Denver, Colorado, is a terrific place to visit any time of year, but especially so in the winter. True, many use Colorado’s capitol as a home base for their high-country skiing adventure, but if you don’t have your sights set on the slopes, no worries! There’s plenty to see, do, and experience here that doesn’t involve a lift ticket or expensive rentals.
Here are nearly a dozen of our favorite non-ski activities that are bound to delight any Denver visitor during the winter months.
1. Getting An Art Fix
The Denver Art Museum has an incredibly curated collection within its two modern buildings downtown. From photography to textiles, Indigenous art and the Impressionists, the works sweep genres and are wide-ranging as well as thought-provoking. The art museum is the perfect place to spend a chilly day and wander among gorgeous masterpieces from around the world and across time periods.
Pro Tips: Don’t skip the fantastic museum store, filled with home objects, jewelry and other must-have pieces. Also, consider taking a lunch break here; a recent stop-off to The Ponti did not disappoint … but remember to make reservations!
2. Strolling 16th Street
Ready to get in those steps and spend the day at the 16th Street Mall. This pedestrian-only promenade is beautifully lit during the holiday season, and stays open and bustling all winter long! The mall stretches a mile downtown, and is lined by dozens of restaurants, cafes, bars, boutiques, and shops. You’re bound to find the perfect gift or souvenir along this stretch of downtown Denver!
As you stroll your way along the mall, keep an eye out for a tall belltower. This is the D&F Tower, a replica of the Campanile of St. Mark’s in Venice that was the highest building west of the Mississippi when it was built in 1909! Another fun fact: The mall was designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, and its red, white, and gray granite blocks are placed in a repeating pattern that, when spied from above, resembles the skin of a diamondback rattlesnake.
3. Larimer Square
Just off the 16th Street Mall, you’ll find another one of the city’s gems. We’re talking about Larimer Square. Here, high-end boutiques, terrific restaurants and luxe lounges are housed in historic buildings. It’s fun to browse and nosh for lunch … and at night, the whole area twinkles with string lights, making the entire square feel cozy and romantic. We loved Osteria Marco for its decadent house-made burrata and flatbreads, and Rioja for its Mediterranean tapas-style plates. Both spots had cozy indoor seating, but we opted for well-heated patio dining instead.
Pro Tip: If you had to leave your beloved pup at home and want to make it up to her, head to Dog Savvy. They’ve got a great line of everything a pampered pooch could ever want, from studded high-fashion collars to sweaters, toys, and even a line of smoked all-natural beef bones. Our girl has spent hours on hers!
4. Get Sporty
Did you know Denver has six different professional sports teams? For those of you keeping score, that includes football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer, and lacrosse. And lucky for winter visitors, the Colorado Avalanche (NHL), the Denver Nuggets (NBA), the Denver Broncos (NFL), and the Colorado Mammoth (NLL) all compete during the colder months. Taking in one of their games and cheering on the home team is a whole lot of fun, and a great way to really get to know the city.
Pro Tip: You’ll want to book tickets for these teams as far in advance as possible to secure the best seats available.
5. Take A Craft Beer Crawl
There’s no doubt about it: Denver is a beer town with historic roots that run deep. Coors, one of our country’s oldest breweries, has been cranking out cold ones in nearby Golden since 1873. But Denver has also become an epicenter of the craft brewing scene. From large-scale to small batch, sours to stouts, and everything in between, you’re bound to find a style that hits the spot. Beer is such big business in Denver that you can book your very own custom beer/pub crawl, or check out some of our tried and true favorite breweries here. However you give it a go, sampling some of Denver’s best known brews in the very places they’re made is a great way to spend a winter’s day!
6. Stop To Admire The Orchids (Inside, Of Course!)
Most of us don’t think of visiting a botanical garden in the winter, but it’s a different story in Denver. The Denver Botanic Gardens are of course stunning in the summer, however, this winter’s Orchid Showcase is guaranteed to dazzle and delight flower fans. Hundreds of varieties of the exotic blooms will be on full display, of all colors, sizes, and patterns. We can’t think of a more romantic way to spend part of Valentine’s Day!
Pro Tip: Entrance tickets must be purchased in advance, and are not available onsite.
7. Visit A Bibliophile’s Paradise
When it’s cold outside, sometimes all you want to do is curl up with a warm beverage and a good book. Denver’s got you covered with its iconic independent bookstore — Tattered Cover. First founded back in 1971, the store has long been a haven for booklovers, and has also served as a community meeting place. Today, there are several locations of this beloved bookstore, including one downtown at McGregor Square and another on Colfax. At Tattered Cover, you’ll find best-selling fan favorites and author-signed first editions, along with a good selection of gifts and games. No matter which location you choose to peruse, there are plenty of spots at Tattered Cover to sit down, sip a tea or latte, and browse through books to your heart’s content.
8. All Aboard At Union Station
Train enthusiasts aren’t the only people who will want to make time to visit Denver’s Union Station. The Beaux Arts building, constructed in 1914 out of carved granite and terra cotta, was completely renovated 100 years later in 2014. Take a stroll through its Grand Hall and you’ll understand why this iconic space is nicknamed the city’s living room. Of course, there are travelers heading off to catch their Amtrak train or one of the city’s RTD transportation options. But there are several great restaurants and shops here worth checking out as well. A star among them, Ultreia, with its Iberian tapas-style cuisine and selection of top-shelf gin and tonic cocktails.
9. High Tea At The Brown Palace Hotel
If you need to warm up and want to have a luxe nosh/sip session at one of the city’s best-loved spots, book a reservation for high tea at the Brown Palace. This historic hotel, built back in 1892 at the height of the state’s gold rush, is a gorgeous throwback in the heart of downtown that’s been meticulously maintained. The suites and shared spaces here are posh, as is the high tea experience. You’ll be served in the hotel’s fabulous main atrium, under an enormous crystal chandelier. There’s nothing better than fancy finger sandwiches, sweet, decadent pastries and perhaps a glass of champagne served in a gorgeous setting to chase those winter blues away. (It beats apres-ski every time in our book!)
Pro Tip: The high tea service here books up quickly, especially during holidays, so make sure you reserve a spot in advance!
10. Hit The Dairy Block
Shop. Eat. Drink. Sounds like the perfect plan for a winter’s day in Denver, and you can accomplish all three in the city’s Dairy Block micro-district. Located near the ballpark in the LoDo neighborhood, this area once housed the — you guessed it — Windsor Dairy. The historic buildings that once churned out milk for the entire city have been repurposed for a micro-district including more than a dozen shops and boutiques, restaurants, bars, and the Milk Market, a food hall featuring 15 different eateries and places to craft a coffee or cocktail. Here you can have a few different tastes from some of Denver’s best food purveyors. Good luck choosing a favorite!
11. Enjoy The Great Outdoors
Yes, winter gets cold in Denver. But plan to bundle up and take advantage of the spectacular mountain views while you’re here. The city has extensive walking and biking trails, perfect for getting your steps in after a big meal or indulgent dessert. What’s more, the city’s park system is vast, including almost 20,000 acres of urban parks and mountain parklands, so you’ll never be far from green space. Whether it’s strolling Cheesman, the cemetery turned park with sweeping mountain vistas in an historic residential location, or biking through Confluence Park, where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River meet, brave the chill and get out there. You won’t regret it.
Pro Tip: Keep in mind, they call Denver the Mile High City for a reason. The air here is likely thinner than what you’re used to, and is generally quite dry, especially in the winter months. Make sure you stay well-hydrated during your visit, and remember: You simply can’t over-apply your sunscreen, moisturizer, or lip balm!
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