Free things to do in Denver to have fun right now

Denver is a vibrant city full of life, culture and fun things to do around every corner, and being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your favorite activities. Whether your true love is art, history, animals or exercise, there’s something for everyone on the cheap in Mile High. Explore the vast wilderness right next door, find your new favorite park, hang out with adoptable cats, or be inspired by incredible works of art, all at no cost (transportation excluded). Here is a list of some of the best things to do and see in Denver that are completely free.

Appreciate Denver’s public art

Besides being an extremely artistic city, Denver also has multiple pockets where street art and sculptures abound and a day can be well spent walking around and admiring it all. From Santa Fe Arts District at RiNo (River North) and several places in between, you can see for yourself the color and talent decorating the Mile-High. There are even suggested routes and points of interest you can easily find online if you don’t know where to start.

Denver Art Museum
Denver Art Museum

Take advantage of free museum days

Denver is full of incredible art and history museums, and many offer free admission on select days throughout the year. Be sure to check the calendars for free days at Denver Art Museumthe Denver Museum of Nature and Scienceand the Clyfford Stills Museumto name a few.

Go on a hike

This one is pretty self-explanatory, especially for Denver locals, but in case you didn’t know, there are a ton of mountains, forests, and waterfalls to explore right near our city. Even if you’re not looking for a long drive or a challenging hike, there really is something for everyone who needs a bit of nature. Unless you’re entering a state or national park, in which case there’s probably some sort of entrance fee, you can wander the Rockies on your own, at no cost.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Who said you had to pay hundreds of dollars to visit Red Rocks? If you’re willing to go when there isn’t really a concert going on, it’s still a visit well worth it. Stroll through the famous theater, peek at the Red Rocks and Colorado Halls of Fame, or venture into the many walking paths and cycle paths surrounded by this scenic red rock, Front Range landscape.

Take a trip to the zoo

Although there is a bit of effort and luck to get into the The Denver Zoo Lottery for its free days, there are a substantial number of dates offered to those who win each year. If you’re chosen, head up to see your favorite striped, spotted, or camouflaged friends for a free day of fun for the whole family.

Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport

Go skating, skating or doing something else that gets you moving

Besides the many green parks in Denver, there are also several free skate parks to visit. Whether you’re a skateboarder, blader, or biker, grab your wheels and head to Downtown Denver Skate Park, Central Park Skate Park, or half a dozen more. Plus, with winter fast approaching, a number of free skating rinks will soon be opening in and around Denver if ice skating is more your style. The DIA ice rink is free to use this season, to name one.

Explore historic downtown Denver

Put your steps in and enjoy some of Denver’s rich history and architecture with a few downtown walks. Union Station (especially if you haven’t visited it) is always a good time, whether you’re looking at the vendors inside or just staring in awe at its impressive exterior. Other notable stops in downtown Denver include the Capitol Building, Brown Palace, Oxford Hotel, and Daniels & Fisher Tower. You can get a comprehensive look at the heart of Denver with a free walking tour like this.

Hammond candy since 1920
Hammond candy since 1920

If you’ve ever wondered about creating all your favorite candies and have a morning or afternoon to spare, consider heading to Hammond’s Candies for a fun, family-friendly factory tour. All you need to do in advance is reserve a spot for your group, and the rest is easy once you get there. Watch the beauty of melted chocolate, spun taffy and more transform into the familiar candies you know and love. (And, if you’re willing to spare a few bucks at the end, take home a souvenir or two.)

Open year-round (weather permitting), there really is never a bad time to visit Denver Botanical Gardens. And throughout the year there are specific days when you can visit for free. Be sure to check the garden calendar to see which days are free, then simply arrive and be amazed by the beauty of the botany. (Fair warning: the gift shop may tempt you out of your budget.)

Arsenal of the Rocky Mountains National Wildlife Refuge
Arsenal of the Rocky Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

Arsenal of the Rocky Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

Do you want to see wildlife and feel like you’re getting out of town? Just northeast of Denver is the Arsenal of the Rocky Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, where you can customize your trip based on how much time you have to visit. Drive, hike or bike along the routes here and keep an eye out for different types of wildlife, depending on the season: bison, coyotes and birds of prey are just some of the incredible creatures that you might see.

Read a few pages at Tattered Cover or the Denver Public Library

Denver independent bookstore chain Costs nothing to visit (unless you go out with some new reads, of course), but it’s a great way to pass some time, especially if the weather isn’t ideal. From its Littleton outpost to its two-story McGregor Square location, each has the same cozy bookstore vibe with unique style. Likewise, one of the many Denver Public Library the places are free to visit and are a good way to find your next book, get some work done, or just have some peace and quiet.

Pack a picnic and head to a park

Do you have snacks at home but need a change of scenery? Denver has more than 250 city parks, which also include off-street trails, historic walks, and green spaces. Pack your favorite outdoor blanket, something delicious, and a good book or reading list, and head to Wash Park, City Park, Sloan’s Lake Park, or any other beautiful and peaceful park in town for a day of relaxation and fun. .

Erica Bühler is a Denver-based freelance writer who loves a good DIY Halloween costume. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_ on Twitter for more Denver food updates and other Mile High shenanigans.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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