If you’re looking for things to do in Denver, that’s a good start. If you’re looking for the absolutely required, non-optional places you have to see and the once-in-a-lifetime events and activities you can’t miss, that’s even better.
Whether you’re looking to see the city like a local, get an eyeful of natural and man-made landmarks, or just eat the finest food in the city – let me be your guide.
1. Are You Brave Enough for a Zip-Line Tour of the Rockies?
Crisp air cutting across your face at high speed as treetops blur beneath you, your weight dangling from the line, the harness holding you steady and safe as you zip from the stone-strewn mountains and across the vast sky.
Sound like something you’re into? Check out the Rocky Mountain Zipline Adventure Tour, which encompasses over 5,000 feet of lines that you’ll fly down at speeds up to 50mph!
There’s no better way to see the mountains up close and personal than with a bird’s eye view and a little sweat on yours palms.
2. Embrace the Inner 80’s Geek at “Fifty-Two 80’s”
Check out this cathedral to ‘80s and ‘90s pop culture, which both sells and displays some of the real treasures and rare items from the two most fun decades in recent memory. “Fifty-Two 80’s” almost certainly has whatever you’re looking for.
Remember Garbage Pail Kids, Hulk Hogan, Darkwing Duck? If any one of those names drops a hot nostalgia bomb on your heart, then you have to try this playground of childhood delights.
Grab a Back to the Future lunch box, a cardboard cutout of Arnold Schwarzenegger, and an action figure of Mumm-Ra from Thundercats while “The Dark Crystal” plays on the in-store TVs.
It’ll feel like coming home again.
3. Quest Through Urban Denver
A relatively new idea, Urban Adventure Quest offers an interactive tour of Denver’s most interesting and historical sites. The catch is that your guide is your own smartphone or iPad, which takes you on a gamified quest through Denver.
A kind of scavenger hunt mixed with an educational tour, this Urban Adventure Quest takes you from the Capitol building to the Brown Palace Hotel, and hits sites like City Hall, 16th Street, and the Preforming Arts Centers, along with interesting street attractions along the way.
4. Hungry and Looking for the Best Food the City Has to Offer?
Denver is jam-packed with delicious restaurants that run the gamut from traditional continental fine dining to hip cafés to innovative fusion joints showing off the newest culinary techniques and styles.
Izayaka Den – This restaurant calls itself the “Sake House with Tapas,” serving Japanese-style food and sushi with Spanish-style portions and sharing. Sushi is already designed to be eaten by hand, and if you’re all going in on a dozen different dishes, just reach in there and grab what looks yummy. The Tonkotsu Ramen and the Jalapeno Sashimi were two of my absolute favorites. Be sure to check out Sushi Den’s 3rd Annual Summer Rooftop Party if you’re in the area.
Acorn – A hip, eclectic dining option, Acorn promises unique, tasty twists on old favorites. Try out the Royal Red Shrimp & Grits, combining the delicate flavors of shrimp with the downhome savory weight of grits, or the pork belly, which is about as good as pork belly gets. Combine their exciting menu with craft cocktails like the “Edgar Allan’s Potion” and the “Highland Streaker,” and you’ve got yourself a spot for a fun date night or just a great night out with friends.
Ultreia – You really can’t go wrong with Portuguese and Spanish cuisine, especially when it’s being cooked by renowned chefs Beth Gruitch and Jennifer Jasinski. Ultreia serves tapas and traditional entrees, though I always recommend the tapas when dining with friends.
Grab some “Costillas de Cerdo” (traditional spice-rubbed pork ribs) and an Angry Koala (gin, cucumber, and jalapeno) for me, please, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Guard & Grace – On the hunt for a classy, modern steakhouse experience? Haul on over to “Guard & Grace,” which 5280 Magazine voted “Top of the Town – Best Steakhouse” two years in a row. Plus, it has a nearly two-story-tall walk-in wine cellar! Combine that with some of the best steaks in the city, and Guard & Grace is an easy sell.
Ambli @ Holly – Home of modern Mediterranean food fused with Indian, Japanese, and Thai, Ambli combines unique flavors in a clean, modern atmosphere to create something truly special. Good for meat-eaters and vegetarians alike, Ambli’s menu is a diverse dive into a deep pool. My personal go-to order is the Chef’s Brisket Tacos, but the Kuku Paka (a curry-chicken dish) will also treat you right.
Julep – Voted one of the hottest new restaurants in Denver by Zagat, Julep is a spot that uses downhome Southern cooking and a metropolitan atmosphere to make diners feel both classy and comfortable at the same time. With “sophisticated southern” as their watchword, Julep wows with unique fare like the XO Oxtail and the Pork & Oyster sausage.
5. Soak in International Flora at the Denver Botanic Gardens
Set on 24 acres of gorgeous Colorado soil, the Denver Botanic Gardens at York Street are filled with plants and trees that are both native to Colorado and have been transplanted from other locations.
The local gardens include dwarf conifers, ponderosa pines, bristlecones, and dozens of species of succulents and cacti. The international gardens showcase plant life from Asia, South Africa, and the tropics, including a bonsai area, a garden full of unique species from the Chinese and Mongolian steppes, and a Japanese “garden of pine and wind” full of pines from the foothills of Japan.
And, when you’re done taking in all of the incredible exotic and local flora, the Botanic Gardens also hosts tons of events like the Bumblebee Jamboree for kids and music-and-dancing festivals for adults!
6. Get a Hotdog and a Beer at Coors Field
Home of the Colorado Rockies, Coors Field has been a Denver staple for over 25 years.
See where Games 3 and 4 of the World Series were held in 2007, and where the MLB All-Star Game took place in 1998. It’s also been said that due to the elevation – over 5,000 feet above sea level – you’re more likely to see some amazing home runs at this stadium than anywhere else.
Plus, there’s even a Blue Moon Brewing location in the Sandlot right inside the park!
7. See and Fear the Blue Mustang
Guarding the gates of the Denver Airport stands a 32-foot-tall gigantic demon horse.
That’s not a metaphor. There’s literally a three-story blue-skinned, red-eyed equine cranked back on its hind legs near the Denver airport, and it is as terrifying as it is incredible.
Designed and crafted by Luis Jimenez, this blue horse is nicknamed “Blucifer” by Denver residents. Though some locals opposed the initial installation of the strange piece, there’s no denying it’s a fascinating addition to the area.
Also, a not-so-fun fact that is nonetheless interesting: The Blue Mustang actually killed its creator, Luis Jimenez, when a chunk of the statue broke off during construction and struck the artist!
So, take a selfie with the horse, but maybe don’t get too close.
8. Take a Trip to Holy Ground
Whether you’re a practicing Catholic or just a fan of architecture, the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is a crowning achievement of Denver’s skyline.
Leon Coquard designed this Gothic-style cathedral (in the French style), which can house up to a thousand people comfortably. Granite makes up the foundation, marble the interior walls, with limestone exteriors. The front doors are constructed entirely out of brass!
Did you know that on the 7th of August in 1911, the west tower was hit by a bolt of lightning that broke off the top twenty feet of the tower?
9. Shop Until You Drop
Looking for modern couture, chic fashions, or just like exploring the retail scene in a new city? Check out Larimer Square to fill your suitcase, wardrobe, or home closet.
Nestled in a neighborhood of old Victorian buildings with exquisite, old-world architecture, Larimer Square is a feast not only for the wallet but for the eyes, as well. Shops like Cry Baby Ranch sell Western wear for the cowboy or cowgirl in all of us, while shops like Blush and Aillea provide beauty items for anyone looking to restock their caboodle. Peep Element for home décor and furniture, and boutiques like Hailee Grace and Eve for the latest in women’s fashion.
Larimer Square even has shops for more uncommon wares. The Gusterman Silversmiths deal in making, selling, and repairing delicate jewelry, while Dog Savvy Boutique sells upscale puppy products and grooming for pampered pets.
And, if you’re a guy looking to kill a little time and get coiffed while doing it, visit Al’s Barber Shop for a dude-friendly setting, a close shave, and a fashionable cut.
How’s Your Denver Bucket List Looking?
Maybe you’re just moving to Denver, maybe you’ve lived here your whole life, or maybe you’re just passing through, but no matter what your circumstance you have to strike some of these spots off your bucket list.
You can combine any of these and create a day or evening you’ll never forget!