Denver is a cultural and economic center in the Rocky Mountains region, famed for its historic 19th-century buildings in neighborhoods such as Larimer Square and its prestigious Denver Art Museum, which offers select free admission days throughout the year. Urban and state parks abound, including the beautiful City Park and the sprawling nearby Cherry Creek State Park. Some attractions are free only on certain days – please check before you go.
1.Denver Union Station
© Evan Meyer/stock.adobe.com
Denver Union Station is Denver's main transportation hub and national railway station, located within the city's LoDo district at the intersection of Wynkoop and 17th Streets. The current incarnation of the station was opened in 1914 following a fire, with major renovations completed in 2014 to transform the station house facility into the 112-room Crawford Hotel. Tours of the station are offered by the Crawford Hotel on certain days, lasting approximately one hour and showcasing the station's rich history and architecture. Dining options include restaurants by James Beard Award-winning chefs Alex Seidel and Jennifer Jasinski, while unique attractions include an urban beekeeping program, a seasonal weekly farmer's market, and high-profile shops such as a location of the city's famed Tattered Cover bookstore. Free amenities for guests include shuffleboard tables and complimentary wireless internet.
1701 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202, Phone: 303-592-6712
2.The Colorado State Capitol Building
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The Colorado State Capitol Building serves as the seat of Colorado's legislative and executive branches of government, housing the state's General Assembly and the offices of its governor and lieutenant governor. The building was designed by architect Elijah E. Myers to evoke the character and style of the United States Capitol and was opened for use in 1894. Since 1974, it has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, showcasing significant design elements crafted with rare Colorado rose onyx marble and unique design elements such as stained glass windows depicting events in the state's civic history. The capitol welcomes more than 300,000 visitors annually as part of advance-reservation free guided tours, which detail the building's history and the workings of the state's government. Visitors may also explore the building as part of free self-guided tours during business hours on weekdays.
200 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203, Phone: 303-866-2604
3.The Clyfford Still Museum
© The Clyfford Still Museum
The Clyfford Still Museum showcases the complete works and archives of founding Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still, who was noted for his unique, powerful work in the post-World War II American art scene and is considered a forerunner to artists such as Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. The museum was opened to the public in 2011 following the donation of the artist's complete works and archives by his widow, Patricia Still. Today, the museum displays more than 800 of the artist's paintings and over 1,500 of his works on paper, along with the complete collection of the artist's sketchbooks, notebooks, journals, and archival materials. Free visitor admission is offered each Friday evening and on the last Friday of every month throughout the day, with complimentary guided tours offered at select times throughout free days.
1250 Bannock St, Denver, CO 80204, Phone: 720-354-4880
4.Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
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Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is centered around the famed outdoor Red Rocks Amphitheatre, which has showcased classical and popular music performances for more than a century and has hosted world-renowned acts such as the Beatles, U2, and the Grateful Dead. Visitors may explore the nearly 10,000-seat historic amphitheatre at their leisure, which has become a popular workout spot for joggers and athletes due to its high elevation and rock stair seating. Two pedestrian trails are offered at the surrounding Red Rocks Park, with sections available for use by mountain bikers and horseback riders. Other free public attractions at the park and amphitheatre include the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, which honors the state's notable musicians, and the Red Rocks Visitor Center, which details the amphitheatre's history through interactive exhibits.
18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO 80465, Phone: 720-865-2494
5.The Money Museum
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The Money Museum is an outreach public museum operated by the Federal Reserve of Kansas City, not associated with the city's United States Mint Museum. The museum, which is located on the city's 16th Street Mall, showcases a variety of exhibits dedicated to the history of the Federal Reserve and the operation of the nation's financial system. Hands-on exhibits are offered for visitors of all ages, including a create-your-own-currency station, a Financial Fitness money planning exhibit, and a display of historical currencies dating back before the American Revolution. Visitors can also test their skills at identifying counterfeit currency and take home bags of shredded money as souvenirs. The museum is free and open to the public for self-guided tours Monday through Friday during business hours, with the exception of major national banking holidays.
1020 16th Street, Denver, CO 80202, Phone: 303-572-2300
6.The Colorado Governor's Mansion
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The Colorado Governor's Mansion has been the official residence of every Colorado governor since 1959, with the exception of Governor John Hickenlooper, who chose to maintain his private family residence in Denver following his election. The Georgian Revival-style home is also referred as the Cheesman-Boettcher Mansion, a reference to its historic owners Walter Scott Cheesman and Claude K. Boettcher. The National Register of Historic Places-listed mansion is open to the public for free guided tours, offered on select dates throughout each year at regularly-scheduled times. The mansion is ADA-compliant, offering a ramp entrance for visitors with mobility concerns. Visitors should note that reservations for tours are not accepted and are advised to arrive in advance of tour times in order to secure slots.
8th Ave, Denver, CO 80203, Phone: 303-837-8350
7.The U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research
© The U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research
The U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research is a National Science Foundation-funded research and development center that is home to facilities for meteorological, environmental, and climate science studies, featuring a broad spectrum of laboratories and equipment used for studying Earth's atmosphere. Several facilities are operated throughout the Denver area, including the I.M. Pei-designed Mesa Laboratory and Visitor Center, which is open to the public every day with the exception of major national holidays. Visitor Program staff are on hand at the Center to answer questions about the facility's research, with guided and tablet tours offered at several times throughout the week. Visitors are also welcome to explore the Center's exhibits seven days a week during business hours.
1850 Table Mesa Dr, Boulder, CO 80305
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8.The Denver Art Museum
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The Denver Art Museum is one of the largest art museums in the United States outside of the nation's coastal cities and Midwestern metropolis Chicago, located within Denver's Civic Center building. The museum first opened public galleries within the Chappell House in 1922, originally operated as the Denver Artists Club. Today, it attracts more than 600,000 annual visitors and showcases over 70,000 works from world civilizations from the ancient era to the present day, with an emphasis on pre-Columbian and modern indigenous American artworks. Free museum admission is offered to visitors on the first Saturday of each month thanks to sponsorship by Denver's Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.
100 W 14th Ave Pkwy, Denver, CO 80204, Phone: 720-865-5000
9.Cherry Creek Trail
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Cherry Creek Trail is a 42-mile multi-use paved trail that extends from downtown Denver to Franktown, deriving its name from its proximity to the Cherry Creek Reservoir. The trail is located within the reservoir's natural greenbelt area and offers an opportunity to explore the Denver area's historic neighborhoods and urban green spaces. It is a popular commuter trail and is frequented by tourists during peak travel seasons, showcasing regional landmarks such as the Colorado Convention Center, Larimer Square, the Kennedy Golf Course, and the Denver Country Club. It also provides access to Cherry Creek State Park and a number of other recreational trails within the Denver area, including the Colorado Front Range Trail.
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10.Cherry Creek State Park
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Cherry Creek State Park is a Colorado state park located around the 880-acre Cherry Creek Reservoir within Arapahoe County, offering an array of outdoor recreational opportunities for year-round visitors. The park, which has been referred to as "Denver's backyard playground," spans natural wetland and prairie environments and is a popular spot for jogging and biking, offering 35 miles of multi-use trails within its borders. Boating, fishing, and swimming are permitted at the reservoir during the summer months, with ice skating permitted at times when the reservoir is safely frozen over in the winter. Other popular visitor activities include cross-country skiing, sledding, bird watching, and model aircraft flying, with an outdoor shooting range offered for marksmanship practice. A seasonal bar and restaurant are offered at the reservoir's boathouse, with campgrounds located throughout the park for overnight stay.
4201 S Parker Rd, Aurora, CO 80014, Phone: 800-678-2267
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City Park is Denver's main urban park and one of its oldest public spaces, designed in 1882 by Henry Meryweather and modeled after major urban oases such as New York City's Central Park. Much of the park's modern layout is a result of the 1893 World's Fair hosted in the city, which sparked Denver's City Beautiful movement. Today, it spans a mile-long area in its namesake neighborhood, offering ample green space, picnic areas, children's playgrounds, and walking trails. Paddleboats are available for rental at the park's boathouse, intended for use on the park's two lakes. The park is also home to major cultural institutions, including the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Zoo, which require additional ticketed upcharges.
Colorado Blvd. and York St., Denver, CO 80205
12.Denver's Art District on Santa Fe
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Denver's Art District on Santa Fe is a nationally-renowned cultural district that is overseen by one of the nation's first Certified Creative District nonprofit organizations, established in 2003. The district is home to a multitude of art studios, galleries, and cooperatives, representing the works of hundreds of local and regional Denver artists working a variety of mediums. Museums and theaters also line the district, along with a number of trendy restaurants serving international cuisine options and craft microbreweries and distilleries with public tap rooms. Visitors can explore the arts district as part of daily self-guided exploration or during the district's First Friday Art Walk events, which attracts thousands of regional attendees and offers transportation via a free shuttle. Other free public special events include the annual summer Art on Film series, which presents arthouse and foreign-language films, and the Third Friday Collector's Night series, which invites local art collectors to the district for gallery receptions, public lectures, and opportunities to meet and greet with artists.
P.O. Box 9462, Denver, CO 80209, Phone: 720-773-2373
13.Coors Brewery Tours
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Coors Brewery Tours offer a unique opportunity to explore behind the scenes at legendary American brewery Coors, which was founded in 1873 and is headquartered in Denver suburb Golden. The brewery was founded by Adolph Coors and remains the largest single-site brewery anywhere in the world, distributing the country's second most-popular beer, Coors Light. Free half-hour tours of the brewery's operations are offered daily, highlighting the company's malting, brewing, and packaging operations. All participants over the age of 21 also have the opportunity to sample the company's beers following tours. Tour reservations are secured with free tickets, which may be obtained on the shuttle bus into the brewery, embarking from the free visitor parking lot's southeast corner.
13th & Ford Street, Golden, CO 80401, Phone: 866-812-2337
14.Hammond's Candies Factory Tour
© Hammond's Candies Factory Tour
Hammond's Candies Factory Tour offers a behind-the-scenes look at Denver candy company Hammond's, opened in 1920 by Carl T. Hammond, Sr. and known for their classic candy canes and high-quality candies and chocolate bars with unique flavor infusions. Free tours of the company's North Washington Street factory are offered daily, embarking on the half-hour throughout the business day and lasting approximately 30 minutes. Each tour can accommodate up to 50 participants and showcases the company's baking, molding, and candy-cutting processes, perfect for children and kids at heart alike. Large video screens offer up-close glimpses of factory operations, with take-home treats provided to all tour participants for free at the end of tours. Visitors should note that reservations are required for all tours and that groups of 10 or more should schedule private tours to ensure that the entire group can tour together.
5735 North Washington Street, Denver, CO 80216, Phone: 888-226-3999
15.Denver Story Trek
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Denver Story Trek is an interactive self-guided tour opportunity providing visitor information on some of the city's most historic landmarks, operated via smartphone calls and website podcast. Visitors may select from several dozen Story Sites or an array of predetermined Story Trek routes, available for download on the tour company's website, and then travel to landmarks and listen to audio files elaborating on sites' history and significance in Denver culture. Trek sites include Four Mile Historic Park, Cherry Creek Bike Path, the Center for Colorado Women's History, and the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art. Visitors may choose to explore all of the company's trek sites chronologically or geographically or structure tours at their own leisure based on their interests, with all audio files free to access with the exception of cell phone provider fees.
1340 Pennsylvania Street, Denver, CO 80203, Phone: 303-562-2407
16.The Spot 420 - Grow and Facility Tour
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The Spot 420 - Grow and Facility Tour offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the operations of the Denver area Pueblo West marijuana dispensary as part of free 420 public tours. Tours overview the history of medical and recreational marijuana, which has been legalized in Colorado since 2012, along with the growing, curing, and preparation techniques used at the dispensary's 20,000-square-foot grow house. Knowledgeable tour guides and master growers outline the differences between plant strains and products, allowing participants to become insiders on the state's burgeoning cannabis industry. Free tours are available by reservation to participants ages 21 and older with valid government identification. Participants should note that no free marijuana samples are given as part of tours.
748 E INDUSTRIAL BLVD, PUEBLO, CO 81007, Phone: 719-547-8011
17.Union Station Farmers' Market
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Union Station Farmers' Market is a downtown Denver farmer's market operated by the Boulder County Farmer's Markets nonprofit organization, showcasing an array of local farmer and grower vendors. The market is held each Saturday morning throughout the spring, summer, and fall months, open until 2:00pm or whenever vendors sell out for the week. Vendors sell meats, dairy products, produce, and pantry and home goods, available to individual customers and for wholesale to local restaurants and chefs for seasonal produce menus. Live music performances are also showcased weekly, along with cooking demonstrations by top Denver chefs. Four other markets are offered throughout the year at other locations within the Denver area.
1701 Wynkoop St, Denver, CO 80202, Phone: 303-910-2236
18.Great Divide Brewery Tour
© Great Divide Brewery Tour
Great Divide Brewery Tour showcases the behind-the-scenes operations of local Denver microbrewery Great Divide Brewing Company, consistently ranked as one of the top microbreweries in America by Beer Advocate and RateBeer.com. The brewery was originally opened in 1994 and offers a public tap room in downtown Denver that taps 16 of the company's seasonal and year-round brews. Free tours of the company's brewhouse are offered daily, limited to the first 20 guests on a first-come, first-served basis. Though tours are family-friendly and available for participants ages 12 and older, adult supervision is required for all participants under the age of 21. Private brewery tours are also available for small groups and organizations outside of regular public tour times.
2201 Arapahoe St, Denver, CO 80205, Phone: 303-296-9460
19.Tattered Cover Bookstore
© Tattered Cover Bookstore
Tattered Cover Bookstore is one of the United States' largest independent bookstore chains, offering three locations throughout the Denver area, including locations in LoDo, East Colfax, and Highlands Ranch. The bookstore originally opened to the public in 1971 in a 950-square-foot space in Denver's Cherry Creek North district and has become one of the nation's top independent bookstores. All locations are open to the public seven days a week, offering new and used books, discount book editions, and a world-class newsstand section. Stores serve as prominent community gathering spaces, hosting live author lecture and signing events, children's storytimes, and first Friday themed events.
2526 E. Colfax Avenue., Denver, CO 80206, Phone: 800-833-9327
20.Denver Public Art Tours
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Denver Public Art Tours explore prominent public art sites implemented as part of the city's Public Art Program, offering free guided tour opportunities throughout the year to landmarks such as the Denver Art Museum, Civic Center Park, and the 16th Street Mall. Tours are held two to three times per month at designated times and are led by experienced tour guides, who detail the history and cultural significance of the landmark being explored. Visitors are also welcome to explore more than 150 public works of multimedia art located throughout the Denver city center that are maintained as part of the program, primarily centered around the city's Golden Triangle Creative District. Self-guided tour maps and information are available on the Public Art Program website.
21.Doors Open Denver
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Doors Open Denver is a two-day free event that aims to tell the story of Denver's past, present, and future, showcasing unique and high-profile architectural and civic sites throughout the city that are not typically open to the public. The festival is hosted over two days each September and allows visitors to explore more than 60 renowned open sites throughout the city as part of self-guided tours. Pop-up cultural activities are offered at certain sites throughout the weekend, aiming to cultivate community and foster creativity among Denver residents and visitors. Paid-admission guided tours are also offered throughout the weekend, led by experts and elaborating on the history and significance of sites open as part of the festival.
303 E. 17th Avenue, Suite 110, Denver, CO 80203, Phone: 303-868-8680
22.Free Denver Tours
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Free Denver Tours are free walking tours that explore many of the city's top landmarks, led by experienced and friendly tour guides. Participants of all ages are welcome on low-difficulty walking tours, which typically last approximately two to two and a half hours. Attractions showcased include the city's Civic Center Park, Denver Art Museum, U.S. Mint Building, 16th Street Mall, and Coors Field, with free 16th Street Mall shuttle access provided to take participants to the starting location of tours. Reservations are not required for groups of six or less, with tours operating rain or shine except in the event of extreme weather conditions. Though tours do not require an admission cost, participants are encouraged to tip their tour guides at the end of tours using a pay-what-you-can model.
1449 Lincoln St., Denver, CO, 80203, Phone: 720-372-3849
23.Denver Parade of Lights
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Denver Parade of Lights is a Denver city holiday tradition, held for more than four decades at the beginning of the winter holiday season. The annual holiday parade spectacular is sponsored by 9NEWS and is held on the first Saturday in December, showcasing beautiful holiday floats and balloons, performances by marching bands and civic groups, and a special end-of-parade appearance by Santa Claus. The parade runs for two miles throughout Denver's downtown and is simultaneously broadcast on 9NEWS for those looking for a respite from the cold weather. Visitors should note that sidewalk views of the parade may be obstructed due to crowds and are advised to arrive early to secure elevated grandstand seating.
24.U.S. Mint of Denver Tours
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U.S. Mint of Denver Tours offer a unique opportunity to explore the workings of the United States Mint, showcasing the history and manufacturing techniques behind the production of American currency. The mint was originally established in 1860 as a private mint facility in response to the 1858 Colorado Gold Rush and became a United States Mint facility in 1895. Today, the facility is the world's largest producer of coins, crafting more than 50 million tokens per day, including circulating and commemorative coins. Free 45-minute guided tours of the facility are available during the morning and afternoon hours Mondays through Thursdays, with the exception of major national holidays. As tour slots are only available for same-day tours, visitors are advised to arrive at the mint's information window as early as 6:00am to secure slots on daily tours during peak travel seasons.
320 West Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80204-2693, Phone: 303-405-4761
24 Best Free Things to Do in Denver, Colorado Year Round
- Denver Union Station, Photo: Evan Meyer/stock.adobe.com
- The Colorado State Capitol Building, Photo: Courtesy of kennytong - Fotolia.com
- The Clyfford Still Museum, Photo: The Clyfford Still Museum
- Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, Photo: Courtesy of yobab - Fotolia.com
- The Money Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Shelley - Fotolia.com
- The Colorado Governor's Mansion, Photo: Courtesy of Dasha Petrenko - Fotolia.com
- The U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, Photo: The U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research
- The Denver Art Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Brett Bouwer - Fotolia.com
- Cherry Creek Trail, Photo: Courtesy of arinahabich - Fotolia.com
- Cherry Creek State Park, Photo: Courtesy of arinahabich - Fotolia.com
- City Park, Photo: Courtesy of Andy - Fotolia.com
- Denver's Art District on Santa Fe, Photo: Courtesy of arinahabich - Fotolia.com
- Coors Brewery Tours, Photo: Courtesy of David Prahl - Fotolia.com
- Hammond's Candies Factory Tour, Photo: Hammond's Candies Factory Tour
- Denver Story Trek, Photo: Courtesy of kuosumo - Fotolia.com
- The Spot 420 - Grow and Facility Tour, Photo: Courtesy of Brent - Fotolia.com
- Union Station Farmers' Market, Photo: Courtesy of arinahabich - Fotolia.com
- Great Divide Brewery Tour, Photo: Great Divide Brewery Tour
- Tattered Cover Bookstore, Photo: Tattered Cover Bookstore
- Denver Public Art Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Evan Meyer - Fotolia.com
- Doors Open Denver, Photo: Courtesy of jsnewtonian - Fotolia.com
- Free Denver Tours, Photo: Courtesy of deberarr - Fotolia.com
- Denver Parade of Lights, Photo: Courtesy of Brett Bouwer - Fotolia.com
- U.S. Mint of Denver Tours, Photo: Courtesy of W.Scott McGill - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Kit Leong - Fotolia.com