When people think of Denver, I think they’re mostly thinking of skiing/snowboarding, which isn’t the cheapest thing in the world to do.
But that’s not all Denver has to offer! As a Colorado local, I can guarantee that Denver is a fantastic budget travel destination. There’s plenty to do in the city for free, and that includes some of the very best things the Mile High City has to offer.
Spoiler alert: it involves a lot of walking.
32 of the best things to do in Denver–for free!
1. Take a free walking tour of Denver
With Denver Free Walking Tours, you can see tons of highlights with the ease of some local experts! It’s an easy way to soak it all in in a short period of time. But please, tip your guides.
2. Visit the Denver Art Museum on free admission day
The first Saturday of each month is free admission day to the great Denver Art Museum! You’ll find all kinds of exhibits, and there are frequently new and exciting temporary displays.
Note: many of the temporary exhibits are not free, and the museum is currently undergoing construction.
3. Admire the street art all over the city
I’m not sure Denver is known for its art, but it definitely should be. There’s street art everywhere, ranging from huge and beautiful to small and wacky. You can easily spend hours just walking around looking at them, and I recommend it for any itinerary!
4. Take a free tour of the Denver US Mint
5. Visit Hudson Gardens
Hudson Gardens is technically in Littleton, but it’s wonderful! The garden is free to roam every day, and it has tons kinds of plants and ponds to enjoy. This isn’t a botanical garden, but it’s a beautiful, simple park to walk around in.
6. Pose with the Big Blue Bear
One of Colorado’s most famous statues: the Big Blue Bear! This big guy is always peeking into the Colorado Convention Center, and he’s an adorable way to show that you visited Denver!
7. Walk along 16th Street Mall
16th Street Mall is essentially one big shopping center full of food and shopping, and is one of the most popular destinations. If you come at night, you can even see the twinkle lights that wrap around the trees.
8. Visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on free admission day
Another free admission day! The Museum of Nature and Science is one of the coolest museums in Denver, and we all know it. That’s why these days are insanely packed–but the place is huge, so you won’t feel too squished. You can check the schedule here.
9. Check out the Denver Chalk Art festival
Every year in June, the two day Denver Chalk Art Festival pops up in Larimer Square, where you can watch more than 200 insanely talented chalk artists create beautiful images on the street right before your eyes. This is actually a pretty huge local event, with tons of food and beer, so it’s a must if you want to have that “local” experience!
10. Explore RiNo Art District
This kind of goes hand in hand with admiring street art, but RiNo has tons of art and food to experience (including a brand new Shake Shack)! It’s a really nice area to relax and take a stroll!
11. Visit the Denver Zoo on free admission day
This one is great if you have kids. The Denver Zoo isn’t the best zoo in Colorado, but it’s still a pleasant stroll! Be warned, free admission day is a big deal at the zoo as well. You can find their free days here.
12. Have a picnic along South Platte River
Colorado may be landlocked, but we make do with beaches of our own. The rocky sand along Platte River is a beautiful spot to have a picnic or go kayaking, that’ll really make you feel at home in Denver.
13. Go hiking!
Duh! Colorado is full of hiking locations, and the Denver area isn’t lacking either. There are dozens of places you can go that are a short drive from Denver, and most of them are completely free, making it perfect for budget travel! You’re not really experiencing Colorado until you’ve gone!
14. Explore the beauty of the Denver Center of Performing Arts at night
This area is spectacularly designed. Whether or not you go see a show is moot, because the twinkling lights and European feel of this place is worth a visit on its own.
15. Feel like a cool trendsetter at Dairy Block
It’s up and coming, it’s full of art, and it’s tucked in an alley. Dairy Block is an awesome area in LoDo, which is currently in the works to be full of all kinds of food like the Milk Market food court. You’ll feel like a real insider walking along this alley!
16. Have a photoshoot at Denver City Hall
17. …and another one at the Colorado Capitol
18. Stroll along the tents of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival
The annual Cherry Creek Arts Festival is a three day event in July with all kinds of local artists displaying and selling their art pieces. It’s really wonderful to go around and support their creativity!
19. Explore the original Tattered Cover bookstore
Just steps away from Union Station is the original Tattered Cover, a peaceful and quiet nook to grab a coffee and catch up on some reading.
20. …or support an independent bookstore like City Stacks Books and Coffee
21. Cheer on rowers at the annual Dragon Boat Festival
This is a really fun one! Every July, the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival arrives at Sloans Lake, where you can stuff yourself with Asian food, check out the vendors and cheer on the dragon boat races across the lake.
22. Take a free tour of Coors Brewery (or most other breweries)
23. Exercise at Red Rocks Amphitheater (or just enjoy the view)
Fitness nuts show up here all the time to run along the steps of this amazing venue, and others come along for the many hikes surrounding it. You can also just drive up to enjoy the view of the most beautiful concert venue in the world!
24. Enjoy music at the City Park Jazz
Summers are even better in Denver when you get to listen to some jazz music in the park every Sunday evening.
25. Tour the Hammond Candy Factory
Another free tour, you can see how tons of different kinds of candy are created. This was especially popular when I went on a field trip as a kid!
26. Imitate The Dancers
Another one of Denver’s most famous sculptures are The Dancers outside of the Denver Center of Performing Arts. These huge, white figurines are a great opportunity for a photo-op that’s either romantic or silly (but most likely silly).
27. Admire the twinkling lights of Larimer Square
28. Get your fitness freak on at Civic Center Moves
From April to October, people turn up to the Civic Center park for some free group fitness classes. You can also grab food from the food trucks of Civic Center Eats afterwards, for some of the best food Denver has to offer.
29. Relax in Union Station
A few years ago, Union Station was renovated and turned into a bar/hotel. Sitting in the lobby is one of the coziest, loveliest places in Denver, where you can grab some ice cream, coffee, a beer or even Spanish food, while playing a game of shuffleboard.
30. Take a public tour of the Colorado State Capitol building
Denver is truly a haven for free tours, making it totally budget travel friendly. You can take a tour of the inside of our gorgeous state capitol any weekday, no charge!
31. Amble around the Denver Botanic Gardens on free admission day
What’s lovely about so many Denver attractions is how so many of them have these free days year round. The botanic gardens are no different, and you can check their schedule here!
32. Drive on the highest paved road in North America
This is technically not Denver, but the Mt. Evans byway is too cool to miss out! You can drive up the fourteener for awesome views and to hang out with a bunch of Rocky Mountain goats. Be warned, it’s insanely cold, even in the summer!
I hope this will ease any qualms you may have had about the affordability of visiting Denver! Nothing is better than keeping your spending low while still having a fantastic trip.