Your one-stop guide to all things Denver: where to dine, where to hike, where to sight-see, where to grab the best coffee, cocktails, and more!
Visiting Denver and looking for the ultimate guide to Denver with must-do activities and must-see places? Or maybe you recently moved to Denver (welcome!) and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the restaurants, hiking, and activity options. If either of those sound like you, you’re in the right place. I moved to Denver 6 years ago and experienced the same overwhelm. Especially coming from Indiana, I couldn’t believe the amount of outdoor options close to the city, and cool places to checkout within the city! Over the years, I’ve definitely done my fair share of exploring locally and state-wide. And while there are always new, trendy places popping up in different neighborhoods around Denver, I’m going to share some of the places I always want to bring my out-of-town friends to when they visit!
This Guide to Denver is in no particular order of importance, but rather categorized by activity/location. Enjoy!
Best Outdoor Areas for Sight-Seeing near Denver
Red Rocks Amphitheatre – You may have heard of this famous concert venue, but did you know this nature amphitheater is also a popular location for working out, hiking, and checking out the music museum? Especially if you have good weather, I recommend heading to Red Rocks for a workout, a small hike, or just to check out the views. Just be prepared that your lungs may not be well adjusted to the altitude just yet! If you’re a music buff, the museum inside the Visitors Center will interest you as well. Be sure to check out their events calendar of concerts, “Movie on the Rocks” lineup, fitness events and more!
Location: Morrison, CO – 25 minutes outside of Denver
Lookout Mountain – This 7,377 foot mountain peak in the foothills of Golden is quite popular for site-seeing. You can drive the winding switchbacks up for incredible mountain views and views of the city. There are also several hiking opportunities in this area if you’d like to get those legs moving! I recommend heading up for sunrise if you want the best views/colors. Make a day of it by heading to the town of Golden afterwards. You can walk along Clear Creek, enjoy shopping/dining in town and more! See my guide to Golden HERE!
Location: Golden, CO – 25 minutes outside of Denver
Chautaqua Park – This gorgeous recreation area is known for its numerous hiking trails, including the Flatirons and the Royal Arch. Many visitors hike and scramble their way to the top of one of the five “flatiron” rocks formations in the park. But the park also offers very easy to moderate hiking options for all ability levels. Make a day of it by heading to Pearl Street in Boulder afterward for shopping, dining, coffee, etc.
Location: Boulder, CO – 45 minutes outside of Denver
Evergreen – The town of Evergreen offers many outdoor adventures and sites, without too much of a drive. It also offers the allure of NOT being a popular ski town, which can often bring traffic, crowds, and expensive prices. When visiting Evergreen, here are some of my top recommendations:
Enjoy Evergreen Lake. Go for a walk around the lake, enjoy a picnic, rent paddleboards, go ice skating, try ice fishing, or dine at the nearby restaurant overlooking the lake, Willow Creek.
Take a hike! Some of the more popular trails include Maxwell Falls, Alderfer 3 Sisters, Chief Mountain, and Squaw Fire Lookout!
Look for elk! Elk Meadow in Evergreen is notorious for grazing elk, especially at dawn and dusk.
Walk around town. Many restaurants, breweries and wineries offer indoor or outdoor options based on the season.
Visiting in the winter? Echo Mountain Ski Resort is one of the smallest in Colorado, located just 30 minutes outside of Evergreen. It’s a great option if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, traffic, and big resort prices. They also are quite famous for their tubing hills if you left your ski gear at home!
Location: Evergreen, CO -- 45 minutes from Denver
Garden of the Gods – This recreational area feels a bit like you’re stepping back in time when dinosaurs roamed. The vibrantly red rock formations shooting up from the ground every direction draw in tourists from all over the country. While you won’t experience any super difficult hiking here, this is a great place to enjoy a walk and site-see. If you’re a climber or interested in trying, this is also a big rock climbing area! Make a day of it by heading to the nearby town of Manitou Springs for food, carnival-style games, and the also-popular Manitou Incline hike!
Location: Colorado Springs, CO – 1 hour+ from Denver
BONUS: if you're up for a roadtrip, here are my favorite mountain towns in Colorado:
1. Telluride, CO – 7 hours from Denver
2. Breckenridge, CO – 2 hours from Denver
3. Vail, CO – 2 hours from Denver
4. Crested Butte, CO – 5 hours from Denver
5. Ouray, CO – 5.5 hours from Denver
6. Grand Junction, CO – 5 hours from Denver
State/National Parks Near Denver worth Seeing
1. Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado’s most popular National Park destination also happens to be the closest proximity to Denver! While it does require more of a drive than the locations listed above, it’s a definite must-see when visiting Colorado. Some of the top features of the park include: wildlife viewing, lake hikes, waterfalls, up-close views of the Rocky Mountains and the quaint town of Estes Park. Check out my guide to Rocky Mountain National Park HERE!
Location: Estes Park, CO – 1.5 hours from Denver
2. Eldorado Canyon State Park – This stunning State Park is known for its craggy rock formations, hiking, rock climbing, and fishing. Just a quick drive from Denver/Boulder, it makes for the perfect day trip adventure on a weekend! Check out my guide to Eldorado Canyon State Park HERE!
Location: near Boulder, CO – 50 minutes from Denver
3. Cheyenne Mountain State Park – This State Park is known for its beautiful mountain views, hiking, numerous camping opportunities and more. If you’re already planning to make a trip down to Colorado Springs, this park is definitely worth checking out!
Location: near Colorado Springs, CO – 1 hour+ from Denver
Best Hikes near Denver
For a full article, check out my blog, Best Hikes Near Denver
-Panorama Point to Bear Creek Trail
-North Table Mountain
-Flatiron Vista Trail
-Red Rocks Trail
-Kruger Rock Trail
Denver Dining + Drinking
Best Brunch Spots around Denver:
· Snooze (ideally the Union Station location)
· Bacon Social
· Denver Biscuit Company
· Cozy Cottage
· Prosper Oats (grab + go option)
· Rise + Shine (grab + go option)
Best lunch spots around Denver:
· Denver Milk Market – a collection of food-truck style dining options
· The Bindery
· JustBE Kitchen
· Olive + Finch
· Turtle Boat (grab + go option)
· Kale Me Crazy (grab + go option)
· Rye Society
Best Dinner spots around Denver:
· El Five
· Mister Oso
· Senior Bear
· Bar Dough
· Sushi Den
· Izakaya Den
· Barcelona Wine Bar
· Work + Class
· Humboldt Kitchen + Bar
· My Neighbor Felix
Best rooftop bars/restaurants around Denver:
· Avanti -- a collection of food-truck style dining options
· El Five
· Los Chingones
· 54thirty Rooftop
· Tap Fourteen
· The Fainting Goat
· The Irish Rover Pub
· Ale House Denver
Most unique dining options around Denver:
· Ace Eat Serve – dinner with plenty of game options, mainly ping pong!
· Zepplin Station -- a collection of food-truck style dining options
· Avanti -- a collection of food-truck style dining options
· Milk Market -- a collection of food-truck style dining options
· Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox – dinner with entertainment. Most nights include live music/dueling pianos.
· Bang up to the Elephant – an eclectic vegan restaurant
Best coffee shops around Denver:
· Drip Denver
· Huckleberry Roasters
· Novo Coffee
· Carbon Coffee
· Crema Coffee House
· Muddy Buck Café
· Corvus Coffee Roasters
· Allegro Coffee Roasters
· Copper Door Coffee Roasters
· Blue Sparrow Coffee
· Wash Perk
Best bars around Denver:
· Forest Room 5 -- be prepared for a unique experience!
· Finn’s Manor -- great outdoor patio
· Number 38 -- indoor/outdoor style with multiple dining options
· Williams + Graham -- small, hidden speakeasy that requires reservation
· Terminal Bar
· Lustre Pearl
· Recess -- great outdoor patio
· Local 46 -- great outdoor patio
· Green Russel – underground speakeasy
· Lady Jane
· Stranahan’s Whisky Distillery
· Broken Cage
Best places to go dancing around Denver:
· Grizzly Rose – a country line dancing bar with live music
· Meadowlark – underground dance bar on weekends
· Howl at the Moon Denver – Dueling Piano bar with dancing
· Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox – Dueling Piano + live music bar with dancing
· Nativ Lounge + Nightclub – Bar with underground dance club
· Mile High Spirits – Large bar downtown with DJ on weekends and outdoor patio space
Best breweries around Denver:
· Denver Beer Co
· Prost Brewery
· Lariot Lodge
· 10 Barrell Brewing Company
· Zuni St Brewery
· Briar Common Brewery
· Great Divide Brewing Co
· Odell Brewing Five Points Brewery
· Wynkoop Brewing Company
· Blue Moon Brewing Co
· Ratio Beerworks