Top ten things to do in Denver

Eloise Barker

Title photography by Creative Family / Getty Images

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January 2018

Ignore the beautiful mountains for a moment. Down in Denver you can have a blast touring breweries, wow your children in the museums, and get really well fed in the process. The best thing? Unlike many US cities, most of Denver’s sights are within easy biking, and even walking distance.

Rock and roll at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

It’s a one of a kind concert venue – an amphitheatre carved out of the landscape in a city park. Rock out in front of a gorgeous Martian-red backdrop of craggy cliffs. Concerts go on come rain or shine, and there are close to perfect acoustics and views from every seat in the near-10,000 capacity space. If you go for a daytime hike around the popular park you’ll see keen joggers training on the steps.

Top tip: Bring a cushion – and a raincoat, just in case.

Discover Denver

The Golden Triangle really does now contain all of Denver’s greatest art galleries, including the Clyfford Still Museum, the Denver Art Museum and the History Colorado Center

Run late at Denver Union Station

Not in every train station can you find some of a city’s most popular restaurants and bars. The city’s ‘Living Room’, Denver Union Station has more than trains and ticket machines, with an outpost of Denver’s famous Snooze brunch stop and modern cuisine from the dourly-named Stoic and Genuine. There’s an airy cocktail bar on the mezzanine, Cooper’s Lounge.

Top tip: Don’t baulk at the queue for Snooze – there’s free coffee while you wait.

‘Ale aboard’ the Denver Beer Trail

Find out what’s brewing in Denver. There are more craft ales, breweries and ale appreciators here than in any other American city. The oldest, Tivoli Brewing Company, opened in 1859, while Wynkoop Brewing Company is notorious for experimenting with everything from roasted bull testicles to spicy ancho peppers. If you can’t pick just one to visit, take one of the four self-guided Denver Beer Trails. Just try to walk in a straight line.

Top tip: Leave Wynkoop ‘til last and stay on for the pool tables and upstairs comedy club.

Best restaurants in Denver

  • Red Rocks Amphitheatre. ©Adam Springer.

    Rock out

    The Beatles performed here in 1964, Daft Punk in 2007. Who’ll be at Red Rocks amphitheatre when you arrive in Denver?£478 return

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Go up to RiNo

RiNo, the former manufacturing district, is a great place to visit – if you know where to go. It’s now a trendy neighbourhood full of art studios, cafes and the coffee-scented whiff of gentrification. Visit on First Fridays, when the galleries are open late, beer is flowing, and you might walk away with the start of your first art collection.

Top tip: Visit The Source, an artisan food market held inside a former foundry with plenty of hipster-friendly bars inside.

Seek inspiration in Denver Art Museum

This very good museum has a bit of everything, art-history wise, and you can get the insider info by taking a free 45-minute tour. Look out for the modern American art, and old colonial and pre-Columbian treasures. There’s a lot of gold, a smattering of Georgia O’Keeffes, and Picasso. It’s all housed in a directional new home, designed by the world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind.

Top tip: Look out for controversial sculpture, The Shootout by Red Grooms on the rooftop.

  • Big Sweep sculpture by Claes Oldenburg, Denver Art Museum. ©robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Fresh sights

    The modern art at Denver Art Museum should sweep away the cobwebs on a morning visit.

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  • Sampling the beer at one of Denver’s breweries. ©Anthony Tumminello / EyeEm.

    Drink up

    There’s plenty more where that came from. Denver has hundreds of breweries. Drink up before you drink in the sights.£617 pp

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  • "Monet Pool Fiori", Monet Pool, Dale Chihuly Exhibition (blown glass), Denver Botanic Gardens. ©Blaine Harrington III / Alamy Stock Photo.

    Outdoor Denver

    Denver natives are naturally outdoorsy types. Join them in discovering the beauty of Colorado, from its gardens to its snowy peaks.

    Denver car hire

Art therapy in Denver’s Golden Triangle

With the relocation of Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Arts, the Golden Triangle really does now contain all of Denver’s greatest art galleries, including the Denver Art Museum, the History Colorado Center and the gorgeous one man show at the Clyfford Still Museum. The Kirkland Museum has a whole lot of love for its subject: Colorado’s Vance Kirkland and his beautiful, visionary abstract art.

Top tip: There’s probably no better known piece of art in Denver than the one that greets you at the airport: a controversial sculpture of a blue mustang with glowing red eyes. The locals call it ‘Blucifer’.

Sunbathe in the botanical gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens is a triad of sites and it’s ranked the 5th best of its kind in the US. Head to York Street for the biggest of the three. It has a Japanese garden, experimental roof gardens and drylands, and makes a brilliant backdrop for a leisurely afternoon. If it’s cold, pop in to the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory and trick yourself into the tropics. When it’s really cold, in December, the team deck the whole park in fairy lights and make it magical for the holidays.

Top tip: The volunteers at the Mordecai Children’s Garden will let your little ones catch bugs and play in the mud. Dress your darlings accordingly.

All the sights in City Park

Not only is there free live jazz in summer (take a picnic blanket – and picnic, obviously) but City Park is the home of Denver Museum of Nature & Science, a top-rated attraction in a city full of great museums. As well as its permanent exhibits, the museum also has a revolving door of special exhibitions, all supremely interesting whether they inform on unicorns (very important) or gemstones.

Top tip: Check out the dinosaur skeletons at the museum, children will love them.

Shopping at Cherry Creek

There are two kinds of retail therapy to be had in Cherry Creek. First, the shopping centre, an indoor mall with 160 stores where you can stock up your favourite US brands. Check out Nodstrom, Tory Burch or fun accessories from Kate Spade. Beyond the mall, Cherry Creek North alternates between cafes, galleries and independent boutiques. The Hermitage Bookshop, established in 1973, is great for treasure hunting.

Top tip: For plaids, chambrays, cowboy hats and the original snap-button Western shirt, head to Rockmount Ranch Wear. Even if you’re not buying, come to see where Hollywood wardrobe kits out its stars for any role that requires a bit of line dancing. It’s ten minutes from Cherry Creek.

Flights to Denver

Where to stay

Grand Hyatt Denver

This four star hotel has an indoor pool, but its crowning glory is a brilliant rooftop tennis court.

Book a stay at Grand Hyatt Denver

Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel

A big business hotel with all mod-cons and an outdoor pool.

Book a stay at Sheraton Downtown Denver Hotel

Aloft Denver Downtown

A trendy, modern three-star hotel with a pool, snack bar, and a useful location for the 16th Street mall.

Book a stay at Aloft Denver Downtown