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Denver's Top Must-See Attractions: See It, Do It, Love It



Denver is not short on ways to entertain, indulge and intrigue you, from cultural treasures at the stellar Denver Art Museum to a wealth of opportunities under the almost-always sunny or star-filled Colorado skies, including Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, and Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, which is arguably one of the most acoustically perfect natural amphitheaters on the planet. There's also Union Station, where architecture, easy transportation, art, food, lodging, shopping and camaraderie combine to pique all the senses, and visitors can learn something about Denver history, too. For those visiting with kids, Elitch Gardens is a city-center combo theme park and water park that has been thrilling Colorado families for generations, while the U.S. Mint tour and visits to the exceptional History Colorado Center provide engaging learning opportunities for all ages. If the term "learning opportunities" sounds dull and pedantic, you're not hearing us: Everything on this list–and we mean everything–is cool, fun and interest-piquing. Visitors and locals alike will find the same double-hitter of fun and immersive engagement on a brewery tour in Denver's RiNo district with Aspire Tours, along with a taste of some of the best craft brews in the nation. We've culled our 10 Best list from the best of the best, so go out and discover what makes Denver so hot... and so cool.  


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Denver has seven professional sports teams: basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, rugby and, of course, Major League Baseball. If you've got baseball in your blood, you have to make a pilgrimage to Coors Field. Not only is it a great stadium, it's one more place to find local craft brews and food and a fine way to enjoy Denver's warm days and cool evenings. By the way, if you're in row 20 of the upper deck, you'll find yourself in a purple seat, indicating that you're exactly a mile above sea level. Modestly priced tours are offered year-round, but times may vary so call ahead to confirm.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: It's fun to see how far the ball flies at a mile high, plus Coors Field is walkable from many downtown hotels.

Christine's expert tip: Check out a summer evening's game from the right field bleachers and watch the sun set in the west over 14,265 ft. Mount Evans. Before or after the game, take in the lively LoDo neighborhood with its restaurants, galleries and breweries.

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Colorado Shakespeare Festival
Photo courtesy of Zachary Andrews/Colorado Shakespeare Festival


With a season that lasts just two months during which only a handful of plays are staged, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival is the second oldest Shakespeare festival in the country and has been recognized as one of the top three in the United States. Part of its indisputable charm is its popular setting in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre, tucked into a serene grove on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder. There is an indoor theater as well, where typically half of the productions are staged. Shows go on even during summer rain showers and are rarely cancelled, so bring a rain jacket just in case.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Since 1958 the festival has celebrated and interpreted the Bard with thought-provoking productions in an intimate and engaging setting.

Christine's expert tip: Go early and picnic on the Green while Shakespeare-themed entertainers, think minstrels and jesters, amuse you. For the more cerebral, the artistic director of the show usually offers a free and information-filled prologue in the theater about 45 minutes before the curtain rises.

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Aspire Tours, founded by two entrepreneurial, well-traveled women, offers guests an authentic, memorable local experience with tours that cover Denver's craft brew scene, neighborhoods, history, architecture and more. Aspire also takes groups outside Denver to the Rocky Mountains and beyond (even Cuba). Stops on Denver's first walking tour of the RiNo area's boutique craft breweries may include Epic, Black Shirt, Beryl and Our Mutual Friends breweries, among others, where participants experience the unique vibe and back story of each, not just a discourse on the brewing process. Denver's only Urban Adventure Tour is a driving tour covering the city's wild-west history, public art, shops and eclectic neighborhoods, with ample time to walk for a true sense of place. Denver has solid public transportation as well as Uber and Lyft, so no need for a car to get to the meeting points.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Owners Kimberly Smith and Kathrin Troxler are dedicated to providing a fun, memorable, immersive experience that connects guests to the local people and community.

Christine's expert tip: Ask the folks at Aspire if a local brewery is about to release a new beer. They're in the know and can let you know if you'll be among the first to try Denver's latest craft brew.

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United States Mint


If you've never visited a U.S. Mint, take a tour at the facility in Denver where coins are produced and gold and silver bullion stored. The tours are geared for ages seven and older and provide fascinating insight and fun facts about the history of coin production and the process of making the money we use every day. Tours are offered Monday through Thursday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. They're best when production is in process but there is no guarantee that production will be up and running during every tour. Be advised that tour guests must arrive 30 minutes prior to the tour or they will not be admitted. Don't skip the Mint's gift shop with its fun, educational items, including books and money-themed gifts.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: It's one of only two mints in the country that you can tour.

Christine's expert tip: Reservations are required for 45-minute tours, which can be booked online or by phone up to 90 days in advance--and they do fill. Check your change for the small "D" indicating the coins were minted in Denver.

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Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park


With rides named Mind Eraser and Brain Drain, it's clear that Elitch Gardens is a thrill-seeker's paradise and, not surprising, a perennial teen favorite. But there's a little something for everyone at this park that first opened in 1890. Twister II, the popular 10-story wooden coaster, perfectly evokes the park's old-school/new-thrill vibe. A portion of the grounds are also devoted to a summer water park, which features about a dozen attractions including high-speed slides and drops, lagoons and wave pools. Parking on the grounds is pricey; consider visiting via the RTD bus or Light Rail, which stop just outside the park. Do note that height requirements are enforced on rides, so check the park's website before going.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Multiple generations of Denver families have grown up going to Elitch Gardens; while it's historic, it's also well up to today's adrenaline-rush standards.

Christine's expert tip: Afternoon thunderstorms are common. The park will shut down if there's a chance of lightning,so check the weather or go mornings or evenings when storms are less likely. Height requirements are enforced on rides so check the park's website before going.

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Denver Art Museum
Photo courtesy of http://www.denverartmuseum.org/utility/press/images


Denver Art Museum is highly regarded for its collection of Native American art, which includes over 16,000 pieces from more than 100 tribes across the country. The seven-story contemporary building also houses impressive displays of Pre-Columbian and Central American art and textiles, a fascinating Asian collection, and a fine assortment of modern American and European paintings. The Architecture, Design and Graphics galleries are notable as well, as is the Western Art collection. In 2006, the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, a wondrous structure of steel and glass designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, opened its doors across 13th Street from the original building. Libeskind's deeply angled ediface dramatically increases the museum's gallery and education space while redefining the Denver skyline and the way in which art can be exhibited.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: DAM holds its own against any museum in the country, and is an architectural marvel.

Christine's expert tip: As you meander through the Frederic C. Hamilton Building, consider how the angled walls force curators to get creative when hanging and displaying artwork. If you visit with children on a weekend, ask for a family backpack; they're filled with interactive games and guides that ramp up the fun factor as you explore.

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To start, Denver Zoo's conservation efforts, some 600 projects here and in the wild, are impressive. "We value all animals, big and small, from all over the world. We envision a world where all people appreciate, respect and conserve animals and their habitats globally." Supporting the zoo helps fund that vision and mission--and you can do it while enjoying a day with friends, family and an assortment of cool creatures. In addition to strolling past bears, birds, big cats, hyenas, monkeys and more, you can get up close with zoo residents via behind-the-scenes tours and experiences. Depending on the season, there are meet-and-greets with rhinos, hippos and Komodo dragons; encounters with penguins, elephants and great apes; and a backstage experience offering access to zookeepers and animals. Any given year, new residents are born at the zoo, always an event to celebrate.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: It's been part of Denver since 1896, when a black bear was donated to the city. Today, its conservation efforts protect creatures great and small.

Christine's expert tip: During the holidays, the zoo's Zoo Lights extravaganza is one of Denver's most beloved traditions of the season--and a don't miss experience for all ages.

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History Colorado Center
Photo courtesy of History Colorado Center


Replacing the Colorado History Museum, Denver welcomed the new History Colorado Center in 2012 into a LEED-certified building in the Golden Triangle Museum District. The new space gave the state's historical society the opportunity to start from scratch, creating new ways to interpret Colorado history. The exhibits highlight the courage, persistence, triumphs, tragedies and character of those who first called Colorado home, including Native Americans, white and African American settlers, men, women, children, the famous and the infamous. Exhibits offer interactive and digital experiences, including a virtual look at sailing off Steamboat's 1915 ski jump, life in a Japanese relocation center during World War II and explorations of life for Colorado's early residents, including pioneers and miners. For those mesmerized by the Denver 1860 Diorama exhibited in the old Colorado History Museum for nearly 75 years, good news: it's in the new center, too.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: History Colorado Center is a Smithsonian Affiliate, described by Smithsonian Affiliations Director Harold Closter as "the first great history museum of the 21st Century."

Christine's expert tip: Best time to visit the new History Colorado Center is Monday through Thursday by 10:00 a.m. when the doors open, before the crowds appear.

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Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Photo courtesy of 5/09 from the website: http://www.redrocksonline.com/pages/media/media_pics.html


It's called the most acoustically perfect natural amphitheater on the planet. But it's not just the exceptional acoustics and music played here that make Red Rocks so special. Dinosaurs once roamed this geologically compelling landscape; did they hear one another's soft grunts from far, far below? We'll never know. But we do know that to sit among the towering sandstone formations as the sky deepens to inky purple, to watch the sun dip below the horizon as stars crowd the sky above, the bright lights of Denver twinkle on below and the band plays on is an experience found nowhere else on earth. If you haven't experienced Red Rocks, you haven't experienced the best of Denver. BTW: It's not just music. Red Rocks offers a film series, yoga series, hiking trails and more.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: It is Denver's one-of-a-kind star attraction and one of the most memorable days or evenings you'll ever spend.

Christine's expert tip: Arrive early; there's one road in and it gets crowded. Expect to walk a ways to your seats. Comfortable shoes are a must, as are water (the park sits 6,400 feet above sea level) and layers of clothes for changing weather. You can bring in food but read the park's list of permitted and prohibited items first.

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Why should a train station be on Denver's top attractions list? Simply put, it's more than a station. Yes, Amtrak trains come and go and Union Station serves as a major hub for local buses and light rail. But it's also Denver history remade, a gorgeous Beaux Art building meticulously renovated and reopened with shops, restaurants from top local chefs, two bars and a fabulous boutique hotel. It also showcases Colorado artists. It's a place to gather before or after a baseball game--perhaps at Terminal Bar, set where passengers once bought train tickets and now serving more than 30 Colorado craft beers. The Crawford Hotel offers tours of Union Station on Fridays (advance reservations required), and throughout the year the station is a setting for holiday and seasonal events, including author readings at the station's outpost of Denver's beloved Tattered Cover bookstore. Souvenir? Check out the station's retail shops.

Recommended for Best Attractions & Activities because: Union Station is the centerpiece of Denver's LoDo neighborhood, and not just a transportation center but a gathering place for food, drink and camaraderie.

Christine's expert tip: Check out the huge chandeliers and wall sconces. Which ones are original to the building? The wall sconces, but the new chandeliers were made to fit in seamlessly, reflecting the historic detailing of the sconces.

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Meet Christine Loomis

Christine has written about every aspect of travel, from romance and adventure to family and wellness. She is also lucky to have had three major home states through the years: New York,...  More About Christine

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