
Denver. The Mile High City. The gateway to the majestic Rocky Mountains and a city with more sunshine days per year than Florida (and not a lot of 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 and is a must for any Colorado itinerary.
Denver may not be an obvious choice when looking for a U.S. City to visit, especially next to the likes of San Francisco, Seattle, 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, and 3 days in Denver is the perfect taster.
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 long weekend in Denver, which includes all of my favorite things like craft beer, delicious food, and lots of outdoor time.
This three days in Denver itinerary also covers some of Denver’s best neighborhoods to visit.
If you make it a week you will be able to head into the mountains as well for a few days of touring around, or use Denver as a base and do some day trips.
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 spend 3 days in Denver!
The Best Denver 3 Day Itinerary
Denver Itinerary Day One
Morning – Downtown and Larimer Square
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 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, D’Corazon, or Rio Grande – which is famous for their outdoor patio and giant frozen margaritas.
If you find yourself in Denver between Tuesday and Thursday between mid April to mid October, 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.
Afternoon – Hit a Bike Trail
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 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.
Evening – Brewery Hopping and Street Art in RiNo
Before dinner, walk around the River North Arts District (RiNo) checking out all the wonderful street art and murals in this area – there is so much!
Head to Larimer Street and Walnut Street between 26th and 31st to see the highest concentration.
After your street art wanderings, hit up one of the food halls that Denver is famous for, for dinner – Denver Central Market and Zeppelin Station are both great choices and also have bars.
After dinner, it’s time for some brewery hopping! In RiNo my favorites are Epic Brewing Company, Great Divide Brewing Barrel Bar, Ratio Beerworks, Black Shirt Brewing Co., and Our Mutual Friend Brewing.
If sour beer is your thang (if so, we should be friends), then don’t miss Goed Zuur – a sour beer and cheese restaurant in nearby Five Points.
Denver Itinerary Day 2
Morning – Washington Park and Pearl Street
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 bike 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, or grab delicious Australian-style rotisserie chicken and sides from Chook.
If you are visiting on a Sunday, don’t miss the weekly Farmers Market in the warmer months.
Afternoon – Small Town Charm in Littleton
After lunch, you could either relax back at Wash Park, or if you are still feeling adventurous, get the train (or drive) 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.
Evening – South Broadway and Red Rocks
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.
Go for excellent sushi at Go Fish, Sputnik for unique vegetarian eats, or gastro diner food at Punch Bowl Social where there is also an arcade and bowling alley. And don’t miss the iconic Voodoo Doughnuts for dessert.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is the endpoint 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, visit the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and to admire the views. It’s a truly beautiful spot whether you visit during the day or at night.
Denver Itinerary Day 3
Morning – Outdoor Adventure in Golden
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 breakfast at Sassafras on their patio by the river (Sassafras is one of my favorite breakfast restaurants in the WORLD) then it’s time to choose your own adventure!
There are a number of activities to get you out in nature here, including tubing the rapids of Clear Creek (don’t let the tame name fool you), hiking one of the trails around Golden, or mountain biking one of the many trails along the front range.
You can rent mountain bikes and tubes in Golden. Ask at the Information Center for more ideas and logistics.
Afternoon – Explore Downtown Golden
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.
Or if pizza is more up your alley – check out Woody’s Wood-fired Pizza, which offers an affordable buffet with salad and their famous beer cheese soup as well as pizza. There is also a small food hall in Golden called Tributary Food Hall and Market.
The historic main street of Golden is a lively place for a stroll and there is a range of antique and second-hand stores to browse with all kinds of bric-a-brac. If you are visiting Golden on a Saturday in summer – visit their weekly farmer’s market.
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 (although there are MUCH better breweries in town where you can do tastings).
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 – New Terrain is my favorite brewery in the Denver area with a wide range of inventive beers and a rotation of awesome food trucks, and Mountain Toad has a very pleasant beer garden and delicious brews.
Evening – Dinner and Drinks in the Highlands
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: A super cute district that has awesome Detroit-style pizza at Blue Pan Pizza, great beer at Oasis Brewing Co., and the awesome Highlands Farmers Market on Sundays in the summer months.
Berkeley/Tennyson Street: Another happening district with great shopping and tons of delicious restaurants and breweries. I love the well-regarded vegetarian restaurant Vital Root, the pasties at The Pasty Republic, local craft beer at De Steeg, FlyteCo and The Emporium breweries, and nearby Tocabe which has excellent Indian tacos.
And don’t miss The Denver Cat Company if you are a cat lover like me.
Sloan Lake/Edgewater: Walk around Sloan Lake, drink beer on the patio at excellent Joyride Brewing Company, grab Kiwi-style fresh fruit icecream from Happy Cones or other delicious offerings at Edgewater Public Market.
Lower Highlands (LoHi): 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, Linger – the former mortuary turned eatuary, famous ice cream from Little Man, and some of the most insanely delicious donuts at Habit Donut Dispensary.
LoHi is also home to some GREAT breweries – make sure to visit Denver Beer Company, Zuni Street Brewing, and Little Machine. And don’t miss one of the best speakeasies in the country: Williams and Graham.
Other breweries nearby that are definitely worth checking out are Raices Brewing Company – which celebrates Latin food, beer, and culture, and Strange Craft – unassuming but home to some of the best beer in Denver.
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, all the other awesome food halls to check out, boho Capitol Hill which is home to Molly Brown House and the Denver Botanic Gardens, quaint Olde Town Arvada, the Art District on Santa Fe, or happening City Park – which has free jazz on Sunday evenings in summer.
And all the best day trips from Denver that you could take – that’s a whole other post.
Then there are the sports events you could attend, all of the day 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 even a cannabis church.
There is so much to explore in Denver and the longer I am here, the more I realize this fact. It was an undiscovered gem for a long time but slowly and surely, people are starting to realize 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 3 day trip to Denver Itinerary will help you in the meantime.
Viva la Denver!
Planning Your 3 Days in 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.
I really love Denver’s historic hotels, and I recommend staying in the Brown Palace Hotel which is supposedly haunted, the beautifully appointed The Crawford Hotel in Union Station, or the regal Oxford Hotel – all located in downtown Denver.
Other great hotel options in Denver include the luxurious design hotel – The Ramble Hotel, the affordable and light-filled Element Denver, and Sonder- The Essex, and awesome condo-hotel with well-equipped suites.
For a more budget-friendly option, stay at Hostel Fish, or Ember Hostel, both of which are boutique hostels with gorgeous decor and a great location.
If you have ever wanted to try housesitting, there are always lots of listings on Trusted Housesitters in and around Denver. You will get 20% off your first year’s membership if you sign up with my link, but you can look at the available sits without signing up.
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 Denver Itinerary? What would your perfect weekend in Denver look like?
If you liked this post, check out my other Colorado content:
- Ultimate Colorado Itinerary for an Epic Road Trip
- 10 Best Hidden Gems in Colorado
- 15 Best Colorado Mountain Towns To Visit Anytime
- Tackling the Hike from Aspen to Crested Butte: The Best Hike in Colorado
- Experiencing Cannabis Culture in Denver with a Cannabis Tour
- Telluride: The Best Mountain Town in Colorado