Recently I had a 9 hr layover in Denver, Colorado. Really the only thing I knew about the city was it was located near the Rockies, home to the Denver Broncos, and Colorado Rockies.
After visiting it briefly during a 9 Hr layover, I wish I had known of its unique offering and special vibe the city provides. It is a “small big city” that boasts culture, food, street art (lots and lots of art/sculptures) and when skies are clear an amazing view of the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
There is a ton of stuff to do in downtown Denver, whether you want to view street art & sculptures, visit museums, watch sports or try some fantastic trendy food that is situated all over downtown.
The main area I stuck to was the 16th Street Mall, which is a long outdoor style street mall that has plenty of shops, restaurants. There is a free bus service (electric too…YAY) that takes you up and down the entire street and into the heart of downtown.
I chose to walk, as I wanted to see what the city has to offer (unfortunately I didn’t have the proper shoes). The walk from Union Station to the Colorado State Capital is about 30 minutes, and quite enjoyable. No one really waits at cross-walks, just look to see if it is clear and cross when you like.
From the State Capitol area, there is an abundance of sites to see and things to do. Trendy restaurants are everywhere in the area, so you never have to worry about going hungry.
Getting from the Airport to Denver City Center
I arrived at the Denver airport at 8:30am, and wasn’t departing until 6:30pm that evening. Doesn’t sound like much time, but you can see so much, and do plenty within that time. Plus, who really wants to sit in an airport for 9 hrs?
The airport is a fair distance from Denver City Center, or anything worth seeing. The best, quickest and cheapest way I found to get downtown (where all the action is), is to take the RTD (Regional Transportation District – Denver).
Once you exit the airport, follow the signs, and head down to the train platform, there are plenty of automated ticket booths that take credit/cash.
You can buy an all day pass for a mere $9!! Take this train right to Union Station (end of the line), where you can start to wander downtown or if needed to get elsewhere you can switch trains.
I decided to walk everywhere I went, however there are electric ride sharing scooters that you can rent. They looked super awesome, went pretty fast from what I saw, and you just grab one, ride to where you want and leave it on the sidewalk.
You need to have the Lime App to use the scooters. I did not know this, and did not bother purchasing data so I missed out getting to use the scooters to get around.
Don’t be like me, plan and download the Lime app before hand
Historic Sites & Art Museums
If you are in to museums or art there are plenty of options in the area.
The Molly Brown House Museum is a historic site that is a 6min walk from the State Capitol. It is the house of Margaret “Molly” Brown who was an American philanthropist, socialite, and activist.
She was also a survivor of the Titanic and also known as “Unsinkable Molly Brown”. Adult cost of entry is $12, $8 for age 6-18, and $10 for Seniors (65 and up), Military, Teachers and College Students (with valid ID).
The Denver Art Museum is one of the largest art museums located between the West Coast and Chicago. It has sculptures available to view outside, along with nice grassy areas to take in the sun, or even some interesting chairs to sit on and relax.
Like most museums of this kind, there are different exhibits and things to do throughout the year. Cost of Entry is $13 for Adults, $10 for Seniors (65 and up), and College students, and FREE for 18 & under.
There are plenty of other museums and historic sites all within an easy 15 min walk of the State Capitol. Such as The Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Clyfford Still Museum, Byers-Evans House, as well as the Denver Police museum, Denver Firefighters Museum, and more.
Art Sculptures & Gardens
There is street art all over so keep your eyes open. As well, there are sculptures scattered throughout the area along with exceptionally well maintained gardens that are beautiful.
The city is extremely clean as there were workers tending to gardens, cleaning sculptures, draining fountains and brushing them out. It was impressive to see the pride the city took on the cleanliness.
The Civic Center Park, which is located across the street from the State Capitol, is a large beautifully grassed park. It boasts traditional American architecture for the entrance to the park with very well maintained gardens and of course sculptures.
Back near Union Station, there is a river front, that has plenty of parks, as well as a seasonal water park & amusement center called Elitch Gardens and the Downtown Aquarium, both are a 20min walk from Union Station.
Want to goto a game if you have time on a layover? Or just want to check out the sports fields like I did?
Coors Field (Home of the Colorado Rockies) is just a 12min walk from Union Station. There was a game starting later that afternoon, I would have loved to gone to a game if I had more time. If you wanted to walk around the entire stadium, you can’t!! You can only go about 3/4 around the whole thing.
Pepsi Center – Elitch Gardens Stadium is a 14min walk from Union Station. It is home to the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Colorado Mammoth (National Lacrosse Team). I didn’t get to the stadium, as at this point my feet were killing me from walking around for 4.5hours in lousy sandals.
Mile High Stadium, home of the Denver Broncos is a 37 min walk from Union Station. I am sure you would also be able to take the RTD or some form of public transit there as well. I would have loved to have seen the stadium but again…improper foot wear.
I didn’t eat anywhere great, however there are endless restaurants all along 16th Street Mall. There are quick food stands in the middle of the road (safely blocked off of course) that line up during lunch hour. The taste is endless, be adventurous and let your phone pick a place if you can’t decide.
Would I Return?
I most definitely would return to Denver. Next time, I would want to have Jessie with me so we can explore more together. Oh, and proper footwear so I don’t hurt for 3 days after. There is so much more I would have liked to do, especially if we lived closer it would be an ideal location for a beautiful weekend trip.
I forgot to mention, anyone who enjoys marijuana, it is legal in Colorado now. Not sure of the laws or rules, as I didn’t check out any dispensaries or bars (not enough time lol). But I tell you, they are not hard to find, and there are a few just off of 16th st Mall, or about a 10 min walk east of Capitol Hill.
Enjoy your time in Denver, I sure did and cannot wait to return. Let us know your adventures and experiences in this beautiful city nestled in the Rockies.