You can’t explore Denver in two days, but these highlights turned Denver into a destination instead of a quick stop on the way to the Rockies.
Day 1 can be done without a car. Day 2 is easier with a car but you can always take a taxi or Lyft. Mix and match activities between the two days. If you’re in town on business or only have a few hours to explore, visit Denver’s Best When You Only have a Few Hours. If you have a car, instead of staying in Denver, check out Morrison and Evergreen: Where Denverites Play.
Staying downtown? Breakfast at DJ’s on 9th Avenue Cafe (Lincoln and 9th Ave.) for tasty pancakes or one of the half-dozen variations of eggs Benedict.
Immerse Yourself in Fine Art
Head to the Denver Art Museum famed for its Daniel Lebiskind-designed Hamilton building; temporary exhibits (from French Impressionists to Star Wars costumes); and modern and contemporary collections. The North Building is currently closed for a major renovation and will reopen in 2020.
Step Back in Time
Try the History Colorado Center, whose Destination Colorado exhibit transports you to life in the early 1900s. Other interactive exhibits reveal the state’s history.
Too many people walk past the CELL, on the far side of the plaza from the art museum. The museum is dedicated to the effects of terrorism, and it’s well worth your time. Tour the CELL in about an hour and walk out more knowledgeable and empowered.
At lunchtime, Mad Greens serves soups, made-to-order salads and sandwiches. Pallets, in the museum’s North Building, is a bit fancier and higher priced. (Try the Colorado lamb burger.) A block away, a red telephone booth on 13 St. signals Pints, designed as an English pub. It offers great burgers, salads, and fish and chips, and the largest collection of single malts we’ve ever seen.
Visit the Denver Mint
After lunch see how coins are made during a 90-minute tour of the U.S. Mint in Denver. Book as far in advance as possible; there’s rarely space without reservations. (You’ll have less trouble with security if you leave your bags in a locker at the Denver Art Museum.)
Take a Shuttle to LoDo
If you can’t get on a Mint tour, walk to the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall and take one of the free shuttles down to LoDo (as the locals call Lower Downtown). Walking along the streets in this section of town, which now stretches toward Coors Fields, you’ll find shops, galleries and restaurants where you can join locals seated on outside patios for a meal, coffee or ice cream.
For a touch of elegance, walk to the luxurious Brown Palace hotel to experience Afternoon High Tea (make a reservation). The American Museum of Western Art housing the Anschutz Collection is across the street in an old building once rumored to be a brothel (with a private tunnel to the Brown.) It’s arguably the finest collection of western art (primarily paintings) ever assembled and a “don’t miss” for western art lovers. (Open Monday and Wednesday; closes at 4:30.)
Hungry After Touring?
Picking a dinner restaurant in this dining savvy town can be difficult; there are so many good chefs. Head downtown to try Rioja for Mediterranean, the Palm at the Westin for fork-tender steaks or lobster, or Aloi Modern Thai with a delicious mix of contemporary and traditional Thai cuisine.
Be adventuresome and start the day at Lucile’s Creole Cafe for true Creole and Cajun food (try the Cajun Breakfast or Eggs Pontchartrain). It’s usually packed so call ahead (303-282-6258).
Visit a Silver Mine and Fly Into Space
Visit the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to learn about flying high in the Space Odyssey, Egyptian mummies and Mexican silver mines — for starters. You (and the kids) could spend a whole day here, between the exhibits, IMAX theater and Gates Planetarium shows. The best thing about the food court? It’s in the museum; there’s not much else in the area.
Watch Elephants Walk Overhead
If the kids are along, the Denver Zoo is within walking distance. The fourth most popular zoo in the nation is regarded for exceptionally well done habitats. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see up-close elephants, large cats, primates and hundreds of other species.
Stroll Through Gardens from Around the Globe
Or, drive over to the Denver Botanic Gardens on York St. We particularly enjoy the Japanese garden and tea house, set in the far corner of the Garden’s 23 acres. The Garden periodically incorporates works of artists such as Allan Houser and Dale Chihuly among its seven themed gardens.
Shopping for a Change of Pace
Head into the heart of Cherry Creek, one of the most up-scale sections of town. The Cherry Creek Mall on First Avenue, plus galleries and shops of all types in Cherry Creek North, provide a shop-’til-you-drop experience.
Dining in Cherry Creek
Cherry Creek has good to excellent restaurants. Elway’s on First Avenue is tops for tender steaks. Zaidy’s Deli serves fat corned beef and pastrami sandwiches through the early dinner hour. Little Ollie’s is the place for Chinese. Home-cooking at Second Home Kitchen leaves you satisfied.