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1 Day in Denver: The Ultimate Itinerary for 2024

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4 weeks ago

Only a few years back, travelers would transit in Denver on the way to ski resorts in Vail or hiking trips in the Rocky Mountains. That’s all changed in recent years: Denver has overseen one of the U.S’s most impressive urban regeneration programs with a post-COVID wave of young professionals moving to the Mile High city. Today, Denver is an increasingly popular destination in its own right and the ideal weekend escape.

There’s nothing I love more than an urban center which merges into its natural environment (Hong Kong does it the best). While Denver may have that quintessential North American skyline, at random street corners or viewpoints you are reminded that Denver is a city in the heart of the wilderness.

On a clear day (and in Denver that’s not a rarity), you’ll often see the snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. You’ll regularly come across river-ways in Denver which aren’t your ordinary murky urban river, but rather a wild waterway suited to rafting or beavers.

denver art museum architecture modern libeskind

Whether you’re spending one day in Denver on the way to the Rocky Mountains, or looking to complete the ultimate Denver weekend itinerary, you’ll want to make sure our ultimate one day in Denver itinerary is on hand for your time in the Mile High city.

Best area to stay in Denver

Most of the major international chains are located Downtown. However, I prefer to stay a little north, closer to RiNo (River Art North District). Around the Art Deco Union Station, you’ll find a number of hotels covering all budgets including the Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown (literally in Union Station), The Oxford Hotel (dating from 1891) and The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block.  

1 Day in Denver

9 am: Breakfast

It’s no secret: Denver is a foodie city. Denver’s vibrant dining scene has been a key pillar in renewing the city’s energy, so it’s crucial you start your one day in Denver the right way. And the right way always involves a delicious meal.

If you’re after a solid brunch offering, you’ll want to check out either Fox And The Hen (for huevos rancheros) or Wilde (for the brunchy breakfast pizza).

However, if you’re looking for a traditional Denver breakfast, you must try biscuit sandwiches. Everyone knows the best biscuits are made by the Denver Biscuit Co, which has a few branches around the city. Denver biscuits are something between a scone and an English muffin, usually stuffed with everything from eggs to fried chicken and everything in between.

10 am: Colorado State Capitol

Denver is the state capital of Colorado, so history and politics buffs will want to check out the Colorado State Capitol. For a free guided tour, just head inside to the Visitor Information Desk. If you’re not keen on taking a tour, I still think it’s worthwhile taking a walk around the grounds, which are surrounded by the grand Civic Center Park and Colorado Supreme Court.

steps with writing that says one mile above sea level in denver

Don’t miss taking a photo with the step which recognizes the point where you are ‘one mile above sea level’ – the name Mile High City didn’t come from nowhere!

If you are visiting Denver on the weekend, note that the Colorado State Capitol is closed on Sundays.

11:30 am: Denver Art Museum

Denver is an artsy city. If you’ve spent any time in the city, you’ll quickly notice a strong presence of public sculptures, murals and street arts. The Denver Art Museum is one of America’s leading art museums, housed in landmark buildings by world-acclaimed architects Daniel Libeskind and Gio Ponti.  

denver art museum public art mural architecture 1 day

The Denver Art Museum is home to about 70,000 pieces of art, so it can be tricky trying to decide what to see during your 1 day in Denver itinerary. In my opinion, the most unique sections of the gallery include those which represent artists from Colorado, including Native American artists. The Mayer Center for Ancient and Latin American Art includes some fascinating works, and you shouldn’t miss the Western American art collection for some Colorado classics.

If you’re not an art appreciator and trying to squeeze a lot into your 1 day in Denver, you may be considering skipping the Denver Art Museum. If so, I think it’s still worth popping past the museum quickly for the architecture and award-winning gift shop. But, yes, you have our permission to not visit the art collection.

Keen to keep going with the art-focused tour? You can fill a whole day in Denver just with visiting murals and public art, and we absolutely loved this public art walking tour.

1 pm: Lunch

If you’re visiting on a Wednesday or Thursday, check out the food trucks at Civic Center EATS just across from the Denver Art Museum.

Otherwise, for a casual snacky lunch, I recommend heading up to the Denver Central Market in RiNo which is home to a number of stalls with everything from fish tacos to Italian-style pizza.

3 pm: RiNo and Downtown

After lunch, it’s time to spend a few hours exploring Denver’s trendy RiNo and the more business-focused Downtown. One of the great joys of Denver is stumbling across a large politically charged mural or going thrift shopping in the countless vintage stores.

To orient yourself around this large area, here are some of my highlights:

  • Denver Central Market: the surrounding streets are full of vintage shops, restaurants and breweries.
  • Union Station: the Art Deco gem is home to many shops, including the famous Tattered Cover bookstore. On weekends, you can often find small markets set up outside.
  • Larimer Square: full of clothes stores and cafes. Don’t miss the very-Denver Garage Sale Vintage which includes a bar inside the shop and free shots with every t-shirt purchase.
  • 16th Street Mall: a Denver classic, the ultimate urban pedestrian mall.

For those who want to maximize their 1 day in Denver, we recommend joining a RiNo Art District walking tour to learn more about Denver’s trendiest neighborhood. If you prefer to go at your own pace, the self-guided audio RiNo walking tour is also extremely popular (and cheap).

5 pm: Brewery hopping

Denver is famous for its breweries and gastropubs, and what better way to experience them then to go on your own pre-dinner brewery hopping tour!

In my opinion, the best way to go about this is to join a dedicated pub-hopping tour where you will not simply taste test Denver’s best beers, but also learn about the development of craft beer culture in the city. If you’d prefer to DIY, our favorites include: Black Shirt Brewing Co., Our Mutual Friends Brewing, Great Divide Brewing Co. and Jagged Mountain Craft Brewery.

7 pm: Dinner

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: be prepared to eat well in Denver. Luckily for you, we’ve curated a short list of our favorite Denver restaurants to help you decide where to eat dinner during your Denver in one day tour.

9 pm: Speakeasy

If you’re keen to maximize your 1 day in Denver (and still have room for a little more alcohol), I recommend checking out Denver’s other drinking scene: speakeasies.

Williams & Graham is a regular favorite – where in true speakeasy fashion you enter through the shelves of an old bookshop. Retrograde, hidden in the back of an ice cream shop, also earns glowing reviews.

Alternative evening plan: Red Rocks Park

On the outskirts of Denver, set amid deep-red sandstone rocks, is the iconic Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, an outdoor performing arts centre which seats up to 9,000 people. If you’re able to coordinate your trip with a concert here, you’ll want to shuffle your evening plans around to make it work. You can find the latest shows and tickets on the Red Rocks website.

During the summer months you’ll often find large yoga classes or other outdoor activities being organized at the Red Rocks.

Beyond 1 day in Denver: Rocky Mountains National Park

So you’ve decided to stay a little longer? Denver is the gateway for tours deeper into Colorado’s wilderness, including the magnificent Rocky Mountains National Park.

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