Updated: Sep 28, 2020
With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Denver Colorado is an excellent city to visit any time of year. With beautiful parks, historical landmarks, unique attractions and mountain getaways just a short drive away, Denver is a destination not to be missed.
In this Denver, Colorado Visitor's guide we will go over the top attractions, the best Denver hotels and also the many free attractions in Denver.
If you fly into Denver, you will land at the Denver International Airport, one of the busiest and largest airports in the world. Keep in mind, things can get very crazy here in terms of lines, security checks, seating availability and parking.
Situated 5,280 feet above sea level, or one mile high, Denver has been growing since the late 1850s when gold was discovered around Cherry Creek. Today, it is the gateway into the American Rocky Mountains.
Accommodations in Denver
We found that hotels and other accommodations were above average priced in Denver and the more north in the city you are, the higher the prices. This is due to their location as visitor's want to be closer to the main highways and roads leading into the popular ski resort and mountain parks.
In the summer the rates are discounted slightly, but expect to pay a premium in the winter ski months. The cheapest accommodations are near the airport and the south eastern portion of the city. We stayed in Aurora, Colorado at a modest Hotel, but the rates were still above average compared to other cities in comparison.
To find cheap hotel rooms I would suggest using Booking.com and Hotels.com as they offer the lowest rates and best availability. For your convenience, just use the form below to find the lowest priced Denver Hotels for the dates you need:
Top Denver, Colorado Attractions
Denver has a wide variety of attractions from family friendly theme parks to world-class museums. With so many attractions and so many options you will need to narrow down your list based on time and budget. Below are the top attractions in Denver, but don't forget that a lot of the fun in Denver is absolutely FREE. Yes, there are many museums, parks and activities that you can do absolutely free within Denver and just outside the city.
In Part Two of our Denver Visitor's Guide we will showcase all the free attractions you can enjoy, just follow the link here to skip ahead: Free Attractions in Denver, Colorado.
Many of the attractions we have listed below are part of the CityPASS discount card where you can save up to 50% off admission. For more information visit CityPass Denver.
Denver Botanical Gardens
With over 24 acres of absolutely stunning gardens, the Denver Botanical Gardens offers an oasis in the bustling city. Distinctive gardens define and celebrate a Western identity and a unique high altitude climate and geography with the lush landscape.
International Gardens such as the 松風園 Shofu-en Japanese Garden are absolutely stunning. This is a great place to unwind after a long day and just stole about the beautiful plants, flowers and trees.
There are special programs such as Sunrise Yoga and planting sessions for children. Admission is $12.50 for adults with discounts for children and seniors. There are also many free days throughout the year where admission is waved. Check out the dates here.
The York Street Gardens is located at 1007 York St in Denver, however, in Littleton, Colorado there is the sister-site: Chatfield Farms.
Here you can connect with agriculture and Colorado’s history. Explore the historical Hildebrand Ranch, 2.5 miles of trails with excellent bird watching, the children’s play area and One Fell Swoop, the immersive art sculpture by Patrick Dougherty. Come for a special event or enjoy the tranquility of the countryside on your own. Fees are only $5 per vehicle. Chatfield Farms is located at 8500 W Deer Creek Canyon Rd, Littleton, Colorado.
Molly Brown House Museum
This antique-filled Victorian house was the home of Molly Brown, not only a famous survivor of the Titanic, but so much more. Admission to the Museum is only via tours which begin every 30 minutes and last approximately 45 minutes. Reservations are highly recommended. Molly Brown's House is located at 1340 Pennsylvania Street Denver, Colorado. Admission is $13 for adults with dicounts for seniors and children. Remember also that this historical house has four flights of stairs and is not wheel chair accessible.
Hyperspace Retro Arcade
Hyperspace is an authentic 1980s-themed arcade located just outside of Downtown Denver. There are over 100 classic arcade favorites, as well as rare and obscure titles you may have never seen before. All games are free to play so you do not need quarters. Admission pricing is $10 for one hour, $12 for two hours, or $15 for the entire day.
We spent two hours playing classic games while classic 80s music pumped out through the arcade. My youngest son fell in love with the old retro fighting games and my eldest was hooked on the pinball machines. If you want to spend a a few hours kicking back and playing retro games - this is not to be missed.
Hours are usually Noon to Midnight and Hyperspace is located at 1601 Reed Street, Suite #100 in Lakewood, Colorado. From Downtown Denver it is about a 20 min drive and well worth it!
The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is the Rocky Mountain region’s leading resource for informal science education. A variety of exhibitions, programs, and activities help Museum visitors experience the natural wonders of Colorado, Earth, and the universe. Black holes. Dinosaur fossils. Sparkling gems all make your imagination run wild. The museum has great exhibits and will take about 2.5 hours or more to fully engage. Admission is $19.95, with additional cost for IMAX movies, special exhibits, and the planetarium. Remember to check this page to see FREE days to the museum. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is located at 2001 Colorado Blvd. Denver, Colorado. Parking is free, but fills up quickly!
If you are into Whiskey do not miss visiting the Stanahan's Single Malt Whiskey Distillery. Tours range from $12 to $60 and most include samples and drinks. For more than a decade the Distillery has been offering top shelf products using locally sourced ingredients. The tours are generally one to tour hours long and can be booked online. Stranahan's is located at 200 South Kalamath St. Denver, Colorado.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum is Colorado's Official Air & Space Museum. Founded in 1994 and housed at the former Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Wings is dedicated to inspiring, educating and entertaining the public about aviation and space endeavors of the past, present and future. Visitors will find over 50 aircraft on display, thrilling flight simulator experiences and an enrichment program dedicated to the expansion of aerospace education in Colorado.
Star Wars fans will be thrilled to see many Star Wars replicas including a life sized X-Wing Fighter!
For this interested in taking things further, you can discover flight and take to the skies in a historic biplane. Immerse yourself in aviation. Located at one of the busiest general aviation airports in the nation, the Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery, an immersive aviation attraction, provides a behind-the-scenes experience that is sure to have you looking to the heavens. Explore interactive exhibits, see the latest in general aviation technology, hop into pilot-quality flight simulators, listen to the chatter from Centennial tower, and more.
Keep in mind the Blue Sky Gallery is not a museum, but an interactive aviation center dedicated to inspiring the next generation of pilots, air traffic controllers, mechanics and other vital aviation personnel. The Blue Sky Gallery is Wings Over the Rockies’ second location and part of a larger build out.
The Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery at Exploration of Flight offers guests unprecedented opportunities to experience flight. After a day of weaving through interactive exhibits, learning about avionics in our flight simulators or even just watching airplanes take off and land, we invite you to jump in the left seat.
Through a partnership with Aspen Flying Club, Wings Over the Rockies is pleased to offer discovery flights that put you in the pilot seat, literally. Wings is also pleased to offer flights in our vintage 1930s Boeing Stearman biplane. We highly recommend you book your flight way ahead of time.
The museum is showcased on Behind the Wings on PBS:
The museum is located at 7711 East Academy Boulevard Denver, Colorado and admission is $16.95 with discounts for children and seniors. There is so much going on at this museum that we suggest you check out all the special events at their web page.
Denver Downtown Aquarium
The Denver Downtown Aquarium is a new innovative aquarium offering self-guided tours through two separate ecosystems, the Colorado River and the Indonesian River.
Mermaids… to most, they're the subject of myth and legend, but at Downtown Aquarium they have a selection of mermaids! Watch the mermaids swim among their sea life friends, all while teaching about the importance of taking care of our environment. Their family-friendly, interactive show is choreographed to music and is performed in the Under the Sea Exhibit.
One of the most surprising aspect of the Aquarium is the Sumatran Tiger exhibit. Yes! Tigers at an aquarium. A 2-year-old Sumatran tiger joins three other Sumatran tigers on exhibit at the Downtown Aquarium. Heran joins Marah, Besar and Jalan.
Before coming to Denver, Heran made his home at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. According to the Downtown Aquarium, Sumatran tigers are critically endangered. Fewer than 500 tigers are believed to exist in the wild. Some critics claim the enclosure for the tigers is small, and we agree, however, these are not wild tigers and they are being treated with respect and medical care to live out a good life with proper veterinarian care.
The Aquarium is located at 700 Water Street Denver, Colorado and admission is $27.99 with discounts for children and seniors. Parking is scarce in the area but small lots charge about $5 if free parking or street parking is unavailable.
Elitch Gardens Theme Park
For more than 130 years, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park entertains both young and old with a small selection of rides and amusements including an observation tower providing excellent views of Denver. Elitch Gardens is located right in downtown Denver on 63 acres making it very accessible. Compared to other theme parks Elitch Gardens is small and caters to mostly children. Recent reviews have said that the park is understaffed and that could lead to longer line ups during peak season. If you are looking for a place to unwind the kids and cool off in a small water park, Elitch Gardens may fill you afternoon. Pricing is steep at $62 per person per day with a $20 parking fee added on top. Depending on when you visit, and when you purchase tickets there can be discounts of up to 40% of here. Elitch Gardens is located at 2000 Elitch Circle in Downtown Denver.
Lakeside Amusement Park
This is a controversial pick as most visitor's either love the park or absolutely hate it. When we visited we were leaning toward the "hate it" side. The historic Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver is worth a visit if you are into very old amusement rides and looking for nostalgia.
Keep in mind, however, that the park has seen better days, in fact, it looks apocalyptic. There is a burned out and destroyed Ferris Wheel in the middle of the park. Rides are routinely shut down, or unable to operate due to safety concerns.
The park is family run and the children's section appears to have suffered the least. Buildings are dilapidated and food is well...let us not go there.
On our visit we opted to walk around the park after paying $10 for parking. We took our valuables with us and were glad we were in a rental car, as the parking lot is not monitored by security and the lighting is none-existent. Trash littered the broken pavement and pot-holed gravel lot. The ticket stand was already open and there was a line up to purchase tickets. Every operational ride we past had a line up of people waiting to get on - but no operator. Staff didn't like that we were taking photos and shadowed us for a while. An hour had past and still all the rides except for one, had line-ups but no one operating the rides. How people stood in line for an hour is beyond me, and what is even more interesting is that they were willing to take the risk to ride the dilapidated rides that were obviously in need of great repair. The Lake it is on smells of sewerage and the beach front, if you can call it that is a disaster.
Recently they have been offering free parking but charge $3.50 to enter the park area. Weekday rides costs $17 and weekend is $27 which is a bit steep for the amount of rides at the park, especially when you consider most of them do not operate.
The thing I liked most about the park was its history. The buildings dated back to the early days of amusement parks and visiting it was like urban exploration mixed in with apocalyptic fantasy. We didn't dare put our kids on the rides but it is a great place to visit if you are into photography. It would make for a killer retro theme park if only it was well maintained and operated.
Adventure Golf & Raceway
After a disappointing visit to the Lakeside Amusement Park my wife found a spot for the kids and I to enjoy the rest of the evening. Adventure Golf & Raceway offers an amazing mini golf courses, a rope course and maze, bumper cars and a go-kart raceway. The kids were all smiles and the prices here were fair as well. This is a well-maintained attraction with attentive staff and we were so relieved to have found it. If you want to keep the family busy and have a blast this place offers many hours of fun! Adventure Golf and Raceway can be found at 9650 Sheridan Boulevard, Westminster, Colorado.
As you can see Denver has an amazing assortment of activities for tourists. Denver is the gateway to the US Rocky Mountains with a variety of outdoor activities and adventure at its doorstep. In Part Two of our Denver Visitor's Guide we will highlight these activities and other FREE attractions in the Denver area.