What comes to mind when you think of Denver? Mountain views and the Denver Airport Conspiracy are popular answers but they don’t capture the real Denver. BreadcrumbsHQ interviewed Denver-based tour guide Rachel Strothmann to find out the best things to do in Denver.
Rachel was born in Illinois but lived in Colorado as a child. She settled in Colorado as an adult and is a landscape photographer and tour guide with the international company Tours By Locals. Rachel’s deep love of Colorado is evident right away, and her knowledge of the Denver area is vast.
What are the best things to do in Denver? Here are Rachel’s top recommendations:
Explore Downtown Denver
Downtown Denver has lots of interesting architecture and offers something for everyone. It is a city with fantastic mountain views and is in close proximity to outdoor concert venues like the breathtaking Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Be sure to check out the 16th Street Mall, a beautiful tree-lined pedestrian mall with lots of restaurants, shops, and office buildings. You also shouldn’t miss touring the stunning gold-topped State Capitol and the U.S. Mint. Other places worth visiting are Civic Center Park, the Denver Aquarium, and the Denver Art Museum. There is enough to do and see in downtown Denver to keep you occupied for days on end!
Visit the Molly Brown House
Rachel says that for Titanic buffs, the Molly Brown House is a must-see. The house belonged to J.J. and Molly Brown until her death in 1934, when it was sold. The house has been restored and is now a museum that tells the story of “the Unsinkable Molly Brown”, a famous activist, philanthropist, and Titanic survivor.
The museum is open all year, six days a week, and admission is by guided tour only. The tours run approximately every half hour and take about forty-five minutes. The museum has an extensive collection of clothing, furniture, and art and houses an archive of historical documents and photos. The Molly Brown House also regularly hosts events such as teas, lectures, and discussions.
Spend a Day in Boulder
Less than an hour away from downtown Denver is Boulder, a unique city that is definitely worth a visit. It is the perfect place for a day trip, as you can walk the scenic University of Colorado campus, drive through Boulder Canyon, go for a hike, and finish off with dinner and drinks at the Pearl Street Mall – all in one day!
If you are in the mood for a hike, Rachel recommends Chautauqua Park, which has a huge number of hiking trails winding through the Flatirons. While Rachel often brings visitors here to hike, she suggests going slow if you are not used to hiking in the mountains. She is mindful that it takes time for visitors to adjust to the altitude, so she keeps the hikes relatively short. That said, you don’t have to be in great shape to enjoy a hike at Chautauqua. There are many different trails to chose from, and you can always end the hike early if necessary.
Take a Drive to Estes Park
Another one of Rachel’s top locations is Estes Park, which is about an hour and a half drive from Denver. This lovely town serves as a base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park, but there is a lot to do without visiting the National Park.
There are plenty of shops selling artwork, jewelry, and blown glass, as well as restaurants and bars. For a special treat, Rachel says you shouldn’t miss the Donut Haus, which sells delicious handmade doughnuts and pastries.
A famous Estes Park attraction is the historic Stanley Hotel, where Stephen King wrote his novel The Shining. Taking a guided tour of the hotel, which is said to be haunted, is very popular among visitors.
Enjoy Nature in Rocky Mountain National Park
If you are in Estes Park, you won’t want to miss the opportunity to spend a day in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is plenty to do in every season, from a scenic drive along Trail Ridge Road in the summer to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in the winter. It is a wonderful place to enjoy nature and observe birds, deer, elk, and the occasional moose in their natural habitats.
Other popular activities are hiking, camping, horseback riding, fishing, and rock climbing. Rachel offers half day and full day customized tours in Rocky Mountain National Park. Her tours can include spots such as Alberta Falls, Alluvial Fan, Bear Lake, and in the summer, drives along Trail Ridge Road and Fall River Road.
If you are visiting Colorado, make sure to check out some of Rachel’s recommendations!
If you are interested in learning more about Rachel’s tours, visit her page on Tours by Locals. She provides private tours and will make every effort to customize the tours based on your needs.
Lots of research and planning goes into each tour, but Rachel says it’s worth it. “I love to show places I love to people and I want them to be thrilled with Colorado”, she says. “I always love to be part of their experience.”
More About Rachel
I’m enthusiastic, friendly and knowledgeable about the areas I offer to show you around. I like to take you off the beaten path to little-known areas, as well as some of the history behind those areas and I enjoy taking people to places that inspire jaw-dropping reactions. Overall, I love being a part of someone’s first experience of the state I love and hope they will feel as amazed by it as I do!
Photo credit: Ray Martin Images