Road Trip to Denver, Colorado | Best Sights, Activities, Things to Do

Find out why Denver is climbing to the top of people’s must-visit lists.

With the holiday weekend established to commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. upon us, it’s time for a road trip to Denver, Colorado. While the thought of visiting The Mile High City for this particular weekend in January might sound slightly strange, it’s actually not at all. In fact, Denver’s celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. King is one of the largest in the U.S.—even larger than Washington, D.C.’s. On Jan. 16, marchers and parade fans can commemorate and remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by participating in a march and rally to Denver’s Civic Center Park. The “marade” (a combination of march and parade) is the largest in the U.S., and is dedicated to the man widely considered one of the greatest advocates of using nonviolence and civil disobedience to bring about crucially important social change for the benefit of all members of the human family.

In addition to this event and others dedicated to commemorating Dr. King’s great contributions to our society, winter is a wonderful time of year to visit Denver. With so many different winter activities available (both indoor and out), guests are sure to find something satisfying for everyone in their group. “Denver is an outdoor city with spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and plenty of urban adventures for all ages,” says Ashley Taufen, communications manager at Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Denver combines historic Victorian brick buildings in Larimer Square and LoDo (Lower Downtown) with the bold architecture of today, all within a laid-back, walkable city center.”

Cherry Creek Trail [Photo Credit: Stevie Crecelius]

One way to explore the city is on a bike, which visitors can rent for free courtesy of Visit Denver. Denver was actually the first city in the country with a citywide bike-sharing program! Taufen recommends a bike ride along the Cherry Creek and Platte River trails. Or perhaps a ride of a more unique kind is more your thing. If so, then try out The Broadmoor Pikes Peak Cog Railway. For more than 125 years, the Manitou and Pikes Peak Cog Railway has been bringing visitors to the summit of one of the most famous peaks in the U.S. In fact, the vistas from this mountain are so breathtaking and picturesque that they inspired the lyrics to the song America the Beautiful. Topping out at 14,115 feet above sea level, the cog railway on Pikes Peak is the world’s highest and it takes trips up to the summit (or as close to the summit as it can, weather permitting) during every season, including winter. The train is wheelchair accessible, but sorry, your four-legged furry companions will not be permitted to tag along with you. The total excursion time depends on whether the weather lets you summit or not, but generally, the roundtrip journey takes approximately three hours, and this includes your time exploring the mountain from outside the train.

Denver Union Station [Photo Credit: Ellen Jaskol, Visit Denver]

No matter how you explore the city, there’s fun at every corner. The city’s many neighborhoods have their own personalities and attractions for locals and visitors alike, such as the LoDo/Larimer/Riverfront area, an historic district with myriad independent bookstores, brewpubs and dozens of dining and nightlife options. Be sure to check out Green Russell, a speakeasy in Larimer Square, for a handcrafted, prohibition-era cocktail. And don’t miss out on a visit to Union Station, which features a number of shops, restaurants and cafés. “Recently renovated and reopened for its 100th anniversary in 2014, Union Station is now a large part of Denver’s energy,” says Taufen. And don’t forget to get your western on by picking up a snap-front western shirt at Rockmount Ranch Wear, which features cowboy and cowgirl attire and accessories. If sports are your thing, Denver has you covered year-round with its professional sports teams that compete in all five major U.S. professional sports leagues.

Coors Field [Photo Credit: Rich Grant, Visit Denver]

Like sports, museums are aplenty in Denver, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is devoted entirely to contemporary art and is housed in a new, environmentally sustainable facility designed by David Adjaye. At the Denver Art Museum in the Golden Triangle Museum District, visitors can explore its world-famous American Indian art collection, renowned traveling exhibits, children’s exhibits and more. More fun can be had at the History Colorado Center, which encourages visitors to experience its hands-on and high-tech exhibits, such as a virtual ride in a real Model T; testing your skills on a ski-jump simulator and setting off dynamite in a 1880s hard-rock mine. Another important museum in the city is the Clyfford Still Museum, which includes more than 3,000 artworks in the collection.

Traveling with a history (and movie) buff? Perhaps he/she will enjoy a visit to the Molly Brown House Museum, which is located at the home of the Titanic heroine, the unsinkable Margaret "Molly" Brown. If you are traveling with little ones, the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Museum of Nature & Science and Denver Zoo are must-see attractions. The Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals!

Along your travels, be sure to stop at the Colorado State Capitol, where you can see the three Mile High Markers (where the elevation is exactly one mile above sea level, hence the city’s nickname), including one on the front steps of the building. And you can’t miss the dome made of real gold.

Denver Museum of Nature and Science [Photo Credit: Evan Smon, Visit Denver]

From craft beer to ice cream, Denver offers no shortage of tasty treats. The new Great Divide Barrel Bar features 16 taps and large indoor and outdoor spaces. And don’t leave Denver without a stop at Sweet Action Ice Cream. Made by hand with local dairy and ingredients, flavors like vegan chocolate, red velvet, salted butterscotch and blackberry lavender make this a hotspot all year long.

Rocky Mountain National Park [Photo Credit: Bruce Boyer, Visit Denver]

If you’re exploring Denver in the winter, you’re likely to be inside most of the time. So, hop in the car and take a ride to nearby Estes Park, Colorado (about 71 miles northwest of Denver), for some outdoor fun. Estes Park is the headquarters for Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the nation’s most visited and premier national parks, and this weekend (Jan. 14 and 15), is its annual family fun festival that celebrates winter in the park. And celebrate winter it does! From the live music acts, the Winter Trail Days snowshoe demos and all-you-can-eat chili and chips and salsa to the wine and Colorado microbrew tastings for adults, the festival has something for all ages to enjoy. Looking for a totally cool (no pun intended) winter experience? Why not try a winter full moon hike? Rocky Mountain National Park rangers take a small group of adventurous hikers (or snowshoers depending on snow depth) for a nighttime trek like no other.

No matter what time of year, Denver is a great city for people of all ages and interests. From delicious restaurants and local beers and indoor attractions like history and art museums, to outdoor fun like skiing and hiking, a visit to Denver is sure to satisfy the mind, body and soul.