21 Essential Denver Bucket List Ideas, Food & Activities

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Denver, also known as the Mile High City, is a hot spot for fabulous cuisine, outdoor adventures, and nearby ski resorts. It’s also an ideal location for traveling as a family, solo adventuring, or having an adventure with a group of friends.

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If you’re planning a trip out west, then you’ll want to add these must-do activities and must-try foodie finds to your bucket list. You may not get to it all, and that’s okay. In fact, there’s so much to do in Denver that you might just decide to make a return trip. 

Unique Denver Bucket List Ideas for Locals

As a local, you’ve probably done most of the things listed on a Denver travel bucket list. So we’ve searched high and low to come up with some unique ideas for you. Check out these fun options for a weekend stay-cation.

1. Dine at all the food halls

Denver’s first food hall, The Source Hotel + Market Hall, opened in 2013 in the River North Arts District. That kicked off a trend, and now food halls are popping up all over the city. If you haven’t been to them all, you should definitely visit the original and then check out Denver Milk Market, Denver Central Market, and Zeppelin Station.

2. Put on a smile at the Original Selfie Museum

Do you love taking selfies but you’re looking for something on the more unusual side? Maybe you’re tired of the same old backgrounds you’ve been using. Well, head on over to the Original Selfie Museum in Denver. 

Though not entirely a “museum,” there are plenty of interactive exhibits, backgrounds, and lighting that make this unique stop a must-see place for trendsetters, influencers, and anyone who wants to impress their Instagram followers.

3. Go on the First Friday Art Walk

Did you know that the first Friday of every month is host to an art walk? Local and nationally-recognized artists have works on display in studios all across the Art District in Denver. Best part? It’s free!

Must-Do Denver Bucket List Ideas for Visitors

Planning to spend some time in Denver? Here are several must-dos for your trip.

4. Stay and dine in a former train station

Denver’s Union Station building got a new facelift, and it’s now home to one of the coolest lodging and dining experiences around. The on-site Crawford Hotel offers a range of rooms from loft suites to Pullman-style arrangements that give you the feel of staying in a real sleeper car. The rest of Union Station boasts award-winning restaurants, coffee shops, cafés, boutiques, and an ice cream shop.

5. See a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater 

Red Rocks is a stunning natural amphitheater that has drawn some of the most popular names in music including The Beatles, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, John Denver, The Grateful Dead, U2, Bob Dylan, Dave Matthews, Stevie Wonder, and Diana Ross.

The acoustics are truly outstanding, the scenery is breathtaking, and the combination creates an event venue unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.

Pro tip: No band playing during your visit? Take a self-guided or a docent-led tour, instead.

Denver Bucket List Ideas for Spring and Summer

Spring and summer are two perfect times for visiting. The weather is warm and the options are endless for the number of things you can do.

6. Visit historic Larimer Square

Larimer Square is where the city of Denver began. Its historic buildings used to house saloons and theaters. Today, the same buildings are home to some of the best dining in Denver, boutique shops, a comedy club, and spas. Visit during the day to shop or in the evening to dine outside under the stars in this historic spot.

7. Check out the Dairy Block

The Dairy Block is a micro-district housed in the former Windsor Dairy headquarters. Here, you can spend an hour or two checking out the 15 unique shops and 19 artisan restaurants. You might decide you like the area so much you don’t want to leave and there’s a solution for that, too. Maven Hotel is a minimalist hotel on-site that travelers rave about.

8. Take a scenic drive

Get ready for stunning scenery, plenty of lookouts, and plenty of picture-worthy moments when you drive along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Starting from Denver, you’ll drive 60 miles west, gaining about 9,000 feet in elevation. You’ll top out at 14,264 feet above sea level at the summit.

Pro tip: Keep your eyes peeled! You’re likely to spot mountain goats and bighorn sheep during your drive.

9. Visit Denver Botanic Gardens

The Denver Botanic Gardens is a perfect get-away. Stroll through 45 different gardens featuring a wide variety of flora and fauna. Visitor favorites include the Japanese Garden, Water Garden, Shade Garden, Fragrance Garden, and Children’s Garden.

Pro tip: Purchase your tickets in advance online to reserve your spot.

Denver Bucket List Ideas for Fall and Winter

Fall and winter are both beautiful. While chilly, there are plenty of activities to enjoy from outdoor winter sports to staying inside and touring some incredible locations.

10. Enjoy fall foliage from Wash Park

Wash Park itself is a joy to visit for its lakes, gardens, playgrounds, and lush green areas that feature fun park games including a horseshoe pit, croquet area, and lawn bowling. There are also areas for soccer and tennis and bike paths galore.

Come fall, however, the park turns glorious shades of oranges and yellows, as the trees shed their summer green for the colors of fall.

11. Tour the Denver Art Museum

Looking for things to do indoors during the chilly months? Take a tour of the Denver Art Museum where there are more than 70,000 pieces of art. Roam the halls and take in Native American, African, Oceanic, American, European, modern, and contemporary works.

Pro tip: There are regular exhibits for artists of all ages, making this a great place to come whether you’re on your own, with a group, or traveling with children.

12. Visit the Denver Mint

The Denver Mint produced more coins than any other US mint in the history of coin production. It was first commissioned in 1906 and ran until 1993. At its height, it produced more than $1 billion in coins yearly. Today, you can take a tour of the mint and learn about the minting process.

Pro tip: Tours are for kids and adults ages 12 and up.

13. Check out the Forney Museum of Transportation

Take a step back in time and experience transportation history. The museum holds over 600 unique artifacts including steam locomotives, Amelia Earhart’s 1923 Kissel “Gold Bug,” the 1913–1953 Indian Motorcycle Collection, a Denver and Rio Grande dining car, a fire engine, steam tractor, and more. 

Denver Bucket List Ideas for Kids and Families

Traveling with kids? Here are some fun places to enjoy with younger adventurers.

Pro tip: Make a travel bucket list by separating the types of activities according to their season or age range for an easy breakdown when deciding which to include later on.

14. Spend a day at Elitch Gardens Theme and Water Park

This fun park is situated smack dab in the middle of downtown, and it’s an attraction well worth visiting. There are plenty of fast roller coasters for the thrill-seekers, and the water park is a must-visit come summertime. 

Pro tip: The park is open seasonally from Memorial Day through the end of October.

15. Check out the Denver Museum of Nature and Science

If you’re looking for an interactive, hands-on activity for kids of all ages to enjoy, look no further than the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. There are loads of exhibits, floor-to-ceiling artifacts, educational opportunities, and docent-led tours that will hold your interest. 

Pro tip: For even more fun, consider purchasing tickets for add-on exhibits including a planetarium and IMAX Theater.

16. Explore the Denver Zoo

Kids and animal lovers of all ages will love getting to explore the Denver Zoo! There are 84 acres with over 3,000 animals to see including elephants, rhinoceroses, tigers, lions, monkeys, penguins, zebras, and grizzly bears.

In addition to the amazing animal exhibits, there are add-on adventures like the 4D Experience, a 4D theater, a train, and a carousel. Finally, make your trip even more remarkable by booking private, up-close encounters with giraffes, llamas, sloths, sea lions, flamingos, or the zoo’s animal ambassadors.

Bucket List Foods and Restaurants in Denver

Denver is a hot spot for fantastic foodie finds. Here are several foods and restaurants to put on your Denver food bucket list.

17. Grab a snack at the Denver Biscuit Company

Everyone in Denver knows this place, and it’s perfect for grabbing a snack on the run. From biscuit sandwiches and biscuit pot pie to giant biscuit cinnamon rolls, there’s something delicious for everyone.

18. Enjoy a sit-down dinner at The Buckhorn Exchange

The Buckhorn Exchange has been serving up steaks and other western fare since 1893. It’s Denver’s oldest restaurant and is still going strong today. Denverites know this place for its mouthwatering beef and buffalo steaks and unique apps like Rocky Mountain oysters and fried alligator tail.

19. Try a basket of Rocky Mountain oysters

If you just read the recommendation above and you’re wondering what Rocky Mountain oysters are, just know you should try them. They’re served fully cooked with a horseradish dipping sauce. And no, they’re not oysters.

20. Grab a burger at My Brother’s Bar

My Brother’s Bar has been serving Denver locals since 1873. Though originally a bar, the owners eventually added burgers to the menu, and the rest is history. Their burgers are continually voted the best in Denver year after year.

21. Satisfy your craving for Mexican food at El Taco de Mexico

If you’re looking for some mouthwatering Mexican food, look no further than El Taco de Mexico. This family-owned, female-run eatery is known by all the locals for the delectable smothered burrito, chile relleno, and green chile. 

Explore the Mile High City

Denver has a lot to offer every traveler who decides to explore the city. From parks and biking trails to museums, art galleries, and indoor adventures, there’s something for everyone. We hope you have a great time when you go!

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