17 Free Things to Do in Denver That Aren’t in the Mountains
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This is the best list of free things to do in Denver, written by a local.
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 are 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 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.
Explore the 100-Year-Old Denver Union Station
Denver Union Station is one of Denver’s most iconic landmarks with over 100 years of history. Come admire the Beaux-Arts train station, which is also the home to numerous eateries, bars, boutiques, and the renowned Crawford Hotel.
As one of Denver’s main transport hubs, exploring the Denver Union Station is completely free.
But if you want more in-depth information about this historical place, Crawford Hotel offers tours Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 1 pm. and most other days at 4 pm They are not free but only costs $20 per person!
Tour the Colorado State Capitol Building
This may sound like a total snoozefest, but our capital 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 10 am – 3:00 pm. Walk-ins are welcome but reservations are required for groups of 10 people or more!
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, rain or shine, from 5:30 – 9:30 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 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 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!
Disclaimer: Please note that the U.S. Mint of Denver appears to have paused its free tours indefinitely due to the COVID-19 situation. We recommend you to check out their official site for updated information and see whether the free tour tours are available once again!
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 the Hammond’s Candies Factory Tour
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 confectionary is 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 Monday – Friday from 9:15 am – 2:45 pm, but it is important that you book online and check their schedule beforehand as it is constantly changing!
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 (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, and insider details, and point out the not-so-obvious facts about 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.
Join a tour, make some new friends, and see our city through the eyes of a local.
Visit the Tattered Cover Bookstore
If you are someone that is into cute bookstores, then don’t miss the Tattered Cover Bookstore. The Tattered Cover is the largest independent bookstore in Colorado with three stores in Denver.
In fact, the bookstore has become such an icon in Denver that more than 500 events are hosted each year. It isn’t just a bookstore, but an experience and a place with a tight-knit community.
It’s completely free to browse, so come check out the amazing selection of books and the on-site coffee shop!
FREE THINGS TO DO IN DENVER SURROUNDING AREAS
Any of the below will require a bit more work to get to (a rental car would be best), but absolutely worth it in the end!
Take a Free Self-Guided Tour at Red Rocks Amphitheater
The Red Rocks Amphitheater is spectacular to see, a geological phenomenon and the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. From Sting and The Beatles to opera stars and U2, big-named artists all play on this magical, spiritual, and emotional stage.
Enjoy walking through 738 acres of deer, dinosaurs, pines and prairie, geological wonders, and spectacular vistas in a unique transitional zone where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains.
Admission is free to visit and take a self-guided tour of the Red Rocks Park, trails, amphitheatre, Visitor Center, Trading Post, Performers Hall of Fame, and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame on non-show days. Red Rocks Park and trails open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset and is open year-round too.
Visit the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Don’t want to do anything too physical? Go check out the wildlife at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge where you can spot animals like bison, prairie dogs, and more!
There are 20 miles of easy hiking and bicycle trails, an auto-tour route you can do from your car, go fishing or do archery, or see the many wildlife exibits.
Visiting the refuge is totally FREE! It’s open daily from sunrise to sunset except on public holidays. It is located about 8 miles away from downtown Denver.
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 as no surprise that there are TONS of options near Denver to get on 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), Cherry Creek Trail around the Cherry Creek Reservoir (Centennial), 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.
Disclaimer: Please note that Celestial Seasonings appears to have paused its free tours indefinitely due to the COVID-19 situation. We recommend you to check out their official site for updated information and see whether the free factory tours are available once again!
Take a Tour of Coors Brewing Company
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 in the full brewing and packaging process. And afterward, 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.
Update: Unfortunately, the Coors Brewery tours are no longer free and they start at $20 USD per person. Though not free, it is still one of the best cheap things to do in Denver, CO.
BEST CHEAP PLACES TO STAY IN DEVER
This is the ultimate list of the best cheap hotels in Denver, Colorado. If you’re visiting Denver from out of town on a budget, these are the cheapest and best places to stay!
Off Broadway B & B
This precious little B&B is (as the name suggests) right off Broadway in the center of the city. Being such a great price and location, this is the best value-for-money hotel in Denver, hands down! The beds are super comfy and the hotel is set within a historic landmark building. With friendly and accommodating owners (who cook a mean breakfast) and an equally friendly labradoodle, your stay in this funky neighborhood is sure to be memorable.
La Quinta by Wyndham Denver Gateway Park
Close to the airport, this cheap Denver hotel is a little bit out of town, but close enough to get in quickly. With large, spacious rooms, aircon, a swimming pool, and free breakfast, this hotel ticks all the boxes! It’s also conveniently located in a lot with several food places nearby as well as some museums.
Comfort Suites Near Denver Downtown
Nice and close to the center of the city, this hotel is immaculately clean and so big and cozy it constantly surprises guests that it’s so cheap! A free airport shuttle is offered for those without cars and the hotel is close to museums and attractions. The free breakfast is varied, and the people at the front desk are super friendly and helpful. This is an awesome cheap hotel in Denver.
If the words Denver day trip and Denver brewery tour excite you, you should check these cool tours out!
THINGS TO DO IN DENVER FOR FREE FAQs
There are plenty of free and fun things to do in Denver. For outdoor enthusiasts, enjoy the Cherry Creek Trail around the Cherry Creek Reservoir. It is a 6.7-mile loop that is perfect for breaking a sweat. For those that want something more challenging, you can do parts of the 40-mile Cherry Creek regional trail that takes you through some of the best sights of Denver.
Don’t want to do anything too physical, go check out the wildlife at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. It is located about 8 miles away from downtown Denver and features a scenic wildlife drive where you can spot animals like bison, prairie dogs, and more!
If you are not an outdoor aficionado, many establishments offer free tours. For example, anyone with a sweet tooth will adore the Hammond’s candies factory tour. Alternatively, you can tour the U.S. Mint of Denver and the Colorado State Building for free!
Denver is one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. While it is still relatively cheap compared to places like San Francisco or NYC, Denver is fairly expensive on its own. Property prices are rising rapidly, and in return, bringing the average cost of living up!
Though Denver is an expensive city to visit, there are many tips to save you some money. First, you should avoid renting a car there. Public transportation is well-designed and can take you to the majority of the attractions in the city. Second, don’t stay in the city center. Stay just far enough that you avoid paying the premium of the convenience, but close enough that getting to the city center would be easy. Lastly, consider getting the Denver CityPASS, a customizable pass that saves you lots of money on the city’s top attractions.
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