48 Hours in Denver

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Denver, Colorado, is quite basically in my blood. My dad lived in the Mile High City for about a year before moving back to Ohio and meeting my mom (maybe that's where my mountain obsession came from?). I've been to Denver twice in the past, but I never stayed for more than a few hours — I was always just passing through on the way to or from the Rocky Mountains.

So for my third trip to Denver, I vowed that I would actually stay in the city for an entire weekend.

And I'm SO glad I did.

Colorado State Capitol in Denver

Denver, as it turns out, is a way cooler city than I ever gave it credit for in the past. With great food, more micro/craft breweries than you can shake a stick at, and a location right at the base of the Rockies, Denver is a great destination for a long weekend within the U.S.

Things to do

Denver is great for a long weekend getaway — it's within a 2-3 hour flight from just about anywhere in the country, and there's plenty to do here for 2 or 3 days.

Things like…

Sit one mile above sea level

The Colorado State Capitol building sits in downtown Denver on Colfax Avenue, at one end of Civic Center Park. The building itself — with its big gold dome — is pretty, but the touristy moment comes when you climb the stairs and see the text denoting when you are exactly one mile above sea level. Kitschy? Yes. But you still kinda have to take the photo.

One mile above sea level at the Colorado State Capitol

Visit some craft breweries

Denver is quite well known for its beer. You can visit the Coors brewery here (one of the biggest breweries in the world), but it's the city's craft brews that really steal the show. Head to Breckenridge Brewery for a beer, a brewery tour (on Saturdays) AND some delicious barbecue. The Great Divide Brewing Co. is another good choice in downtown Denver for some craft brews and a look behind the scenes. You can also head over to to Wyncoop, which was co-founded by one of Denver's former mayors.

Great Divide Brewing Co. in Denver

If you want to venture out of downtown, New Belgium — now one of the largest microbreweries in the world — can be found in Fort Collins.

Elliot, my travel partner in crime on this trip, did all my beer tasting for me (terrible job, I know), and reports that both Breckenridge and Great Divide have some delicious brews.

Beer at Breckenridge Brewery in Denver

Check out the Denver Botanic Gardens

The botanic gardens came highly recommended in Denver, and the fact that there's a Dale Chihuly exhibit ongoing there at the moment solidified a visit for me. The gardens themselves are beautiful and varied — and mostly outdoors, which I liked.

Denver Botanic Gardens

Float Boat by Dale Chihuly at Denver Botanic Gardens

Stroll the 16th Street Mall

The 16th Street Mall is a mostly pedestrian-only zone in downtown Denver. The Mall is lined with shopping, restaurants, and usually a handful of food trucks. It's a great place for an afternoon stroll — or you can catch the free shuttle that runs repeatedly from the top of the street near Civic Center Park all the way to Union Station. It stops at every intersection.

Denver 16th Street Mall

Places to eat

Feeling a bit peckish? Denver really has food to fit ALL tastes and budgets.

Bistro Vendome — If you're looking for something a bit upscale, head to Bistro Vendome in Larimer Square. Fresh, French-inspired cuisine is what you'll find here — and it's delicious. After dinner, head over to nearby Champagne bar Corridor 44, or a speakeasy called Green Russell.

The Source — If you love markets AND food, don't skip The Source — it's an artisan food market with about a dozen vendors in Denver's River North neighborhood.

Paramount Cafe — Located on the 16th Street Mall in what used to be the lobby of the historic Paramount Theater, the Paramount Cafe is a sports bar-type restaurant with a nice outdoor patio. I had a DELICIOUS elk burger here.

Denver 16th Street Mall

Food trucks — Denver has a budding food truck scene, so keep your eyes peeled for everything from peanut butter and jelly food trucks to soul food trucks. There's a good list of Denver food trucks at Roaming Hunger — I would have loved to try the Biscuit Bus or Waffleganger!

Where to stay

If you're only headed to Denver for a long weekend, you obviously want to stay somewhere convenient (especially if you're not renting a car to drive up into the mountains). I have a great suggestion for you:

Hampton Inn

This time around in Denver, we called the Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown-Convention Center home. It's about a block away from the Colorado Convention Center (with its giant blue bear), a block from the 16th Street Mall, and within a 10-minute walk of both Civic Center Park and the State Capitol, as well as the Denver Art Museum. Talk about a prime location.

Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown-Convention Center

The hotel is a unique one — it shares a historic building with Homewood Suites, and has a definite character about it. There's one-of-a-kind artwork all over the place, and I was kind of obsessed with all the cool carpets (that's not weird, right?).

Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown-Convention Center

The Hampton's rooms at this property were large, and the beds comfortable. The rooms also come with free hot breakfast, free wifi, and PLENTY of power points and USB charging ports (something I always notice in a hotel).

Getting around

Elliot and I decided not to rent a car in Denver. Partly because we wanted to see how easy it was to get around the city without one, and partly because I didn't want to be tempted to head up into the Rockies.  The good news? It was totally possible to survive without a car, mostly thanks to our hotel's great location.

We got around using:

B-cycles

Denver has a great cycle sharing program, with more than 84 stations with 700 bikes spread out across the city. It costs $8 for a day pass of bike rental, and you don't get charged any more than that if you have a bike out for 30 minutes or less. With so many drop-off locations around the city, this is totally do-able.

B-cycles in Denver

We rented bikes at the Convention Center and rode them the couple miles to the Denver Botanic Gardens. We checked the bikes in there, and then checked them back out again to ride back to our hotel. The ride was easy, and Denver is incredibly bike-friendly — pretty stress-free!

Free 16th Street shuttle

As I mentioned before, there's a free shuttle that runs up and down the 16th Street Mall. This is also a great way to get from Point A to Point B if your destination is relatively close to 16th street.

Rideshare

With Denver being a larger city, it has great options when it comes to rideshares like Uber and Lyft. If you've never tried one of these before, the concept is pretty simple: it's like a taxi, except the drivers are regular people using their own cars. You download an app, and then can “order” a ride wherever you are in the city. I love using services like this for going short distances, since the prices are usually good (and you pay through the app – no cash necessary!) and you get to meet some interesting locals. (And don't worry – it's very safe. The app will even show you a photo of your driver and his/her car before they arrive.) Also, here's a free Lyft credit for new users.

Other

Denver also has a new light rail system you could try, but, overall, it's pretty easy to visit Denver without a car. The downtown is VERY walkable.

Blue bear at Colorado Convention Center

What else would you add to a weekend getaway to Denver?

 

48 hours in Denver

 

*Note: This weekend getaway was sponsored by Hampton Inn & Suites Denver Downtown-Convention Center, however all opinions are my own.

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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40 Comments on “48 Hours in Denver

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  1. Never thought about visiting Denver… But the post you did on the Chihuly exhibit just about has me convinced! I’m such a a sucker for shiny pretty things…

      Haha, well you’d better hurry – the exhibit is only there until November. 😉

      Honestly though, Denver is a really cool city!

    Looks like a great long weekend! I think I have to go just to see that blue bear! Denver is high up on the “must go to” list – direct flights from home and it’s a state capital and I am on a quest to walk in all the state capitals. Hmmm…and I think it’s not too far from Santa Fe….maybe next fall after I get back from England!

      It’s a fun city – and yes, pretty easy to get to from most US cities. I would highly suggest it!

    I would love to visit Denver sometime. I hear there are some great Mountain biking and adventure opportunities there. Unfortunately, I will need to save up again after traveling Europe with Busabout. Maybe next year.

      Yup, lots of outdoors stuff not far away! Actually, we were there for the end of the US Pro Challenge cycling race, which was fun!

    Seems like a city where you can easily spend a couple of days. Love the botanical garden, very pretty.

      There’s definitely plenty of stuff to do in Denver to fill a few days. And, if you get tired of the city, the mountains (and ski resorts) aren’t far away!

    Denver looks like pretty and colorful city. Lots of interesting stuff to do and see.

      For sure! I really enjoyed it – too bad it took me so many trips to fully appreciate it!

    Great tips 😉 I actually find it quite cool to be sitting 1 mile above sea level 😉

      Yeah, that was actually fun!

    Love the blue bear! I also love that their art museum is called DAM. Such a wonderful city.

      The blue bear is certainly a Denver icon!

    Did you say microbreweries? I’m sold! Jokes aside, I have a friend who stayed in Denver for a while and loved it!

      SO MANY microbreweries!! 😉

    Denver is awesome! Love the breweries.

      They certainly have plenty of them there! I don’t even drink, but it was still fun to visit a few.

    Love posts like this! Definitely bookmarking for future travel planning purposes 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

      Awesome! I’m going to try to do more posts like this in the future! 🙂

    Denver looks like a great city. Colorado is very high on my list of States to visit so I will definitely make sure I check out Denver when I am there

      Do it! So many people skip the cities for the mountains in Colorado (at least, that’s why I did on all my previous trips), but Denver is definitely worth a stop!

    Awesome post on my beautiful hometown! Denver has some nice museums too, which are worth checking out.

      I didn’t have time for any museums, but I don’t doubt you! The art museum looked really nice.

    Nothing against Denver, but I just want to jump in and say that I’m tired of people visiting Denver when they come to the West instead of Salt Lake City. I know I’m totally biased as an SLC native, but I feel like it’s a very under-rated and misunderstood city. It has everything Denver has (ok… strange liquor laws, but there are a lot of really great local microbreweries and bars here too) AND it’s actually close to the mountains – not a 1 hour or more drive. You can ski or hike within 15 minutes. Oh, and the airport is 10 minutes from the city, not 45! Sorry.. like I said, Denver is great, but I just wanted to get a word in there for SLC. 🙂

      Glad you shared this, Katie! I haven’t been to SLC yet, but it definitely IS on my list!

        Yay! If you do come, feel free to email me for recommendations or even if you want to someone to show you around. 🙂

    Denver looks awesome! I’d love to explore the gardens….and drink the beer!

      The beer is a draw for a lot of people!

    This is a great post! In 48 hours you really explored Denver. You couldn’t have described it better 🙂 I certainly love this city. It was a pleasure to have you here and host you 😉

      Aww thanks, Andrea! We certainly did get around – and all without a car, too! I really like Denver, and have a feeling this won’t be my last trip there!

    I’ve had my eye on Denver for a long time now, mainly because of the beautiful photos I’ve seen online and the sunny weather (3100 sunshine hours per year?! \o/). But do you think it’s an option for someone who likes cosmopolitan cities with a lot of things to do?
    I’ll be moving to Atlanta next year, but since I would like to change cities every once in a while, I’m already prospecting for future alternatives hehe

      You can’t compare Denver to somewhere like, say, New York or London. But I DO think it’s a big enough city to where there are usually lots of things going on. Head over for a weekend while you’re living in Atlanta to check it out for yourself! 🙂

        Thanks for the feedback, Amanda! I shall do that. I already have a few cities I definitely want to check out, Denver included. New York is way too expensive and London…well, the weather would kill me (or at least drive me to insanity) in 2 months tops!

          Haha, well, don’t come to Ohio then – we actually have cloudier, wetter weather than London! 😉

    This is awesome! I love Denver, and I can’t wait to check out some of these cool spots when I go back in October! Thanks so much for all the info!

      I really like Denver, too! Such a cool city.

    I would highly recommend checking out Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox or catching a show at the Gothic Theater.

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