The big blue bear has become an iconic symbol of Denver, a 40-foot, three-story bright blue bear standing outside the Colorado Convention Center staring in through the soaring front windows. The work, by artist Lawrence Argent, is actually titled "I See What You Mean," but everyone simply calls it the big blue bear. The sculpture is meant to be a playful reflection of curiosity as well as a connection between the residents of Denver and the visiting attendees and exhibitors who travel to trade shows, conferences and conventions inside the center. Argent says he first got the idea when he saw a photo of a local bear that had wandered into the city and was caught looking in a window. Check out Denver's favorite bear on 14th Street between California and Stout, just a short walk from the Tourist Information Center.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: The blue bear is a quirky, fitting symbol for Denver, a connection between visitors and residents, between the city and the natural environment around it.
Christine's expert tip: Take photos from outside and inside the convention center to discover which view you like best.
We know, it's not really a square. It's the block on Larimer Street between 14th and 15th. Nevertheless, Larimer Square is the city's No. 1 historic district and was integral to the earliest residents of Denver, many of whom were on the rough-and-tumble side. Today, a more genteel clientele strolls along this historic block to visit the eclectic retail shops, many of them independently owned, and a lineup of excellent restaurants, cocktail lounges and hot spots for nightlife. A great time to visit is during a festival or event that gives visitors insights into the city's talents and spirit. Larimer is hopping during Restaurant Week in February. Le Jardin Secret, a French-inspired farmer's market, runs summer Saturdays; the Peachy Sidewalk Sale is in late July; there are spring and fall fashion shows and the Chalk Art Festival takes place in May.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Larimer Square celebrated its 55th anniversary in 2020. It's a place where Denver's history, commitment to architectural preservation and contemporary food scene intersect.
Christine's expert tip: Larimer Square is especially compelling at night, when the hanging lights above it are lit, giving the street a festive air.
The Denver Microbrew Tour is a two-hour guided walking tour through downtown Denver, historic LoDo (lower downtown) and the ballpark area. During the the 1.5-mile stroll, guests learn about the history of beer, how it's made, types of beer and how they differ. You'll taste 10 beers in four stops and learn a bit about the area's scandalous history along the way. The 2.5-hour RiNo Beer & Graffiti Tour is a one-mile walk through Denver's historic Five Points neighborhood, part of which is known as the River North (RiNo) Arts District. Stops include three breweries and a cider and a chance to taste 10 brews/ciders along the way. This area is ground zero for Denver's vibrant street-art scene so beer-loving participants also get insight into the eclectic art styles visible on walls and buildings throughout the neighborhood as well as recommendations for local businesses worth visiting.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Denver is one of the hottest craft-brew cities in the nation and this is one way to gain insight into why.
Christine's expert tip: Tours are Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. Reservations are a must and you can reserve your spot online.
Denver has embraced its vibrant street art scene in recent years, even commissioning street artists to paint on city walls and buildings. While you can find examples of this urban art form in many parts of the city, RiNo (River North Arts District) within the historic Five Points neighborhood, is at the art-centric heart of it. The Denver Graffiti Mural Tour is a two-hour meander through this neighborhood where street art has exploded in recent years. You can explore much of the art on your own, but the beauty and power of taking the Denver Graffiti Tour is how much you'll learn about the artists, history, backstory of some of the works and artists and the different styles of street art. You'll leave the tour with a new appreciation for these talented creators who make Denver more colorful and visually interesting. Tours are weekends only.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Denver Graffiti Tour is a visual feast and learning opportunity, a way to explore and understand Denver through the lens of its prolific street art.
Christine's expert tip: Extend your exploration of the city after your 1.5 to 2-hour walk. RiNo and LoDO have restaurants, breweries, shops and coffee spots galore.
More than 70 establishments populate this very walkable area just south of downtown Denver. While First Friday Art Walk is a huge draw for visitors and locals, the district's galleries, restaurants and retail shops are open all week. The greatest concentration of shops, galleries and restaurants is in an eight-block area between 4th and 12th along Santa Fe Drive. In addition to shopping, various classes are offered, space is available for private parties and events and there are two theaters and a museum, too. All of the galleries and shops in the Art District are independently owned and roughly 90 percent of the artwork and merchandise is made in Colorado. My advice is to join First Friday Artwork and get an excellent overview of what's in the district. Then return (again and again) any day of the week to find the special piece of art that belongs in your home.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Exploring Denver through the lens of its art scene is an excellent way to understand the depth and complexity of Denver's vibrancy and evolution.
Christine's expert tip: Join First Friday Art Walk to get insight into an authentic city neighborhood that houses not just galleries but also popular shops, restaurants and more.
Having long attracted talented chefs from near and far, Denver is now a foodie destination where ethnic cuisine and innovative menus abound. While the best food in Denver is by no means restricted to downtown, that's a good place to start. Delicious Denver Food Tours give participants a chance to savor tasty bites at local eateries while learning about Denver's history, chefs and ever-evolving food scene. "What was once known as a meat-and-potatoes town has fully exploded as a unique and interesting culinary scene with new restaurants opening up every week," says owner Jessica Baumgart. "Our food tour is a great way to learn the history of Denver, see local sites downtown and taste interesting dishes that represent our current food scene." Guides tell the story behind each tour location and guests leave with tons of restaurant recommendations to check out later, making it the tour that keeps on giving.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Delicious Denver Food Tours give participants insights into the city's food scene but also its history and contemporary evolution.
Christine's expert tip: In addition to the Downtown Food Tour, there's also a Cocktails & Tastes Tour, RiNo Food & Beer Tour (in Five Points/RiNo Arts District), Denver Wine Walk, private tours and more.
History geek and born storyteller Chris Albrecht looked for a tour in Golden, 15 miles west of Denver, that would reveal the secrets of the city's rich past. There wasn't one, so he did what any determined entrepreneurial spirit would. He researched local legends and history and started his own tour company. Engaging, funny and extremely knowledgeable, he created cool tours that put Golden's prominence in Colorado history into sharp focus. Golden is a perfect daytrip for Denver visitors, and Golden History Tours' walking tours, pub crawls and ghost tours offer an insider's well-researched view of this town that once served as territorial capital. Participants get a gold bandana as a free gift, a nod to the city's importance to Colorado's gold-mining history. After the tour, visit Golden's brew pubs, distilleries, the Triceratops Trail and Golden History Museum & Park, or book a room and experience Albrecht's engaging Ghost Tour.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Golden History Tours bring to life the wild, occasionally ribald and murderous, past of Golden, Territorial Capital of Colorado before Denver.
Christine's expert tip: Add a hike on North Table Mountain to your Golden agenda. North Table Mountain Park has more than 15 miles of trails, spectacular views and, in spring and early summer, an abundance of Instagrammable wildflowers.
City Park spreads across 3,144 acres and is home to two of Denver's top attractions, Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature & Science, making it a two-for one sightseeing stop. It's a destination for urban sightseeing on its own merits, whether you want to visit the zoo or museum or simply pedal or walk around and mingle with locals. You can also indulge in one of City Park's other activities, such as kayaking or being captain of a paddle boat on Ferril Lake, available March-October, weather permitting. City Park also has playgrounds, tennis courts, horseshoes and historical monuments and statues to check out. While the Denver Museum of Nature & Science is most notable for stellar exhibits and family programs, it also has a fantastic deck where sightseers can get an Instagram-worthy photo of the Denver skyline rising over the grass and trees.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: City Park is a place to cycle, sightsee, relax and play, and it's home to two of the city's top attractions.
Christine's expert tip: Pack a picnic and enjoy the park's picnic areas, or get your daily steps in while taking in local sights.
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. Simply put, it's an attraction like no other. 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 sun dips below the horizon and stars crowd the sky above while 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. No time for a concert? Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre offers a film series, yoga or workouts among the rocks, a range of hiking trails, a trading post, the Colorado Music Hall of Fame and much more.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Although located outside of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is a Denver city park.
Christine's expert tip: While attending a music performance shows off one element of Red Rocks, this is also a great place to explore during the day and when nothing is happening except stunning natural scenery.
There are many reasons to make historic Union Station the start of your sightseeing tour or your hub from which to explore downtown and beyond. Start with a fun, art-centric scavenger hunt through the terminal. Search for original blueprints of the Great Hall on a stairwell. Find a stack of old suitcases high above the Great Hall. Check out a cool train mural–"and have breakfast at the same time. Find cowboys in a stairwell (head south) and a painting featuring historic local characters (go north). Discover the design elements that recall an old-fashioned train depot and look for Colorado's state flower in white. After, take a break for ice cream or coffee, find a souvenir or experience one of the station's restaurants. Then hop on a bus or walk a couple of blocks to the Light Rail tracks to get to additional areas of the city.
Recommended for Sightseeing because: Union Station is a must-see attraction in its own right, a transportation hub from which to explore the city and a base for exploring downtown.
Christine's expert tip: Some downtown tours meet near Union Station, or explore on your own as the station is walking distance from top restaurants, Coors Field, Ball Arena, Larimer Square and other Denver sites.