Best Day Trips from Denver

Everyone knows there are a million things to do and see in the Mile-High City – from a Rockies game at Coors Field to a rodeo at the National Western Stock Show to an old-fashioned cave dive at Casa Bonita. But even with all the fabulous ways to pass the day in our fabulous city, the distant view of the front range constantly reminds us of how much more the Centennial State has to offer. Traveling beyond the city limits for a day (or weekend!) is a fun opportunity to get to know the surrounding areas and appreciate more of what Colorado, its history and its people are all about. (Spoiler alert: it's more than great skiing.)

Check out some of the recommendations below for a quick, fun-packed break that will get you back in time for a restful sleep in your own bed. And let us know if we missed any of your faves!

1. For the adventurous

Colorado is prime location for outdoor adventure and there is a range of day trips and activities to give everyone a hit of adrenaline. Rock climbing anyone? Head to Estes Park, just an hour and a half outside of Denver for The Taste of Rock Climbing. This three to four-hour course introduces individuals and groups to the sport. The good folks at Kent Mountain Adventure Center will tailor the course to meet the needs of participants and even kids are welcome. Get your climb on and then head to Seasoned: An American Bistro for brunch. You've earned those pancakes!

Bonus rec: Head to Idaho Springs, a quick 40 minutes west of Denver and see the sights the way nature intended: by zipline. Check out the Idaho Springs Cliffside Zipline and Freefall. Nothing caps off an adventure like a stop at nearby Tommyknocker Brewery, where you'll be knocking back beers and nachos with a whole restaurant full of friendly locals just off the slopes and mountainsides.

2. For the romantic

Romantic getaways in Colorado are second to none. After all, nothing will make you swoon like holding the hand of the one you adore from a suspension bridge 955 feet above the canyon river below. The views at Royal Gorge Bridge and Park in Cañon City, a two-hour drive from Denver, are spectacular and sure to inspire declarations of love akin to the majesty of your surroundings. Feel your love lifting you higher and step into an aerial gondola ride to experience even more breathtaking views. After you've enjoyed the park, make your way to the nearby tasting room at The Winery at Holy Cross Abbey. Cheers to romance!

Bonus rec: Take a soak in the natural hot springs at Hot Sulphur Springs Spa & Resort. This cheap Colorado couple's getaway offers private pools for just $20 per adult. This two-hour excursion from Denver is a perfect romantic getaway.

3. For the family

Day trips from Denver are perfect family bonding opportunities. While the majority of the suggestions here are family-appropriate, there are a few special excursions to truly delight the kids and make you the Clark Griswold of family fun. The YMCA of the Rockies summer tubing hill at Snow Mountain Ranch is a must do – and just two hours from Denver. Summer tubing? Yep, that's right. Fly down a hill in the middle of summer and show the kids your ability to defy seasons in the pursuit of good times. It probably goes without saying you can snow tube at YMCA of the Rockies as well but if you take the family to Snow Mountain Ranch in the winter, switch it up a bit and go for a sleigh ride.

Bonus rec: It's a bit longer of a drive to Glenwood Springs, but in just under three hours from downtown D-town you and your family could be on an alpine coaster or experiencing the Haunted Mine Drop at Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. There's certainly enough to do in the area and nearby Aspen to turn the trip into a weekend getaway with family, or buckle everyone in and head home: They'll be passed out from exhaustion and you'll be a hero.

4. For the fashionista

When all the world is wardrobe inspiration, take note of what the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising in Fort Collins has to offer. The Museum boasts an extensive collection of apparel and textiles throughout history and across cultures. Grab an aprés-museum cocktail at the Union Bar & Soda Fountain in Old Town Fort Collins and cruise the many stylish boutiques of Old Town Square. Fort Collins is one hour north of Denver and its charm and welcoming spirit will bring you back for more day trips to come.

Bonus trip: Kemo Sabe, a world-renowned Colorado maker of custom western-wear has stores in Aspen and Vail. Head up I-70 from Denver and dictate the exact hat your head was born to wear. Who wouldn't drive a few hours to get that bespoke honky-tonk look? And if you feel like exploring the area even more (and who wouldn't), stay on the road to wineries, shopping and skiing of the Western Slope: one of the all-time best weekend getaways in Colorado.

5. For the intellectual

Nothing says nerdy like a visit to one of the nation's most impressive research centers. And if nerdy is your thing, take a quick 30-minute drive from Denver to Boulder and tour the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). NCAR is a world-leader in research on climate change. It's free and open to the public seven days a week and offers hands-on exhibits as well as a range of tour options. Stock up on facts and dinner party conversion guaranteed to impress your friends. Speaking of friends, meet up post-NCAR visit for a drink and bite to eat. It doesn't get better than River and Woods' menu of locally-sourced fare.

Bonus rec: A two-for-one for your brain! While in Boulder hit up NOAA: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Call ahead for tour information.

5. For the history buff

Just an hour and twenty minutes south of Denver you can find a 1,000-year-old natural dwelling site. The Manitou Cliff Dwellings were the home of the Anasazi people and today the museum and park ensures visitors can appreciate the ancient handiwork. Go inside the dwellings for a closer look and check out the accompanying museum to learn more about the Anasazi and how they lived. After you've marveled at the resiliency of these early dwellings, take a short drive to nearby Colorado Springs for a sandwich at Shuga's or the French Onion soup at La Baguette (where your fair author once worked in the kitchen)!

Bonus rec: If a thousand years sounds amateur to you then the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument may be up your alley. It's a two-hour drive south of Denver and one of the country's richest fossil beds. Get a glimpse of prehistoric Colorado.

6. For the sport enthusiast

Denver and its nearby Colorado cities share notoriety for attracting the outdoorsy type. For those who like a bit of friendly competition woven into their outdoor experience, check out one of the area's disc golf courses. The Beaver Ranch course is 42 minutes from Denver and rated the #1 course in the state. Relax after a round of disc golf over a round of craft beers at Snowpack Taproom.

Bonus rec: Remember all that fly fishing gear you keep in storage? Dig it out and catch some Colorado trout! The Flyfisher Guide Service has all the info you need to make your fishing outing a rewarding trip.

7. For the foodie

The glow of 300 days of sunshine exists in pint form and can be found in the golden brews of Colorado craft beers. Known for a thriving craft beer scene, Colorado offers up a range of local breweries for your tasting pleasure. According to Scott Blauweiss, owner of Mr. B's Wine and Spirits, "Colorado has become a great destination for people who love to explore quality, craft beers." Try Primitive Beer a hidden gem in Longmont, a short 50-minute drive from Denver. While you are there, exercise your turophile devotion by browsing Longmont's famous Cheese Importers. The extensive shop boasts nearly any cheese imaginable and includes a quaint café perfect for a glass of wine and a nibble of Doux de Montagne. Top off your Longmont day trip with a stop at Abuelita's Empanadas and stock up for the car ride home.

Bonus rec: Pack your snacks and hit the road for Grand Junction, just shy of four hours from Denver. The Grand Valley area, including Grand Junction and the neighboring Palisade, is known for local wineries. With over twenty stops to choose from, it's easy to make a day of it. Extra points if you are there for peach season, late July through September.  

Day trips from Denver offer plenty of opportunities to get out, gain new experiences, and develop an appreciation for the surrounding areas. Buckle up, take a ride, and choose your Denver day trip adventure!

About the author

Bree Neely

Bree Neely is a communications expert and former Brooklynite based out of Denver, Colorado. She is co-founder of Direct Object, a marketing firm serving national B2B and B2C clients. When not tapping away at her keyboard, she keeps busy traveling, skiing and overseeing a variety of children and animals.

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