Whatever you’re looking for when visiting a city, guaranteed, you’ll find it in Downtown Denver. This bustling urban nucleus covers several districts including the city’s historic center Lower Downtown, or LoDo as its called in Denver.
Downtown Denver has its fair share of skyscrapers, but they’re spread along wide avenues and interspersed with open squares, parks, pedestrianized zones and a fantastic network of cycle paths which give the area an open, spacious ambiance more in keeping with a rural town.
In DT Denver you’ll discover historic buildings next to nightclubs, museums side by side with shopping malls, and sports fields surrounded by bars, beer gardens, and taverns. It’s an eclectic mix but one which works and makes Downtown Denver an unforgettable place to visit. Check out some, if not all, of these fifteen best things to do in Downtown Denver while you’re there. You’ll love them.
1. 16th Street
Shop, eat out or have a quiet wander around in Downtown Denver, with no bothersome traffic noise to deal with, at the mile and a quarter long, pedestrianized 16th Street mall. This outdoor shopping complex is a broad promenade lined with trees and potted shrubs which gives it a Mediterranean feel by day. At night, it’s illuminated by thousands of lights strung across the street on strings.
If retail therapy is in order, there are three hundred or more outlets to go around. If not, drop into one of the numerous cafes or bars with pavement terraces and sip a drink while people watching.
If you’re not into walking, there’s a free shuttle bus which will ferry you up and down the mall, but you’ll miss out on seeing the amazing street performers doing their thing in the mall’s squares, the fountains and the cosmopolitan atmosphere.
2. Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park
Downtown Denver is the only downtown in any US city to have a theme park and not only does the Elitch Gardens have thrill rides, it has water slides too.
Brave the Brain Drain, a seven-story high loop ride, get suspended upside down on the Mind Eraser or experience being flung through the air at eighty miles an hour on the Slingshot. Make a splash and slide down the Cannonball Falls on a rubber ring in the water park section or free fall down the Mega Wedgie from over sixty feet up into the pool below.
If you’re in Downtown Denver for Halloween, don’t miss the park’s Fright Fest – it’s a scream.
3. Colorado Convention Center
You may not be attending a convention while you’re in Downtown Denver, but you’ll still want to stop by the Colorado Convention Center on 14th Street. This all-purpose venue houses a theater as well as hosting large exhibitions, shows, and concerts for up to twenty thousand people.
While there may be plenty of famous faces appearing at the Colorado Convention Center, what really draws the crowds is the Big Blue Bear. The colossal statue stands forty foot high and peeks through the windows of the center. The unusual artwork is a Denver icon and makes a worthy Instagram snap.
4. Denver Microbrew Tour
California got grapes, raisins, and wine, Denver got beer by the bucketful. The city has a multitude of micro-breweries as well as ones who mass produce. Take a tour around Downtown and discover what makes Denver stand out when it comes to brewing the golden draft.
Stop off at various brewery premises in LoDo and the Ballpark districts in Downtown Denver. See demonstrations on the processes they use to brew craft beer as well as hearing some quirky anecdotes about beer and the city’s history.
This tour is for over twenty-ones. Take ID with you, and you get to sample some too.
5. Denver Pedicab
A fun and unusual way to see DT Denver is by Pedicab. These electric tricycles are chauffeured by trained guides who narrate interesting facts as they drive you around Downtown.
They’ll take you past all the major Downtown sights while you sit back and relax. Take in Larimer Square, the Pepsi Center and the US Mint to name but a few and all from your canopied seat in the back of the Pedicab.
The tours take around one and a half hours and include regular stops for visits and photos.
6. Larimer Square
Larimer Square is not just a historic square in Downtown Denver; it’s the original center from where the city sprang to life. After some years in a state of deterioration, the area has been regenerated into one of the best and busiest social spots Downtown and in Denver itself.
When you get to Larimer Square, don’t expect a plaza. The Square is a block long straight street lined with restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and clubs. Don’t expect all American dining either. The Square’s eateries have a distinctly Mediterranean atmosphere and serve everything from French fayre to Italian and Continental social food.
For the night birds, there are great wine bars, party venues, and a stand-up comedy club. What brings it all together and makes Larimer Square special is the amazing atmosphere. It’s a DT Denver must.
7. Denver Art Museum
A contemporary work of art in itself, the Denver Art Museum on 14th Avenue Parkway is a stunning building of geometric design holding over seventy thousand individual artworks.
The DAM’s collections cover multiple genres and encompass Asian, European and African as well as their renowned exhibition of American Indian art. The gallery hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions as well as artists at work, lectures, and various other workshops.
8. Skyline Beer Garden
The Skyline Beer Garden is a massive open-air social area on Arapahoe Street in Downtown Denver. The forty-thousand square feet of garden has a mini-golf course, ping-pong tables, live music and serves a dozen different Colorado produced craft beers.
The Skyline Beer Garden has very tasty street-food style menu too offering tacos with toppings, apple enchiladas and ice cream by the pint.
Early afternoons from 4 pm to 6 pm there are Meet The Maker tastings and giveaways. The Skyline is DT Denver’s permanent beer festival.
9. Money Museum
If you can never see enough of it, then pop into the Money Museum on 16th Street in Downtown Denver. There are literally stacks of dollars, one on top of the other to a total of thirty million. That’s a lot of dollars.
The museum has interactive exhibitions on the history of American currency and videos on finance topics plus computers to design your own money. Pick up a bag of free money on the way out as a souvenir – shredded of course.
All visitors to the museum who are over the age of eighteen are required to present some form of identification before entering.
10. Union Station
There are a lot more reasons to go to Union Station other than catching a train. The century-old renovated landmark building is crammed with eateries, shops, and bars.
Yes, you can still catch a train from Union Station as well as an Amtrak coach, the 16th Street Shuttle and Downtown’s free RTD Metroride.
If having a night out at a station has never been on your agenda, it’s time it was. Check out Union Stations Orient Express-style Cooper Lounge for snazzy cocktails and some fancy food or the Terminal Bar for happy hour.
11. Coors Field
Catch a major league baseball game at the Coors Field on Blake Street in DT Denver. The field is home base for the Colorado Rockies team who regularly fill the stadium to its fifty-thousand spectator capacity.
The Coors Field is about more than baseball. The stadium has gift shops, boutiques specializing in merchandise for the Rockies, burger restaurants, craft beer bars, and an on-site microbrewery. Plus a fine dining establishment spread over six tiers.
The stadium also hosts numerous public events and major music concerts throughout the year.
12. Civic Center Park
Get a breath of fresh air with a stroll through Downtown Denver’s Civic Center Park on 14th Avenue. The broad pathways running through the lawned areas are lined with over twenty-five thousand square feet of flower gardens, fountains, and statues.
The park is a popular place for events and festivals as well as political demonstration. There’s a Greek amphitheater which hosts various live performance, and it’s a great place to sit on the grass and have a picnic too.
Don’t miss the twelve bronze animal heads, mounted on poles, representing the signs of the Chinese zodiac – they’re unusual.
13. Molly Brown House Museum
Few people survived the sinking of the Titanic, but Molly Brown did. Molly Brown was already a prominent figure of her era before she took the fateful journey on the doomed cruise liner. An activist and philanthropist, she was way ahead of her Victorian times.
The museum, which is known as the House of Lions because of the lion statues which decorate it, was built in the late nineteenth century and is a historic building in its own right.
Inside there are approximately ten thousand exhibits, artifacts, and memorabilia relating to her life and the life of the middle-class society in Victorian Colorado. From personal jewelry to clothes to furniture, the museum is a fascinating and educational insight into bygone days.
14. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox
For atmosphere and eccentricity, head to Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox for a night out. This buzzing venue on 20th Street in DT Denver is a bar and restaurant housed in what was once a brothel.
Recently renovated, the old building has been given a new lease of life and has the latest sound and lighting systems, a stage for live bands and a first class food menu.
Peruse erotic art while munching a burger and listening to a great band in what is probably the world’s only Gastrobrothel – it could only happen in Downtown Denver.
15. Denver Firefighters Museum
In the Denver Firefighters Museum in Tremont Place in Downtown Denver, you’ll find some exciting exhibits which will really ring your bell.
The long history of the DFD or Denver Firefighting Department started way back in the 1880’s, and the museum houses exhibits from when the firefighters went out to battle blazes in horse-drawn carriages.
Jump on a wagon, don a helmet and find out more about the brave guys who have been extinguishing city fires for almost one hundred and fifty years. Downtown Denver loves them and so will you.