Denver is a city bustling with culture and exciting new things to try. If you’re in search of fun activities that can fill your summer days — here is a list of several of the city’s top contenders that won’t hurt your wallet. Whether you enjoy a day taking in art at an award-winning museum or a jaunt into nature, the Mile High City has you covered.
Where? 200 East Colfax Avenue
If you’ve been a longtime resident of Denver or you’re considering a move to the capital city, you should add taking a tour of the gorgeous historic building to your bucket list. Colorado’s State Capitol was modeled after the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. Climb the 99 steps to reach the top of the spiral staircase, where you’ll be greeted with stunning views of the skyline and the nearby Rocky Mountains.
The public operating hours are between 7:30 AM and 5:00 PM Monday through Friday. Tours are complementary and are offered on the hour from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM. The Colorado State Capitol hosts around 300,000 visitors annually, with 70,000 of those guests opting to take a tour. There are also temporary exhibits and galleries for visitors to peruse on a rotating basis.
PRO Tip: During June and July only, there will be 15-minute tours of the dome. All tours are first-come, first-serve and can host up to 30 visitors.
Where? 10 West 14th Avenue
Nothing beats signing up for a free library card and gaining access to millions of books. The Denver Central Library is the largest library between Chicago and Los Angeles. Any Colorado resident or student attending a Colorado college or university can obtain a free card. Registration can be done online or in person and only takes a few minutes. The library provides a variety of activities, especially during the summer months while kids are on break. Upcoming scheduled events include the All Ages Storytime, Kids Create, Baby Storytime, and the SOA Family Yoga class.
With a library card, Colorado residents will gain permission to use the library computers, as well as the reserve museum and cultural passes. There are also community rooms available for reservation. The library has 3D printers and laser cutters for a variety of creative projects.
PRO Tip: When registering for a library card, residents will be asked to provide a valid photo ID and proof of their Colorado address.
Where? 320 West Colfax Avenue
The Denver U.S. Mint plays a significant role in producing the coins that circulate amongst the general public. Between the Denver Mint and the Philadelphia Mint, both the western and eastern halves of the country are supplied with coins. There is a free guided tour of the facility that’s both informative and interesting for kids and adults alike. The tours run from 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM and last approximately 45 minutes.
It’s not difficult to see why the Denver Mint is among the most popular attractions in the metro region after laying eyes on it. The historic building was modeled after a Renaissance palace that’s located in Italy and the architecture is striking. Billions of coins are produced annually in this facility, including commemorative coins and uncirculated sets.
PRO Tip: After completing your tour of the Denver Mint, don’t forget to check out the gift shop. There is a large selection of coins, as well as unique souvenirs to remember your time in the Mile High City.
Where? 18300 West Alameda Parkway
Attending a concert at Red Rocks may not be free but the public is welcome to visit the iconic landmark any other time. The towering red rock monuments create a jaw-dropping background to an incredible stage and amphitheater that were completed in 1941. The park is open every day from one hour before the sun rises to one hour after it sets and there are a multitude of hiking trails to choose from for those who want to get their heart rate up.
The Visitor Center provides access to interactive and educational displays, as well as a short video that covers the geological and musical history of the venue. The Performer’s Hall of Fame is another must-see and if you’re getting hungry at that point, grab a bite at the Ship Rock Grille.
PRO Tip: Following your afternoon spent at Red Rocks, check out the town of Morrison. There are a variety of hikes, eateries, and activities to do in the surrounding area.
Where? 5735 Washington Street
Hammond’s has been crafting high-quality candy and chocolate in Denver for over a century. The longevity of the operation is a testament to the classic recipes and loyalty of their customers. Regardless of what type of confections you call your favorite, Hammond’s Candy Factory has something whipped up just for you. Tours run every half hour Monday through Saturday, from 9:15 AM to 2:45 PM.
During the tour, attendees will learn about how all types of treats are made. Make sure you have an appetite for free samples! You can also purchase a variety of tasty treats at the end of the tour and nobody will judge you if you don’t want to share.
PRO Tip: Tours should be booked beforehand through Hammond’s reservation system. The tour is free and this allows visitors to guarantee availability. Large groups can be accommodated and visitors in strollers and wheelchairs are welcome.
Where? Various Locations
Denver’s Parks and Recreation department is responsible for 30 recreation centers and almost 20,000 acres of urban and mountain terrain. This includes natural areas, off-street trails, and public parks. There are over 250 parks in Denver, meaning there’s likely a green space near you. The largest urban park in the city is City Park, which consists of 330 acres and includes the Denver Zoo, two lakes, and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Other popular parks in Denver include:
- Washington Park
- Cheesman Park
- Civic Center Park
- Sloan’s Lake Park
- Confluence Park
- Observatory Park
PRO Tip: Plan an entire day at the park! Pack a picnic lunch, a good book, a few games, and invite some friends. Denver’s urban parks are gathering places for community members to enjoy the weather and relax.
Denver has an array of museums, spanning the full gamut of interests. Free admission days are a popular way for families or individuals to visit the local museums. Remember, donations are always appreciated as many of the museums rely on community contributions to continue providing an impact on the city.
Members receive free museum admission all year, as well as special discounts in the eateries, shops, and traveling exhibitions. Pink Floyd fans will enjoy the celebration of the band’s 50th anniversary in an awe-inspiring Planetarium experience.
Where? 2001 Colorado Boulevard
- August 16th
- September 6th
- September 18th
- October 15th
- December 4th
Where? 1485 Delgany Street
Admission for teens and children 18 years old and younger is always free at MCA. Healthcare workers can also expect free admission. For everyone else looking for discounted admission, the first Saturday of each month only costs $0.01!
Where? 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway
Teens and kids under 18 years old always get into the art museum for free. Everybody else can take advantage of the various free days throughout the summer, fall, and winter months. Exhibitions now on view include the Arts of Africa Gallery, Indigenous Arts of North America Galleries, and Islands Beyond Blue.
- July 11th
- July 30th
- August 8th
- September 9th
- September 12th
- October 10th
- November 4th
- November 14th
- December 12th
Where? 1250 Bannock Street
The Clyfford Still Museum is always free to those aged 17 and under. Current exhibitions include Awful Bigness and Abstract Expressions. Visitors are invited to experience the legacy of Clyfford Still and his unique artistic vision that includes unnamed works, allowing people to formulate personal interpretations.
- July 23rd
- August 18th
- September 6th
- October 5th
- November 4th
- December 3rd
Where? 6550 Gateway Road
Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge is home to a herd of bison, as well as abundant wildlife species including deer, prairie dogs, coyotes, waterfowl, and raptors. Admission is always free and guests are encouraged to check out the visitor’s center and experience the interactive exhibits and talk to the knowledgeable staff members. There are 20 miles of hiking trails within the park and catch and release fishing is permitted for a fee.
The largest draw to the refuge is the 11-mile Wildlife Drive that can be taken in personal vehicles. This is perfect for a morning or sunset ride when the animals are most active. The park is popular throughout the day and there’s always something new to see. Drivers can expect the loop to take between 45 minutes to an hour, depending on what animals are meandering about.
PRO Tip: While driving the loop, listen to the corresponding podcast that will take visitors on an informative journey about the refuge and its furry and feathered residents.
9. Dive Into Denver’s Free Festival Scene
Throughout the year, the city of Denver and the many organizations that call the city home host events and festivals that are completely free to attend.
Where? 1610 Raleigh Street
This exciting Sloan’s Lake event is taking place every 2nd Saturday from June through August. On July 8th and August 12th, the hours will run from 4 PM through 8 PM. Attendees can expect live music, local vendors, and plenty of food and drink available. No tickets are needed and admission is always free.
Where? 15th Street and Little Raven Street
Crosscurrents is an annual riverside festival taking place in Confluence Park along the South Platte River. Sip on a craft cocktail or local beer while listening to live music across two stages. The event takes place on July 8th, 2023 from 2 PM to 10 PM. Entry is always free and kids and dogs are highly encouraged.
Where? 2001 Colorado Boulevard
2023 will mark the festival’s 37th annual celebration of African American arts and culture. The dates of the event run from July 7th through the 9th in Denver’s City Park West. There will be live music, an all-media art show, a scavenger hunt, and a food court selling an assortment of affordable local fare that encompasses Caribbean, American South, and African favorites.
Where? 3525 Walnut Street #40
On the first Friday of the month, many galleries, shops, and venues around the River North Art District open their doors and host special events. The “hours” run from 6 PM to 9 PM, though many spots open earlier and stay open later. This event runs from June through November, covering six dates in total.
10. Get Outdoors and Soak in the Views
Many people are drawn to Denver due to the multitude of outdoor recreation activities in close proximity. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, camping, white water rafting, or climbing — there are plenty of spots for you to explore in and around Denver. The Rocky Mountains are a day trip away, opening the door to nearly endless possibilities to take in picturesque views and bask in the gorgeous Colorado weather.
Consider tackling the Cherry Creek Trail, which is a 40-mile route that begins downtown. Most of the path is paved, making it popular among walkers and bikers. Multiple trailheads can be used to access the trail, including Wabash, Arapahoe Road, Broncos Parkway, and 17 Mile House Farm Park.
PRO Tip: If you’re interested in taking a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park to check out some of Colorado’s most iconic views — several days offer free entrance into the national park. Entrance fee-free dates in 2023 include August 4th, September 23rd, and November 11th.