A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
A Colorado native shares the best things to eat, see, and do in Denver.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • I'm a Colorado native living in downtown Denver, and I'm sharing the best things in the city.
  • Tourists should visit Denver Union Station, Coors Field, and the Denver Zoo.
  • They should eat and drink at Tavernetta, Linger, Finn's Manor, and Denver Milk Market.

At 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver offers a variety of activities for visitors amid its gorgeous landscapes and bustling downtown.

The Mile High City, famous for its 300 days of sunshine, is home to the Colorado Rockies, Avalanche, and the Broncos.

As a lifelong Coloradan living in the heart of Denver, I've managed to scour the must-visit spots and find some of the best eats and drinks, sites to visit, and places to stay.

Keep reading for the ultimate guide to Denver.

Things to know before you go

  • COVID-19 PROTOCOL: As of May 14, fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks in public indoor spaces unless the business or entity requires otherwise.
  • WEATHER: Colorado gets 300 days of sunshine each year, but it can be unpredictable, so you may experience a variety of weather during your stay. Overall, the weather is relatively mild and the air extremely dry. In the summer months, temperatures range from the low 70s to the upper 90s. In the winter, temps hover around the 30s and 40s.
  • WALKABILITY: Denver is a relatively walkable city if you're planning to explore the immediately surrounding areas. Denver has bus and light-rail lines; you can purchase tickets online through the RTD Mobile Ticketing app. If you're navigating through downtown, you can catch the RTD Free MallRide on 16th Street.

Where to stay

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
The Oxford Hotel.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

When you visit Denver, you'll need somewhere to stay. Insider has previously rounded up the best hotels in Denver, as well as the best Airbnb homes in Denver.


No matter where you choose to stay, I recommend keeping close to Union Station for quick and easy access to public transportation.

The Crawford Hotel is close to public transportation

The Crawford Hotel is right above Union Station, so it's a good option if you're planning to take advantage of public-transit options and downtown attractions.

Depending on what type of room you're looking for, rates start at about $260 a night. Special amenities include exclusive discounts and freebies to the dining and retail outlets inside Union Station.

Tip: Check out the Terminal Bar in Union Station right next to the hotel for a fine cocktail.

The Oxford Hotel is luxurious and iconic

The Oxford Hotel is an iconic, luxurious hotel a block from Union Station, making it another good location that will keep you close to public transit.


Depending on what type of room you're looking for, rates range from $190 to $450 a night, on average. You'll also receive exclusive discounts to eateries and retailers when you stay at The Oxford.

Tip: Urban Farmer Denver, the restaurant adjacent to the hotel, is known for its locally sourced ingredients and simple preparations. Plus, you receive a $10 credit to Urban Farmer with your stay.

Things to do and see

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Union Station.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Denver Union Station is a historic must-see

Denver Union Station is a 100-year-old landmark in the heart of downtown. Beyond being a hub where you can hop on trains and buses, it has restaurants and shops that sell books, souvenirs, and Denver-branded apparel. If you're looking for a caffeine boost, I suggest stopping by the station's Pigtrain Coffee for delicious locally roasted coffee.

The Crawford Hotel offers tours of Denver Union Station for $20, Thursday through Monday from 1 to 4 o'clock.

Tip: If you visit on a Saturday morning from May through October, there's a farmers market out front.


Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is known for its incredible views

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a concert venue with unrivaled views and spectacular scenery. You can also hike the surrounding area, Red Rocks Park, if you're looking for outdoor fun.

According to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre website, this monument is the "only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world."

I recommend checking the events calendar before your stay and trying to see a concert. I saw country star Kenny Chesney perform there, and even during a rainy summer evening, it's a show I've never forgotten because of the unrivaled acoustic experience.

Tip: If you're traveling during the summer months, the venue hosts special activities like Yoga on the Rocks.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Catch a show at Red Rocks.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Denver Botanic Gardens is your go-to for a peaceful day out

Denver Botanic Gardens is a public botanical garden near Cheesman Park. There are 23 acres in the park consisting of various gardens and an amphitheater for summer concerts. Head to the gardens in mid-April to catch the tulips in the peak bloom season.


Tip: If you're traveling in the winter season, check out the Gardens' Blossoms of Light holiday lights extravaganza.

Coors Field is a fun place for baseball fans

Coors Field is our ballpark and home to our MLB team, the Colorado Rockies. It's also two blocks from Union Station.

If you're planning to catch a game, I recommend reading this official MLB guide for more details about visiting Coors Field.

Tip: The Rooftop is a standing-room area near the upper-right-field seating area. The views are spectacular, and tickets for The Rooftop include concession credits.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Coors Field.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is where to go if you're with kids

The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is the perfect place to head if you're looking for an indoor activity. The museum features both temporary and permanent exhibits, so take a peek at the website before you go.


Tip: There are a handful of ticket offerings, so be sure to read the details before purchasing. Certain exhibits and the IMAX experience may cost more.

The Denver Zoo is fun for all ages

Right next to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is the Denver Zoo. It has more than 3,600 animals, from flamingos and elephants to lions and zebras.

Be sure to check out the events calendar to see if the zoo will be hosting any special galas or parties during your visit. The Stingray Cove experience, where you get to touch sea creatures, is a blast, though it's seasonal (beginning in late March) and tickets are first come, first served.

Tip: You're welcome to bring your own food into the zoo, so pack a picnic if you want to save a few bucks.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
The Denver Zoo.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

City Park is for you if you're looking to get outdoors

While you're at the Museum of Nature and Science or at the zoo, take a quick walk around City Park.


City Park is Denver's largest municipal park and is the ideal place to walk or run, bike, picnic, and paddle boat (you can rent these at Duck Lake and Ferril Lake).

Tip: Pack a picnic basket for a sunset dinner by the lake during the summer months for an unbeatable quiet night out.

Sloan's Lake Park makes for a fun bike ride or walk

Sloan's Lake is the largest lake in Denver. With playgrounds, athletic fields, boating, biking, trails, picnic areas, and paddleboarding, this is the place to spend the day outdoors if you're visiting during a warmer month.

Tip: If you're visiting in July, you might be able to attend the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival, an annual celebration of Asian and Asian American heritage filled with stunning parade-esque creations.

Where to eat and drink

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Jax Fish House.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar is a staple if you want seafood

Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar is a couple of blocks from Union Station and just the right spot if you're in the mood for seafood and oysters.


Tip: Happy hour runs from 3:30 to 5:30 daily, and you can snag oysters for $2 apiece.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Jax Fish House.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Tavernetta is your classy go-to for a special occasion or date night

Tavernetta offers an upscale Italian dining experience with world-class hospitality in the Union Station neighborhood. This spot is nice for a special occasion or a memorable date night.

The burrata is incredible and makes for a shareable appetizer, and you can't go wrong with the rigatoni.

Tip: Tavernetta is popular and often busy, so book your dinner online to secure a table.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
You might want to make reservations for Tavernetta.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Williams & Graham is one hole-in-the-wall you don't want to miss

Located in Denver's Lower Highlands "LoHi" neighborhood, Williams & Graham is a Prohibition-era speakeasy hidden behind a bookshelf.


The luxurious old-school atmosphere is unforgettable. Stop by for rotating craft cocktails or one of the traditional favorites like the espresso martini.

Tip: Make reservations to avoid waiting. Most nights will require a wait if you don't book.

Finn's Manor makes for a fun night out

Finn's Manor is a cocktail bar and food-truck hub in the River North Art District "RiNo" neighborhood. With 16 rotating taps and 800 or so spirits, this bar has a beverage for all tastes. In addition to the indoor bar, there's a large patio area and stage for live music.

Tip: The summer months are prime time to visit Finn's Manor.

Linger is a must-see with nice views

Linger is one of Denver's best spots. Often packed with guests, Linger Eatuary sits atop the former foundation of the Olinger Mortuary.


The morbid past of this location makes it one of interest, but there aren't any spooky happenings in the area, just good brunch, lunch, and dinner options and awesome views.

Tip: Though the area is generally busy, there's plenty of street parking nearby.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Linger.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Avanti Food & Beverage, for when you don't know what you're in the mood for

If you're looking for a variety of food and beverage options, Avanti Food & Beverage is your go-to. Located in the LoHi neighborhood, this collective eatery offers burgers, pizza, chicken, Asian street cuisine, Venezuelan dishes, and more.

Picture one big warehouse building with a lot of smaller restaurants packed inside. My favorite is Lea Jane's Hot Chicken.

Tip: Be sure to go upstairs and check out the views of the city from the rooftop deck.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Avanti has a wide variety of food.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Denver Milk Market is a fun, trendy location with delicious eats

Denver Milk Market is an all-local mix of restaurants and bars on the corner of the historic Dairy Block alley. The food is good anywhere you go, but the bustling Instagram-worthy atmosphere and lively energy inside Denver Milk Market is what makes it worth visiting.

Tip: Be sure to check out the event calendar before visiting. The area often hosts special brunches and themed dinners. Complete your visit with a photo in The Alley.

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Milk Market's food is delicious.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider

Denver Biscuit is every brunch lover's dream

If you're in the mood for a delicious brunch, you'll want to add Denver Biscuit Company to your list. We're talking huge portions and a whole lot of biscuits, so go hungry.

Tip: There are a few locations to choose from, but if you're in the mood to do some shopping before or after you eat, check out the Stanley Marketplace spot, nestled in a community of over 50 businesses.

Sushi Den serves some of the freshest sushi around

Sushi Den has the best sushi in Denver because it's incredibly fresh. This sushi bar says it purchases fish from a market in Japan and that it's shipped directly to Denver, where it arrives within 24 hours.


Tip: There are three restaurants, Sushi Den, Izakaya Den, and Ototo, which all operate next to one another. This trifecta shares staff, storage, and management.

Final tips before your trip

A local's ultimate guide to visiting Denver
Milk Market is a wonderful photo opportunity.Alyssa Towns Swantkoski for Insider
  • Pack or plan to buy sunscreen. The ultraviolet rays are strong here because of the high altitude (the higher you get, the stronger the sun becomes), and if you burn easily, it will happen quickly, especially during the summer.
  • If you plan to do any hiking, at Red Rocks or anywhere else, pack comfortable shoes and watch out for altitude sickness. There are a lot of places to hike near the city, but it's essential to prepare before you go. Wear comfortable shoes, drink a lot of water, and don't forget that the high altitude will affect your hike, so take it easy and remember to rest. Altitude sickness is no joke.
  • The weather can be kind of unpredictable, so pack outfits for various seasons. Summer months bring surprises like hail storms or random snowy days every once in a while. Winter months might shock you with a 60-degree sunny day.
  • Craft beer is a huge deal in Denver. Colorado is known for its craft-beer culture, so be sure to try some and visit a tap room while you're here.