You have 1,440 minutes in the Mile High City, so grab a light coat and get moving.
We’ll start at Union Station because that’s where you’ll end up if you arrive by Amtrak or take the train into town from the airport. Start the morning walking around the station. The 100+-year-old building was remodeled in 2014 to include the hotel, restaurants and pubs, additional train lines, and to serve as the general hub for downtown visitors.
There are three main ways to get around – the free Mall Ride bus (www.rtd-denver.com for times and stops) which will pick you up right in front of the light rail drop at Union Station and escort you up the 16th St. Mall, ending the route just short of Broadway. Or, rent a bike from Denver B-Cycle, who offer hourly bike rental from pick up/drop off points all over the city. Lucky for you, there’s one right at the station.
Don’t do anything else until you’ve had a pancake flight and Bloody Mary at Snooze, which sits right inside the station. While eating, decide what kind of tourist you want to be today. If you’re like me, you will be ready for a drink or three after spending a day learning the town. If so, give Denver Microbrew Tour a call and get signed up in advance. Their evening tours will lead you to four or five brewpubs in the famed RiNo Arts District, complete with a run-through of the beer-making process from grain to glass and more than enough samplings.
I always make a point to stay away from the guided tour of the US Mint- it is booked out far in advance and even if you do get a spot, it’ll be full to the brim with fishing hat and fanny-pack toting tourists taking way to many photos of a quarter. Instead, walk the 16th St. Mall (from Union Station- 5 min walk, 3 min bike, 2 min bus). There are always plenty of characters, many busking on homemade instruments or playing tunes on the painted pianos the city installed on this car-less street. You’ll also have the opportunity to check out some great shops and cafes such as Only In Colorado (walk fifteen mins, bus 5 mins). You can ride in a horse-pulled carriage by Iron Rose Carriages if that’s your thing, or enjoy a morning walk along the urban-centric Skyline Park, assuming the day is one of Denver’s 300 annual filled with sunshine.
Enough of the downtown crowds. Ride your B-Cycle (10 min) or hop in a pedi-cab (15 min) and head over to Avanti F&B, Denver’s hip food market and bar where local chefs test out their latest creations and some of Denver’s favorites serve up signature dishes. The patio provides perhaps the best possible view of the city’s skyline. Try an arepa from Quiero Arepas and some Udon noodles from MiJo, and have the bartender pair them with one of the house cocktails. If you’re not hungry yet, Prost Brewing Company is just on the other side of the basketball court outside of Avanti and also has a killer patio, along with Denver’s best German-style beers.
Now, I know what you’re thinking- I’m in Denver, I have to check out a dispensary, just to tell my friends back home about it, right? Wink wink. Luckily, they are never far in this town. Just up the street on 32nd Ave is iVita Wellness (walk 5 mins, bike 3 mins). Here you can find everything from flower to edibles to oils. If you have a car and want to save some money, head to Colorado Harvest Company at 1568 S. Broadway. Ask for Chad, and a local’s hint- if you say ‘worldviral’ at checkout you’ll save 10% off their already low prices.
If you’re feeling good after lunch and aren’t ready for a post-joint nap, head over to ScooTours Denver for some 50cc madness. I’d recommend jumping on a guided city tour for two hours. You’ll have the opportunity to check out Denver’s Big Blue Bear out front of the Colorado Convention Center, plus the Molly Brown House Museum, Coors Field, and more. I keep seeing more and more scooters on the roads- makes me feel like I’m in some old British rude boy film. Definitely, a better way to roll around in the summer time, maximizing fresh air instead of boxed in heat.
Before you turn that scooter back in, stop at Liks Ice Cream and cool off with the best damn desert anywhere in the Mile High. After you’re done driving around, how does another joint, or microbrew, or stop at a local distillery sound?
Once late afternoon arrives and you get a feeling that the Golden Hour is near, jump in an Uber and head up to catch a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre. On the way, you might see some fossils at Dinosaur Ridge. Or perhaps you won’t have time because you got caught up playing 80’s arcade games at the 1Up.
Be sure to make a quick stop at Morrison Inn for dinner and happy hour margaritas. Emphasis on the plural- rarely does one arrive at Red Rocks without a wobble in their step. This is a good thing because it will help you forget about the steep stair hike to get to the entrance. Once you get there, though, all bets are off- the beauty of Red Rocks is the fact that even if you don’t know who’s playing, it’s fucking Red Rocks. It’s going to be the most memorable concert experience of your life.
Afterward, stop for a nightcap at Jose Oshea’s on the way back to your hotel, hostel, friend’s couch, or camp spot. They have a free taco bar after 10 PM that you can go to town on, as long as you’re buying drinks.
10 Tips for 24 Hours in Denver
1. Drink lots of water- the altitude will get to you if you don’t.
2. Find the best happy hours and great restaurant ideas right here.
3. Info on music, tours, and day trips can be found here.
4. When eating marijuana-infused edibles, start small- they are extremely potent and you don’t want to ruin your day.
5. This should go without saying, but don’t drink and drive. There are plenty of ways to get around town.
6. Nightlife can be found in abundance in LoDo, East Colfax, and South Broadway, as well as downtown.
7. Denver is great in all seasons.
8. Bring a jacket- weather changes quickly here.
9. Denver has a huge park system, many of which are connected by trails such as the Cherry Creek Trail. Be sure to check out some parks.
10. Don’t wear Oakland Raiders gear. You won’t make any friends.
-The light rail system has expanded to serve much of the metro area, and the airport. Get info and fares here.
-If the light rail won’t get you there, a bus, cab, or Uber will do the trick.
-The city is very bikeable- bike lanes dot most of the streets.
Matador Articles for Denver Trip Planning