Free Things To Do in Denver On Your Colorado Vacation
There’s definitely no way (seriously, no way!) you can be bored if you’re on a budget for your Denver trip or are looking to travel large for less. Denver is packed with free things to do whether you’re an outdoor lover, adventurer, beer and food aficionado, or are more into culture and lean towards the artsy-fartsy side.
The best part? As locals, we know the ins and outs of Denver and we’ve done all of the hard work for you and put together three awesome freebie lists for our three favorite types of travelers:
+ The Outdoor Adventurer
+ The Beer & Food Aficionado
+ The Cultural Enthusiast
A. THE OUTDOOR ADVENTURER
We take advantage of this Every. Single. Week. Fitness lovers rejoice – what’s better than free classes held outdoors, in a beautiful park, in the middle of the city? Our favorite is the Monday night yoga class, but if you’re game for the lunchtime classes, they overlap with the food trucks (see Civic Center Eats, below) so you can feed your body after burning some calories.
We live for the time in summer where our rivers are open and safe for tubing. Our favorite tubing river is Boulder Creek, about a 40 minute drive from downtown. It’s pretty extreme tubing depending on the water flow – this is not your float-with-a-beer kind of tubing – you will lose your beer, lose your flip flops (if you’re wearing any), and lose your sunglasses. You may tip out of your tube more than once, but that is what makes this free Denver activity perfect for the Outdoor Adventurer! Closer to town, in Golden, is our second favorite tubing river, Clear Creek. Do it – we promise, you won’t regret it! If you don’t have a tube, buy one of these or, even better, one of these, and bring it with you on your Denver vacation. They’re the best, they’re cheap, and you’ll see a lot of locals with them.
3. Cherry Creek Trail
This is our urban running trail and bike path that cuts right through (or really, under) Denver and follows our Cherry Creek. If you’re visiting Denver and want to get a totally unique perspective of the city, make sure to check it out. Just don’t expect only tree lined paths, the sounds of nature, and the smells of flowers or you might be a bit disappointed by the urbanness of it all. If you want to see some kick-ass street art, go for a run, walk, or bike ride without having to cross streets or stop at lights; or if you want to check out the REI flagship store (indoor rock climbing wall, anyone?), then this trail is for you!
4. Kayaking on the Platte River
If you have your own kayak, that will keep this activity free and this site has all of the info you’ll need to paddle to your heart’s content on our Platte River. If you don’t have your own kayak (inflatable ones like this one work great if you’re doing a road trip), you can rent one at Confluence Kayaks. They also shuttle you upstream to the Chatfield Dam area so that you can float or paddle right back into the city.
5. Rocky Mountain Arsenal
The National Wildlife Refuge is one of the largest urban refuges in the country, is made up of over 15,000 acres, is home to 330 species of wildlife, and is open every single day, except for major holidays. They have a wildlife drive that you can take, hiking trails, fishing, nature programs, and tours and you get to see all of their rescued animals in their natural, open environment, like you would on a safari.
6. Red Rocks Hiking & Museum
Red Rocks is a short 20-25 minute drive west of Denver in the foothills and is a must-see. We take all of our first time visitors here for a few hours and this is one of our favorite free things to do in Denver. The hiking and biking trails that start here are awe-inspiring. The Visitor Center features interactive educational displays, a short film on its geologic and musical history that’s actually really interesting, a Performer’s Hall of Fame, and tours at 10:00 am (June 1-Oct 1). Here’s what we would recommend: park in one of the lower lots, climb the stairs all the way to the top. You can do it, we promise! Just ignore those super fit folks sprinting past you; they’ve had lots of practice at altitude. Once at the top, you will be able to take in the amazing city views, take a break in the Visitor’s Center museum, then hop on one of the shorter trails that winds up above the amphitheater amongst the red rocks. Don’t forget your sunscreen, or one of these, there’s not a lot of shade!
7. Jazz in the Park
We love Sundays in the summer because it means Jazz in the Park at City Park is on tap every Sunday from 6-8 pm. Bring your blanket, bites, and booze (plastic containers only – we’re fans of these wine glasses) and enjoy the music. You can also dabble in the many food trucks or pitch your volleyball net.
B. THE BEER AND FOOD ENTHUSIAST
Fresh air, gorgeous views, live music, cornhole, and delicious food (no free food, unfortunately), all in our beautiful Civic Center Park, right in the heart of Denver. This is Denver’s largest gathering of gourmet food trucks and happens May through early October every year, Tuesday-Thursday, over the lunch hours. We’re licking our lips thinking about eating one of our favorites: an ahi tuna bowl under the shade of one of the big red umbrellas in the Greek Amphitheater.
2. Coors Brewery Tour
You get to “Taste the Rockies” on a tour at Golden’s Coors Brewery. Coors prides itself on being the world’s largest brewing site and they still use the same Rocky Mountain spring water that Adolph Coors discovered way back in 1873 when it was still more of the wild, wild west here in Colorado. Free tours show you the brewing process up close and end with free samples for guests 21+. Our perfect free day in Denver is to go tubing down Clear Creek right behind the brewery first and then grabbing a few refreshing beers as part of this tour afterwards.
3. Wine Tour within the City Limits
Balistreri Vineyards is a family-owned and operated winery located just a quick 10 minute ride from Denver. Their award-winning wines are traditionally handcrafted, without the addition of sulfites or other chemicals, so no excuses not to join them for a tasting of their award winning wines and a tour of their wine cellar and wine-making facilities.
One of our team members is a dietitian and we’ve even seen her hop on this free Denver tour and unlock her inner sweet tooth. And just like our Denver Free Walking Tours, no reservation is required for their tour either (for groups of 10 or less). Don’t leave without one of their funky flavored chocolate bars: red velvet, pigs n’ taters, cookie butter, cinnamon churro, and grasshopper pie are just a few of their creative flavors.
5. Ratio Beerworks Comedy Night
Every Wednesday from 8:00 – 10:00 pm, you can get your laughs on, joining the comedians and crowd in Ratio’s showroom. Each comedy night has a different theme and different local jokesters and if there’s one thing everyone needs on vacation it’s some laughter! Their Facebook page is the best place to check out the deets.
So you do have to plunk down $10 to take the tour but all guests will receive an engraved tasting glass to take home as well as $10 off ANY one bottle of whiskey purchased that day to offset the cost of your tour! We love whiskey and we do happen to really (really, really) like their whiskey (and then we can get away with wearing this), so we had to add it to our free things to do in Denver list.
7. Epic Brewery Tour
Most people recommend the Great Divide Brewery Tour, but we actually much prefer the free tour at Epic and it also takes you to our RiNo district. Brewery tours are held Friday at 4:00pm and Saturday and Sunday at 1:00, 3:00, and 5:00 pm. You can also schedule a special group tour if you have four or more people by calling them at 720-539-7410.
8. Farmers Markets
Take in the smells, the people (and dog) watching, some live music, and, if you do want to part with some of your cash, you’ll be rewarded with some eats and drinks unique to our Colorado vendors at our 12 different farmers markets. If you have a car or want to hop in a taxi/Lyft/Uber for a quick ride south of downtown, our favorite market, hands down, is the Old South Pearl Street Market on Sundays. Union Station now also offers a farmer’s market on Saturdays that is super convenient if you’re staying in downtown Denver. Just BYOB (That’s Bring Your Own Bag) – you’ll fill it up fast.
C. THE CULTURAL ENTHUSIAST
Our flagship library is over ½ million square feet. That’s a lot of books and other really cool collections, like our Western History collection. They have tons of free exhibits and classes at the downtown location and word on the street is that you can check out one book for free even if you’re not a Denver resident.
2. State Capitol Tour
We adore the State Capitol building and you can get an insider’s sneak peek on their free public tours that are offered hourly from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, Monday-Friday. You can also do a self-guided tour at other times.
This is one of our favorite tour stops on the Denver Free Walking Tour. Tickets for 45 minute tours inside the Mint are in super high demand and go quickly when released at 7:00 a.m., Monday-Thursday, for same day tours only. Unfortunately, there are no advanced sales. If the idea of getting up early on your vacation in Denver repulses you, make this the one exception. This tour is worth setting the alarm clock. You’ll be rewarded with robbery stories and see where and how billions of coins are produced each year.
4. Trivia Nights
There are so many to choose from. Our favorite is the one at Whittier Pub on Wednesdays and Jagged Mountain has a good one on Thursdays. Just Google Denver Trivia Nights and you’ll find at least one happening every night of the week.
5. Free Day at the Denver Art Museum
So, the bad news is that it only happens once a month, but the good news is that if you happen to be travelling to Denver the first Saturday of the month, you can get in on the free action! We know that you don’t love large crowds – so get there early for a little bit more peace and quiet. Also, this is our new fave interactive exhibit outside of the museum that is free every day and looks like so much fun to watch other people doing it and, of course, you have to do it yourself.
This contemporary art gallery has cool and weird written all over it and even non-art enthusiasts would dig a bit of time here. Not only is entry free but they offer free cell phone tours, free guided tours, and also free events/workshops (sometimes with refreshments!). Just check their hours before you go and look out for large inflatable bunnies!
7. First Friday Art Walks
Denver doesn’t stop at one art district or one art walk – that just wouldn’t be good enough! Our biggest one is on Santa Fe, but there’s also Art Walks on Tennyson, RiNo, Belmar, and the Navajo Street Art District in LoHi. You can also expect live music, alcohol for sale, street art, food trucks, and more, as part of the Art Walks every first Friday of every month. If you’ve never been to an Art Walk before, all of the galleries in each of the above locations open their doors to the public late into the evening for a fun, casual experience.
Into Colorado sports? Then this is your shrine. Check out tributes to, and the memorabilia of, our state’s best athletes. It’s open Thursdays-Saturdays year-round and Mondays-Saturdays in the summer (June-August). It definitely makes a great stop on a day when the weather is less than amazing.
This quarterly weekend festival is one of our newer events in Denver and you can think of it as a hipster farmers market and they promote it as: Beerfest, Bands, Bazaar. You can get your beach volleyball on while sipping a beer from the onsite craft beer garden. And, we love that it opens late so that we can sleep in without FOMO. Although our team has never attempted it, we’re told that you can barter your unwanted vintage items for beer tickets.
For all three types of travelers, no doubt, Denver Free Walking Tours will hit the mark and give you a great overview of Denver as you kick-off your vacation. Tours are 10:00 am daily May-October and Saturdays/Sundays from November-April.
To check out free and cheap Denver events and activities going on the specific days/week you’re in town, these are our go-to resources:
What are your favorite free things to do in Denver that we missed? What free things do you have in your hometown that we need in Denver? Share your tips in the comments! And don’t forget to share this post with anyone you know planning a visit or a move to Denver.