Family Coming to Denver? Free Things to Do
My family joined me for Thanksgiving, and hosting fell into my lap. My sister and brother-in-law from Maine and my mother from Florida arrived with a week of “What are we doing today?”
We are not a family who likes the traditional and expected, so no zoos, movies, malls or typical things families do. The pressure was on for me to show them a good time doing things that cost nothing or next to nothing.
I was able to entertain them for a week, and the only things we paid for were food. Here are 5 unusual things to do in Denver that are mostly free. Our weather varied for 10 degrees to 60!
You Don’t Have to Spend to Have Fun
- Coors tour. My sister and brother-in-law arrived first at 2:30 to the Denver airport on Monday.Knowing that Coors does not do tours on the remaining days of Thanksgiving week, we hot-footed it out to Golden to make the last tour by 4:00. This is a cute, self-guided tour that ends in the tasting room where adults can get up to 3 free pulls of whatever Coors flavor they’re brewing. Try the Batch 19, which is hard to find and the best on tap that they have. The tour takes about 45 minutes and is self-guided.
The best place in town is Hopdoddy, which conveniently is next to Union Station. The Friday after Thanksgiving is when they light up Union Station, but on Monday is when they practice lighting it. So, we decided to benefit twice for one effort.
We had the best bison burger in town with green chili fries and sea salt caramel shakes while watching them practice lighting up Union Station without the crowds. We then went inside Union Station and self-toured inside, making sure to stop at the mini Tattered Cover, Denver’s best book store chain.
3. On Tuesday, we started the day at 7 am with a free walk by Walk2Connect through Park Hill.
Then, the sis and bro went to Colorado Springs to visit friends and to see the Garden of the Gods and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Both of these are dynamite stops are must-sees when in the Springs.
While they were on their quick trip south from Denver, I picked mom up for Denver airport. After dropping her bags, we joined a free walk by Walk2Connect in the refugee resettlement area of Denver. We joined Tibetians, Bhutans, and Burmese for a stroll at dusk. While on our very interesting amble, we also stumbled upon a gorgeous moon rise and wetlands view of the Lowry area of Denver.
We finished the night with cheap tacos at my favorite street taco place, Tacos Selene, a hole in the wall with $1.50 tacos.
Note: In the summer of 2020, the Stapleton residents renamed their neighborhood Central Park.
With 2.5 miles under our belt and a sunny day upon us, we tackled finding bison and ferrets at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. Luck was with us–and the bison appeared ten feet from us on the road.
My brother-in-law is a huge Patriots fan, and with the Broncos hosting the Pats this upcoming Sunday, we ventured to Sports Authority Stadium at Mile High Field and took a great shot of my sister and him in front of the Broncos vs. Patriots sign.
The weather started to turn, but it didn’t stop us from parking at the 4-block area of the Crush to see the amazing street art of internationally famed grafitti’ists. If you’re hungry, make sure to grab a yummy caprese sandwich and chips at Americatus.
On the way back home, we couldn’t resist a stop at VooDoo Donuts to snag a sugar high.
Finally, we had to stop by the Mile High Harley Davidson to ooh and ahh over the bikes and for the bro to pick up his local t-shirt. Exhausted, we settled into a big pot of vegetarian chili for the night.
Thursday we did nothing but bake, cook, and eat.
5. Friday greeted us with our second day of snow and 20 degree temperatures.
I zipped the sis and bro up to the airport for an early morning flight. With them safely on the way home, mom insisted on the next free activity! Inspired by REI’s OptOutside movement, we signed up and enjoyed another Walk2Connect walking event which took us from Cheesman Park to Wash Park for a 3 mile amble.
Needing to defrost a bit, we drove over to the free day at Clyfford Still Museum to learn about this great American abstract painter.
Since mom had missed the practice lighting of Union Station, and the thought of sitting down to a good meal couldn’t escape our minds, we journeyed over to The Kitchen Next Door for some great Fish and Chips and Bangers and Mash and to catch the Grand Illumination.
Being Small Business Saturday gave us a great excuse to meander the cute shops of downtown Arvada. I couldn’t resist buying my daughter a poster and me a few spices. Lunch of a smoked salmon Eggs Benedict went down nicely from Bread Winner.
Then we were off to another free tour (update: they now charge :-(), but this time it was Stranahan’s Whiskey. I’ve been to many liquor tours, but this one was informative, funny, and engaging. A huge shout out to tour guide Lexi for her personality and enthusiasm!
There you have it. 5 unusual things to do in Denver that are mostly free. Actually, I bellied up about 15 free things to do in Denver. I hope you enjoy. Be sure to tell folks I sent you and please feel free to share this post.
Continue exploring my other website for more great and unusual things to do around the U.S.