Denver, Colorado, is one of the most thriving and entertaining cities in the Mountain West, and visitors can enjoy it without spending a ton of money. In fact, many of the city’s most interesting activities are totally free!
Free activities in Denver range from brewery tours to visiting fun attractions like Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the state capitol building, and the Money Museum. The city also has a ton of great outdoor opportunities, like hiking and biking.
Read on to discover some of my favorite free activities whenever I visit the city!
Tackle the Great Outdoors
Colorado is known as one of America’s great states for outdoors enthusiasts. From rock climbing to skiing to mountain biking, there’s an endless wealth of challenging activities available in the Rocky Mountains.
But you don’t have to leave the city limits to find great biking, hiking, and jogging at places like City Park, the High Line Canal Trail and the Cherry Creek Trail.
I personally love the Cherry Creek Trail, which runs for 40 miles and attracts lots of bikers, walkers, and joggers. It runs from Confluence Park in downtown Denver all the way out to the suburbs.
You can get outdoors almost all year long – although Denver has a reputation as a snowy city, it gets sunshine more than 300 days a year!
Stop at the Mile High Marker at the State Capitol Building
One of the steps of the Capitol building sits at an elevation of 5,280 feet, or exactly one mile. It’s become a popular activity for tourists to find the step engraved with the “One Mile Above Sea Level” label and take photos with it.
The Capitol building is within walking distance of downtown, so it’s worth taking a few minutes to stop at the quirky landmark. Getting a selfie on the mile-high step is one of the best free activities in Denver!
Don’t be afraid to wander inside the building for a free look at the architecture of the 124-year-old structure. Free tours take place on weekdays.
Visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre
Red Rocks is an iconic park and concert venue in a gorgeous setting. It’s essentially built into a rock outcrop, and that makes it one of the most scenic venues in the country. With a capacity of 9525, it’s more cozy than some other amphitheaters around the U.S.
Red Rocks has a busy schedule of shows during the summer. But if you pick a day when there’s no event going on, you can take a free self-guided tour of the venue. Walk through the Visitor Center and the Performers Hall of Fame.
The Visitor Center is also home to the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, a free facility that honors acts like Earth, Wind & Fire, John Denver, Dianne Reeves, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
Stop By the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame
Head to Sports Authority Field at Mile High, the home of the three-time Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. You can sign up for a guided tour of the stadium to see the locker rooms and the field where the magic happens, though that tour will set you back $20.
For a cool free attraction, visit the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame located inside the stadium at Gate #1. Browse the museum’s Gallery of Legends and view its exhibits on the history of great sports moments in the state and the achievements of female athletes in Colorado.
Be sure to check the museum’s days and hours of operation, as they vary by season.
Take a Brewery Tour
Beer lovers have long considered Colorado one of the best places in the U.S. to find quality brews. And the good news is that many of them offer free brewery tours, so you can educate yourself on how the beverages are made, while getting to sample a few varieties.
The only difficult part might be deciding which brewery to visit! Choose from well-established national companies like Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors or popular local brands such as Wynkoop, Great Divide and Avery Brewing.
Check Out Denver’s Art
Denver has a First Friday Art Walk that allow folks to peruse some of the area’s galleries and museums in the Art District of Santa Fe. The walks run all year-round, regardless of weather.
In addition, Denver is a great city for street art. Colorful murals can be found in Denver neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Speer, Baker, and Five Points. Just keep your eyes open as you move about the city!
Get Up Close With Money
The Money Museum gives visitors a chance to see what 30 million dollars in cash looks like up close. The giant pile of dough (behind security glass, of course) is one of many interesting sights at the small facility. (Note: The Money Museum is temporarily closed as of this writing.)
For another finance-related attraction, sign up for a free tour of the U.S. Mint, where you can see how coins and bills are made. Tickets for Mint tours are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis each day starting at 7 a.m. (Monday through Thursday.)
See Incredible Wildlife in the City!
Just 10 miles northwest of downtown Denver is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The 15,000-acre sanctuary is completely free to visit and features driving and walking trails where guests can view bison, deer, birds, prairie dogs, coyotes, and other animals living in a protected environment.
Normally, you have drive hours outside of a major metropolitan area for this kind of setting. So if you’re a nature lover, take advantage of this opportunity!
Attend a Free Jazz Concert
One of the coolest free activities in Denver during the summer is the City Park Jazz series. On Sunday evenings during the summer, head to City Park Pavilion to enjoy some free jazz tunes.
The concerts vary quite a bit in terms of their sound. One week you might see a jazz orchestra, followed the next week by a jazzy rock group, followed the week after by a jazz dance party band. Or even a mariachi band!
Visit a Museum on a Free Day
Many of Denver’s most popular attractions offer some free days during the year, when admission cost is waived for all visitors. How awesome is that?
The Denver Art Museum has a bunch of free days during the year. The Botanic Gardens have a handful of free days too. The Denver Zoo also has free days, but they no longer accept walk-in visitors on free days, so you’ll have to sign up for their lottery to win free tickets in advance.
Whether you’re in Denver for business, a quick vacation, or maybe as part of a guys’ weekend, you can add some of these activities to your itinerary without breaking your budget. Planning a travel budget generally requires pre-travel research. Alamo’s Scenic Route is a good resource full of travel tips and tricks for many U.S. cities.
And if you’re up for a road trip, I’ve got a detailed itinerary for the drive from Denver to Seattle!