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If you are planning a trip to Golden and don’t want to miss any of the must-sees but also don’t want to spend the earth, then keep reading to find out the best things to do in Golden CO – all of them free or inexpensive!
Golden is a sweet mountain town in Colorado that has lots of character, a fun gold rush history, and lots of natural beauty. It is nestled in a river valley at the base of the iconic Rocky Mountains and is surrounded by small mountains that are perfect for hiking.
It is only a twenty-minute drive from Denver but it feels like you are a world away – so it’s no wonder that it is such a popular day trip destination. Golden is deservedly popular and I always recommend people add Golden to their Denver Itinerary.
But there are so many things to do in Golden that you should stay longer if you can – you won’t regret it.
I put together a list of my favorite things to do in Golden CO that covers the best of what this beautiful town has to offer, from hikes and bike riding through to brewery hopping and delving into the town’s history.
I am a budget traveler so all of these experiences are free or inexpensive so you can stick to a lower budget while still having an awesome time in Golden.
I think there is something for everyone on this list, and I hope to inspire you to spend a couple of days or more in sweet Golden.
15 Best Things To Do in Golden
Check out my map for the best things to do in Golden here.
1. Hit the Hiking Trails
Hiking is my favorite thing to do in Golden and there are so many different hikes to choose from, starting with a flat and easy meander beside Clear Creek through to more difficult but rewarding hikes up some of the nearby mountains.
If you do one thing in Golden, make sure it is a hike, because this is the best way to experience the natural beauty of the area. Enjoy wildflowers everywhere in spring and early summer, and fall brings gorgeous golden trees.
I wrote a more detailed post of all the best hikes in Golden so check it out and get hiking!
2. Go Shopping
Golden may have a relatively small downtown core but there are a surprising number of great shops that you should definitely check out including gift shops, antiques, boutiques, consignment stores, outdoor gear, and more.
My favorites are Marrygrams Cards and Gifts – I love their stickers, Blue Moose Trading Company, and Rockin’ Horse Antique and Collectables – you could happily get lost for hours in this treasure trove of knick-knacks.
3. Do Some Brewery Hopping
Golden’s most famous brewery may be Coors but it is definitely not the only one, and it is definitely not the best. For a small place, Golden is home to a lot of breweries so if you love beer as I do, you definitely have to visit at least a couple of them.
As well as serving excellent quality beer, the other thing that is great about Golden’s breweries is that most of them are within walking distance of each other, so if you are staying in or near downtown Golden, you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving.
My absolute favorite is New Terrain Brewing Company, which is a little out of town but so, so worth it. I would recommend driving there first for one of their flights in their sunny beer garden and maybe lunch at one of the two rotating food trucks, then drive back to your accommodation downtown to walk to more.
The best breweries in downtown Golden are Mountain Toad Brewing and Golden City Brewery, and I also like Barrels and Bottles Brewery and Cannonball Creek Brewing Company. The brand new Eddy Taproom and Hotel is also a great spot with views over town and a great beer and cocktail menu.
Hopping between these breweries on a sunny day with friends is one of the absolute best things to do in Golden CO!
4. Eat at the Best Golden Restaurants
Along with breweries, Golden is also home to some fantastic restaurants – this is even more true in the last couple of years with the opening of Tributary Food Hall and The Golden Mill – also a food hall with the best roof terrace in town, with river and mountain views.
Other notable restaurants that you should try to eat at during your Golden trip are:
Sassafras – This Cajun restaurant serves the best brunch in town. Sit on the riverside terrace and make sure to get a side of beignets and one of their excellent mimosas or bloodies.
Sherpa House – A Tibetan restaurant and culture center that is super cozy inside and has a very affordable lunch buffet as well as an A La Carte menu with Nepalese, Tibetan, and Indian options.
Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza – Another great affordable buffet option with agreeable pizza and amazing beer cheese soup. This is a popular spot with families.
Bob’s Atomic Burgers – Basic but very well-made burgers in retro digs right by town – I especially love their fried chicken burger.
Bonfire Burritos – Awesome burritos including a massive breakfast burrito with green chile – mmm.
5. Go Tubing in Clear Creek
One of the most adventurous things to do in Golden is to go tubing in Clear Creek. There are lots of rapids in the section that runs through town but none that are too scary – well, they are just the right amount of scary.
You can either take your own tube or rent or buy one in town. The best time to go tubing in Golden is in mid to late summer – spring and early summer see dangerously high water levels and the creek is usually closed to tubing during this time.
If tubing is a bit too crazy for you, maybe just swim in the river. There are numerous spots where you can get in for a swim without being caught up in the rapids.
Relax and dry off on the rocks or make a day of it with a picnic in Lions Park or Parfet Park by the river.
6. Feed Your Mind at a Local Museum
Golden is home to numerous museums and you should definitely visit at least one of them if you are interested in learning more about the history of the area. Here are the main museums in the area that you can visit:
Golden History Museum – This museum by the Visitor Center is free to enter and although small, it is worth visiting to find out more about the history of the town of Golden.
Colorado Railroad Museum – I haven’t been to the Railroad Museum but it is on my list. There are over 100 engines, cabooses, and coaches in this 15-acre rail yard, and they even do train rides behind a vintage steam locomotive throughout the year.
American Mountaineering Museum – My favorite museum in Golden because I have a weird obsession with everything mountain climbing. The last time I went, there was a great movie playing with Tommy Caldwell (The Dawn Wall) and Alex Honnold (Free Solo) climbing Patagonia’s Fitz Traverse.
Buffalo Bill Museum – Even if you don’t have a great interest in Buffalo Bill Cody or know much about his life, I think this museum on top of Lookout Mountain is still worth visiting.
It chronicles Buffalo Bill’s life and his famous Wild West Show, with lots of information and artifacts on display as well as a film that plays on a loop.
7. Visit Buffalo Bill’s Grave and the Boettcher Mansion on Lookout Mountain
While you are visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum, don’t miss visiting Buffalo Bill’s gravesite and the Boettcher Mansion – also at the top of Lookout Mountain and linked by short hiking trails.
Buffalo Bill’s grave is pretty unassuming to look at, but there was a lot of fanfare, and controversy when Buffalo Bill Cody was buried on top of Lookout Mountain in 1917.
The famous showman lived in Wyoming for a long time and the town of Cody, Wyoming was even named after him as he was one of the founders.
There was a lot of uproar from Cody about Buffalo Bill being buried in Colorado, and the grave ended up having to be encased in concrete to stop bodysnatchers from Wyoming stealing it away.
The Boettcher Mansion is a gorgeous example of the Arts & Crafts style in 1917 and was the summer home and hunting lodge of Charles Boettcher, a Colorado businessman.
You can do a tour of the mansion or just enjoy the gorgeous mountain views from the grounds for free.
For a real adventure, hike up Lookout Mountain from town. It’s one of the more challenging hikes in Golden but it’s gorgeous and absolutely worth it if you are relatively fit and have the time to hike it.
8. Drive a Scenic Byway From Golden to Evergreen
If you are a fan of scenic drives, then don’t miss the Lariat Loop which starts in Golden and links it to Lookout Mountain, Morrison and Evergreen – two more of the beautiful mountain towns near Denver.
You can easily spend a day driving the Lariat Loop, stopping off along the way to check out lovely mountain towns, all the attractions on Lookout Mountain, and the numerous scenic viewpoints along the way.
9. Marvel at Dinosaur Fossils
The area around Golden is a fantastic place to see fossilized dinosaur footprints, and imprints of prehistoric plants and bird footprints.
Do the short Triceratops trail right by town or walk the two-mile Dinosaur Ridge trail just outside of town to see even more impressive fossilized footprints and even dinosaur bones!
Both trails are paved and easily accessible so are a great option for the whole family.
10. Experience Red Rocks
You can’t miss visiting Red Rocks Amphitheatre when in the area – it is definitely one of the best and most unique things to do in Golden.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the best places in the world to see a performance, with incredible natural acoustics and one of the most gorgeous settings, surrounded by jutting red rocks and with views all the way to Denver in the distance.
It is definitely a splurge to see a band perform here, but for a more affordable Red Rocks experience, go see a film on the rocks – you get to sit in the amphitheater and there is even pre-entertainment which is usually a comedian. Tickets start at $16.
Even if you aren’t able to see a band or go to a film, you should definitely still visit to check out the Amphitheater, the historic Trading Post, and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame – it’s free to enter all three.
You should definitely do one of the hikes at Red Rocks too – either the Red Rocks Trail or the shorter Trading Post trail which gets you up close and personal with these wondrous red rocks.
11. Go Back in Time at the Golden History Park
Golden History Park is a grouping of historic buildings, like a little village, right by Clear Creek.
The buildings are not always open – actually, they seem to hardly ever be open, but your best bet, if you do want to see inside, is to visit on a weekend in summer, especially a holiday weekend.
There is a school, various historic cabins, a blacksmith shop, and more. When they are open, there are costumed interpreters the will tell you about what life was like in Golden and other places in Colorado in the late 19th Century.
Even if nothing is open when you are visiting, it’s still a great place to take photos, peek in the windows, feed the chickens, and read the information panels to find out more about Golden’s storied past.
12. Buy Local at the Golden Farmer’s Market
I love a Farmer’s Market and always try to catch them when I am on the road because it’s a great way to get a feel for the community of a place, as well as supporting local businesses and farmers, and getting to sample delicious local produce and foodstuffs.
The Golden Farmer’s Market is on a Saturday and every time I have visited it is always bustling with locals and visitors. Grab a coffee, wander the food and art stalls, enjoy the live music, and treat yourself to breakfast or lunch from one of the food vendors.
13. Bike the Clear Creek Trail
As well as hiking trails, Golden is also a great place to bike, and the Clear Creek trail is an easy and pretty trail you can take as far as you feel like – you can connect with other bike trails and make it all the way to Denver if you wanted.
Bring your own bike or you can rent one from the Golden Bike Library – the first two hours are free!
If you are feeling energetic, you can bike the 20 miles return to Wheat Ridge along the river – it’s a beautiful ride and you could stop off in Olde Town Arvada to check out the lovely downtown area there.
14. Enjoy the Best Fall Colors Close to Denver
Colorado is home to some of the most impressive fall colors in the country and fall is my favorite time of year here.
A lot of the more impressive fall displays are further into the mountains but there are a couple of spots in Golden that are definitely worth seeing in fall – especially Golden Gate Canyon State Park.
The fall colors at the park tend to peak around the middle of September to the beginning of October, but right in town in October, there is a gorgeous display of golden cottonwood trees along Clear Creek too.
15. Tour Coors Brewery
I have actually never done this tour myself as I am not a fan of Coors beer but I felt like I should add it as I have heard it is interesting, and you get a very generous tasting session at the end. You will have to tell me how it is, maybe I will do it myself one day.
Tours go for $5 for Colorado residents and $10 for out-of-state visitors. There are temporarily no tours due to COVID but they should be up and running again soon.
So there you have it, all my favorite things to do in Golden CO – and none of them will break the bank. I hope you enjoy this gorgeous town as much as I do.
Where To Stay in Golden
If you are traveling in an RV or with a tent, you should definitely stay at the Clear Creek RV Park – it’s right by the river and only a few minute’s walk from town. It books out fast so make sure to reserve your spot.
There are also lots of great hotels to choose from in Golden, stay at the adobe-style boutique Table Mountain Inn right in downtown Golden, the newly-built The Eddy Taproom and Hotel which has mountain views and is perched on a hill above town, or The Golden Hotel on the river right in town.
If vacation rentals are more your style, stay at one of these highly-rated and affordable options in the Golden area:
- Historic Carriage House Near Downtown
- Charming Studio in a Historic Home
- Comfortable and Clean Two Bedroom Townhome
- One-Bedroom Apartment in Historic Home
- Cute Two Bedroom Home in Downtown Golden
For bed and breakfasts, The Dove Inn and The Silk Pincushion are both highly-rated and centrally located.
If you liked this – check out some of my other Colorado content:
- Absolute Best Hikes in Golden To Work Up a Sweat (Colorado)
- Ultimate Colorado Road Trip Itinerary To See the Best of the State
- 11 Best Mountain Towns Near Denver (1 Hour or Less)
- 15 Best Colorado Mountain Towns to Visit Any Time
- 10 Best Hidden Gems in Colorado
- The Perfect 3 Days in Denver Itinerary
- Visit Telluride: The Best Mountain Town in Colorado
- Hike from Aspen to Crested Butte: The Best Hike in Colorado
- Experiencing Cannabis Culture in Denver with a Cannabis Tour