3 Days in Denver – The Perfect Itinerary for Families

Taking a trip to Denver soon? There is so much to do, but you can still plan a great 3 days in Denver and see a lot.

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As a local, it’s easy to go on and on about the many things to do, but here I’ve narrowed down the absolute best Denver 3 day itinerary.

So read along and make your plans to have the best 3 days in the mile-high city.

pinnable image with 4 pictures in a collage of a river, red rock wall, aerial photo of Denver skyline, and bison in a dry field.  Text in front "3 days in denver, Colorado"

Where to Stay

Before you start your trip, check-in to the Grand Hyatt Denver. This will give you an indoor pool, fitness center, beautiful lobby, and a convenient location to access both attractions and public transportation to get around the city.

Red Rocks Amphitheater

Denver 3 Day Itinerary- Overall Best Sampler

Day 1 in Denver

Assuming you have arrived the night before, here is how to get your first day started.

Morning

Enjoy breakfast at the hotel with cage-free eggs, local ingredients, and a beautiful space to sit and warm up for the day.

Then, take a 25 minute drive over to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. Here you can enjoy free hiking (and free parking) in one of the most scenic places in the Denver area. The hikes here are perfect for beginner hikers and families.

Make sure to check out the amphitheater and take a few laps up and down the stairs if you feel so inclined.

Afternoon

For lunch, head to the Ship Rock Grille, located at the Red Rocks Visitors Center. The delicious food makes the stop worth it, but the icing on the cake is that you get to continue seeing those red rock views as you eat.

Next, take a short drive over to Dinosaur Ridge. This is a FREE attraction that kids and dinosaur fans will love.

Walk up the steep hill for free to get to different walls of fossils. If you have the budget, you can also purchase tickets to take the bus up. This includes a small group tour with a guide, plus admission to the Exhibit Hall.

Evening

Grab some dinner at the incredibly flavorful Root Down. Make sure to make reservations, as this place is quite hip. It’s all about fresh, local flavors. You’re sure to find something unique and incredibly tasty.

After dinner, head to a show at the Denver Center for Performing Arts. They feature shows all year long in their 8-theater complex, so there is sure to be something that interests you and the family.

Finally, retire back to the hotel for the evening.

Day 2 in Denver

Morning

Start day 2 of the Denver 3 day itinerary at one of the most sought-after breakfast places.

Wake up and walk over (less than a mile down 18th and left on Wynkoop; 1701 Wynkoop St) to Snooze A.M. Eatery for breakfast. This is a local favorite full of mouth-watering options. If you visit on a weekend, plan extra time to wait for a table.

When you’re finished, drive over to the Denver Zoo. This place is full of over 3,000 animals. It’s a great way to get fresh air while having some fun. Plus, they have seasonal events and free days you just may be able to take advantage of.

Grab some lunch at the zoo for convenience before you head out.

Afternoon

Next, you’ll stop at City Park which is in the same area as the Denver Zoo and Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Walk the trails, or just relax and people watch as you enjoy the public space of Denver.

You can also head to the southwest part of the lake to rent a kayak. Though if you decide to play on the water, skip the next activity and just enjoy some time here.

The kids can enjoy a playground on the eastern side of the lake.

Late Afternoon/Evening

When you’ve had your fill of people watching and playing, head to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. (open till 5pm or 9pm on most Fridays)

This place is full of science and discovery. Spend some time learning about mummies, gems, and space, or head to the Infinity Theater or Planetarium for a real treat.

Since the museum closes by 5, you’ll have plenty of time to find a great dinner. Head to WaterCourse (837 E 17th), a scratch kitchen with a plant-based menu. The flavors are strong and the menu covers a variety of tastes.

Day 3 in Denver

Morning

To finish out your 3 days in Denver, you’ll start with Breakfast at the Denver Biscuit Company (3237 E Colfax).

Then make the short 5 minute drive over to the Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York Street). Walk among the plants and flowers and then get a cultural fill by checking out rotating art exhibits they feature. If you’ve got the kids, they’ll enjoy the Children’s Gardens where it’s all about hands-on learning.

South Platte River with bridge in background and old brick REI store on the right

Afternoon

Grab some lunch at the Denver Central Market. This place is a cool food hall where each person has the luxury of picking exactly what sounds good. Grab a creative salad or bowl at Green Seed, an inventive sandwich at Lunchboxx, and something sweet to go with it an one of the other vendors.

Take your meal to go and stop at Confluence Park (around 2250 15th St; pictured above) Confluence is a popular hang out spot for locals. You’ll know you’re there if you can see the REI flagship store across the river (also popular among the locals).

Enjoy the park area or sit and watch as people attempt kayaking up the small rapids of the South Platte River.

Spend a while at the park and walk through the REI store and try out the climbing wall.

Then hop on the Denver Trolley for a ride. The trolley departs from Confluence park every 30 minutes and makes stops at the Children’s Museum and Aquarium. But you can stay on for an enjoyable 25 minute ride up the river. Trolley runs during warm months only.

Evening

Head the direction of Coor’s Field to grab some of the best pizza you’ve ever had. Marco’s Coal Fired (2129 Larimar Street). It’s not a Michelin Star restaurant, though it did make it into Michelin’s guide recommendations.

After dinner, head to Meow Wolf (1338 1st Street) for a truly unique experience. Meow Wolfs have popped up a few places in the southwest and the one in Denver is the largest so far. Walk through a visually stimulating kind of immersive experience filled with sites and lights.

Rocky Mountain Wildlife Refuge

Denver 3 Day Itinerary- on a Budget

If you are spending 3 days in Denver and you are a little more on a budget, don’t fret. There are plenty of free things to do in Denver, as well as activities that don’t cost as much.

I still recommend the same hotel (see first section) as it has reasonable rates for the amount of comfort it provides. Everything will be based out of that location.

I won’t make food recommendations here as food budgets can really vary. Try to think of places like Starbuck’s for breakfast (they have great breakfast sandwiches). For lunch and dinner, try places like Illegal Pete’s (1610 16th street Mall), Mad Greens (1600 Stout Ave), or one of the many Pho places around town.

Day 1 in Denver on a Budget

Morning

Pack a lunch ahead of time (Starbucks to-go, perhaps) and make the drive over to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater. Enjoy short, easy hiking on the Trading Post Trail as you take in the awesome formations in the park. (Free).

Afternoon

Enjoy lunch and then head to Dinosaur Ridge where you can gaze at actual dinosaur fossils and tracks in the rock along the hill. Make sure to have water because you can walk up the steep hill for FREE if you’re willing.

Then take a short drive up to the School of Mines (1310 Maple St, Golden) where you can visit the Mines Museum of Earth Science (Free admission). Enjoy walking through and learning about gems, minerals, and witnessing one of two moon rocks brought back from the Apollo 17 mission.

Evening

To end the night, check out the Denver Art Museum (100 W 14th Avenue Pkwy). There is admission a little over $20 for adults, but if you have kids with you, they are Free. Yes, anyone under 18 counts as a kid.

The art museum brings in rotating exhibits as well as collections based around different parts of the world. If the timing is right, you may catch a family-friendly performance the kids will love in the gallery (October through May).

Day 2 in Denver

Morning

After breakfast, hop in the car and make your way over to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (6550 Gateway Rd, Commerce City). This is about a 20 minute drive from the hotel, but well worth it.

Here you’ll find where the buffalo roam, as well as other species of wildlife. It’s FREE to enter and drive through the refuge, and it’s a stunning contrast to see wildlife roam the fields with the Denver skyline in the background.

This is one of our favorite free things to do in the area since you can see these huge, unique animals!

Afternoon

Head back to the downtown area to enjoy the afternoon at Washington Park. Grab lunch on the go to take with you to enjoy people watching or playing. Visiting Wash Park (as we locals call it) is one of the classic things to do while visiting.

Rent a kayak or pedal boat to spend the afternoon on the lake and getting some good, fresh air.

When you finish, just walk around and soak in one of Denver’s most popular green spaces.

Evening

For dinner, make an experience of heading to somewhere around Larimar Square. This area is covered in lights, flags, and plenty of people. It’s a popular spot for locals in Denver to hang out and find some great dining spots.

Day 3 in Denver

Morning

For your final day in Denver, you’ll start by heading out to a fun tour at Hammond’s Candy Factory (5735 Washington St).

These tours are FREE, but must be reserved in advance. Enjoy a tour of the history and process of Hammond’s. Then you’ll be sent home with some great samples to remember the tour by.

Afternoon

Head to 16th Street Mall for shopping, dining, or just fun and free entertainment. 16th Street Mall is a popular area in Denver where only the shuttle can be on the street. It’s filled with shopping, yes, but also street entertainers.

Walk up and down the street at your leisure. This is the heart of Denver.

giant 28 foot tin milk can with ice cream shop below, holiday decor at top (wreath and garland)

Evening

Dine at a place of your choice, and then head to the famous Little Man Ice Cream (2620 16th Street).

This ice cream stop is hard to miss since it’s a 28-foot milk can. If ice cream isn’t your thing, you can still get other sweet treats like baked goods or confections.

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What to Bring

Denver is known as the Mile High City because its elevation is right at 5,280 feet. While it seems like this will give you cooler temperatures, it can get really hot on summer days. The good thing is that nights usually cool down pretty comfortably.

Also, people forget that the altitude also makes the sun more intense.

Here are a few things to make your trip more comfortable:

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