Colorado’s capital and largest city, Denver, is one of America’s fastest-growing cities, full of top attractions to see and fun things to do. It’s nicknamed the “Mile High City” because its official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level, 5,280 feet. The population is around 600,000, making it the second-largest city in the Mountain West behind Phoenix, AZ.
It’s the nation’s third-highest in elevation behind Santa Fe, NM, and Laramie, WY. The tallest building is the Republic Plaza, which is 56 stories and 714 feet high. Colfax Avenue, the longest continuous commercial street in the United States, runs through downtown.
The city was founded at the start of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush in 1858, which lasted until 1861. In its early years, Denver was destroyed once by fire and once by flood, despite being warned by Native Americans to not build there due to flooding.
It was first settled by non-natives consisting of a small group of explorers who came from Georgia in the summer of 1858. They had crossed the great plains of the Colorado Territory (established in 1861, before then part of Kansas Territory) and to the Rocky Mountains to create a base for gold exploration.
It wasn’t long when the prospectors created a base in Denver that the town grew, tents, tepees were erected, log cabins constructed, wagons started pouring in.
Almost a decade later, Denver had grown as more than just a gold mining location. Political powers were starting to rise. There used to be a simple structure during the Gold Rush Era: claim the land, layout city streets and resell the lots. This was the formula General William H. Larimer followed.
Though Larimer didn’t come to Denver during the early days of gold mining, he knew that there was business to be made. He immediately claimed the land on the eastern side of Cherry Creek and developed a city.
However, Denver was burnt in the great fire of 1863, and a flash flood came the following year. Denver communities were devastated, but instead of backing down and looking for another place to claim, the people of Denver had become even more empowered to make their community thrive. They wanted to build a city where their families could live in.
The citizens then decided to rally towards creating a railroad that will help them sell and buy goods amongst the neighboring towns. They raised $300,000 to build the railroad intersecting Union Pacific in Cheyenne, Wyoming. This core decision of the townspeople has given them a big boost in trade. From then, Denver continued to be a hotspot for business, tourism, and local attractions.
Historian Tom Noel, dubbed as Dr. Colorado, notes that he finds Denver as a “fascinating place” because it started as a very unlikely place to build a community. But it’s the people who drove its success.
“It began as a little town in the middle of nowhere, with no obvious reason to be there,” said Noel.
He also connected it to travel writer Rose Kingsley’s note on Denver:
“It was as if the angels were carrying a city to a proper place and accidentally dropped it here.”
Now, Denver is a vibrant mix of cultures that date back to the beginning of the land. Explore the different attractions in Denver!
Read about the best neighborhoods in Denver.
One of the town’s best features is its close proximity to major attractions, including over two hundred parks in Denver County alone. The town is headquarters for numerous Colorado-made products, including Hammond’s Candies and Never Summer snowboards.
Downtown Denver – Visit the Capitol and stand a mile high on probably the 15th step (the 11th step is marked as a mile high, but it was found to be incorrect and thought to be a few higher). You can take a public tour of the capitol then stroll across Lincoln and Broadway Aves, exploring the rest of Civic Center Park.
Hope on the free 16th Street Bus at Civic Center Station, which stops at nearly every block on the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian promenade lined with stores and restaurants. It’s a quick way to get across downtown. At the end of the line is Union Station and LoDo, or Lower Downtown, the town’s hip bar scene.
Professional Sports – All major leagues can be found in this sports city. Teams compete at the top level in baseball, basketball, football, hockey, lacrosse, rugby, and soccer. There are a number of iconic sports stadiums around Denver that make for great sightseeing and entertainment.
Read about the top things to do around Denver.
Nestled nearby the base of the Rocky Mountains, people flock to Colorado’s capital city for its abundance of recreation. You don’t have to travel far either to experience a variety of camping, fishing, and hiking options. Experience some of these opportunities:
- Nearby Cherry Creek and Chatfield state parks offer well-maintained sites open year-round for a fee.
- Read about the camping near the Denver Metro.
- Read about the RV and trailer rentals near Denver.
- The South Platte River is a decent option for fishing in the heart of the city.
- Chatfield and Cherry Creek state parks offer lake fishing and boating.
- Clear Creek runs down the Rockies and through Golden. Good fishing exists just west on Highway 6 from Golden.
- Read about the best fishing spots around Denver Metro.
- Head down to Confluence Park and hike along the Cherry Creek Canal trail for a unique view of the city.
- Local city and state parks offer a variety of trails. Read our favorite 8 city parks for a look at the free public parks to check out in Denver.
- Green Mountain is located in Lakewood and offers a number of trails spread out across several rolling hills. The views of the Front Range are incredible from the top.
- Read about the best day hikes from Denver.
- Read about the best hotels in Denver.
- Read about the top boutique hotels in Denver.
- Read about the luxury 4 and 5-star hotels in Denver.
- Read about the top bed and breakfasts in Denver.
- Read about the cabins near Denver.
Hotels and lodging:
- the ART – luxury 4 star
- Brown Palace Hotel – historic 4 star
- Courtyard Cherry Creek – luxury 3 star
- Courtyard Downtown – luxury 3 star
- Courtyard Stapleton – luxury 3 star
- Crawford Hotel – luxury 5 star
- Four Seasons Denver – luxury 5 star
- Grand Hyatt Denver – luxury 4 star
- HALCYON, a hotel in Cherry Creek – luxury 4 star
- Hotel Teatro – luxury 4 star
- Hyatt House Denver/Downtown – luxury 3 star
- Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver – luxury 4 star
- Le Meridian Denver Downtown – luxury 4 star
- Magnolia Hotel – luxury 3 star
- Oxford Hotel – historic 4 star
- Renaissance Downtown – luxury 4 star
- Ritz-Carlton Denver – luxury 4 star
- Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel – luxury 4 star
- The Westin Denver Downtown – luxury 4 star
- The Westin Denver International Airport – luxury 4 star
There is no shortage of spectacular restaurants in Mile High City. From fine dining to speakeasy saloons, you can find it here. Visit our sister site, Mile High Happy Hour, for Denver area bar and restaurant specials.
Restaurants and bars:
- Adam’s Mystery Playhouse – Head out to Federal Boulevard for an evening of suspense during this mystery murder dinner theatre. Shows are held on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights year-round.
- Avanti Food & Beverage – Vibrant two-story food hall located in Denver’s Lower Highland (LoHi) neighborhood. It features a myriad of local restaurants, two bars, one on each floor. Plus a great deck with views on the 2nd floor.
- Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs – Cool Denver hot dog restaurant serving exotic meats like Alaskan reindeer and wild boar. They have a flagship store on Larimer Street in the Ballpark neighborhood, as well as in Coors Field, and several food carts.
- Broadway Market Denver – Opened in 2019, this is a large food hall offering a variety of restaurants. Fill up on self-serve beer while you peruse the dining options.
- Bull & Bush Brewery – Since 1971, Bull & Bush has been a favorite watering hotel in Glendale, serving up delicious pub fare and a warm, friendly ambiance. Now it’s a microbrewery too with award-winning craft beers.
- Buckhorn Exchange – Home to Denver’s first liquor license and one of the most impressive taxidermy collections of any restaurant in the state, and probably anywhere. The Buckhorn Exchange is a historic steakhouse serving up a Western fare in a very relaxed atmosphere.
- The Cherry Cricket – One of the top burger joints in town, established in Cherry Creek in 1945. This historic sports bar has another location in the Ballpark neighborhood.
- Dazzle Presents – Iconic place to dine that’s often accompanied by live shows. Be sure to make a reservation sometime for their famous Sunday brunch, usually paired with their famous jazz performances.
- The Denver Central Market – This gourmet food market and dining hall is tucked away in Denver’s River North Art District (RiNo). Stop by for a wide variety of food choices and a beer at Curio.
- Denver Milk Market – Located in LoDo’s former Dairy Block, the Denver Milk Market is another dining hall with a variety of choices. It’s run by local chef and restauranteur Frank Bonnano.
- Hi-Dive – As its name suggests, it’s a dive bar. It’s also a popular concert venue.
- Lion’s Lair Lounge – Grungy dive bar with happy hour every day. It’s one of the oldest independently owned music venues in the city.
- Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs – Classic hot dog restaurant on the corner of East Colfax and Monroe Street. They serve up great-tasting Jersey hot dogs that snap when you bite them. It’s an affordable treat and a solid bang for your buck.
- Sushi Den – One of Denver’s best sushi joints, this upscale establishment was founded in 1984. It’s located in Wash Park and gets busy, so go early and make a reservation.
- Read about the best bars in Denver Airport.
The RTD effectively runs the Denver Metro, with its line of buses and trains. Combine that with the national Amtrak train line, and a historic trolley, and you can get around pretty easily and affordably with no car.
- Amtrak – Picks up at Union Station and transports east to west across the state, passing through Frisco, Glenwood Springs, and Grand Junction, among other stops. It connects all the way from Chicago to California.
- Denver International Airport – If you need to catch a flight you can take the airport train out to D.I.A., Colorado’s only international airport. You can find direct flights to many global destinations including Tokyo and Reykjavik.
- Platte Valley Trolley – Ride in a replica of a 1903 Brill open streetcar around the Platte River. Tours run Friday to Sunday year-round.
- RTD Bus – RTD’s extensive bus line operates throughout the Metropolitan area. You can even take trips to Boulder, Colorado Springs, and west, into the mountains on certain buses. It operates the free 16th Street Mall Bus Ride.
- RTD Light Rail – RTD’s Light Rail connects very well with its bus system. It will take you all around the metro area, including Golden, Arvada, Centennial, Englewood, and Littleton, among other Mile High City suburbs.
In addition to the aforementioned public transportation options, Denver features a variety of private shuttles, as well as the typical taxis, such as Denver Yellow Cab and Metro Taxi, ride-sharing Uber and Lyft, and car rentals. It’s also a bike-friendly city with a growing number of bike lanes and trails.
Jan-Dec – First Friday Santa Fe Art Walk – Santa Fe Drive’s sleepy streets come alive every first Friday evening of the month, all year long. Many of the normally closed art studios open their doors and welcome guests to explore to their heart’s content. Head to Santa Fe Drive, between 6th and 12th for a one-of-a-kind art experience. The summer months are peak season when the street bans cars and turns into a promenade with plenty of food trucks, free art exhibits, and parties.
Jan – National Western Stock Show – Sixteen-day festival held in January every year, featuring rodeos, wildlife, barrel racing, bull-riding, and pairs roping.
Jan – Winter Brew Fest – winter beer festival held over two days in late January at the Mile High Station.
Feb/Mar – Denver Restaurant Week – Ten-day-long celebration of delicious local food with hundreds of Denver area restaurants. Each features multi-course fixed cost menus, held over late February to early March.
Mar – Denver Mardi Gras – Annual Mardi Gras celebration downtown in late February/early March.
May – Cinco de Mayo Festival Denver – Two-day extravaganza in Civic Center Park to promote Mexican heritage. It’s held on May 5th, plus a day before or after. There are low riders, parades, dancers, music, and plenty of tasty food.
May – TheBigWonderful – Weekend showcasing Colorado local businesses, and buying local. It’s centered around over 100 craft vendors, with fine food, beer, and concerts.
May – Denver Arts Festival – Two-day art fest held at Stapleton Conservatory in late May.
May – Rocky Mountain Pinball Showdown – Three-day gamer festival featuring hundreds of pinball, retro console, and classic arcade video games, happening over Memorial Day Weekend.
Jun-Sep – Highlands Farmers Market – Head to Highland Square at West 32nd Avenue every Sunday morning in the summer for a wonderful farmers market experience. It runs from the start of June through September.
Jun – Denver Chalk Art Festival – Early June weekend festival on Larimer Street where artists draw masterpieces on the street.
Jul – Summer Brew Fest – Summer beer festival held over two days in late July at the Mile High Station.
Jul – Cheesman Park Art Fest – Free Cheesman Park festival with local and authentic artists from a variety of styles.
Sep – A Taste Of Colorado – Free music festival in Civic Center Park centered around Colorado’s delicious local food and crafty arts scene.
Sep – Handmade In Colorado Expo – Weekend of local Colorado artists selling their crafts in Skyline Park, held in late September.
Sep – Denver Mineral, Fossil, Gem & Jewelry Show – Nine days of arts, crafts, rocks, and jewelry. It’s held at the National Western Center in mid-September.
Sep – Denver Auto Fest – Five days of amazing automobiles, both foreign and domestic. In mid-September see the hottest new cars and sneak peeks of futuristic models.
Sep – Colorado Dragon Boat Festival – Kick off fall at this colorful, unique weekend at Sloans Lake Park, held in late September. Watch teams compete in the 2,000-year-old sport of dragon boat racing.
Sep-Nov – 13th Floor Haunted House – Each autumn the 13th Floor Haunted Houses returns to Denver from mid-September to mid-November. Celebrate Halloween the traditional way, with screams and scares.
Nov – Snowbound Festival Rockies – Formerly this event was the Colorado Ski & Snowboard expo. It’s a weekend in early November of discounted lift tickets, skis, snowboards, and other gear to kick off your winter season in the Rockies.
Nov – Denver Arts Week – Eight days of arts and craft events around the city. Explore different exhibits in museums and displays in the art district, held in early November.
Nov – Colorado Country Christmas Gift Show – This annual event is held over two weekends, the first of which is at the Denver Mart in early November. Explore the more than 450 booths of arts, crafts, and gifts from local vendors.
Nov-Dec – Denver Christkindl Market – Month-long celebration of German and European holiday tradition downtown by the 16th Street Mall. The highlight is the artisan marketplace, which features both local and international merchants selling their crafts.
Nov-Jan – DBG Blossoms of Light – For approximately two wonderful months from mid-November to early January, discover the holiday lights at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Dec – Parade of Lights – Celebrate the holidays with this annual parade held in December. Watch glowing floats make their way through downtown.
Dec – New Year’s Eve Fireworks – Two free firework shows in Downtown Denver at 9 pm and midnight on December 31st.
Activities near Denver
- Elitch Gardens Theme Park
- Lakeside Amusement Park (7mi)
- Putter’s Pride Mini Golf
- Unser Karting
- Water World (10mi)
- Base Coat Nail Salon
- Be A Good Person
- Bing Beverage Co.
- Boreas Campers
- Continental Sausage-Charcutnuvo
- Craft Boner
- Eagle Claw Fishing Tackle
- Elevation Ketchup
- Floyd’s 99 Grooming
- Hammond’s Candies
- Infinite Monkey Theorem
- Little Colorado
- Merfs Condiments
- Never Summer Industries
- Oogies Gourmet Popcorn
- Paddy O’s Potion
- Perky Jerky
- Rocky Mountain Soda Co.
- Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey
- Topo Designs
- Women’s Bean Project
- Zaca Recovery
- Adam’s Mystery Playhouse
- Avanti Food & Beverage
- Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
- Broadway Market Denver
- Bull & Bush Brewery
- Buckhorn Exchange
- Cherry Cricket
- The Denver Central Market
- Denver Milk Market
- Steve’s Snappin’ Dogs
- Sushi Den
- Wellshire Golf Course (7mi)
- Indian Hot Springs (32mi)
- Colorado State Capitol Building
- Coors Field
- Denver Coliseum
- Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9mi)
- Dunafon Castle (23mi)
- Highlands Ranch Mansion (15mi)
- Infinity Park at Glendale (5mi)
- Mile High Stadium
- National Western Complex
- Pepsi Center
- Union Station
- Westminster Castle (11mi)
- American Museum of Western Art
- Black American West Museum
- Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
- Clyfford Still Museum
- Denver Art Museum
- Denver Firefighters Museum
- Denver Nature & Science Museum
- Forney Museum of Transportation
- Four Mile Historic Park
- History Colorado Center
- Mizel Museum
- Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
- Museo De Las Americas
- Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
- American Paintball Coliseum
- Blitz Paintball (24mi)
- Dynamic Paintball Fun Park (25mi)
- Paintball Adventures (20mi)
- 1STBANK Center (16mi)
- Adam’s Mystery Playhouse
- Bellco Theatre
- Colorado Convention Center
- Denver Performing Arts Complex
- Denver Puppet Theater
- Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre (13mi)
- Fillmore Auditorium
- Lone Tree Arts Center (17mi)
- Mile High Stadium
- Newman Center
- Ogden Theatre
- Paramount Theatre
- Pepsi Center
- Berkeley Park
- Central Park
- Cheesman Park
- City Park
- Civic Center Park
- Commons Park
- Confluence Park
- Inspiration Point Park
- Ninth Street Historic Park
- Rocky Mountain Lake Park
- Sloan’s Lake
- Sunken Gardens Park
- Washington Park
- 16th Street Mall
- Cherry Creek Mall
- Cherry Creek North
- Colorado Mills Mall (11mi)
- Denver Pavilions
- Denver Premium Outlets (17mi)
- FlatIron Crossing (20mi)
- Mile High Flea Market (11mi)
- Outlets at Castle Rock (25mi)
- Outlets at Loveland (48mi)
- Park Meadows Mall (15mi)
- Shops at Northfield Stapleton
- Source Market Hall
- Southlands (22mi)
- Stanley Marketplace (6mi)
- Streets at SouthGlenn (11mi)
- Town Center at Aurora (11mi)
Professional Sports Teams:
- Colorado Avalanche
- Colorado Mammoth
- Colorado Rapids
- Colorado Raptors
- Colorado Rockies
- Denver Barbarians
- Denver Broncos
- Denver Nuggets
- Denver Outlaws
- Barr Lake State Park (21mi)
- Castlewood Canyon State Park (37mi)
- Cherry Creek State Park (16mi)
- Chatfield State Park (23mi)
- Golden Gate Canyon State Park (30mi)
- Roxborough State Park (27mi)
- Staunton State Park (38mi)
- Arvada (9mi)
- Aurora (9mi)
- Boulder (28mi)
- Brighton (22mi)
- Broomfield (18mi)
- Castle Pines (24mi)
- Castle Rock (30mi)
- Centennial (14mi)
- Colorado Springs (70mi)
- Commerce City (6mi)
- Dacono (20mi)
- Deckers (50mi)
- Edgewater (5mi)
- Erie (27mi)
- Englewood (6mi)
- Evergreen (27mi)
- Fort Collins (65mi)
- Franktown (35mi)
- Glendale (4mi)
- Golden (15mi)
- Greeley (56mi)
- Greenwood Village (10mi)
- Henderson (10mi)
- Highlands Ranch (15mi)
- Idaho Springs (32mi)
- Lakewood (7mi)
- Littleton (9mi)
- Lone Tree (18mi)
- Loveland (52mi)
- Morrison (16mi)
- Northglenn (13mi)
- Parker (25mi)
- Roxborough Park (26mi)
- Sedalia (25mi)
- Sheridan (8mi)
- Thornton (12mi)
- Westminster (11mi)
- Wheat Ridge (3mi)
- Amtrak Train
- Blue Sky Limo Airport Shuttle
- Denver International Airport
- Denver Yellow Cab
- Metro Taxi
- RTD Bus
- RTD Rail
- Silver Mountain Express
- Summit Express Airport Shuttle
- Clear Creek Rafting (15mi)
Latest in Denver
After three years in the making, Meow Wolf Denver, the company’s largest permanent installation, has finally…
View more Denver articles