Things to do on a budget in Denver this summer


Dating back to the Old West era, the Colorado capital of Denver is a fascinating hotchpotch of quintessential American frontier charm and vibrant contemporary culture. World class museums and galleries, thriving craft breweries, and a pumping music scene contribute to a sense of a city living very much in the present, while charming 19th-century buildings serve as a salient reminder of its rich past.

A view over the lake towards downtown Denver with a mountainous backdrop (Photo: Daniel Spiess via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

There’s certainly no shortage of things to see and do in Denver at any time of year, with low humidity making the summer heat more than tolerable and the snowy winter ski season inviting excursions to the nearby Rocky Mountains. If you’re planning to visit Denver during the peak summer months and don’t have a huge budget to play with, you might want to consider adding some of the below options to your itinerary.

Denver Trolley

The Denver Trolley invites you to step back in time and traverse the city as its residents did during the earlier parts of the 20th century, when an extensive electric rail transit system included over 250 miles of city tracks. A replica of a 1928 trolley, it today runs along rails that follow the scenic contours of the South Platte River from Confluence Park to Old Colfax and back again, with a round-trip lasting about 25 minutes. Pricing is $5 Adults, $2 for kids under 13, and free for kids under 4.

(Photo: Paul Swansen via Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Denver Central Market

There are few better ways to get under the skin of a city than to visit one of its markets. The airy environs of this bustling marketplace perpetually hum with activity, with its meat and fish counters plus a greengrocer, bakery, pizzeria and more attracting everyone from office workers on their lunchbreaks to students to tourists keen to sample some of the affordable foodie treats on offer.

LOCATION 2669 Larimer Street HOURS Sun-Thurs 8am-9pm Fri-Sat 8am-10pm

South Broadway

South Broadway has come a long way since its early days as a rough road used for hauling produce into the city. Today the neighbourhood known as SoBO is better known for its eclectic mix of antique shops, quaint taverns, vintage clothing stores, independent eateries, bookstores, art galleries, craft shops, an arthouse movie theatre and hip music venues. During the summer the district also plays host to one of the biggest events on Denver’s cultural calendar, the Underground Music Showcase, featuring more than 200 local and national music acts performing in nearly 20 venues over three days.

Museum of Outdoor Arts

A non-profit museum and gallery based in the suburb of Englewood, a few miles south of downtown Denver, the Museum of Outdoor Arts is one of Colorado’s most distinguished cultural institutions. The venue plays host to a diverse collection of outdoor exhibitions each year, with one of the highlights running throughout this summer and beyond being Rauschenberg: Reflections and Ruminations
. Considered one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century and with more than 50 original artworks spanning 1962-2008, this is the largest solo exhibition of Robert Rauschenberg’s work ever presented in Colorado. 
Exhibition Admission is $10 for children, and those 5 and under go free (reserved ticket required for children 5 and under).

LOCATION Museum of Outdoor Arts, 1000 Englewood Parkway, Englewood DATES Now through 20 March 2021

(Photo: Museum of Outdoor Arts)

Denver Walking Tour

Set up by a husband and wife team with a deep-rooted passion for all things travel, Denver Walking Tours invite visitors to explore the city on foot while learning all about its fascinating past and present. With a strong focus on green tourism, all tours are hosted by dedicated, experienced and enthusiastic guides who will be a veritable font of knowledge during your experience. A variety of themed tours are available, including art tours, ghost tours, holiday lights tours, and many more, as well as a Free Tour that allows guests to choose how much or little they wish to pay at the end. Whichever you choose, these tours are the perfect way to get to know Denver in the company of like-minded folk, all brought together with a shared love of travel, discovery and adventure.

(Photo: Denver Walking Tours)

South Platte Park and Carson Nature Center

Located in Littleton, a quick drive south of downtown Denver, this expansive park and nature site has been delicately restored in recent years and is now home to an abundance of wildlife, including birds and mammals. The site also offers a packed programme of summer events and activities for kids, including guided nature hikes, fort building, fishing, nature photography, survival skills, and plenty more.

LOCATION 3000 West Carson Drive, Littleton HOURS Tues-Fri 12pm-4.30pm Sat-Sun 9.30am-4.30pm Closed Mon

Mile High Flea Market

Just 10-minutes from downtown Denver, this vast open-air market is far more than your average outdoor marketplace. Spanning some 80 acres, the venue is not only a place to pick up great value wares such as clothing and antiques, but is also an all-encompassing entertainment destination, boasting adrenaline-fuelling kids’ rides such as a rollercoaster, bumper boats, and bounce house, as well as a Farmers’ Market, beer carts, and live music. The market is open Friday to Sunday every week.

LOCATION 7007 East 88th Avenue, Henderson HOURS Fri-Sat 7am-5pm Closed Mon-Thurs

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

An open-air amphitheatre built into a rock structure, this naturally formed outdoor venue fifteen miles west of Denver hosts live music acts whose tunes are accentuated by the site’s natural acoustics and unique atmosphere. The park is also popular for its awe-inspiring hiking and biking trails, while a dedicated Visitor Center features interactive educational displays and a short film on the area’s geological history.

LOCATION 18300 West Alameda Parkway, Morrison HOURS Mon-Sun 9am-5pm

(Photo: J Dimas via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Fifty Two 80’s A Totally Awesome Shop

Packed to the rafters with cool and kitsch nostalgia dating from the 1970s through to the 1990s, this quirky collectibles store is the perfect place to pick up a great gift or souvenir that will set your mind back along memory lane. Visitors can leisurely peruse the shop’s vintage pop culture items, collectibles, toys, and memorabilia, all set against the backdrop of classic ‘80s music, helping make this one of Denver’s most unique retail experiences.

LOCATION 1874 South Broadway HOURS Weds-Fri 12pm-6pm Sat 12pm-5pm Sun 12pm-4pm Closed Mon-Tues

Denver Brew Tour

Denver’s thriving craft brewery scene can be explored on a Denver Microbrew Tours that takes in many of the city’s finest craft breweries, as well as offering the chance to traverse the city streets while learning about Denver’s fascinating past. Tours are themed around a specific area of the city and include the services of a guide / designated driver, transportation between breweries, beer and brewery knowledge, as well as other perks such as generous tastings of 10+ mouth-watering brews. Tours are available daily.

(Photo: Denver Brew Tours)

Denver Firefighters Museum

An ideal indoor attraction for the family on a rainy day, this museum is home to a huge assortment of exhibits, artefacts, documents and photographs, all dedicated to the noble profession of firefighting. Opened in 1978, the venue was created and curated with the express aim of educate the public about fire safety and the history of fighting fires in Denver. Admission is $9 for adults and $6 for kids aged 5-13. Younger children go free.

LOCATION 1326 Tremont Place HOURS Tues-Sun 10am-4pm Closed Mon

(Photo: Craig Talbert via Flickr / CC BY 2.0)

Denver Mart Drive In

Drive In movie theatres may make you think of US teen flick classics from a bygone era, but a number of these iconic al fresco venues remain dotted across America. In Denver, this popular Drive In features an 80 x 40-foot screen and has the capacity to accommodate up to 275 cars, while on-site café serves up classic cinema snacks including popcorn and nachos. Admission is $10 per person, with kids under 6 going free.

LOCATION 451 East 58th Avenue

By Paul Joseph