The last few weeks have been crazy busy. I feel like I tripped and fell into the New Year. I’m looking forward to another fun year of blogging. I love providing you with Denver recommendations, travel tips and vacation stories.
I’m often asked, “Emma, I have one free day in Denver, but I won’t have a car. What should I do?” There’s so much in LoDo (Lower Downtown/downtown Denver) within walking distance of each other. Plus, the Free MallRide makes it easy to get around. Here’s a recommended itinerary for one full day in Denver without a car.
First stop: Breakfast
If you have a big day of sightseeing ahead of you, you’re going to want a hearty breakfast. Look no further than Snooze, located in Union Station. This stop is a double whammy because not only are you getting some of the best breakfast offered in Denver (see my list of Best Brunch in Denver), you’re enjoying it in iconic Union Station, one of Denver’s must-see landmarks. After breakfast, wander around Union Station and take it all in. There’s a couple of bars, a hotel, a few places to grab food and a book store.
Second stop: Sightseeing Northwest LoDo
After breakfast, head northwest out of Union Station towards 16th street. You’ll see Millennium Bridge, another Denver landmark. Cross over to Confluence Park to people watch and allow your breakfast to settle. There’s an REI right next to Confluence Park, complete with a Starbucks, should you need another cup of coffee.
Third stop: Sightseeing South LoDo
Retrace your steps southeast towards Union Station and hop on the Free MallRide. MallRides drive up and down on both sides of the street every couple of minutes. Stand next to one of the MallRide markers (right) and hop on heading southeast. Some MallRides have a map in the bus listing each stop, others require you to listen to the intercom. If you’re having trouble, feel free to ask another passenger or the bus driver, they’re typically happy to guide you in the right direction.
This round of sightseeing includes iconic Denver statues. Get off on Stout and head south towards the Colorado Convention Center. The Big Blue Bear is one of Denver’s most iconic stops and it’s a fun photo opportunity. Another cool photo stop is the Dancing Couple statue, located on the other side of the Convention Center on Speer Blvd. This is a longer walk, but worth it if you like taking photos that scream “I’m in Denver.”
Fourth stop: 16th Street Mall
16th Street is going to act as a home base while you’re in downtown Denver without a car. Read my full guide to the 16th Street Mall here. The 16th Street Mall between Union Station and Civic Center Station has everything you could need: food, drinks, movie theatres, bowling alleys, convenience stores, coffee shops, etc. Take some time to walk up and down the mall, or hop on and off the Free MallRide as you please.
By now, you may be looking for a good lunch spot. I always recommend Cheba Hut, a marijuana themed toasted sub shop. (When in Denver, right?) Locals are also fond of Illegal Petes, a Mexican fast food restaurant similar to Chipotle. Don’t let the names and themes fool you, both of these restaurants are totally legal and kid-friendly. Read my Cheba Hut review, if you’re still skeptical.
Fifth Stop: Museums
As you head southeast on the 16th Street Mall, you will be nearing the end of the free MallRide. Hop off at Civic Center Station and head east towards the State Capitol. I wouldn’t consider the State Capitol a must-see, but my dad always enjoys seeing State Capitols when he’s on vacation. Other museum/tour options nearby include The Brown Palace Hotel, which has $15 tours, or you can just stop in and take a gander (read about my visit here). If you don’t mind a 12 minute walk/short Lyft ride, the Molly Brown House is incredible. The Denver Art Museum is also within walking distance, about 8 minutes from the end of the Free MallRide.
Sixth Stop: Dinner and drinks
Once again, 16th Street Mall is a good go-to for dinner and drinks as you’re finishing your day. You could also take this opportunity to Uber/Lyft out of the city to LoHi, RiNo, or another Denver neighborhood for a unique experience. If you opt to stay on the 16th Street Mall, I recommend Wynkoop, a unique-to-Denver restaurant and brewery located near Union Station. I’m also a huge fan of TAG Restaurant which is a part of the TAG Restaurant Group owned by Troy Guard, a famous Colorado chef responsible for my favorite burger joint a few miles from LoDo (Read about TAG Burger Bar here). Nearby bars include The Cooper Lounge, Euclid Hall, Ophelia’s Soapbox, and The 1up LoDo. I have a quiz to figure out which Denver bar is perfect for you, there are just so many options to recommend!
By the end of the day, your feet should be aching, your camera should be full and you should have a new found appreciation for downtown Denver. This itinerary barely scratches the surface; there’s so much to see and do in Denver. Time to start planning another trip to the Mile High City!
Do you have any additional recommendations for downtown Denver? Comment below for travelers to see! Remember, word of mouth is the best form of advertising.
Thanks for reading,