Planning a short trip to the Mile-High City? We have the perfect 2 days in Denver itinerary (written by a local) including the best things to do, where to eat, drink and stay and other insider tips for a great visit.
The capital of Colorado, Denver is nestled in the foothills of the beautiful Rocky Mountains. The people here are friendly, and they value the outdoors, a good craft beer, and social gatherings with friends.
As an outsider, you’ve likely heard of Denver’s 300+ days of annual sunshine. Or, more commonly, that Denver is “the Mile High City” because our elevation is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level.
But to those unfamiliar with this small city, a wealth of amazing food, places to stay and things to do awaits. You could easily spend a week here and not see it all. But if all you have is a two-day weekend, that’s plenty of time to hit the key points in Denver and really get a feel for the city.
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2 Days in Denver, Colorado – Itinerary for First Time Visitors
Day One in Denver, CO
Breakfast / Union Station
What once was old has now been restored! Union Station underwent a complete overhaul in 2012, and is now a popular hangout spot in the city. It’s conveniently located near the beginning of the 16th Street Mall (on the north end), so this is the perfect place to start your first day.
You’ll find plenty of dining options within Union Station. Snooze, in particular, is a favorite around the city for breakfast. However, if you don’t mind walking a small bit (2-3 minutes) from Union Station, I can’t recommend Tupelo Honey enough!
16th Street Mall
The 16th Street Mall is a one-mile long pedestrian promenade filled with shops, restaurants, and various attractions smack dab in the middle of downtown Denver.
The best way to explore the 16th Street Mall is to walk. That way you can pop in and out of various businesses along the way. You can also stop and watch the street performers, and are sure to encounter some of the best people watching around.
However, if you can’t (or don’t want to) walk, you also have the option of utilizing the free mall ride shuttle. These buses continuously run along the 16th Street Mall (which is closed to any other vehicles) in both directions to get you to your next destination even faster.
Lunch at Sam’s No. 3
If you really want to get a feel for Denver’s beloved restaurant scene, a stop at Sam’s No. 3 is a must. This diner is absolutely adored by Denverites and visitors alike. In fact, if you’re a fan of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” you may recognize this spot.
Like many diners, the menu is quite extensive. However, unlike many diners…all of it at Sam’s is fabulously delicious. You really can’t go wrong with anything you order; however, Sam’s is particularly known for their kickin’ green chili and massive breakfast burritos (served all day, of course).
One of downtown Denver’s most iconic buildings, the Capitol Building is certainly worth a quick pit stop during your visit. Modeled after the U.S. Capitol Building, the most distinctive feature is the gold-plated dome. And yes, it’s made from real gold!
The building offers a free tour, if that’s something you’re into. But make sure you stop and get a picture on the 13th step leading up to the entrance. This point is exactly one mile above sea level, and given Denver is known as the “Mile High City,” this commemorative photo is perfect to remember your trip by.
Denver Art Museum
If art is your thing, then the Denver Art Museum is where you need to be. With over 70,000 pieces of art in their collection, you could spend multiple days exploring here alone.
In addition to permanent pieces, the DAM also hosts a variety of shorter term exhibitions. Covering everything from historical art pieces, to digital art installations, to performance art, you’re sure to find something intriguing!
If you are planning to visit a few museums, consider purchasing a CityPass to save up to 42% off admission.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve likely heard about these amazingly tasty morsels of doughy goodness. Denver was the first Voodoo Doughnuts location opened outside of Oregon, and people have been lining up ever since.
Swing by for an afternoon sugar rush to keep your energy up. There’s no shortage of amazing flavors to try, but the maple bacon long john is where it’s at (in my opinion).
Larimer Square / Dinner
Larimer Square is probably Denver’s most historic and significant block. This is the city’s oldest commercial block, and served as the city’s business hub for many years. After a much-needed renovation in the 1960s, it is once again a bustling hub for the city.
Here there are many bars, restaurants and shops to explore. A popular choice (and personal favorite) for dinner is Osteria Marco, a casual but delicious Italian restaurant.
Catch a Performance
Denver is a mecca for all things performing arts! In fact, the Denver Performing Arts Complex is the largest performing arts center (under one roof) in the entire country.
But if Broadway musicals and plays don’t tickle your fancy, Denver still has something for you!
Catch stand-up comedy at the city’s most beloved comedy club, Comedy Works. Or dance the night away during a concert at one of our (many) amazing music venues.
Day Two in Denver, CO
Start your second day off in Denver’s Ballpark neighborhood! First stop being The Lobby, where you can grab an amazing breakfast (or brunch) to kick start your day.
Not only do they have incredibly inventive and delicious food, but their drinks are on point as well! And while not necessarily conducive to a day of sightseeing, you can imbibe on bottomless mimosas at The Lobby every day of the week. So an important decision will need to be made here, and I won’t judge either way.
If you emerge from The Lobby without a belly full of mimosas, the next stop on the agenda is exploring Denver’s River North Art District (aka RiNo) neighborhood. This is one of Denver’s most eclectic and trendy neighborhoods, so there are tons of options to see and do here.
You will have a front row seat to Denver’s street art scene when walking the streets of RiNo. You can sign up for a guided street art tour of RiNo here. And if you’re a beer lover, there’s no shortage of amazing craft breweries in this neighborhood. Including Blue Moon, Ratio Beerworks, Epic Brewing, and so many more.
You can also try your hand at axe throwing at DAGAR which is one part art gallery, one part axe room. Or you can come back here at night to catch a show at the Mission Ballroom. Really, the possibilities are endless.
Denver Central Market / Lunch
The last few years in Denver have seen an explosion of food halls and gourmet markets, and we certainly aren’t mad about it. And in the RiNo neighborhood, that means a stop at Denver Central Market.
Bustling at any time of day, this market has a variety of shops and food stalls to check out. You can grab a drink at the Curio Bar, savor some legit Italian prosciutto at Vero, or indulge in a sweet treat at Temper Chocolates and Confections.
There are plenty of options, but narrowing them down and making a choice will not be easy.
Catch a Game
Denver is a very sports-centric city. In fact, we have a professional sports team covering pretty much every major sports franchise! That means no matter when you visit, you have a good chance of being able to catch a home game in the Mile High City.
Football: Denver Broncos at Empower Field at Mile High Basketball: Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center Baseball: Colorado Rockies at Coors Field Hockey: Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center Soccer: Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park Lacrosse: Colorado Mammoth at the Pepsi Center
Drinks with a View
One of the best views you can get from Denver is of the Rocky Mountains to the west. And the best way to catch that view is from one of the many rooftop bars in Denver.
It’s honestly hard to find a bad rooftop here. But if you’re looking for drinks with some of the most killer views, then I really suggest checking out the Viewhouse (Ballpark neighborhood), 54 Thirty in the Le Meridien (Downtown), or Avanti Food & Beverage (Highlands neighborhood).
Where to Stay in Denver
For first-time visitors, it’s generally a good idea to stay as close to downtown Denver as possible. You’ll be closer to the action, and will save on overall transportation costs. A couple of hotel suggestions are below, but Denver has no shortage of great hotel options to consider.
The Brown Palace is Denver’s most-famous (and definitely more expensive) historic hotel. But if your budget allows, it’s worth a splurge to live in the lap of luxury for a couple nights.
A more reasonable option cost-wise, the Le Meridien is relatively new and very centrally located. Plus they have the city’s tallest open-air rooftop bar on the 54th floor! As you can imagine, the views of the city from up there (season permitting) are amazing.
Denver Travel Tips
Denver is a well-connected city that is generally easy to navigate. However, the larger metropolitan area is pretty geographically spread out.
If your interests while visiting are contained within the downtown area, you can easily get by without renting a car. However, if you wish to explore the greater metropolitan area, having a car would make that a bit easier for you.
Flying in to Denver is a breeze. Denver International Airport (DIA) is located approximately 30 minutes outside the city, but is easily connected to downtown via train, which runs from DIA to downtown approximately every 30 minutes.
The Light Rail is Denver’s main public transportation system connecting downtown Denver to surrounding areas. The fee structure is based on travel zones, so the further you go, the more expensive it is.
Ride Share / Taxis
Like any major metropolitan area in the US, Denver has a large network of cabs and ride share companies to choose from. Typically speaking this is the most effective way to get around the city.
Kara’s Bio: Kara is the founder, writer and editor behind Happening in Denver, a travel blog. After fleeing small-town life in Wyoming, Kara has called Denver, CO home for the last 12 years. In her free time, she’s dreaming up her next trip, petting any dog that will let her, and laughing (loudly) at any opportunity. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Looking for ideas for more places to visit in the United States? Here is some USA bucket list inspiration:
- The Ultimate USA Travel Bucket List: 100+ Best Places to Visit in USA
- Best USA Road Trips For Your Bucket List
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