Traveling to the great city of Denver, Colorado? Feeling a little bit lost about where to go and what to see? Never fear! You’ve just happened on one of the finest Denver travel guides on the web, amigos.
Written by a resident of the city and diehard broke backpacker, this Denver travel guide is chalked full of useful tips. We’ll discuss everything from daily budgets, the best bars, insider photo ops, and the must-see places in Denver!
By the end of this guide, you’ll have everything that you could possibly need to have an awesome time in this thrilling city. The best part: your wallet will hopefully be spared the worst of the city’s expenses.
Famed for its prime location at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Denver is a top travel destination for outdoors people of all sorts. Skiers visit from all over the world to experience the amazing dry powder of the Rockies.
Hikers are afforded endless opportunities to go trekking and climbing. The white rafting is among the best in all of North American as well.
But Denver itself is full of activities and tourist attractions, and it is well worth exploring its city proper! Denver is home to some really unique neighborhoods that could give many other places in America a run for their money.
The weather, though hectic at times, can be really exciting, not to mention gorgeous in the summer. The culinary scene is steadily improving and the nightlife is already one of the most underrated in the entire USA.
It is the purpose of this Denver travel guide to not only educate you but to inspire you. Upon finishing this guide, we hope that you will not only see Denver in a different light but will be chomping at the bit to travel there!
The costs of travel for Denver is somewhere in the middle of the pack – it’s not too expensive but not too cheap. This could all be changing very soon though. We suggest that you travel to Denver ASAP before it joins the list of ridiculously expensive US cities!
If you arrive in Denver and find that it’s still too expensive, well then you always have us, your ever-helpful Broke Backpacker. We can help you visit Denver on the cheap by providing you with lots of tips to save cash!
Follow the tips and advice as laid out in this Denver travel guide and you’ll find that your dollar goes much further. Hell, you may even find a way to get by on $10/day!
A low-end daily budget for Denver will be around $60-$70. This will get you a dorm bed, groceries, bus tickets, and some extra spending money. Note that Denver is very subject to seasonal rates, which we’ll be getting into now.
Winter and summer are the two busiest times to visit Denver and both have a profound effect on the local accommodation. Winter can see increased hotel prices since everyone travels to Denver to go skiing.
Summer is definitely the busiest season and everything will be much more expensive during this time. Keep this seasonal inflation in mind when renting a car for a Colorado road trip, which is one of the most popular things to do in Denver in summer.
To avoid paying full price for everything, consider what it is you want to do and how willing you are to pay for it. If you’re visiting Denver during peak seasons, make bookings ahead of time to save cash.
Food and drink are pretty stable year round and won’t fluctuate much. Granted, they’re still expensive, especially by American standards, so you’ll have to be picky about when and where you dine out.
Below is a breakdown of a daily budget in Denver including average costs of each expense.
Daily Costs in Denver
Hostel Dormitory: $20-$30
Basic room for two: $120
AirBnB/temp apartment: $90
Average cost of public transport: $2.40
City-Airport transfer: $9
Beer at a bar: $5-$8
Bottle of whiskey from the market: $23
Dinner for two: $40-$80
Denver Budget Travel Tips
It’s easy to spend without thinking, and even easier to go broke. Denver can be cheap so long as you have the proper habits and proper guidance. So for your benefit, we’ve created a list of tips for visiting Denver on a budget. Follow these words of advice and you’ll find that your dollar goes much further.
- Always pre-fade before going out – Buying full-priced drinks at the bar is a great way to waste your money. Instead, buy booze at the store and drink with your friends at the hostel/their house/the park/anywhere besides the actual bar.
- Cook at home as often as possible – One of the most proven ways of saving money for backpackers; buying your own groceries and cooking at home will save you heaps of cash.
- Buy a special pass – If you’re planning on seeing a lot of the city, then you may want to invest a City Pass. This card will allow free entry into many entering a lot of Denver’s must-see places and will even give you special rates for public transport.
- Take advantage of happy hour – Happy hour is everyone’s favorite time of day! From around 4-6 pm and sometimes late, lots of bars and restaurants have special drink/food prices. If you must eat out, try and go to during this time.
- Catch a flick at an Elvis Cinema – The locally owned Elvis Cinemas are the best deals in town when it comes to movies. Tickets are $3 before 6 pm and $4 afterward.
- Use a water bottle – Save money by investing in a good water bottle and then drink from the tap. Denver’s water is delicious and totally fine to drink.
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Read our full review of the GRAYL GEOPRESS!
Denver accommodation comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Hotels, condos, apartments, B&B, luxury trailers; you name it, Denver’s got it. They obviously range in price, and some lodges in Denver can be quite expensive.
If you’re going to travel to Denver on a budget, then you’re going to need to stay in more affordable digs. Thankfully, the hostels in Denver are high quality and could compete with anything you find in Europe or South America.
Most hostels in Denver are around $20-$30/night, which is cheaper than any hotel in the city, even for couples.
If you’re looking for a more private place to stay in Denver, I recommend Airbnbs. They are often better priced and far more interesting than hotels, which are usually drab.
Being the outdoor wonderland that it is, there are plenty of campgrounds located near Denver. Staying at one is a great way to experience Colorado and to save some cash. Just be sure to bring your own tent!
If you’re planning to go on a road trip through Colorado, why not book a campervan?! An RV serves the dual purpose of giving you a means of transport and a place to sleep. Research RV parks in and around Denver or (insider’s tip) park overnight in Walmart parking lots for free.
Refer below to read about some of the best hostels in Denver’s. Those interested in seeing more hostels should read our comprehensive travel guide to Denver’s hostels here.
Overall Best Hostel in Denver – Ember Hostel
A backpacker lodge that is more like a mansion than a hostel. Complete with a hot tub, fine wood installations, and some of the fanciest rooms you’ll ever see (in a hostel). Huge dorm rooms and communal spaces mean you’ll have plenty of room to breath. Welcome to your own Real World: Denver.
Best Party Hostel in Denver – Hostel Fish
This is hands down the best party hostel in Denver thanks in part to its onsite bar and location. It is located right above one of the best venues in Denver, Ophelia’s, and even acts as an overflow bar.
The on-site bar serves copious amounts of beer and organizes lots of social gatherings like beer pong and pub crawls.
Best Hostel for Solo Travelers – 11th Avenue Hostel
A relatively relaxed hostel that offers fairly basic amenities. The facilities are all fairly basic and the dorms are not special, but you’re paying for the location with this place.
11th Avenue Hostel is located very close to Broadway and all of the city’s top nightclubs. If you’re a solo backpacker looking to meet other travelers and also visit Denver on the cheap, this is one of the best places to stay in Denver.
Best Airbnb in Denver – One bedroom loft in a walking distance to EVERYTHING
Beautifully furnished basement apartment with exposed brick, newly renovated kitchen, walk-in closet and in-suite washer and dryer. The building also has complimentary street parking available out front.
1. Go on a brewery tour
It’s no secret: Colorado has some of the best beer in the USA! Make it a day and visit some of the city’s many breweries. Some of our favorite breweries in Denver are OMF, TRVE, Crooked Stave, Great Divide, and Bierstadt.
2. Make a trip to the Rocky Mountains
With the Rockies right in the backyard, you just gotta make a road trip from Denver to the mountains! Check out Rocky Mountain National Park for some amazing hiking trails or A-Basin for skiing, which is hands down the most popular thing to do near Denver in the winter.
3. Explore the Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum regularly hosts new exhibitions and some of these can be really spectacular. Admire the art inside and then admire the eye-catching building from the outside too.
4. Smoke some herb where it all began
Denver made history when it became the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. The weed business is now a booming industry and you can buy it just about as easily as beer. Read up on the local laws and join the revolution.
5. Relax in City Park
City Park is a great place to relax for an afternoon and to recover from that long night out. Have a picnic, walk around the lake, or visit the Zoo (seriously, my friend actually goes here to cure hangovers).
6. Walk from the Capitol Building to Union Station
Walking from the Capitol Building to Union Station will afford you a glimpse of Denver’s many points of interest. Examples include the Civic Center Park, 16th Street Mall, the Blue Bear, and Downtown.
7. See the Denver Botanic Gardens
With their impressive array of flora and outdoor art, the Denver Botanic Gardens are one of the most tranquil places in the city. The Gardens also host free concerts in the summer.
8. Go graffiti hunting in RiNo
RiNo has some the coolest graffiti in the entire world! Street artists come from all over the globe to tag here and the streets have become a kaleidoscope of vivid colors and trippy murals.
9. Catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater
Red Rocks is one of the most famous music venues in the USA and for good reasons! Built into the side a mountain and surrounded by out-of-this-world rock formations, there are few better places to get lost in the music.
10. Attend a sports match
Spring is when the flowers bloom and trees burst into green…more importantly though, it’s also the final leg of two of Denver’s favorite sports – hockey and basketball – and the beginning of baseball season!
Catch a Colorado Rockies, Avalanche, or Nuggets game before you skip town, and, for that matter, see if the Broncos are playing yet.
Best Free Things to do in Denver
If you’re looking to save some extra cash, then try doing one of these free things in Denver while visiting!
- Coors Brewery – The Coors Brewery, located in Golden, is the largest brewing facility in the world and offers free daily tours! You’ll get an inside look at the beer is made and even get to try some at the end. Whether or not you like their beer or not, free is always delicious.
- US Mint – Curious about how monetary coins are made? The US Mint in Denver offers free tours explaining the history of US coins and how they’re made.
- Capitol Building – The Denver Capitol Building is a cornerstone of the city and one fine example of American neoclassical architecture. Learn a bit about its history by taking a free tour of the building.
- Hammond Candy Factory – Sweet tooths rejoice! Local legend Hammond Candies offers free tours of their factory where you’ll see firsthand how candy canes, lollipops, and chocolates are crafted. Ask nicely and you make get to try some.
- Festivals – Festivals are among the best things to do in Denver in the summer and many of them are free of charge. Be sure to check the official city calendar for all upcoming festivals in Denver.
- Museums and Cultural Centers – There are a couple of free galleries in Denver – some 24/7 and others on certain days. Visit the Performing Arts Center, Children’s Museum, Dikeou Gallery, and the Golden Triangle on First Friday for free tours and activities.
- Ice skating – If you’re looking for things to do in Denver in the winter, look no further than the ice rinks! Lots of local businesses like to set up ice skating areas for pedestrians and often just for the fun of it. Next time you see a rink, ask if you can take a spin a gratis.
Day Trips from Denver
Want to get out of the city? Check out one of these places to visit near Denver for a chance to really stretch your legs and experience some Colorado beauty.
- Fort Collins – If you’ve become enamored with the beer in Denver and are looking for more golden drops of Ambrosia, then head north to Fort Collins! This small college town is home to two of Colorado’s largest and most respected breweries: Odells and New Belgium. Take a tour of either and then sample the sweet nectars of the gods.
- Rocky Mountain National Park – Rocky Mountain National Park is arguably the most accessible park in the Western USA, being only a few hours away from Denver. It is also one of the most impressive national parks in the entire nation and receives a boatload of visitors. Spend a day exploring this park, either renting a car to drive the superlative Trail Ridge Road (summer only) or via one of the many trails.
- Go on a Hike – Speaking of Rocky Mountain National Park, try hiking to Dream Lake, Sky Pond, and the summit of Longs Peak, if you’re up to it. Check out our list of Colorado’s best hikes for more inspiration.
- Colorado Springs – Colorado Springs is a small, mostly conservative community that, by itself, doesn’t offer much in the way of sights. Nearby Colorado Springs are some of the Colorado’s most famous attractions, including the Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak. The Garden of the Gods is a cool little park with geological formations that look straight out of Utah. Pikes Peak is one of the highest mountains in Colorado and can even be sumitted by motor vehicle (in the summer).
- Arapahoe Basin – Arapahoe aka A-Basin is ground zero for the best skiing near Denver. Located directly west of Denver at the height of Loveland Pass, A-Basin is a paradise for powderchasers; it is arguably the best in the Colorado Rockies. If you get tired of A-Basin, there are several more ski resorts nearby including Breckenridge, Keystone, and Copper Mountain.
The following is a sample 3-day itinerary for visiting Denver. Most of the top destinations mentioned in this Denver travel guide are covered in this section. For more information on certain neighborhoods, please refer to our article about Where to Stay in Denver.
Day 1: Downtown and Golden Triangle
On day 1 of our Denver travel itinerary, we’re going to visit the central districts and some of the top attractions in the city.
We start our day near the Capitol Building in the so-called “Golden Triangle” neighborhood of Denver. This area hosts some of the most significant landmarks in the city including the aforementioned Capitol, the Denver Art Museum, the Molly Brown Museum, and Civic Center Park.
The Art Museum is known for its excellent exhibitions and ultra-modern design, which provides the setting for some of the best photos in Denver. The Civic Center Park and adjacent Capitol Building are also two of the prettiest areas in the city, often the site for local festivals.
Moving on to Downtown, we enter the Financial District of Denver – home to the majority of the city’s skyscrapers and shopping centers.
The 16th Street Mall is the most popular corridor to go shopping and makes for a lovely (and brief) tour of Denver’s rapidly growing urban core. Free buses run along 16th Street for most of the day.
If you’d like, take a detour to the Denver Convention Center to spot the famous Big Blue Bear!
As we approach the end of 16th Street, we arrive at Union Station, which serves as both a train station and cafeteria. There are lots of little eateries, bars, and restaurants inside Union Station and I personally love how exciting they make the station.
Whereas many American train stations feel decrepit, Union Station feels active and alive with both travelers and patrons alike.
Beyond Union Station is Confluence Park, the South Platte River, and the Highlands neighborhood. Highlands is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Denver and a great place to grab a drink. End your day with a beer and some sweet views of the city, especially at Avanti.
Day 2: RiNo, Midtown, and Colfax
Now that we’ve gotten the city center out of the way, we can now focus on some of the more alternative points of interest in Denver. On the second day in our Denver travel guide, we’re going to explore the eastern portions of the city where a great urban revival is going on.
Let’s start our day off in City Park. This green space was designed similarly to New York City’s own Central Park, that is, to be languid and large.
City Park is exactly as it should be then as it’s a very expansive area to get lost in. It even contains the Denver Zoo, Denver Museum of Science, and a golf course! If you don’t want to visit any of these places then just relax at Ferril Lake and soak in some of the best views of the Denver skyline.
Moving west from City Park we hit 17th Street aka Midtown, which is a bit of a local spot. There are some very good bars and restaurants in this area, including Thirsty Monk, Hop n’ Vine, and Steuben’s, but most tourists tend to skip over this part of town.
Colfax Avenue runs a couple of streets parallel to 17th, so if you feel the need to see “the longest, wickedest street in America,” then be my guest. Most people have a love-hate relationship with this street and as one local put it: “if you can love Colfax, then you’ll love Denver.”
Our ultimate destination is the RiNo district to the north. After departing 17th/Colfax, we’ll pass through Five Points – one of the most rapidly changing neighborhoods in Denver – before arriving in RiNo.
RiNo (River North) was once one of the worst areas in Denver, a hangout for junkies and squatters. Nowadays it’s arguably the hottest part of town.
New bars and restaurants, as well as amazing street art and murals, are constantly popping up around RiNo.
End your day at the impressive Source facility for some grub. Aside from being visually arresting, the Source hosts some of the best restaurants in Denver that are sure to leave you satisfied.
Day 3: Off the Beaten Path in Denver
Today, we’re going to go a bit off the beaten path and visit some of the best places near Denver. There are many options and you’ll have quite a bit of flexibility when it comes to choosing your activities. So let’s get to it and slay this final day of our Denver travel guide!
Note that all of the places mentioned in this section can be reached by public transit, but you should consider renting a car.
Boulder – Boulder is Denver’s neighbor city, well-known for its liberal-minded and affluent population. The town itself is smaller and pretty quiet compared to Denver but is much closer to the Rocky Mountains. Some of the best attractions near Denver are located around Boulder including the Flatirons, Eldorado Canyon, and Isabelle Lake. Visit Boulder for a chance to get outdoors and play around a bit.
Golden – A small town at the base of the Rockies. Golden is great for those who want to get a feel for a Colorado mountain town but don’t want to leave the actual city. Aside from being beautiful and hosting a number of hikes, Golden is also home to the Coors Brewery, which offers free tours!
Cherry Creek State Park – A very popular getaway for Denverites. Cherry Creek State Park offers swimming, camping, and boating all within the Denver metropolitan area! Come here for the day if you’re feeling a little burnt out or if you want to scope some of the best views of the Denver Skyline.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal – A formal chemical weapons plant that was turned into a wildlife refuge after much rehabilitation. Hosts an impressive array of local fauna, most notably a large herd of bison, the closest such to Denver. Also has stellar views of the city.
Best Time of Year to Visit Denver
Denver has some of the weirdest, craziest, and just downright inhospitable weather in the USA; that doesn’t stop residents from having a good time though!
With activities happening 365 days year, Denver can be visited at any time; just so long as you don’t mind some strange meteorology here and there.
Denver is a very arid place, which is due in part to its high elevation and lack of rainfall. While visiting Denver, the moisture will literally be sucked from your body by the atmosphere and dehydration is very possible at all times. Be sure to have a water bottle on you and to use it often.
Wild temperature shifts are also common and it’s not unheard of to see 40-degree F swings in the course of 24 hours. In fact, daily highs and lows in the city are about 20 degrees F apart on average. Crazy storms can sometimes roll in as well and dump rain or snow in the city at a moment’s notice.
Bipolar weather aside, Denver is still one of the sunniest places in the USA! The city (supposedly) receives over 300 sunny days a year.
There are two peaks seasons in Denver: summer and winter. Summer is peak hiking and festival season while winter is when everyone (I mean, everyone) comes to ski.
Summers (June-September) in Denver are warm and prone to afternoon thunderstorms. Winters (November-March) are frigid but relatively dry, with the most of the season’s snowfall coming in short stormy bursts.
Spring (April-May) is very short in Colorado, sometimes indistinguishable, which leaves some people asking “when is spring in Denver again?” May, when the flowers and trees bloom, is a very lovely time of the year though.
My favorite season in Denver is autumn. Temperatures are still comfortable and the trees begin to turn gold, the latter of which is a spectacular phenomenon that needs to be witnessed.
Getting in and out of Denver
While we love visiting Denver to run away to the mountains, the city is kind of in the middle of fuckin’ nowhere. The nearest “big” cities – Albuquerque and Salt Lake City – are over 6 hours away by road and let’s not even think about how far the ocean is.
Unless you are on a massive road trip from the East Coast to the West Coast of the USA, 99% of people will arrive in Denver by flying.
Denver International is the main airport in the region and, befittingly, also in the middle of nowhere. There’s a train connecting the airport to the city that takes 45 minutes. Tickets are $9 and are valid for rides on local public transport as well.
If you do happen to be on a road trip in Colorado, there are 3 major interstate highways that run through Denver – I-70 from Utah to Kansas, I-25 from Wyoming to New Mexico and I-76, which starts in Denver and continues onto I-80 in Nebraska. All of these highways skirt the city center of Denver and easy to access.
Interstate buses aka Greyhounds use the same aforementioned highways and ply them daily. Bus travel times can be quite long in this part of the USA so be prepared for long hauls.
Denver is the halfway point for the gorgeous Starlight train route that runs from San Francisco to Chicago. Those who are seeing the states from the seat of a train should definitely stop off in Denver. Likewise, those visiting Denver should consider catching this train to California or Illinois.
How to get around Denver
Denver has a fairly extensive and efficient public transport system. Between the many trams, buses, and trains you can get just about anywhere in the city. The only caveat is that you need time to do so.
Because Denver is so spread out, commuting via public transit can take a little longer than expected. What may take 10 minutes by car could take 45 minutes by bus due to long distances and route changes. The system is still fairly comprehensive and you can get pretty far with public transport, for example to Golden or Boulder, so we aren’t complaining too much.
You can certainly walk around individual neighborhoods but we do not recommend walking around the entire city. Again, because of its size, getting around Denver can take a while and this means you’ll spend a lot of your time getting from point A to B if you just stick to walking.
Biking is the real way to get around Denver. Unlike the nearby Rocky Mountains, Denver is about as flat as flat can get. (There are two “hills” that may give bikers problems – Highlands and Cap Hill.) This means you can zip around the city without worrying about pulling a hammy or burning out on a 30-degree incline.
Denver is very car-centric and there are only a few official bike lanes in the city. You can use these if you like or brave some of the actual streets. Just be sure to go fast enough, know the proper rules of the road, and, for God’s sake, wear a helmet.
There is a fleet of taxis in Denver, although they usually stick to the Downtown area.Uber and Lyft are ubiquitous and somewhat affordable.
Try using a local car share or scooter-share apps like Car2Go or Lime. Both are everywhere, much to the ire of the locals.
Safety in Denver
Denver safety really depends on where you are located. In certain areas, you could walk around at night and never be bothered. Some places in Denver can be a little sketchy though.
The most infamously dangerous places in Denver are Aurora and Colfax Avenue, the latter of which runs all the way from Aurora through Denver. These areas can be pretty wild sometimes depending on the time of day and how active thieves are. I myself have seen people robbing liquor stores in broad daylight on Colfax, which is pretty bold.
Colfax is the main motorway of the city and hosts a lot of Denver’s attractions so you’ll need to have an awareness of the area.
On the other hand, Aurora is pretty far away from anything and not many tourists find a reason to travel out there unless they’re looking for some authentic Mexican food.
Regardless, you still need to be alert and be aware of the usual safety practices when it comes to traveling.
The rest of Denver is relatively safe. Certain neighborhoods, like Highlands, RiNo, and Five Points, may have been more harried at one time, but these days they are safe enough and far more whitewashed. (Thanks, gentrification.)
There is a decent-sized homeless population in Denver that likes to hang around Downtown, especially Park Avenue near the shelter. Most of them are harmless and may even strike up a frenzied conversation.
If you feel threatened, seek help from someone nearby or call the police (phone: 911 in the US).
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Travel Insurance for Denver
Do you need travel insurance for Denver? Even if you are only going on a short trip to Denver, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.
A wise man once said that if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t really afford to travel – so do consider backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Traveling without insurance would be risky. I highly recommend World Nomads.
I have been using World Nomads for some time now and made a few claims over the years. They’re easy to use, offer the widest coverage, and are affordable. Also, this is the only company I know of that lets you buy travel insurance after leaving on a trip.
If there’s one insurance company I trust, it’s World Nomads. Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.
Getting an estimate from World Nomads is simple – just click the button or image below, fill out the necessary info, and you’re on your way!
Denver Accommodation Travel Guide
Sometimes you need your own roof above your head – we know the feeling. Other times, you’re doing everything you can save a nickel and dime.
If you’re trying to the cut the costs of travel in Denver, then maybe it’s time to stay somewhere else besides a hostel or apartment. If you need to save money, try one of these:
Couchsurf – Couchsurfing is the best way to save on cash when it comes to accommodation since most of the time you’re crashing for free. Staying with a local host is also a great chance to experience a more authentic side of the city and to visit hidden Denver.
Problem is couchsurfing is really popular (duh, it’s free) and demand often outstrips supply. Hosts are picky as well so you’ll need to impress them with an eye-catching message. Definitely try couchsurfing but be ready to be rejected.
Tap into your backpacker network – You never know when you have a friend in a foreign city! If you’ve traveled a lot, you may have met someone from Denver or know someone who knows someone.
Reach out to people! Ask to stay with people for a night or two in exchange for cooking dinner or a bottle of wine. If you don’t know anyone in the city, ask your friends if they do – travelers understand the struggle and are usually more helpful than you think.
Camping – Urban camping is a growing trend in many cities. These campsites are comfortable, sociable, safe, and cheap. They are often located on the outskirts of town, which means they are quieter too. Research to see if Denver as any and be sure to bring your own tent too!
Eating and Drinking in Denver
The Denver culinary scene is a somewhat divisive issue. While the city benefits from some very fresh and local ingredients, which are prepared expertly by adept chefs, there is not much in the way of culinary diversity.
Most Denver restaurants offer the same old American fare, like burgers and steaks, and only a handful are really pushing the boundaries.
With a relatively two-dimensional immigrant population as well – Latin Americans are in the overwhelming majority – there isn’t much in the way of ethnic food in Denver.
Denver has some of the best meat in the country. Beef is, of course, top quality but the lamb is especially good. There are also a number of special game meats in Denver like elk, bison, and fowl, thanks in part to the state’s love for hunting. Just be mindful of Rocky Mountain Oysters – these are deep-fried bull testicles.
As we mentioned before, there isn’t really a whole lot in the way of international foods in Denver. Italian is well-represented with Coperta, Italia, and DiFranco’s all getting nods. On that note, the pizza in Denver is quite special as well – Cart Driver and Marco’s are both worthy of visiting.
Mexican food is very popular in Denver due to its large Mexican population. All of the usual Mexi-American dishes are here including burritos, tacos, and whatnot, but the torta is particularly well-loved in this city.
There is a food cart outside of Meadowlark on the weekends that serves my favorite Mexican food in Denver. Otherwise, most of the cantinas are located up and down Colfax.
I would like to preface this section by saying the food is getting better in Denver. Certain establishments, like Acorn, Beckon, and beast + bottle, among others, are definitely leading the way to a brighter culinary future; the overall scene just has a ways to go.
Nightlife in Denver
Denver has a surprisingly active nightlife and certainly swings above its weight class when compared to some other larger US cities. There are tons of things to do at night in Denver in multiple parts of the city. Whether or not you’re a raver, kickbacker, or socialite, there’s something for you to do in Denver at night.
There are several nightlife districts in Denver, the most well-known being Highlands, RiNO, Downtown, and Broadway.
Capital Hill, Colfax, and Midtown have good bars but they’re not as exciting as the aforementioned.
Downtown is where most of the ritzy lounges and affluent bars are located. These are mostly frequented by the business crowds and rich tourists, which may or may not be your thing.
Regardless, there are definitely a couple of solid bars worth visiting like Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox, Union Lodge 1, and Sidecar Lounge. These tend to attract a more diverse crowd.
Broadway is where you’ll find the majority of Denver’s nightclubs. Temple is currently ranked as the #1 club in Denver, but Church, Vinyl, and Milk are all worth visiting too. Denver nightclubs are very musically-driven and most host a special DJ or band on the weekends (with a cover charges, always).
RiNo and Highlands are two of the hippest neighborhoods in town and these both offer similar types of parties. They excel in what we call “high dives” i.e. lowbrow bars that have a little bit of glamor to them.
These districts have been pretty laidback in the past but are becoming busier at an alarming rate. Check out local favorites like Finn’s Manor, Matchbox, Meadowlark, and Lustre in RiNo, and then Highland’s Forest Room 5, My Mother’s Bar, and Ale House.
Books to Read on Denver
Check out this Denver reading list to learn more about the city! Each novel takes place in and around Denver and does a good job of exploring the city.
- The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here.
- The Ringer – Two families from opposite sides of town and opposites sides of the end of the cultural spectrum come together as their sons play baseball together.
- Centennial – A sweeping epic written in honor of Colorado’s bicentennial. Follows several characters from all walks of life as they try to make something in the, then, New American West.
- On the Road – A tour-de-force of the Beatnik movement and arguably one of the greatest travel novels ever. Follows the wanderings of the wild and dazed Dean Moriarty through the eyes of Sal Paradise. A large portion of this novel takes place in Colorado.
- New and Selected Poems: Thomas Hornsby Ferril – A collection of poems from the most significant poet to ever come from Colorado.
Make Money Online while Traveling in Denver
Traveling in Denver long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring the city?
Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.
Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.
In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.
Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.
Being a Responsible Traveler in Denver
Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.
Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.
Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.
Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.
Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick.
Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.
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