What to See and Do in Denver in One Day

Unlike the spectacular mountains and fantastic ski resorts in Colorado, the state’s capital city, Denver, is often missed as a travel destination in itself.  A pity, I must say, since it’s an easy city to walk with enough interesting attractions to keep you busy for at least one day. I recently visited Denver late in fall, and while it did rain during the day temperatures were pleasant enough to make the visit fun and exciting. So what is there to see and do? Here is my suggestion on a logical itinerary to visit Denver on a Day, but if you have more time this Denver guide by a local has a ton of info.

Getting Around Denver

Denver is, without a doubt, a city that doesn’t require a car to be visited. Not because there’s a lot of public transportation (there is enough) but because it is small enough to be walked- or cycled! If the weather is nice I highly recommend you try Denver B-Cycle, which allows you to use the urban bikes parked around the city to move around faster, comfortably and enjoying the outdoors while being environmentally friendly.

Colorado State Capitol

Make your way to the Colorado State Capitol, walking there from your hotel or taking any of the free buses you’ll find along Broadway Street. Standing exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (exactly one mile high!) on the west steps, walk around the building and then climb to the rotunda for a panorama of snowcapped peaks. It is against state law to block the view of the 200 named mountains visible from the dome. While there are free tours on weekdays I was there during a weekend but was happy enough to visit it on my own.

colorado capitol

The dome of the capitol was undergoing maintenance work when I was there.

Molly Brown House Museum

Just about three blocks behind the Capitol this museum is one I certainly recommend as it shows you the house and teaches you about the life of a woman who some would say “lived before her time”. An extraordinary leaser and charismatic lady, Molly Brown became rich via her husband but was also an active politician, traveled the world on her own and was even a survivor of the Titanic.  Expect to spend about 45 minutes here, taking your time to watch the movie in the museum section of the house.

Visit the Denver Art Museum

Take a leisure stroll to the Denver Art Museum, enjoying the fresh air along the way. The museum has two buildings – one a fortress-like structure from Italian architect Gio Ponti, the other, a structure that resembles a titanium crystal with peaks and shards designed by Daniel Libeskind. Inside, you’ll find the world’s greatest collection of Native American art and 68,000 other art objects, including works from European masters, and Old West classics. I have to say that some of the scene paintings are truly beautiful, well worth even a  quick visit if you don’t have time for more. There was also a modern sculpture exhibition when I was there, but this one did not make my cut.

denver art museum

One of the many great paintings in the art museum

History Colorado Center

This somewhat interactive museum is great for kids as they will be able to pretend they are jumping off a ski ramp, will don a headlamp and descend into a mine or push a “Jules Verne-like Time Machine” over the Rockies. The museum is not very big but it does portray history in the area in an unusual and fun way, making it a great stop specially if you are traveling with children.

Broadway Avenue

This is main street in downtown Denver, where all of the action takes place. Great for walks with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars to choose from. If you are here during the winter months and want to stay away from the cold you can hop on any of the free shuttle buses that drive up and down all day. It is in this road that we had lunch after walking all morning, and we then continued to our next destination.

broadway denver

It rained the first half of the day were were there…

Larimer Square

This is a small trendy area with Victorian buildings home to shops, quaint cafes and nice restaurants. Nice to walk through and grab a bite!

The LoDO Historic District

LoDo is the lower downtown area of Denver, Colorado, the oldest and original settlement of the city of Denver. Nowadays it is a mixed-use historic district, known for its good restaurants and active nightlife. It was here that Octoberfest was being celebrated during my visit  with ample choices for food and beer!

Denver Aquarium

If you have never been in an aquarium the Denver Aquarium will be a fun place to visit for an hour or two if you have kids. The aquarium is all indoor and is home to plenty of marine life including different species of sharks! There is plenty of parking space all around it, but it is also a nice stroll and I recommend you get here on foot if you can.

denver aquarium

Denver might not have an ocean, but you can still see sharks and other marine life in its aquarium

Confluence Park

You either walked or drove across part of it on your way to the aquarium if you were coming from downtown. Confluence park is located in the outskirts of the city, and is the place were to come when the weather is nice, sun is bright and the sky is blue. Locals come here  for a run, to enjoy a picnic or ride their bikes along the many paths there are, and while at it, why not try some kayaking at the river?

Conclusion

If visiting Colorado for one reason or another don’t skip Denver just because it is not a popular city to visit. While it may not be the most historical city in the world it does have some unique attractions (some of them unique) and well worth  a visit . I do recommend you follow this itinerary if you only have one day, but if you have two or more you can spread this out and also visit the Rocky Mountains nearby , just an hour or so away.


View Denver in a larger map

 Resources

Tourism Denver Website

Molly Brown House Museum Website

Denver Art Museum

Colorado Capitol

Denver B-Cycle website

History Colorado Center

Visiting so many attractions was possible thanks to Denver Tourism who was kind enough to provide with a city passport allowing access to these places. This said all opinions are entirely mine, and I was not asked to write this post.

Have you visited Denver? What did you like most about the city? Did you become a beer expert? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below and this post too if you think others might find it useful!

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