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10 Must-See Denver Attractions

SmarterTravel

Denver’s best sites are concentrated in the downtown area, and many of them are close enough that visitors can walk from one to another. Walking is also a great way to familiarize yourself with the city and see firsthand how the newest Denver attractions intersect with historic locales.

10 Must-See Denver Attractions

 No visit to the Mile High City is complete without a stop at some of these Denver attractions.

Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum

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The geometric-shaped Daniel Libeskind-designed building is a piece of art in and of itself, but what’s even more impressive about the Denver Art Museum is what’s inside: 10 permanent galleries that showcase art from around the world, plus some of the most exciting temporary exhibitions in the country. Bonus: General admission is always free to youth 18 and younger. Next door is one of Denver’s most distinctive cultural offerings, the Clyfford Still Museum. In his will, the Abstract Expressionist stated that his entire estate should be given to a single American city willing to create a permanent museum dedicated only to his work. Touring the nine galleries offers the rare opportunity to see how an artist evolves.

Denver Botanic Gardens

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Interact with the natural world year-round at Denver Botanic Gardens’ 24-acre York Street location. (Its second venue, at Chatfield Farms, is a 700-acre native plant refuge about 30 minutes south of the city.) Many of the collections highlight sturdy Western plants that thrive in Colorado’s high-altitude climate, but other regions—including the tropics, South Africa, and Japan—are represented, too. Beyond the plants, there are regular art shows (and a permanent glass sculpture from world-famous artist Dale Chihuly), and the Science Pyramid is filled with interactive exhibits based on research Botanic Gardens staff are conducting around the world. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, pack a picnic (and your own booze) for a Summer Concert Series outdoor show; for those who like to plan ahead, tickets typically go on sale in early April.

Molly Brown House Museum

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You know her as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown,” the nouveau riche who survived the sinking of the Titanic. But her real name was Margaret Tobin Brown, and she did much more than live through the world’s best-known maritime disaster. She was also a humanitarian who helped create Colorado’s first juvenile court system, and she ran for the U.S. Senate before women could vote at the federal level. These are just a few examples of what you’ll discover at the Molly Brown House Museum in Capitol Hill. Brown’s turn-of-the-20th-century house was saved from demolition in 1970 by Historic Denver, which restored it to its original 1889 glory. Daily tours of this Denver point of interest are available.

City Park

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Some of the top Denver attractions, including the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, are located within the 314 acres of City Park. Of course, one could also enjoy a stroll around the park’s 5K loop, compete in a tennis match, pedal boat around Ferril Lake, or, in summer, relax with a glass of wine during City Park Jazz. The green space is home to one of the city’s best photo-ops: Standing on the northeastern edge of the lake’s walking path affords views of the City Park Pavilion, the downtown skyline, and the Rocky Mountains in the background.

Union Station

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Union Station’s neon-orange sign may proclaim “travel by train,” but there’s plenty more to do in the 100-plus-year-old building than just hitch a ride. A massive redevelopment project completed in 2014 transformed the historic site into one of the city’s most important civic centers—and a neighborhood in and of itself. Inside, the Beaux Arts chandelier-capped Great Hall bustles with people dining and relaxing at the station’s restaurants and bars while commuters zip past on their way to catch the bus or light-rail. Beyond the northwest doors, find even more eateries, a handful of boutique hotels, and even a Whole Foods Market. Tip: The train to the airport departs from Union Station, making it easy to squeeze in one last Denver point of interest before you leave.

Larimer Square

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Larimer Square’s single block (between 14th and 15th streets) is home to some of Lower Downtown, or LoDo’s, best shopping and restaurants—and a comedy club—along the city’s original thoroughfare. Buildings on the notable street date back to the mid-1800s; they were saloons, dance halls, barbershops, the city’s first post office, and even Denver’s City Hall. With twinkle lights forming a canopy that crisscrosses the street, Larimer Square makes for a romantic night out.

Colorado State Capitol

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Want a Denver sightseeing stop that’s proof you really reached a mile above sea level? The 13th granite step (counting from the bottom) leading up to the Capitol has a brass Mile High Benchmark set into it to show precisely when you’ve reached 5,280 feet. (This “2003 Mile High Marker” is actually the third, and most recent, marker on the steps; updated surveys of the elevation resulted in changes to its location.) The Colorado State Capitol—you’ll recognize it by its prominent 24-karat-gold-leaf dome—opened in 1894; free public tours are available on weekdays.

Blue Bear

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He’s adorable, he’s bright blue, and he’s 40 feet tall. One of the most beloved Denver sightseeing stops is “I See What You Mean”—known around town as the Blue Bear—a public art sculpture by the late artist Lawrence Argent. Blue Bear has been peering into the Colorado Convention Center since 2005.

High Tea at the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa

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The Brown Palace, which opened in 1892, is one of the most treasured Denver attractions—but you don’t have to splurge on a room to experience its Victorian elegance. Every afternoon, from noon to 4 p.m., the grand, eight-story atrium transforms into a traditional English tea setting, complete with a live harpist or pianist. Guests have their choice of more than a dozen teas, and tiered pastry stands carry homemade scones with Devonshire cream (shipped in from England) and preserves, finger sandwiches, and delectable sweets. Reservations are recommended.

Tour Hammond’s Candies

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The scent of peppermint, the snip of candy canes being cut, the swirl of melting chocolate—the sights and sounds of the Hammond’s Candies factory just north of the city are as sweet as the products themselves. Since its founding in 1920, Hammond’s has been a Denver institution. The factory produces around one million pounds of handmade candy each year, and you can see the process firsthand during free tours (book a spot online).

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– Original reporting by Daliah Singer

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