17 Free Things to Do in Denver That Aren’t in the Mountains
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This is a city for the younger generation! With that comes loads of cool artistic and musical free things to do in Denver that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the USA.
With a reported 300+ days of sunshine, a booming tech sector, and a generally young population (the median age is only 34!), it’s no surprise that eager transplants have been relocating to Denver in droves over the past few years.
While in a lot of ways it’s been great for the local economy, one unfortunate side effect is that many costs have skyrocketed as a result, including when it comes to tourism.
But while visiting the Mile High City is sure to be memorable, it doesn’t have to break the bank! Here is a list of completely free things to do in Denver that you can experience during your visit to Denver City and the surrounding areas.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN DENVER METRO
All of the below are within walking or a reasonable Uber/Lyft distance to Downtown Denver!
Explore All the 16th Street Mall Has to Offer
The 16th street mall is a bit iconic in the city of Denver. Not only is there solid people watching (really, really solid), but as you explore from one end to the next you will come across a variety of shops to peruse, art installations to admire, and even some pianos spread about to show off your ivory skills.
Does the thought of all that walking turn you off? Well, then you’re in the luck! There are also free buses that run from one end to the next, so you can easily give your feet a rest when it’s needed.
Experience Smooth Jazz at Jazz in the Park
Each summer, Denver’s City Park is turned into your jazz haven with 10 completely free jazz concerts on Sunday evenings. It’s a tradition that has been going on for years. No, really…it began more than 130 years ago!
Grab a spot, make friends with your neighbors, and show off your dance moves while enjoying the tunes completely free of charge. The concerts run from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, but you’ll want to arrive early to claim your space.
Tour the Colorado State Capitol Building
This may sound like a total snoozefest, but our capitol building has some amazing architectural features to be seen! The dome of the building is actually gilded in gold from Colorado gold mines.
Inside you will find more breathtaking features and Instagram worthy shots. And when you’re finished, you can enjoy the capitol lawn and have a picnic lunch! Tours are generally offered Monday through Friday from 7:30 am – 5:00 pm.
Daydream of Building an Art Collection at First Friday Art Walks
Denver has a number of arts districts these days, but my personal favorite is the Santa Fe Arts District. Here you can participate in the First Friday Art Walks which occur the first Friday of every month, year-round, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm.
Peruse the art galleries and shops while admiring local work. Some of them even provide light refreshments free of charge! There’s also a free shuttle that runs every 20 minutes. Free on free on free? Yes, please!
Attend One of Our Many Free Summer Festivals
Summer in the Mile High city is amazing. We are technically a desert climate, which means you can expect that hot, but not humid weather. We get plenty of moisture, so the trees, flowers, and greenery are all shining through. This all makes Denver a great place to hold a summer festival, and lucky for us, many of them are completely free to attend!
My personal favorites are:
Denver Day of Rock: this event, occurring every Memorial Day weekend, is the official kickoff to summer in Denver! It’s a one-day, jam-packed music festival with five stages of completely free musical acts nestled in downtown.
Denver Chalk Art Festival: typically occurring the first weekend in June, the chalk art festival is not one to be missed. More than 200 artists spend hours creating their works of art directly on the streets of Larimer Square in downtown Denver. But the event doesn’t stop there! There’s live music, vendors galore, and a photo contest that you can participate in.
Colorado Dragon Boat Festival: taking place each July, the dragon boat festival is a cultural event not to be missed! Your free admission includes the opening ceremony, a variety of musical acts, traditional Asian dancers, and of course the boat races!
A Taste of Colorado: this is the annual end of summer celebration that takes place every Labor Day weekend! Admission is completely free, and that includes the concert series they put on every year. You will find everything from country to rock on the lineup. Something to suit every taste!
Tour the U.S. Mint of Denver
Ever wonder how our coins get produced in the U.S.? Well with your trip to Denver you can learn just that! Historically, The Denver Mint was created when a need arose to turn gold nuggets into coins during the Gold Rush.
Now, the Denver Mint covers all coin production for the entire western half of the U.S. They offer six free tours a day, Monday – Thursday. Tickets are limited and on a first come, first served basis…so be sure and get there early to claim your tickets!
Get Some Quality Outdoor Time at one of Our Many Parks
While we may not have a park as grand as Central Park, you may be surprised to learn that the Denver Park system includes nearly 20,000 acres of parkland today! And the best part about it is they’re all free for public use, and boy do we take advantage. On any given nice day in the park, you will see all sorts of sports being played (volleyball, kickball, etc.), people walking their dogs, picnics, joggers…the list really goes on and on.
Some of my personal favorites are Washington Park, City Park, and Cheeseman Park (pictured below).
Get a Toothache During a Tour of Hammond’s Candy Factory
Hammond’s has been churning out your favorite sweets since 1920, and now you can bring your curiosity to their factory for a complimentary tour to see how it all goes down. This is a “hands-on” facility where all their confections are made and packaged by hand, with the help of some machinery, of course. And at the end, you can take home a fresh treat!
Tours run every half hour (on the half hour) Monday – Friday from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, and Saturday from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm.
Admire Denver’s Street Art Scene
Denver has multiple arts districts throughout the city and is home to the largest arts complex in the country (at the Denver Center for Performing Arts). So it’s natural that the arts focus of the city spills into the streets, manifesting itself into beautiful murals, modern graffiti art pieces, and curious sculptures that will get you contemplating their meaning.
Take a Free Walking Tour of the City
There’s no better way to experience a city than to take a tour with someone who can explain the history, insider details, and point out the not-so-obvious facts of each location!
But since we are traveling on a budget here, it’s also good to know that there are plenty of options in Denver for completely free (although tips are appreciated) walking tours. So join a tour, make some new friends, and see our city through the eyes of a local.
FREE THINGS TO DO IN DENVER SURROUNDING AREAS
Any of the below will require a bit more work to get to (rental car would be best), but absolutely worth it in the end!
Catch a Free Flick at Red Rocks Amphitheater
I visit Red Rocks often to catch a concert or hike in mother nature, but what you may not know is that you can also catch a movie at the rocks?! Every summer they hold Film on the Rocks, a free movie series, typically on Mondays or Tuesdays.
Doors open at 6:30 pm and a band entertain the crowd until it’s dark enough to start the movie. All completely free of charge!
NOTE: As of August 2018 it has been brought to my attention that ‘Film on the Rocks’ is no longer Free :(, it now costs $15 for tickets.
Regardless the area is still magical to see, so go and check it out, even if you don’t have money for a ticket. Admission is free to visit Red Rocks Park, Amphitheatre, Visitor Center, Trading Post and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame. Red Rocks Park and trails open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset on non-show days.
Take a Tour of Coors Brewery
The Coors Brewery is nestled in the foothills of the mountains right along a bubbling river. And if that backdrop alone doesn’t fit your fancy, it’s also the world’s largest single-site brewery! You can tour the facilities and take in all there is to offer of the full brewing and packaging process. And afterwards, you are treated to beer samples!
The hours can vary by season, so best to check their website when planning your trip. However, they are generally providing brewery tours Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and Sundays from noon – 4:00 pm.
Get Your Sweat On During a Hike
Okay, I couldn’t NOT put a few hikes in. Colorado is a very outdoor-centric place to live, so it should come to no surprise that there are TONS of options near Denver to get in an excellent hike. Some of my personal favorites are Garden of the Gods (Colorado Springs; pictured below), Red Rocks Amphitheater (Morrison), Deer Creek Canyon (Littleton) and Lookout Mountain (Golden).
For those of you who may not be used to hiking at higher elevations (Denver is the Mile High city, after all), be sure to drink plenty of water and wear your sunscreen!
Take a Tour of Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory
Are you a tea lover? Then no doubt you’ve heard of Celestial Seasonings. The company was founded and is still headquartered, in Boulder, Colorado. The founder used wild herbs from our nearby Rocky Mountains to create his first tea.
Now you can visit their HQ in Boulder and see exactly how they go from fresh ingredients to your favorite beverage!
Free factory tours are offered Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and Sunday from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.
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