Denver, a mile above sea level yet spread at the Rockies' feet, is the Queen City of the Plains. Over 15 million travelers visit each year, flooding hotels and convention centers June through August. Fly into Denver International, ride the California Zephyr or arrive via interstate, but check out our high points for making the most of your stay in the Mile-High City.
8 Ways To Enjoy More Of Denver For Less
Booking a month ahead, we found a round trip Tuesday flight from Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson to Denver International on Frontier for $140 – flight 425 or 426. Flying from any of New York's airports will cost about $100 more, with United or Delta offering the best deals. From Seattle, Alaska Airlines will round-trip you for $157 on an evening flight. Los Angeles' LAX offered the best deal flying Spirit for $109, leaving around 9 a.m. and arriving in time for lunch. Had we dropped everything, a last-minute deal was $79, so keep checking to avoid pricey $800 flights! You can read more about how to find cheap flights here.
We checked around for bargain basement prices and found Extended Stay America's $65 a night at Tech Center had a queen bed studio with fully equipped kitchen, full amenities, free Wi-Fi and grab-n-go breakfast. Nearby Best Western had a two-queen-bed $77 deal with amenities and complimentary hot-cold breakfast buffet. The downtown Ramada in attraction heartland had a two-double-bed room for $87 a night but limited amenities and no breakfast. The downtown Quality Inn will give you a hot breakfast, a double-queen room and amenities for $90 a night. Check out Airbnb for options from rooms for $55 a night to an entire downtown townhouse for $150 a night. That's half of what you'd pay for a high-end downtown hotel. It's worth nothing that you can use your American Express rewards to cover Airbnb stays.
Pedal Power And Public Transportation
One of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, Denver has its Regional Bicycle Map online. The B-cycle bike share is $9 a day for unlimited 30-minute hops. For extended, multi-day use, rent or buy an inexpensive bike. If you don't want to pedal, pedicabs and scooters are popular touring options. The commuter airport rail is scheduled to open in April, but most hotels run free shuttles. For getting around town, the light rail is bicycle-friendly with a free permit, the bus offers multi-day passes, and airport-bound SkyRides depart hourly. The 16th Street Shuttle is free and includes most of downtown's favorite stops. For the curious, the three-wheeled smart eTuk fares start at $3 each.
Parks Outside The City
Red Rocks' towering sandstone monuments are a National Historic Landmark, forming the only completely natural amphitheater in the world. Aside from concerts, its hiking trails, geologic exhibits, Dinosaur Ridge and Colorado Music Hall of Fame are free. For serious biking, try Lookout Mountain's Loop; Buffalo Bill's Grave and Museum, café and gift shop top the summit, but you can take cliffside photos or channel hang gliders. For bison, try Genesee Park, or visit Echo Lake's subalpine beauty and view of Mount Evans before continuing on the Evans Scenic Byway to Summit Lake, the country's highest city park. For any of these, pack a picnic, and explore at will.
Parks Inside The City
Denver's sun shines 300 days a year, so downtown's parks let you balance paid-access attractions with an unstructured dose of take-out, scenery and exercise. Washington Park is a favorite for walking, running, boating or even snowshoeing. City Park is the largest and dovetails with the zoo and Nature and Science Museum. A site for festivals and events near the capital building, Civic Center Park is hardscape-oriented but daytime-only. If you're seeking open space and water, Cherry Creek and the Platte meet at Confluence Park. For flowers, Cheesman Park neighbors the Botanic Gardens east of Capitol Hill, offering walking and biking trails, athletic fields and people-watching.
Golden Triangle Museum District
Yes, Denver is artsy, with a tenth-of-a-cent tax to support its vice. Among its numerous art museums, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver offers free admission for 18 and under, while Denver Art Museum has free First Saturdays (If you have a Bank of America credit card you can get in free on Sunday with Museums on Us®, when you visit on the first full weekend of any month). If you're planning to tour several sites - the popular Museum of Nature and Science, Botanic Gardens and zoo, for example - a Mile High Culture Pass lets you see more for less, with discounts on other attractions as well as B-cycle. In addition, First Friday Art Walks offer free shuttle service to tour the Golden Triangle's art galleries.
BooksBy Dtobias - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4360661
A "Denver institution," the Tattered Cover Book Store offers "an experience you can't download." It's one of the largest independent booksellers in the country, and former owner Joyce Meskis is a recognized advocate for freedom of expression. Five locations are crammed full of new and used books in reader nirvana, and the Historic LoDo (Lower Downtown), Colfax Avenue and Aspen Grove bookstores offer gourmet café coffee and food and plenty of comfort to enjoy it amid free Wi-Fi and indie atmosphere. The Denver Central Public Library isn't far from the Colfax Avenue store, adding art exhibits, activities, lectures, story times and more free Wi-Fi to your bibliophilic day.
Food And Brew
Home to the annual industry-premiere Great American Beer Festival, Denver has more than 40 breweries and distilleries and at least 80 beer varieties. Locals swear by the Bull & Bush Pub and Brewery, its thrice-a-week prime rib specials and additional whiskey list but give kudos to other artisan specialists like Black Shirt Brewing Company for reds and Denver Beer Co. for a patio neighborhood vibe. Using a dining credit card to pay can help you save with discounts and rewards.
If food isn't in-house, it's nearby. Top food truck vendors include Steuben's for pulled pork or green chili, Quiero Arepas for Venezuelan cornbread pockets, Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs and the Denver Biscuit Company. For tasty brick-and-mortars, try Chop Shop Casual Urban Eatery's salads, tofu or ribs; El Taco de Mexico's fresh plates; or The Market at Larimer Square's custom selections, from aromatic tea to decadent cake, fresh sandwiches or stuffed to-go chicken breasts.