Unless you've been living under a rock for the past decade, you know that Denver (and the surrounding area) has become a top-tier U.S. city for living, working and, of course, playing. With roughly 1,000 new residents each month, the city is growing and changing at an unprecedented rate. So whether you're new to town or playing tour guide for out-of-town friends, there's never a shortage of things to do, see, eat and drink.
In a quick weekend, you don't have time to do it all, but we think this is a good start. We've compiled an itinerary that encompasses the city's best — all in 36 hours. Follow our guide or use it as inspiration to build your own Front Range adventure.
Friday Afternoon // Arrival
Ah, that first taste of vacation. There's nothing quite like your first sip of ice cold beer to usher in a weekend full of responsibility-free fun. We suggest convening with your friends at Union Station after they arrive from DIA. Plus, if your guests have different flight times, it's just about the most pleasant place to wait in the heart of downtown.
Inside you'll find a restaurant or bar to satisfy any taste:
● Terminal Bar: Order at the counter craft beer + snacks
● Ultreia: Spanish-style tapas and wine + cocktails
● Pig Train: Artisan coffee for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up
● Whole Foods: Right behind the train tracks you'll find a brand-new Whole Foods, featuring an array of fresh snacks including made-to-order Israeli street food and the infamous mac and cheese bar.
● Falling Rock: If you're prone to wander, head just three blocks away from Union Station to try one (or many) of 75 beers on tap at the original Denver craft beer bar.
Friday Evening // Dinner and a Show
Vacation mode is hard work, and by now you've worked up an appetite. Under the twinkling lights of Larimer Square, you'll find some of Denver's most popular restaurants: Rioja, TAG and Osteria Marco.
If you overindulge at dinner, work it off with a core workout. Laugh 'til it hurts at the underground (literally) club, Comedy Works. Don't be fooled by its unassuming milieu. It's a favorite of internationally renowned comedians like Joe Rogan, Dave Chappelle and Sarah Silverman.
More into sports? Stroll over to Coors Field to catch a Rockies game and the best view of a Denver sunset in the city.
Pro Tip: Don't stay out too late, you've got a big day tomorrow. And for all the out-of-towners, drink more water than you think you need. Altitude is real!
Saturday Morning // Get Moving
Denver is best known for its proximity to the Rocky Mountains. And it's time to explore!
Depending on which type of outdoor activities you prefer, the options are endless:
1. Hike the Flatirons in Boulder
Located just 30 minutes north in Boulder, Chautauqua Park is the gateway to miles of trails that wind up, over, across and around the iconic Flatirons. For a quick but steep hike, follow the Royal Arch trail. For something more mild but longer, take the Enchanted Mesa trail. No matter which you choose, you can't go wrong. When you're done, head down to Pearl Street in downtown Boulder for brunch at Centro or a much-needed refreshment and sustenance at Half Fast.
2. Day trip to St. Mary's Glacier
Located just an hour west of Denver, St. Mary's Glacier offers stunning views and year-round snow, perfect for seasoned hikers and newbies alike. The hike up ascends through a beautiful forest and opens up on a clear alpine lake. It's only a 0.75-mile trail to the lake, with an option to keep hiking up the glacier from there. At the top, you'll be rewarded with incredible views of the Rocky Mountains to the west and nearby 13,000-foot peaks. Need to know: Parking is $5 and the wind is fierce, so bundle up.
3. Get some cardio on the Manitou Incline
Head south on I-25 to reach the old mining town, Manitou, where pure torture is built right into the mountain side. After completing the Incline, one survivor put it this way: “You'll start by thinking, ‘This isn't so bad,' but the gentle incline of the lower portion quickly turns into a quad-burning, legs-quivering, heart-pounding intense workout with a vertical elevation gain of 2,000 feet in just a mile. The 2,700 stairs look like an endless stairway to heaven...but it's a hell of a workout.” Don't worry, once you reach the top, there's a gentle 2.5-mile trail down the mountain that offers ample time to cool down.
Saturday Afternoon // Beer O'Clock
If you like beer (and a nice microbrew at that) you've come to the right place. Colorado is home to nearly 230 established breweries and that number is always growing. Create your own brewery crawl in the the River North Art District (RiNo, to locals) where there are more than 15 breweries in a 2-mile radius, each with a distinctive style and flavor profile. Check out these can't-miss stops:
● Crooked Stave - the OG sour brewery
● Epic Brewing Company - Home to more than 25 taps
● Ratio Beerworks - Great beer, even better patio
● Our Mutual Friend - Experimental styles with a focus on cloudy IPAs
● First Draft Taproom - Pour-your-own bar
● Great Divide - Have you found the Yeti?
● Infinite Monkey Theorem Urban Winery - For those more into grapes than hops
● Stem Ciders - Another beer alternative in an expansive, industrial space
Saturday Night // Explore a New Neighborhood
Head just north of downtown to Lower Highlands (LoHi) for the hippest scene around. LoHi is home to young singles, urban professionals and growing families that enjoy a walkable community close to shops, galleries and some of the city's best eateries. Start with an inventive yet healthy dinner at Root Down or an equally delicious meal in a converted mortuary at Linger.
Round out the evening with a nightcap from Williams & Graham, the library-themed “secret” bar with a two-hour waitlist. We advise making a reservation.
Sunday Morning // Rec Day
No weekend in Denver is complete without a good ol' park hang. Enjoy one of the 300 days of sunshine with a frisbee, a six-pack and your best buds in one of Denver's famous city parks. There's Washington Park in the south, with multiple lakes and a three-mile walking/running trail around the perimeter. In Cheesman, you'll find groups playing pickup volleyball, reading books or practicing acroyoga on the ample lawn. And if you can stay through the evening, check out the City Park Jazz, a summer concert series in the titular City Park — just don't forget your picnic supplies.
And that's a wrap! 36+ hours packed with fun and adventure. See something we missed? Let us know what's on your agenda in the comments below.