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20 Top Things to Do in Denver

Denver -- the Mile High City, the Gateway to the Rockies. This bustling metropolis is full of residents and vacationers from all over the world. Plenty of sunshine, diverse neighborhoods, and a thriving cultural scene make Denver a popular destination. Whether you're the outdoorsy sort, looking for city life before venturing into the Rockies, or you're the ultimate cosmopolitan, there's something for everyone to enjoy in Denver. Shop, eat, or take in a concert or a game from top-tier professional sports teams in this engaging city.

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01 Rocky Mountain National Park

Healthy and energetic woman leaping into the air epicurean / Getty Images

Encompassing 415 square miles of spectacular wilderness, Rocky Mountain National Park is a haven for those who want to experience Denver's natural beauty. You won't find a better spot for hiking — the park features 355 miles of hiking trails, ranging from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain climbs. Visitors can also go fishing or horseback riding, take a scenic drive, view over 300 species of wildlife, or even stay overnight in one of the park's wilderness campsites.

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02 Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey Tour

Distilled using water from the Rocky Mountains, Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey is a Denver institution. Learn about Stranahan's whiskey, ingredients, process, and equipment with a public guided tour of the distillery, or indulge in a two-hour VIP tour allowing insight into the more technical aspects of the distilling process. Whiskey tasting sessions are also available to complement your visit, including Stranahan's original guided whiskey tasting with local food pairings, Mountain Angel's 10-year-old guided tasting, and whiskey cocktail class.

03 Visit the U.S. Mint

United States Mint

Marvel at the production of billions of coins for American spenders at the Denver Mint. Tour the facility -- tickets are free -- and watch the precious raw metals be pressed, die-cut, and stamped. This particular mint manufactures coin dies, stores silver bullion, and mints coins both commemorative and for general circulation.

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04 Attend a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Denver

Red Rocks is a geographically formed, outdoor, open-air amphitheater -- the only one of its kind in the world. This stunning site is a favorite venue of many musicians of all genres, but it's not just a thrilling place for a show. The park itself encompasses over 700 acres, with native deer, dinosaur fossils, scraggly pine trees, and breathtaking rock vistas. There are a variety of recreation options besides concerts, including guided tours of the park, independent hiking and biking along mountain trails, shopping, and delicious dining locales.

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05 Check out the Denver Art Museum

Exterior of the Denver Art Museum in Denver, Colorado

The Denver Art Museum is a must-visit for those looking to add some culture to their trip. One of the biggest art museums in the western United States, the Denver Art Museum is known for its 70,000-strong collection of works from all around the world and its extensive collection of American Indian art. Even the buildings are stunning; in particular, the Frederic C. Hamilton building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, is itself a work of art.

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06 People watch on the 16th Street Mall

Street sign for 16th Street Mall in Denver, USA

The famous architect I.M. Pei designed this sprawling outdoor promenade. Shuttles, dubbed "mall rides," are available to take you from place to place, or you can stroll along, grabbing a bite in one of the 42 cafes or taking in a movie in one of 12 theaters. Pedicabs transport you after dark, and with dozens of unique shops and restaurants, there's enough local flavor to really give you a sense of the Denver vibe.

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07 Dine and shop in Union Station

Union Station Building, Denver

Union Station does double duty as a busy transit center for Denver's public transportation department and a hopping nightlife, shopping, and dining destination. The Amtrak station and bus depot are located in Lower Downtown (LoDo) Denver. Tours, sponsored by the Carlisle Hotel, culminate in a visit to the Track Bar for a complimentary cocktail. Comfortable couches and chairs scattered throughout have given Union Station the nickname "Denver's Living Room."

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08 Drive the Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Mount Evans Road in Denver

Travel over 9000 feet up along the highest paved road in North America: the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. As you wind along the twists and turns of this mountainous road, you'll see breathtaking views, native wildlife, and even snowcaps. Follow the "road into the sky," taking time to admire the Rockies. The trip culminates around Echo Lake State Park, which is worth the trip in itself.

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09 Tour the Coors Brewery

Bucket of hops from the Coors Brewery in Denver

Established in 1873, Coors Brewery has long been crafting beer that is as "Cold as the Rockies" in the small Denver suburb of Golden. Tours are surprisingly kid-friendly, with complimentary soft drinks, while grown-ups can sample some of the delicious Coors brews. The crisp mountain waters of the Rockies create the beers, giving Coors its unique taste. The 30-minute tour is free and includes plenty of interesting facts about Coors' ingredients, brewing, and hops selection.

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10 Learn About History in the Molly Brown House

'Women of Colorado, you have the vote' Anti-Wilson billboard in Denver

Those familiar with the Titanic story know about "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" -- the larger-than-life heroine of the sinking ship. Her eccentric Victorian home offers a captivating and intriguing insight not only into turn-of-the-century society but also into the woman herself. Knowledgeable tour guides recount Molly's Titanic voyage, of course. But they also tell about her groundbreaking work to improve standards in Colorado's mining industry and her involvement in the women's suffrage movement.

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11 Stroll through Washington Park

Trees by the lake in Washington Park, Denver

Native Denverites consider Washington Park on par with Central Park in New York, and they aren't far off. Washington Park is located south of central Denver, outside the bustling downtown area. Residents and visitors enjoy the numerous facilities and the peaceful atmosphere. The park covers 165 acres and boasts jogging paths, planted gardens, and two massive lakes. Relax on the grass, play a game of tennis on one of eight courts, or take a dip in the Recreation Center's pool.

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12 Enjoy a downtown Denver food tour

Restaurants in downtown Denver

Travel off the beaten path with one of Denver's food tours. These private events are perfect for a small group and help visitors discover the hidden culinary gems for which Denver is famous. Guides take you and your new friends around to various eateries and bars to sample a tasting selection at each or enjoy a "progressive dinner," during which you eat a course and have a complementing beverage at each locale.

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13 Brunch at Tamayo

Four friends toasting with their drinks at a restaurant

Tamayo is situated in quaint Larimer Square. Award-winning chef Jordan Chavez has created a mouth-watering menu of south-of-the-border specialties. This long-standing Mexican restaurant offers a truly unique dining experience and a popular rooftop patio. Try the Bottomless Margarita Brunch, which features shareable small plates, appetizers, and unlimited drinks for $39 per person.

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14 Check out a light show & meditate

International Church of Cannabis In Denver, Colorado Marc Piscotty / Getty Images

The BEYOND light show and meditation is a one-of-a-kind attraction at Denver's International Church of Cannabis. Painted by Okuda San Miguel, the church is an art landmark in its own right. The BEYOND light show features public access to the audiovisual art installation, guided meditation, and musical laser light experience. This family-friendly experience showcases rotating art installations by world-renowned artists and is the only projection-mapped laser light show in a church in the United States.

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15 Explore the Denver Botanic Gardens

Colorado botanical gardens JUN DONG / Getty Images

Discover an incredible collection of plants from around the world at the Denver Botanic Gardens, a 24-acre masterpiece of nature. Explore 18 gardens that showcase Colorado's top species, from the Dryland Mesa to the Dwarf Conifer Collection. Internationally inspired gardens reveal diverse flora from Japan to the Tropics, so work your way through the Shofu-en Japanese Garden or the Ella Mullen Weckbaugh Tea House for a journey into distant cultures. Ornamental gardens feature a gorgeous display of daylilies and roses in full bloom while a system of pools winds through the peaceful water gardens.

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16 Hike the trails at Red Rocks Park

Road through Red Rocks Park Utah-based Photographer Ryan Houston / Getty Images

Adventure lovers will have their itineraries full at Red Rocks Park, which features 868 acres of geological magic. Situated where the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains intersect, the park offers an impressive display of flora and fauna, including red foxes, rabbits, and prairie dogs. Explore diverse hiking trails for a pristine view of the surrounding landscape, including the pedestrians-only Geologic Overlook Trail and the 1.4-mile Trading Post Trail, which leads you past some of the top rock formations. The Seat of Pluto resembles a mushroom, while Cave of the Seven Ladders features a unique incline that's ideal for photos.

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17 See the animals at Denver Zoo

Stretching Lion David Kish / Getty Images

If you're an animal lover, visiting the Denver Zoo is a no-brainer. Stop by African Penguin Point to watch these friendly fellows diving from rocky cliffs or swimming and sunbathing in the 10,000-gallon pool. At the Down Under Experience, you'll discover diverse species from Australia and New Zealand, including a Wallaby Walkthrough. In the Flamingo Habitat, birds display themselves on nesting islands and wading pools. Within Tropical Discovery, over 1,800 animals and 300+ species await.

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18 Take a trip to the Colorado State Capitol

us capitol and flag in colorado PeterPhoto / Getty Images

Opened in 1894, the Colorado State Capitol offers an immersive journey into the past. Its distinctive gold dome and white granite exterior are striking in and of themselves, but inside, scheduled tours reveal the fascinating stories hidden behind those walls. You'll see the Colorado Supreme Court Chambers, the Governor's Office, the House and Senate Chambers, and the rotunda, where you'll experience an eye-catching view. Its vibrant stained glass walls showcase U.S. presidents' portraits, along with depictions of top people and events in the state's history.

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19 Walk through the RiNo Arts District

An empty red bench on a sidewalk with a graffitied wall as background. An empty red bench in front of a blue graffitied mural on a sidewalk. aire images / Getty Images

This lively neighborhood might be just one mile in radius, but it's always brimming with activity. Accessible via walk, bike, and bus, this easily accessible area is lined with colorful murals from local artists. New ones are being routinely added to the mural map, so you'll find something fresh during every visit. Classes and workshops teach valuable skills in the arts, while galleries, studios, and specialty shops open their doors to creative travelers. Events are scheduled year-round, including the Somebody's Friend Movement and Music Festival, gallery openings, art shows, and monthly installations from up-and-coming artists.

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20 Visit the Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver Art Museum Santi Visalli / Getty Images

Explore the natural world with a visit to this immersive museum, which features dozens of displays to keep you entertained all weekend. It's home to 89 world-famous wildlife dioramas showcasing specimens from around the globe, with each habitat re-created down to the last detail. The Egyptian Mummies exhibit reveals the truth behind life and death in the ancient past, while the Charles C. Gates Planetarium takes you on a journey through space. View a six-foot wall of red rhodochrosite crystals in the Coor Gems and Minerals Hall, or get a glimpse of basketry and beadwork from ancient Native Americans.

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