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 Ro