Top 12 Free Things To Do in Denver

Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Nicknamed the Mile High City for its exact elevation 5,280 feet above sea level, Denver offers visitors access to rich history, vibrant culture and thriving craft beer and dining scenes without emptying your wallet.

ActivityLocation/Aspect
Botanic GardensNature & Exhibits
State CapitolTours & History
Red Rocks ParkHiking & Views
Art MuseumCultural Free Days
Molly Brown HouseHistoric Museum
Four Mile ParkHistorical Site
Brewery ToursLocal Breweries
Performing ArtsOutdoor Sculptures
Transportation MuseumVintage Vehicles
Mount Falcon TrailsOutdoor Hiking
Butterfly PavilionNature Observation

Beyond scenic strolls around downtown to access striking city views, public artworks and lively local patios, the city overflows with extensive green spaces, museums with free days and plenty of local flavor to soak up gratis.

Explore Denver Botanic Gardens

Name and Location: Denver Botanic Gardens has locations at 1007 York Street, Denver CO 80206 (York Street) and 909 York Street, Denver CO 80206 (Chatfield Farms).

History and Significance: Opened in 1951, it contains a diverse array of theme gardens across 24 acres at the York Street location. Chatfield Farms added in 1975 specializes in native Rocky Mountain plants. As a non-profit Botanic Garden, the organization focuses on education programs, plant conservation and water savings.

What to Expect: Visitors explore diverse themed gardens like a Japanese garden, rock alpine collections and a tropical conservatory (York Street) or working farm plots, nursery and regional plants (Chatfield Farms) through self or docent-led tours.

Visitor Information: Both locations open daily with seasonal hours. Separate admission fees apply for York Street Gardens, Chatfield Farms and special exhibits.

For over 50 years spanning almost 25 acres in central Denver, the wondrous Denver Botanic Gardens has captivated visitors through a diversity of thematic gardens and glasshouse displays spanning over 50,000 plants from Australia, South Africa and the Himalayas along with vibrant aquatic gardens and an expansive Mordecai Children’s Garden perfect for families. Free to all visitors October 15 through April 14.

Tour the Landmark State Capitol Building

Name and Location: The Colorado State Capitol building sits on Capitol Hill at 200 E. Colfax Avenue in downtown Denver, CO.

History and Significance: The distinctive golden dome of the Colorado State Capitol has held the state’s executive and legislative branches since 1894 with features like Venetian windows and oak Corinthian columns shaped from native stone. Daily tours educate visitors on this historic site and Colorado political history.

What to Expect: Free walking tours showcase the dome, legislative chambers, rotunda with presidential portraits, marble staircases and ornate doorways offering a glimpse into Colorado’s governing body in action. Reservable tour options also available.

Visitor Information: Free, 45-minute tours offered from 10am Mon-Fri when legislature is not in session. Reservations required for large groups via the website.

Considered a crowning achievement of early 20th century civic architecture, Denver’s State Capitol building impresses visitors through ornate 14 karat gold accents across a stunning 13-acre civic complex anchored by a monumental domed tower sparkling 272 feet into Colorado’s crisp blue skies. Free tours showcase rare Colorado rose onyx, stained glass windows and historical spaces while extended grounds provide pretty mountain panoramas aplenty.

Hike Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Name and Location: Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre occupies 868 acres at 18300 West Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO near Denver.

History and Significance: Red Rocks Amphitheatre formed naturally in stone between two monolithic rock formations. Outdoor concerts began in 1906 and the venue has since hosted world-renowned musical acts for generations against the scenic backdrop of the Denver skyline. Surrounding park lands offer recreation trails passing diverse geological formations.

What to Expect: Hikers and outdoor enthusiasts traverse miles of scenic terrain including the iconic amphitheatre seating embedded within mountainous sandstone formations tinted red. Interpretive displays and the on-site Colorado Music Hall of Fame highlight music history.

Visitor Information: The park is open daily from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. Amphitheatre only accessible during performances and scheduled tours (fee applies). Free parking on site.

Famed as a world-class concert venue where iconic acts like the Beatles and U2 have graced its epic geological stage formed by soaring 300ft high red sandstone monoliths— the Red Rocks park offers free access to hike the plethora of peaceful trails meandering past formed rock sculptures, desert shrubs and wildflowers. Ascend the amphitheatre tiers early to stretch your legs and take in sunrise vistas or enjoy free Film on the Rocks movie screenings periodic summer evenings.

Visit Denver Art Museum on Free First Saturdays

Name and Location: The Denver Art Museum is located at 100 W 14th Ave Pkwy in downtown Denver.

History and Significance: Founded in 1893, the Denver Art Museum holds extensive collections showcasing Indigenous creations, Western American art and world treasures spanning over 70,000 diverse works. The museum aims to spark creative thinking by immersing visitors in unique art experiences designed to both challenge and delight.

What to Expect: Rotating special exhibitions along with diverse galleries spanning global art covering themes like American Indian art, architecture, fashion, photography and more. Complimentary general admission offered first Saturday mornings monthly encouraging all to explore.

Visitor Information: Museum open Tuesdays–Sundays. Free general admission first Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. Timed ticketing generally required and available on the museum website.

Home to extensive collections of Indigenous American artifacts and artworks alongside modern mixed media sculptures and traveling masterpiece exhibitions— the architecturally avant-garde Denver Art Museum opens general admission entry free to Colorado residents on the First Saturday of each month allowing visitors to freely immerse themselves in extensive onsite galleries and stunning architectural sights from morning through dusk. Arrive early as queues quickly form.

Tour the Historic Molly Brown House Museum

Name and Location: Molly Brown House Museum at 1340 Pennsylvania St, Denver CO 80203

History and Significance: Built in 1889, the Victorian home belonged to renowned Titanic survivor, philanthropist and activist Margaret “Molly” Brown until her death in 1932. Saved from demolition in 1970, today costumed guides offer educational tours recreating her legacy.

What to Expect: Hour-long guided tours through restored rooms depicting life during the Victorian era. Mannequins model period clothing collections while guides share stories bringing history to life. Architectural details, antique furnishings and artifacts help transport visitors back in time.

Visitor Information: Tours run daily with extended hours in summer and holiday seasons. Separate admission fee required for the guided house tours through interior rooms.

Still standing across 13th Avenue in downtown Denver, this fascinating Victorian era mansion provides free self-guided audio tours profiling the rags-to-riches story of notable survivor “The Unsinkable Molly Brown” while allowing visitors to envision the elegant restoration process reviving original 1890s interiors. Wander room to extravagant room in this National Historic Landmark that illuminates intriguing Titanic ties and women’s rights efforts.

Visit Four Mile Historic Park

Name and Location: Four Mile Historic Park occupies 12 acres at 715 S. Forest St, Denver CO near the intersection of I-25 and Yale Ave.

History and Significance: Settled in 1859, Four Mile House provided a stagecoach stop between Denver and the Gold Rush towns. Today’s park authentically preserves four original homestead structures listed on the National Register along with heritage gardens, livestock breeds and heirloom crops.

What to Expect: Visitors tour furnished pioneer homes to learn about 1862 life in Colorado Territory guided by interpreters in period costumes demonstrating heritage trades and living history.changing exhibits and special events also showcase 19th century arts, skills and music.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Sunday year-round for guided tours, demonstrations, events and seasonal children’s programs. Nominal admission fee helps support gardens and structures.

Transport back through time to the late 1800s wandering across Four Mile Historic Park situated near downtown along Cherry Creek. Here a dozen authentically preserved homestead buildings curate antique tools illustrating frontier life alongside an operational farm showcasing heritage breeds of livestock from chickens to draft horses. Costumed interpreters demonstrate candle and soap making, blacksmithing, quilting and more across these 12 incredibly preserved acres.

Join a Free Brewery Tour

Name and Location: Many local Denver breweries offer complimentary tours of their facilities to visitors 21 and over interested in craft beer production. Popular options span downtown, RiNo and other metro neighborhoods.

History and Significance: With a thriving craft beer culture, Denver visitors can glimpse behind the scenes of specialty beer making processes firsthand and taste small-batch experimental releases not distributed commercially at many microbreweries across the region.

What to Expect: Brewery tour experiences vary but often include an insider’s view of kettles, tanks and bottling operations concluding with a guided tasting of flagship and seasonal beers paired with facility background.

Visitor Information: Hours and tour frequency varies by location. Registration often required online in advance due to limited group size and age 21+ restrictions involving alcohol sampling.

Owing to the city’s enduring legacy as an acclaimed craft beer pioneer, many of Denver’s top microbreweries offer free behind-the-scenes tours detailing their unique breakthrough brewing practices alongside samples showcasing specialty production runs and mainstay favorites taps. Top picks range from industry disrupters like Former Future Brewing Company to neighborhood gems like Spangalang Brewery and mainstay stalwarts like Great Divide Brewing upbeat, engaging and open to all ages.

See Sculptures at Denver Performing Arts Complex

Name and Location: Denver Performing Arts Complex occupies four city blocks from Champa to Arapahoe between 13th and 14th streets downtown filled with art and architectural gems.

History and Significance: Opened in 1978, the PAC houses ten performance spaces plus the iconic 40-foot-tall Dancers bronze sculpture. Changing public art installations, architectural details and iconic Performing Arts Center sign also make this bustling plaza a top selfie spot surrounded by renowned venues.

What to Expect: Whimsical sculptures like I See What You Mean reflect off mirrored windows outside the Elliott Building and Denver Art Museum. Visitors snap photos while grabbing coffee amidst the fountains, banners and arts activity.

Visitor Information: Outdoor plaza access is unrestricted. Venue hours, box offices and ticket information for specific resident companies like Opera Colorado or Colorado Ballet available online.

Encompassing nearly 12 acres adjacent to central downtown districts, the architecturally impressive Denver Performing Arts Complex serves as the region’s hub for music, theater and dance—as well as a free public sculpture garden to explore. Whimsical cast metal sculptures dot grassy medians flanked by stirring auditoriums hosting everything from Broadway musicals to the world-class Colorado Symphony. Stop and smell vibrant roses blooming along the Boettcher Concert Hall.

Visit Forney Museum of Transportation

Name and Location: Forney Museum of Transportation, 4303 Brighton Blvd, Denver, CO 80216

History and Significance: Founded in 1952 as the Rocky Mountain Railroad Museum, today the expansive complex displays over 500 vehicles spanning land, air and water transportation milestones–including locomotives, antique cars, pioneering aircraft and more.

What to Expect: Railcars, model railroading and rotating transportation exhibits occupy 10 acres at this family-friendly hands-on transportation museum. Train cab simulators, Model T Roadsters and Big Boy locomotives are just some full-scale icons welcoming visitors to sit in and explore.

Visitor Information: Open daily for self-guided museum access. Separate admission fees apply for miniature train rides, simulators and special attractions. Standard museum tickets available online.

As one of only a handful of museums across the country focused exclusively on human powered modalities of conveyance, the illuminating Forney Museum of Transportation charts major milestones in mobility from 17th century horse drawn carriages to sputtering 1920s Model T’s. Knowledgeable guides bring exhibits to life across extensive galleries housing all types of vehicles spanning trains, planes and automobiles..all free to peruse and perfect for machine obsessed kids.

Hike Mount Falcon Park Trails

Name and Location: Mount Falcon Park encompasses over 1,000 acres with trailheads located east of Morrison, CO off US Hwy 285 at approximately 1755 Race St.

History and Significance: Originally a private property, John Brisben Walker opened the scenic red sandstone site to public recreation use in 1914. Expanded facilities today include over 10 miles of scenic trails climbing above Denver with panoramic views.

What to Expect: Hiking trails vary from easy flat walks to strenuous uphill climbs scaling the distinctive Parmalee rock pinnacle and ruins of Walker’s historic castle still standing at summit overlooks. Picnic sites intersperse paths traversing meadows filled with wildflowers and Rocky Mountain views.

Visitor Information: Free public access to trail system year-round. Parking permitted only in designated nature preserve lots. Leashed pets welcome.

Situated a scenic 40 minute drive west of Denver, the rugged yet accessible trails of Mount Falcon Park treat hikers to panoramic vistas, abundant wildlife like bighorn sheep and remnants of the historic castles and towers dotting the landscape. Choose steep uphill scrambles leading towards epic views from Parmalee summit or gentle walks through shaded pine groves..with options perfect for every ability to soak up a vigorous dose of Front Range foothill nature free of charge.

See Exotic Butterflies at Butterfly Pavilion

Name and Location: Butterfly Pavilion is located at 6252 W 104th Avenue in Westminster, CO northwest of Denver city center.

History and Significance: Open since 1995, Butterfly Pavilion is the first ever stand-alone nonprofit invertebrate zoo aiming to educate the public by displaying over 50 species of arthropods and insects using interactive exhibits and programming.

What to Expect: Visitors walk freely among 1,600 free-flying butterflies from around the world within a tropical glass conservatory. Additional invertebrate exhibits feature creatures like tarantulas, scorpions and honeybees in educational indoor/outdoor displays.

Visitor Information: Open daily year-round except some holidays.

Home to over 1,600 free flying butterflies fluttering through tropical habitats and the incredible Crawl-A-See-Um critter crawl touching tanks, the wondrous Butterfly Pavilion allows families to connect with fascinating insects and little known creatures through exhibits crafted to educate and inspire wonder about the natural world. Visit on Mondays for discounted admission or access the outdoor gardens following pathways dotted with blossoms butterflies adore.

From iconic civic structures hewn from Colorado Rose Onyx to craft breweries pouring flavorful ales, Denver overflows with opportunities to freely soak up captivating culture, art and entertainment appealing to all interests. Embark on scenic hikes, tour painstakingly preserved estates or explore open air sculpture gardens…with ample activities across the Mile High City granting easy access to enrichment and fun free of charge!

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