The best things to do in Denver

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by Hertz - 26 April 2019

Denver is a truly fantastic place to discover. With the Rocky Mountains on the horizon and bison plains at the forefront, Colorado’s capital in the heart of the USA is well connected to its natural surroundings.

This city has several natural parks and botanical gardens, and has more than two million trees to its name. Denver was at the forefront of the iconic Gold Rush era too, and this rich heritage can be widely seen throughout the Victorian architecture and Wild West exhibits in its museums.

Visit vibrant downtown for live music, museums, galleries and a wealth of restaurants and eateries. Join in with the excitement of a sports game, whether it’s baseball, American football, rodeo or basketball. And with so much to fill your days, we’ve narrowed down the greatest attractions that you won’t want to miss. Here are the best things to do in Denver.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Explore a 23-acre park where exotic trees, shrubs and plants are separated into several stunning gardens. You can safely leave your rental car in the garden’s free parking lot on York Street, then stroll through the Shady Gardens to spot hummingbirds among the trees, or visit the Ornamental Gardens to see the colourful flowers embellish the flourishing green nature.

The Water Gardens feature tropical collections of aquatic plants including water lilies and cattails, with the Monet Pool surrounding the Science Pyramid which highlights horticultural research, study and cultivation with a range of interactive technolofy. Founded in 1951, the gardens continue to develop – with new projects, events and conferences throughout the year.

Elitch Gardens

For a fun-filled day, visit America’s first Downtown theme park and waterpark at Elitch Gardens. Enjoy more than 50 attractions including thrilling roller coasters, along with traditional rides including a Ferris Wheel, carousel and observation tower.

In the hotter months, enjoy the waterpark where you can whirl down slides, relax on the river rapids and chill out by the poolside cabanas. This great little amusement park overlooks the South Platte River, close to the Auraria Parkway.

Denver Art Museum

Discover art and history when marvelling at the exceptional exhibits in the Denver Art Museum, one of the largest in the region. There are surprises inside, including the largest collection of Native American Art within America, while exhibitions have showcased paintings from the likes of Van Gogh and Monet.

The Frederic C Hamilton wing is an art display in itself. Made from 9,000 titanium panels and built in 2006, it’s an abstract take on the nearby craggy cliffs in the Rocky Mountains. There's an atmospheric mood in the Atrium as light and sound move around the unique building's structure. The DAM is near the Civic Center Park, with parking lots available on W 14th Avenue.

Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum

Inside a gargantuan hangar spanning 182,000 square feet, visit the Wings Over the Rockies Museum east of the city centre, located in the Lowry neighbourhood. For aviation fanatics and space enthusiasts alike, this interesting attraction takes you through America's impressive aviation heritage.

Take a ride on the fantastic Simulator Experience that propels you through the sky and be impressed by the 50 or so aircraft that are on display. Explore the interactive exhibits where you’ll find a detailed collection of military artifacts, uniforms and vehicles too.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

This wonderful and expansive nature park , around half an hour’s drive from the heart of Denver, boasts more than 330 species of beautiful wildlife, including waterfowl, bald eagles, deer, burrowing owls and wild bison.

Here you can enjoy an 18-kilometre Wildlife Drive to see the animals up close, take a tour of the lakes and the flatland, or follow the walking trails through the natural park, after leaving your car at one of the convenient parking lots.

There’s also plenty of parking next to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on the southwestern edge of the park, if you wish to exclusively explore the area on foot.

Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum

Celebrating arguably the most famous Wild West figure in history, visit the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave to pay tribute to Buffalo Bill at Lookout Mountain Park, and visit the museum to learn more about his fascinating past.

A renowned hunter and scout, his working life saw him join the Pony Express and embark on active service in the U.S. Army, before starring in his own international travelling Wild West show, which has become synonymous with iconic aspects of the ‘cowboy’ lifestyle.

The museum is located in Pahaska Tepee, Buffalo Bill’s old hunting lodge. Enjoy the artifacts and visit the cafe before travelling half an hour east back to the city centre.

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Take a short drive from the city, through Lakewood to the mountainside town of Morrison, and you’ll be rewarded with this unique performance space.

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre in the sprawling Denver Mountain Park provides much more than just a stunning setting, however. Follow the driving route into the park to see the Aztec Sandstone craggy rock formations poking out of the hillside. There’s plenty of parking lots at its peak, near the amphitheatre and cliffside restaurant.

Established in the early 1900s, the ampitheatre’s bleachers are carved out of the rockface, and it's become one of the most famous music venues in the region, as well as the most unusual, having played host to The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Rolling Stones among others.

See what’s on and reserve tickets in advance to avoid missing something special when you’re in the city. In the early morning, you can also join in with ‘Yoga on the Rocks’ or join the runners who regularly bound up the bleachers (all 138 steps of them).

16th Street Mall

This pedestrian promenade in Downtown Denver stretches for a mile, and is brimming with stores, street performers and restaurants – with more than 180 places to shop and eat.

There’s a vibrant atmosphere here, with entertainment everywhere you look. Discover street art and sculptures including a giant 12-metre tall bear, peering into the city’s convention centre. Visit Skyline Park for pop-up family attractions all year round, or park up and explore at night to see the promenade illuminated in twinkling lights.   

Renting a car is the perfect way to get around Denver – and will also enable you to discover the wider area and natural surroundings beyond.