20 Must-Visit Attractions in Denver

Denver Cityscape | © Max and Dee Bernt/Flickr
Denver Cityscape | © Max and Dee Bernt/Flickr | FLickr
Photo of Stephanie Harper
5 September 2017

Denver is a city with so much more to offer than just 300 days of sunshine. From its vibrant arts and cultural opportunities, to architectural and historic landmarks, to beautiful parks and mountain escapes just outside the city, Denver has something to offer every visitor. Don’t miss any of these must-see attractions in the Mile High City.

Colorado State Capitol

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The Colorado State Capitol building was designed and constructed in the 1890s to mirror the look of the United States Capitol. It is made of Colorado white granite and has a real gold leaf dome, first added in 1908 to commemorate the Colorado Gold rush. The 15th step outside of the west entrance measures Denver’s official elevation of 5,280 feet, or one mile above sea level! Visitors can take a tour inside the building Mondays through Fridays.

Union Station and Lower Downtown

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The recently renovated Union Station is one of Denver’s most significant architectural landmarks—and rightfully so. Still a transportation hub, this Beaux-Arts beauty still has much of its original 1914 charm from the outside. Inside, however, has seen a complete overhaul, with trendy restaurants and bars, high-end boutiques, and even a luxury hotel. It’s the perfect blend of old and new.Union Station is also nestled in the lower downtown or LoDo area of Denver, a 25-square block neighborhood with over 100 restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, as well as several art galleries and businesses.

16th Street Mall

The 16th Street Mall is a mile-long pedestrian mall offering visitors plenty of places to shop and eat along the way. The mall also offers a free shuttle service called the MallRide, which travels up and down the mall and stops at every corner.

Denver Art Museum

Building, Museum
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© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
The Denver Art Museum houses several permanent collections with art from around the world, including a world-class American Indian art collection. The DAM is also well-known for its traveling special exhibits, family programming, and special events. The museum’s Hamilton Building, designed by Daniel Libeskind, is an architectural marvel that shouldn’t be missed.

Brown Palace Hotel and Spa

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The Brown Palace Hotel
Courtesy of The Brown Palace Hotel, Autograph Collection / Expedia
The Brown Palace is a treasured slice of Denver history. One of several historic hotels in Denver, it was built in 1892 and has housed almost every single President since then, as well as many dignitaries and famous elite. It is known for its world-class spa, as well as its famous afternoon tea. The hotel also features a stunning atrium, six restaurants, and houses rooftop beehives.
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Larimer Square

Larimer Square is known as the first commercial district in the city, making it the oldest and most historic block in Denver. Due to urban renewal efforts, Larimer Square is now a vibrant shopping and dining mecca, with many of the top-rated restaurants in the city. It’s also home to several high-end boutiques and nightclubs.

Larimer Square | © quinntheislander/PixaBay

History Colorado Center

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History Colorado Center | © Jeffrey Beall / Flickr
The History Colorado Center is a high-tech museum that provides visitors with an immersive, hands-on experience engaging in the rich history of Colorado and the West. The museum features a combination of technology and media driven exhibits, as well as artifacts and environments.

Downtown Aquarium

Aquarium, Theater
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The Downtown Aquarium features over one million gallons of exhibits. The aquarium also offers a Mystic Mermaids live show and a 4D theater experience. Guests in the Aquarium Restaurant are seated around a 50,000 gallon floor-to-ceiling aquarium to dine with the fishes while they enjoy lunch or dinner.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Museum, Park, Theater
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© Mira / Alamy Stock Photo
Visitors to City Park will find the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver’s learning center for over 100 years. Guests to the museum will find permanent exhibits where they can explore the outer reaches of space, feast their eyes on beautiful gems and minerals, discover the inner workings of the human body, and visit the dinosaurs. The museum also has an IMAX, planetarium, and several visiting exhibits each year.

Denver Zoo

Park, Zoo
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Also in City Park is the Denver Zoo, which houses more than 4,000 animals of 650 different species. Visitors will enjoy Bear Mountain, the Giraffe Encounter, Predator Ridge, Primate Panorama, Toyota Elephant Pagoda, and many more incredible exhibits, as well as live feedings and up-close animal encounters. The zoo also offers special events and programming throughout the year.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Botanical Garden
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The Denver Botanic Gardens is open year round, offering visitors and locals a sanctuary of plants and flowers. Beyond that, the Botanic Gardens hold events such as concerts and art installations, learning opportunities, and conservation efforts. They also have a children’s garden. No wonder they are ranked one of the top five botanic gardens in the country.

Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

Amusement Park, Park
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For thrill-seekers, Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park is the ultimate package, the only downtown theme park in the country. The amusement park boasts 53 rides and attractions, including a kiddie park for the little ones, as well as a water park with slides and a wave pool. The park also does Dive-In Movies, free concerts, fireworks, and a month-long Fright Fest in October.

Washington Park

Washington Park, or “Wash Park” as the locals call it, is a lush getaway near downtown. The dog-friendly park features two lakes and an expanse of tree-lined paths to wander, as well as plenty of patches of grass. There are also two lovely flower gardens and is a popular place for people to exercise.

Cherry Creek Shopping District

Just a few minutes from downtown, Cherry Creek Shopping District is a shopping hub for high-end brands and exclusive boutiques. The district has over 160 shops, 40 of which are exclusive to the area. Brands include Louis Vuitton, Tory Burch, Kate Spade New York, Tiffany & Co, Free People, and Coach. There are also over 15 dining hot-spots, from full-service eateries to upscale coffee shops and bars.

Cherry Creek State Park

Cherry Creek State Park is a full outdoor recreation wonderland just a few minutes from downtown Denver. At the center of the park is a large reservoir and marina where visitors can engage in all manner of boating and fishing activities. There’s also some 35 miles of trails for biking and hiking. The campground offers 125 sites for overnight stays.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Concert Hall, Music Venue, Park, Theater
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Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Amphitheatre | © daveynin/Flickr
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is frequently ranked one of the best concert venues in the country. For those visitors not lucky enough to see a show in the amphitheatre nestled between two giant boulders, there are other opportunities to experience the park. Check out the Red Rocks Visitor Center and eat at Ship Rock Grille. There are also plenty of places to drive around the park, as well as hike and picnic.

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Just 60 miles west of Denver, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway sits as the highest paved road in North America. The day trip involves a winding drive to the 14,264-foot summit of Mount Evans, one of the 54 “fourteeners” in the state of Colorado. Visitors will also get to see stunning Echo Lake and Summit Lake. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience.

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