Welcome to Colorado’s Mile High City – our favorite things to do in Denver
Imagine being on a plane and seeing nothing but farmlands down below. You know the mountains have to be somewhere but yet they are nowhere in sight. The plane eventually lands and before you know it you’ve passed through security and are picking up your luggage. While signing the contract for the rental car (and making sure you DON’T sign for anything unwanted) you still wonder where those mountains are. By the time you are finally on the highway and sun is setting you see the skyscrapers of Denver appear. And in the back, the mountains are rising. Welcome to the Mile High City!
Also read: 3 days in Denver
While we don’t really like big cities (unless they’re called Sydney or Vancouver) you can’t escape from seeing them when you travel. During our last “big” trip the past summer, we started and ended our journey in Denver, Colorado’s capital. We ended up enjoying it much more than we expected. If we would have to move to the US, Denver would for sure be a good place to settle. Today, we’d like to share our favorite things to do in Denver with you!
First things first: REI
REI is the best American outdoor store in my opinion. I always visit when in Anchorage, Alaska (the perks of working in tourism) and now I wanted to introduce Martijn to this store. Even though I usually don’t need anything (my collection of outdoor clothes is just too large) I always end up buying something. This time I got new rain pants, bear spray and white gas for our stove. On the way home we went back and got running pants and some t-shirts. This store is particularly nice as it has an indoor climbing wall and its location has the best view of Downtown Denver and the River Platte. While sipping from our iced tea and latte’s at Starbucks we made plans for the rest of our trip. Visiting REI was, for us Dutchies, definitely one of our favorite things to do in Denver!
Downtown Denver is quite nice. We visited in June so it was quite warm, too. Although it doesn’t really have any significant landmarks, we found the atmosphere nice and relaxing. One must see is the 40 ft Blue Bear, which was designed by Denver artist Lawrence Argent. It’s looking right into the Colorado Convention Center: “I see what you mean.”
Then take a walk through 16th Street Mall for some shopping and make sure to have a hotdog at Biker Jim’s. The best in town, according to Lonely Planet. We don’t have any comparison material but they were darn good and large!
Silver Bullet Shooting range
Something we really enjoyed doing while in Denver was visit Silver Bullet Shooting Range. I know that many readers will disapprove of this so in case you do, just stop reading here. We’re from The Netherlands and here having a gun is illegal. So when planning our trip to America, visiting a shooting range seemed like something interesting to experience, just for once. Our San Diego friend Cassandra (whom we met on the Inca Trail in Peru about 6 years ago) told us about this place so we checked them out on the internet beforehand to make sure it was all legal and safe. Upon arrival we were immediately welcomed and explained about everything. We bought bullets, hired a gun and started firing.
Red Rocks Amphitheater
If you have a car, make sure to visit the Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s a 20 minute drive from downtown Denver and beautifully located in the mountains. First time we heard about it was when we bought the U2 DVD Live at Red Rocks but as it turned out, many great bands have already performed here. During our (free!) visit they were building the stage for a concert that evening and people were exercising in the arena: running, jumping and doing pushups. I t was totally inspiring to see all these people there.
Another great just-out-of-town-place to visit is Colorado Springs. When heading over there, you might as well pay a visit to the Air Force Academy, especially the amazingly modern Cadet Chapel is worth going. The real reason to go to Colorado Springs however is The Garden of the Gods. This public park where red rocks have risen from the ground just like that, is very impressive and makes a good afternoon stroll, especially when you are (in our case) very jet lagged. But… only if you haven’t seen any red rocks before. Don’t mind going there if you have been to the parks in Utah because then you will probably end up disappointed.
Overall, we really liked Denver. It’s not a city I would stay longer than a day to get shopping done but as for living, I’m sure it would be a great place. Laid back, friendly, not too big and very important: right next to the mountains! It basically has written “diving board to the outdoors” all over.
Have you been to Denver? If yes, what did we miss that you enjoyed a lot? Any other things to do in Denver you’d suggest to us when we’re coming back?
Want to read more about our Colorado posts? You may also enjoy these:
– The best (short) hikes in Colorado
– Hiking and biking to Maroon Bells, Colorado
– Camping in Mueller State Park: a must-do for outdoor fans
[Please note: this post was originally written late 2013 and updated early 2017.]
Curious who I am? Check my bio to find out more!
For a daily dose of outdoor & adventure inspiration, follow me on Instagram and Facebook!
Thanks for sharing!