Denver, CO Sightseeing & Top Things To Do!

Let’s be honest. Denver was a place we had chosen on our 2 week road trip in America as the starting place purely based on the good prices of the flights offered by Iceland Air from Amsterdam. Apart from visiting the Columbine Memorial and a trip to see the beautiful Union Station, we had no other interests from the city centre. But sightseeing was still on our list of things to do, even if it meant just exploring the city one step at a time!

Sleeping Arrangements – AAE 11th Avenue Hotel & Hostel*

Lets start with where you should not be sleeping in Denver. First impressions were not so high, since arriving at night and checking in to what we expected was a good hotel. The reviews seemed alright and the online photos showed rooms that looked average which is what we were okay with for two nights, but once we were checked in we had realised it wasn’t even of average standards.

  • No airco, just some large industrial fans constantly blowing the musty air through the corridors non-stop.
  • Floors uneven, and not just a little bit.
  • No natural light (bedroom window covered and broken).
  • Only one working toilet on the first night, shared between at least 50 rooms.
  • Community room was really dirty and unwelcoming.
  • Other guests seemed more like local homeless people, walking around undressed and very slobbish. We sure didn’t see anyone else like us with a camera or a map!
  • Double bed more like a large single bed (also broken).
  • No lift (didn’t bother us too much but saw others had problems)

From reviews, this hotel had 3 stars and many people were positive about the location and price of the accommodation, as well as friendly service. We somewhat agree with this, but feel that European standards would not have given this place 3 stars! If you are ever in Denver, we recommend that you pay a bit more and find a better place. Especially if like us you have a long flight before you arrive and in need of some comfort and cleanliness!

*This is based on our stay August 2017

Denver City Center

Besides the accommodation, Denver city center seemed very business focused with buildings being only work related, with housing obviously outside of the city center. Walking along the main street during the day towards Union Station we saw tourists, workers, locals and homeless people. By dark, all workers, locals and tourists were gone, leaving behind only homeless people. It didn’t feel safe or welcoming at all. We didn’t experience anywhere that was ‘gezellig’ for an evening drink like you can experience in many European cities, and preferred to go back to the awful accommodation instead.

We did eat out both nights at some local places and also spent an evening at the cinema which made it a bit more enjoyable, which was at least nice to try out those large cinema reclining chairs in America!

Thinking back now, it still shocks me the amount of homeless people that were on the streets when it became dark. We could only hope that their situation improves and that help is offered.

Columbine Memorial

Taking the metro/train line C and a local bus from Littleton also gave us a better experience of Denver, seeing neighbourhoods and life outside of the business city. We arrived at the Columbine Memorial within an hour and it was very touching. Walking there we went past a a beautiful lake towards the school where it happened. The original library had been destroyed and a new building and outside area had been created. Dead flowers took place next to the names of the 10 students and 1 teacher who died in the incident.

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Union Station

This was very pretty and clean, filled with local (and expensive) boutiques and restaurants. We never bought anything, but it sure was the most welcoming place that we had experienced in Denver.

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denver 12There were many other things to do in Denver but nothing that really interested us personally. If we had more time planned in Denver we would have totally headed north into the nature away from city. The mountains would have definitely been on our list to explore!

Leaving Denver after two nights felt good, with our excitement rising as we were boarding the Amtrak train to Salt Lake City, our next road trip destination! Between Denver and Salt Lake City the Amtrak travels through the Rocky Mountains, an amazing route following the river and spotting some hikers through the trees.

We’ve made a separate detailed post about our Amtrak experiences and journey here!

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Have you been to Denver before? Maybe you have some new tips for us and things to visit next time – Let us know in the comments!

29 thoughts on “Denver, CO Sightseeing & Top Things To Do!

  1. Oh no! Sorry you didn’t find Denver gezellig 😦 I’ve never been myself due to the altitude, but I imagine it’s probably much nicer during the winter. Maybe another time!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is super useful because we are planning a trip to Denver for summer 2018. Super handy, thank you. I’m really excited ❤ I can't wait to take some road trips to the mountains as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We had an overnighter in Denver too – so I hear you. It was though a starting point of our road-trip to Sturgis with our Harley Davidsons, so we didn’t get to experience much. Certainly very business focused.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am an American living in Europe, so I can understand that the amount of homeless people and limited pedestrian areas for dinner and drinks in city centers is in stark contrast to most European cities. It certainly encourages me to be involved in my local community when I get back to the states to try and help the homeless.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I almost visit Denver last year but plans didn’t come up together. I want to visit since I have heard the food scene is decent. Also, I would like to stop by the nearby National Park. I didn’t know there was a Columbine Memorial. Would be interesting to visit and learn more about the events.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience in Denver. I think it’s more to what place you got to see and of course nature is what you have to see first while in Colorado. I didn’t go to downtown area last time I went there (only to 16th St. Mall), but it’s not a surprised to see homeless people there.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I think I would be the same as you! The nature and hikes near the city are the things that appeal to me most. At least Denver got you excited for the next leg of your trip! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So I lived in Golden for 15 years. It’s just 15 miles west of Denver. There is more in Denver than what you saw. But really it’s about the mountains here. You could have taken the train out to Golden which is a great small town with fun micro breweries. And yes, Denver is a bit more business focused. The Coors Field tour is nice though and there are some nice restaurants in town. I think you might have missed some of the highlights of the area. Although I would agree that Colorado is all about the mountains.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m so sorry to hear that you didn’t have the best experience in Denver! I personally really love the city, but it’s difficult to navigate because, as you said, a lot of the cool neighborhoods and things to do aren’t in the city centre. Thanks for sharing about the Columbine Memorial. I’d love to check this out next time I’m out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Been to Denver twice and these photos brought back memories 🙂 Although I still haven’t seen Columbine Memorial.. guess I’d have to go back 😀 And you are right there are other things to do in Denver but we ended up taking a lot of day trips to the mountains so didn’t explore Denver properly as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We spent time in Denver in 2016 (at the end of a 3 week trip to Yellowstone etc) and liked it. The art museum and the Botanic Gardens were lovely. But,NYSE’s, the mountains are the best! Thanks for visiting The Glasgow Gallivanter.

    Liked by 1 person

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