I just left Denver, Colorado after visiting for 10 days and let me say this – Colorado is awesome. It’s got mountains, deserts, cities, small towns, and big skies. Professional sports and top-tier restaurants all with an endless supply of fresh air and outdoor activities.
Denver is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and Colorado is one of the fastest growing states, and it’s easy to see why. When I arrived in Denver, I didn’t know what to expect but after 10 days of playing and exploring, I quickly started to see why everyone wants to be in Colorado.
If you’re planning a trip or thinking about visiting Colorado, here’s my guide for having the best time ever. And yes, you can do all of this on a backpacker’s travel budget because we all know I’m not made of money!
Check out the Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Well-known fact: I love museums and cultural stuff in general. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is geared more towards children and families but it’s still fun to check out. It has wildlife exhibits that showcase animals and landscape of the West and Northwest, and silly, interactive activities. It also has a planetarium and an iMax theater attached, where I went and saw “National Parks Adventure” movie in 3D. If that movie doesn’t make you want to explore the great outdoors, I don’t know what will. Before visiting, check out their site to see if they’re having any special promotions or group/family deals to save on admission prices.
Go to a sporting event
Another well-known fact: I love a good sporting event. Denver has three professional sports teams, which means you have access to professional sports games all year long. I went to a Rockies game while visiting Colorado, and while we lost, it was still fun to go and be a part of the atmosphere. Even better, you can generally find tickets for as low as $6/each. Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, it’s fun to go support the teams with locals and be a part of the city’s energy.
Stroll through Washington Park
Denver has quite a few parks but my favorite is Washington Park. The surrounding neighborhoods are beautiful to walk through, it has two flower gardens, two ponds, and it’s right next to Denver University, which is cool to check if you have time to kill. A friend and I walked around the entire park on a sunny afternoon and it took about two hours. It’s a beautiful way to get outside, get some exercise, and see a bit more of Denver by foot.
Take a day trip Boulder, Colorado
When I told people I was visiting Colorado, almost everyone told me to visit Boulder. So I did. I borrowed my friend’s car one day when she was a work and did a day trip to Boulder. It’s a quaint little mountain town about 30 minutes from Denver with easy access to hiking trails and mountain-life activities. Boulder reminded me of a more refined, mountain version of Eugene, Oregon, where I went to school. It has the college town action with the hippy, crunchy vibe that I know so well and love so much. When you visit, walk down Pearl Street where a lot of the shopping, restaurants, street performers, and overall action takes place. A couple of places to shop and eat while you’re there include:
- Nature’s Own – cool crystal and outdoor store
- Peppercorn – an overwhelmingly awesome cooking store
- Zeal – delicious health food restaurant
- Pizzeria Locale – pizza… need I say more?
If you’re on a budget, watch your wallet! It’s easy to get sucked into the cool crystal shops, used bookstores, and cafes, as well as the fancy Patagonia and Free People stores. You’ve been warned…
Hike near the Flatiron Mountains
On my solo day trip to Boulder, I wanted to check out the hiking trails in the area. Nearly everyone I talked to told me to hike near the Flatiron Mountains, so I did a two hour, mid-morning mild hike at Dowdy Draw Trailhead. This trailhead as a number of different hikes that vary in length and difficulty and it’s only 10 minutes from Boulder. If you’re looking for information on hikes in the area, the Boulder, Colorado website has some great resources, as well as this site here. This area doesn’t have a ton of tree cover so if it’s a warm day be sure to bring water, sunscreen, and a hat.
See the Continental Divide
The Continental Divide is so cool and must-see when visiting Colorado. You’ll go through it on your way to any of the various mountain towns when coming from Denver. Even if you don’t have time to spend in a mountain town, I highly recommend taking the 45-minute drive to the scenic viewpoint at Loveland Pass and checking it out. And I suggest you listen to this song while you do it. You’re welcome.
Spend some time in the mountains
When visiting Colorado, no trip is complete without at least one visit to a magical mountain town. From Denver, there are so many, including Frisco, Breckenridge, Winterpark, and Vail, to name only a few. While mountain resort towns have a tendency to be pricier than the larger towns or cities, consider going up for a day trip or camping near the towns if you want to save money on accommodations. The charming feel and mountain air is a refreshing change from the faster, city life pace and, frankly, people just seem to appreciate life more in the mountains (although, I’m slightly biased). Activities range from eating and drinking your way through town to hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and swimming. And if you’re lucky, you might even get to see some wildlife!
What did I miss? Give me some tips for the next trip! I know this isn’t the last time I visit!