Have you been thinking about taking a long weekend away? If you love nature sunshine, and eating and drinking your way through a city, you’re going to love spending 3 days in Denver.
Denver, Colorado, the Mile High City, is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains. But it’s also a thriving city full of interesting neighborhoods and a booming food and drink scene. Of course, getting out and seeing nature is a great way to spend your time, but there’s also a lot to see, eat and drink in this fabulous city. Denver offers more restaurants, bars, breweries, food markets, and cafes than even the most demanding foodie could wish for.
We have been to Denver at least five times in the past few years because Alysha has family in the area, and I had a few work trips to conferences in Denver. This past time, we spent a few weeks split between Denver and Boulder, exploring and eating and drinking our way through Denver and the surrounding area.
In this guide, I’ll take you through a complete 3 day Denver itinerary. I’ll suggest where to visit, where to eat and drink, and cover the basic logistics so you can plan an incredible long weekend in Denver, without wondering what to do or wasting your valuable time.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
Important Note: this guide won’t take you outside Denver – there is so much to do there that there’s no need to head out. Of course, if you’re spending more than 3 days in Denver, then exploring Rocky Mountain National Park or Red Rocks is great, but I think there is more than enough to do inside the city limits to keep you busy.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post, like hotel links, are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, we make a little bit of money if you click through and book. That being said, we would never recommend something to you that we don’t stand behind 100%.
Where to Stay For 3 Days in Denver
If you haven’t booked a place to stay yet, you’re in luck. I’ve been to Denver several times in the last few years, and have a strong perspective about where you should stay to have the most incredible trip.
The two best areas to stay in Denver are RiNo (River North Art District), a hip and happening district to the east of Downtown Denver, and LoDo (Lower Downtown), which is perfectly located between Downtown Denver and RiNo.
Want to Stay in a Stylish Hotel? Find the Perfect Hotel for your stay in Denver with our guide to the 10 Coolest Hotels in Denver
Here are three fantastic boutique hotels to look at for your trip.
The Maven Hotel (LoDo): I have personally stayed here, and it’s fantastic. It’s in the same building as the Milk Market, with Huckleberry Coffee in the lobby (the best coffee in Denver), and it’s super central and walkable to pretty much everywhere.
The Ramble Hotel (RiNo): Denver’s most aesthetically pleasing hotel; this is one of the best places to stay in Denver if you are always on the lookout for unique boutique hotels when you’re traveling. It was styled after the 17th Century French salons with bold Prussian blue feature walls and large airy windows.
The Source Hotel (RiNo): The Source Hotel is all about styled minimalism. You are even served a beer at check-in! It is connected to the Market Halls which is full of designer boutiques, vintage vinyl stores, and restaurants serving just about every cuisine you could imagine. The highlight, though, is the rooftop hot tub and plunge pool, perfect after a day of exploring.
The Complete Guide to a Perfect Long Weekend in Denver
Now, onto the meat (plant-based, if that’s your thing) of how to spend your time in Denver.
Denver Itinerary Day 1: RiNo
RiNo is the nickname of Denver’s River North Art District, an area full of food halls, hip art galleries, cool jazz bars, fine restaurants, bars and brewpubs. It’s urban chic with its industrial revival buildings and is an area to see and be seen.
If you like renovated warehouses, exposed brick, and white-walled spaces, this is the place for you.
With three full days ahead of you, here’s what I suggest you do on your Denver itinerary for the first morning.
After a leisurely breakfast, head over to Crema Coffee House on Larimer Street for that caffeine-fueled kickstart to your day. It’s a great place to start and grab breakfast, too, if you don’t want to make it yourself.
Now you’re ready to hit the three great hipster food halls/markets of the area.
Denver Central Market offers amazing local food vendors selling everything from ceviche to ice cream in a fascinating historic building.
Zeppelin Station is another of Denver’s trendy food halls that also highlights independent fashion and art makers. They also have the great Big Trouble Bar on the mezzanine. La Rola is a great stop for lunch here, with its out of this world Colombian cuisine that had us reliving our six weeks in Colombia. Definitely get an arepa (we got the plantain arepa and it was stuffed FULL of plantains) and a toston – a fried plantain topped with chicken, cheese, and a delicious spicy sauce.
At the Source Market Hall, you’ll find cocktails, flowers, boutiques, coffee and lots more in 45,000 square feet of historic market halls.
Take your time wandering the streets of RiNO – there’s some truly AWESOME street art hidden away in the tight alleyways that connect the main thoroughfares here.
For example, these incredible Star Wars murals in the alleyway between Blake and Walnut St near Improper City Brewing.
While you’re in RiNO, you should definitely do some exploring of the countless breweries, cideries and wineries in the area. This is an amazing place to go brewery hopping – there’s an almost unlimited selection of great places to grab beer, wine, cider, and more.
One of the top-rated breweries is Epic Brewing, which specializes in high alcohol content beer packed with flavor and with great names like Lunar Transit, Escape to Colorado and Chasing Ghosts.
Odell Brewing Company is another, where you can enjoy beer from 16 taps in two bars, half of them made in the 100-year-old building. They do 4oz pours if you’d like to sample a range without stumbling home for a nap.
Two more that caught my eye as we wandered the streets were Our Mutual Friend, which has a super colorful paint job and a cute patio to hang out on, and Improper City, which has a huge outdoor seating area.
For wine lovers, you have to go to Infinite Monkey Theorem. They actually make wine in “the back alleys of Denver” and sell it in bottles and cans. Check their website for tastings, and don’t forget to try the cider. The dry-hopped Sauvignon Blanc was our favorite.
Speaking of cider: Stem Ciders has a tasting room in RiNo, and they make some of my favorite cider in the country. . They have a huge collection of apple ciders with incredible flavors like hopped, pear, and my personal favorite, chile guava.
It’s amazing, and it’s a great spot to try cider for the first time. If you picture cider as the sickeningly sweet, syrupy stuff that rhymes with Langry Torchard, then you’re going to be blown away by Stem’s range of ciders, from dry and effervescent, like a sparkling wine, to semi-sweet, vibrant, fruity and even spicy!
Day 1: Evening
I recommend you stay in the area for dinner, and I have two amazing recommendations for you.
The first would be Work & Class with its relaxed atmosphere and Southern and Latin American menu. Delicious food, attentive staff, and a great selection of drinks and cocktails. No reservations, but they have deals for cocktails while you wait. Get there early unless you’re planning on sticking around for an hour or more.
Super Mega Bien is its sister restaurant across the street, and it’s arguably even better. Most of the menu is inspired by Mexican influences, and we really enjoyed the Cochinita Pibil (roasted pork that comes with rice, beans, and tortillas) and the shrimp curry soup. The desserts were pretty outstanding too – the flourless chocolate cake and the flan – YUM. We basically rolled out of there back to our Airbnb.
Celiac note: Both places have clearly labeled menus and knowledgeable staff. 95% of the menu at Super Mega Bien is gluten free. However, neither has a dedicated fryer, so things like pupusas and fried plantains are not safe for Celiacs.
For a nightcap (in case you ignored my advice and haven’t been drinking all afternoon), head to Millers and Rossi, a speakeasy cocktail bar that’s elegant, relaxing and unique.
Denver Itinerary Day 2: Highlands and Downtown
Highlands and Downtown together are both hip and historic. It’s here you’ll find the best bookstore in Denver, theaters, food stalls, elegant old homes, some of the best restaurants and bars plus the South Platte River and lovely parks.
Day 2: Morning
After Day 1, you might want to sleep in, so let’s begin our second day with a later brunch.
But first, coffee.
The best coffee in Denver, hands down, is at Huckleberry Roasters, which has two spots in Denver. One of them, their flagship, is close to where you’ll be brunching, so head there to start the day off right. Whether you’re looking for a crisp & clean single origin, or a smooth and creamy latte, they’ve got you covered.
Head over to Root Down, which is my favorite restaurant in Denver. Great ambiance, friendly staff, loved by the locals, and a great menu. They are always happy to produce vegan and gluten-free options. I’d say that brunch here is a must-do in Denver.
After brunch, check out some of the other LoHi (that’s Lower Highlands) hotspots.
Healthy and on-trend, Kombucha fermented tea is worth seeking out, and there’s nowhere better than American Cultures. Here, they specialize in combining Kombucha with ice cream, proving that it’s a combination made in heaven! The huge variety of Kombuchas they make are on tap, and the ice cream is locally made by Scrumptious and Sweet Action. American Cultures is super light and airy, and a must-visit. They’re closed now. So sad.
There are lots of tea drinkers out there, and Tetulia Tea Bar is for all those who love this ancient beverage. Sourcing their tea from Northern Bangladesh (wow!), they are organic, fresh and ethically produced. The choice is immense: iced teas, bubble teas, tea sodas – tea like you’ve never experienced it before.
If you like ice cream (side note: who doesn’t?), Denver has a treat for you: Little Man Ice Cream. I would say it is the best ice cream in Denver, bar none. This is nostalgia in every scoop of each of its 20-something flavors. And for every scoop sold, they donate a “scoop” of essential food to the someone in need. You get to eat ice cream and feel good about doing it!
After all this eating and drinking, you’d better get a little exercise!
So head off on a self-guided walking tour from LoHi (where you’ve just enjoyed ice cream) to Union Station. There are three places you should stop by on this Denver itinerary on the way. You know, for more eating and drinking to fuel your exercise.
The Germans like and know their beer, and Prost Brewing takes German beer very seriously. They source their ingredients from Germany and follow the traditional lagering brewing methods – they don’t make beer, they make bier. Whatever style you’d like to try, they have it.
Staying with the beer theme, the Denver Beer Co offers artisan beer at its finest. Small batches, carefully made, beautifully packaged. The taproom is a super cool space and has a spacious outdoor patio for good weather. (Gluten free note: They only serve beer, so you won’t find any wine or cider to drink. It’s still a cool spot, and we spent a few hours on their outdoor patio. I can personally vouch for their water – it’s top notch. But my friends loved their beer, too.)
Denver is home to many parks, but none are better than Confluence Park on the banks of the South Platte and Cherry Creek. It’s a great place to walk, watch kayakers and get some great views of downtown Denver. Downtown Aquarium is also close by.
When you make it to Union Station, there are three spots to visit in the vicinity.
If you have read my guides to 3 days in Seattle or 3 days in Portland, then you might already know how much we LOVE independent bookstores. Tattered Cover is acknowledged as the best bookstore in Denver, and you browse its shelves for both new and used books. It has been supplying the book lovers of Denver for nearly 50 years and has become an institution.
By now, you might be ready for another dose of ice cream, and Mailbox Ice Creamery is there to satisfy that craving. Great flavors in a great building. You should definitely try one of their boozy alcohol shakes. A tequila shake? Yum!
To set you up for your return journey, drop in at Terminal Bar situated in what was once the ticket office of Union Station. Beautifully restored and historically accurate, a wonderful place to drink craft beer, enjoy a glass of wine, or sip a cocktail.
Day 2: Evening
It’s back to LoHi for dinner and drinks! There’s only one option for you to choose from this time: Avanti Food & Beverage.
Head to their spectacular rooftop for a pre-dinner drink and dinner.
To eat, you have the choice of seven different restaurants there. Since so many of my readers and I are gluten free, I highly recommend Quiero Arepas, a 100% gluten free arepa joint. Get the queso arepa – stuffed with sweet plantains and fresh mozerella cheese – and the fried plantains topped with cheese and spicy sauce. It’s so good, we went back tice on our last trip.
Denver Itinerary Day 3: A Little of Everything
You’ve got a busy day ahead for the last day of your 3 days in Denver, so you’ll need a good breakfast!
My favorite new discovery on our last foray to Denver is River and Roads Coffee. it’s east of RiNo, and north of City Park, and I’m not really sure what the neighborhood is called. But it doesn’t matter – you should go there to start your last day off.
They are 100% gluten free, but you’d never know unless I told you that going in. They have all sorts of baked goods, great coffee, and a full breakfast and lunch menu. The patio outside is a nice place to relax in the sun as you recover from the food coma you’re about to descend into.
But what should you order? Get. The. Breakfast. Fries. Alysha and I still dream about them. They start with sweet potato fries (you can get regular, but I never pass up the opportunity to get sweet potato fries), smother them in cheese, and then topped with bacon, tomato, a spicy aoli, and two sous-vide eggs. YES. PLEASE.
The donut holes and biscuit sandwich were also great, but not “swerve-off-the-road-because-I’m-daydreaming-about-the-breakfast-fries” great.
By now, it’s mid-morning, and you’re raring to go. Denver has beautiful parks, so I suggest you work up an appetite for lunch by exploring them! You’ve got three options (or fit in more than one with an early start):
Head to City Park where not only are there two lakes, picnic sites and historical monuments, but you’ll also find Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature and Science. There are a lot of walking trails to explore too – it’s worth doing a loop around the lake while you’re here.
For your last afternoon in Denver, I’ve got a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure proposition for you. There are three cool neighborhoods that are a little bit off the beaten path that are well worth your time. You should pick one (maybe two) to explore this evening, and save the rest for next time (because I guarantee you’re going to want to come back to Denver).
The first would be Tennyson Street. Lining Tennyson you’ll find all sorts of boutiques, bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. We stayed in Berkeley Park on our last trip to try something new, and ended up really enjoying it. BookBar is a great little bookstore. Downpours makes awesome coffee. And Vital Root (FRIED CAULIFLOWER) and Revelry Kitchen, which happen to be next door to each other, are great spots to eat. But those four spots only scratch the surface – visit for yourself and discover a favorite boutique or new bar.
The second area you could explore would be Capitol Hill, where you’ll find the Colorado Capitol Building and Civic Center Park. The whole Cultural Complex – which includes the Denver Art Museum and Denver Public Library – is worth a walkthrough (and a visit for museum junkies, but we skipped it). Continue south down Broadway and you’ll find two great coffee shops – Amethyst Coffee and further away to the southwest, Copper Door Coffee Roasters. The latter is in a cool little complex that includes Board Game Republic, which would be a good place to spend an afternoon drinking and playing board games with friends.
The last area, which is a true wildcard, is to head even further south down to Platt Park. The reason we were down here is Quiero Arepas, who has a standalone restaurant here. But I fell in love with Steam Espresso Bar while we were here. Corvus Coffee Roasters is another great coffee stop, while Que Bueno Suerte is a good stop for happy hour and good Mexican food. The whole S Pearl Street stretch is lined with all sorts of cute boutiques and places to eat and drink, and is worth an afternoon.
For dinner on your third evening, I am going to point you in the direction of The Denver Milk Market, another of Denver’s fabulous food halls with a mix of dine-in restaurants and take-aways. Chef-in-chief is Frank Bonanno, author and award-winning cook.
He oversees a breathtaking array of food establishments all united in quality, and seeking to produce one thing in their customers – happiness! The perfect way to finish your last day in Denver.
Got more Time?
There you have it. And we didn’t once go out of the city! If you’ve got more time than a weekend in Denver, its surroundings offer so much more. If you’ve got some extra days, find time for…
This Denver Graffiti Tour offers two hours of astonishing street art. You’ll find out how the art form has evolved and the effect it has.
Go on a food tour around Downtown Denver. Get behind the scenes at some of the best eateries Denver has to offer.
Red Rocks is nearby and hosts some world-class acts, you should try and catch a show at this famous venue. And the hiking is pretty good too!
The Rocky Mountains are stunning, and if time allows, you should take a day trip to the National Park. Or head there after for some camping!
Boulder, Colorado is close to Denver and well worth exploring, with its galleries, museums and planetarium, not to mention fine cafes and restaurants.
Logistics for Planning a Trip to Denver
Before we get to the full itinerary, let’s talk logistics to set you up for an incredible trip.
First, A Little About the Mile High City
Denver is the capital of Colorado and lies in the South Platte River Valley between the High Plains and the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is pretty much in the middle of the country north-south and to the west of center, and Denver definitely has a western feel.
Founded in 1858, when gold was discovered locally, the area stayed popular because Denver became the supply center for the mines in the nearby Rockies. The railways came in the 1870s, and the city’s transformation began.
The wealth of the city and its inhabitants can be seen in the beautiful Victorian architecture that still graces Denver, particularly in the historic Larimer Square area.
Today it is a thriving cool and relaxed city, with a great economy and growing population.
300 days of sun a year doesn’t hurt either! A fact that was a surprise to me when our Lyft driver casually dropped it, right before saying “don’t move here though it sucks there’s so much traffic and rent is crazy!”
Sorry, Mr. Lyft Driver, I’m from San Francisco and I can assure you that the rent isn’t THAT crazy.
And yes, it really is a mile high!
When is the Best Time to Visit Denver?
Spring and Fall have to be favorites when the temperature is comfortable. In summer, it doesn’t get too warm – you’ll find temperatures in the high 80s and low 90’s in July and August – but it’s a dry heat (I laugh everytime someone says this to me, but it’s true to an extent).
Winter can be pretty chilly, but it’s also a beautiful city in winter, so just wrap up and continue enjoying what it has to offer! (Plus, there will be far fewer tourists.)
How to Get Around in Denver
From DIA (the Airport) to Downtown
Getting from Denver International Airport to Denver is pretty fast and straightforward. There is a dedicated airport rail system that will get you to Denver Union Station in just over half an hour, and of course, there are taxis that will take you the 23 miles as well.
Public Transportation Options in Denver
Like most modern cities, the transport infrastructure is pretty good. There’s a light rail system with nine lines and 53 stations, buses, yellow cabs, plus Uber and Lyft. But much of what you want to see and do is likely in easy walking distance, and that’s what I’d do. It’s usually the best way to experience any city, especially when the weather’s good.
I wouldn’t bother renting a car unless you’re spending more than 3 days in Denver and plan to head off into the mountains. There’s really no need.
I hope you have an amazing time in Denver – and if you follow this 3 day Denver itinerary, I know you will!
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