Over the last decade, few American cities have seen a more massive spike in popularity than Denver. Once known as merely a stopover on the way to Colorado’s famous ski resorts, Denver has quickly become one of America’s top cities to travel to.
So what’s so great about Denver these days? As it turns out, quite a lot.
Close proximity to world-class natural beauty. A burgeoning restaurant scene that features everything from Latin American and Asian cuisines to bison burgers and Rocky Mountain oysters (fried bull testicles). Denver offers what is possibly the nation’s best selection of craft beer. The nightlife and restaurants of Lower Downtown, known locally as LoDo, blend seamlessly with the shopper’s paradise known as Cherry Creek. Denver truly seems to have it all.
Despite Denver’s massive popularity, a visit to the city doesn’t need to be expensive. True, Denver provides ample opportunities to royally treat yourself and decimate your travel budget, but it’s still possible to experience Denver without breaking the bank.
With so many of our members booking cheap flights to Denver these days, we decided to put together this budget travel guide to help you visit Denver on a budget. Just like our guide on how to visit New York City on a budget, this guide will show you that just a little bit of planning can save you a whole lot of money.
Here are our top tips for visiting Denver on a budget.
Cheap and budget-friendly things to do in Denver
Though there are endless things to love about Denver, the city is probably most known for being a truly incredible city for nature lovers. Similar to Salt Lake City, Denver is a bustling city nestled closely to colossal mountains that are perfect for skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, and so much more.
If you’re looking to add a quick day trip to your Denver itinerary, these are some of the best hikes near Denver.
1. Red Rocks Amphitheater
This one-of-a-kind amphitheater is one of the world’s most famous concert venues. But you don’t need to drop huge money on a concert ticket to experience Red Rocks in all its glory. The iconic amphitheater is actually just one part of a larger mountain park that is also a hiking destination, the home of the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, and a free outdoor gym.
If you’re interested in hiking, the park contains 2 well-marked trails – Trading Post Trail and Geologic Overlook Trail – that provide an up-close view of Red Rocks’ incredible sandstone formations.
Looking for a more challenging workout? Lace-up your athletic shoes and join the Denver locals as they come to Red Rocks to run the venue’s staggering 69 flights of stairs.
2. Chautauqua Park
Located in nearby Boulder, Chautauqua Park is a just quick 45-minute drive from Denver and is a perfect choice for casual hikers and veteran trekkers alike. The park offers stunning views of the majestic Flatirons and plenty of hiking trails depending on how ambitious you’re feeling that day.
For an easy but rewarding hike, the Enchanted Mesa Trail is suitable for all skill levels. If you’re someone who really wants to earn your place amongst the locals, the 1st Flat Iron trail is a challenging hike that will reward you generously with beautiful views from the top.
3. Mount Evans Scenic Byway
Technically this isn’t a hike. Instead, it’s the highest paved road in North America. But driving the Mount Evans Scenic is still an incredible way to see the natural beauty of Colorado.
This scenic drive climbs through breathtaking winding roads and spectacular mountain views before finally reaching the 14,264 feet summit of Mount Evans, making it the easiest way to bag one of Colorado’s famous “fourteeners” without ever breaking a sweat.
4. North Table Rock Mountain
This hike is just 20 minutes from Denver, making it a perfect choice if you have limited time in your itinerary. North Table Rock Mountain is equally popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and rock climbers.
The first part of the hike is quite steep, but don’t be discouraged. Once you’re atop the mesa, the trails flatten out. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the city of Golden down below, as well as the Denver skyline. Keep your eyes peeled, as you’re likely to see deer and other wildlife – including rattlesnakes.
5. Brainard Lake Recreation Area
Located close to Boulder, the hiking trails here vary in length and difficulty level - from easy and dog friendly to high altitude and challenging.
Brainard Lake Recreation Area is a popular spot for nature lovers because it’s a great way to get your all-in-one taste of the great Colorado outdoors. In just one hike you can see an alpine lake, towering mountains, and abundant wildflowers. You might even see a moose or two.
Check out vibrant street art in Denver’s art districts
Denver’s colorful side is best represented in both the River North Arts District (known locally as RiNo) and the Art District on Santa Fe. Each neighborhood has fully embraced its role as a haven for creatives and it shows through the vibrant street art and murals here.
Take a free tour of the Colorado State Capitol Building
The Colorado State Capitol sits exactly one mile above sea level – a fitting tribute to the Mile High City moniker. Free tours are offered here Monday through Friday and take you throughout the legislative chambers and up into the building’s iconic golden dome.
Walk through Civic Center Park
Take a stroll through Civic Center Park and enjoy its expansive lawns, vibrant flower beds, and an excellent view of the Colorado State Capitol. At lunch hour, grab a cheap bite to eat at one of the many food trucks and check out some of the park’s iconic Old West sculptures.
Embrace your inner bookworm at Tattered Cover Book Store
Tattered Cover Book Store is a much-beloved local indie bookstore and cafe with 3 unique locations. Grab a lavender latte and let yourself lose track of time as you browse the seemingly endless variety of books, games, apparel, and so much more.
Take a free tour of the U.S. Mint in Denver
The U.S. Mint in Denver is one of just four mints in the country that produces coins and just one of two – Philadelphia being the other – that gives public tours. On this free guided tour, visitors learn about the history of the U.S. Mint and the process that goes into producing billions of coins annually.
Pro tip for visiting the Denver Mint: Arrive early. Tickets are completely free but are given on a first-come, first-serve basis and often sell out very quickly.
Go bargain hunting on Antique Row
Located near downtown Denver, Antique Row is truly a bargain hunter’s paradise. Along this section of South Broad, or SoBo as it’s known locally, nearly 100 antique shops are packed into just 7 blocks. These shops sell everything from antique jewelry and furniture to vintage clothes and comic books. When you’re done treasure hunting, unwind at your choice of the neighborhood’s many bars, restaurants, or breweries.
Take a free food or drink tour
Whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or an affinity for adult beverages, Denver has a free tour that’s perfect for you.
For Candy Lovers: Hammond’s Candies factory tour shows you how they’ve been hand-making their famous treats since 1920. Plus, visitors get to take home a sweet treat from the factory.
For Beer Lovers: It’s no secret that Denver is packed with incredible breweries but Great Divide Brewing Co has managed to stand out among the rest. The popular craft brewer offers free 30 minute tours at both their Ballpark District and RiNo locations.
For Whiskey Lovers: Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey’s Homegrown distillery tour is free for Colorado residents and their guests. If you’re going to visit a Colorado resident, consider asking them to come along for a tour and tasting. The distillery also offers $15 tours that are open to anyone.
Pro tip for visiting Stranahan’s distillery: If you don’t have a local friend for the tour, consider joining a travel community like our Dollar Flight Club Travel Group and try to find a Denver resident to tag along!
Where to Stay in Denver
This hip, premium hostel provides the affordability and social environment that we love about hostels without all the dirty, grungy stuff we’d rather do without. Hostel Fish has both budget friendly dorms and private rooms, as well as a guest kitchen and on-site bar. They also host daily social events that range from improv comedy and open mic nights to group walking tours.
This trendy downtown hotel is a Marriott hotel that seems to be more geared toward the millennial crowd. At the ultra-modern Moxy, guests use their phones to check-in at the bar, where they’re also treated to a complimentary welcome cocktail.
This is a traditional hotel providing the quality you expect from a Hilton property. Centrally located in downtown Denver, this hotel is just steps from the convention center and nearby to many of the city’s top attractions.
Finding Cheap Flights to Denver
In the last few months, Dollar Flight Club members have saved between 70-90% on cheap flights to Denver. On average, our members spent $47.80 on their tickets to Denver and saved $185 per ticket.
Here are a few samples of cheap flight deals to Denver that Dollar Flight Club members have received recently.
- Chicago (ORD) to Denver (DEN)
- Price with Dollar Flight Club: $48.20
- Average Price: $194.66
- Austin (AUS) to Denver (DEN)
- Price with Dollar Flight Club: $28.20
- Average Price: $184.53
- Philadelphia (PHL) to Denver (DEN)
- Price with Dollar Flight Club: $56.20
- Average Price: $301.25
- Nashville (BNA) to Denver (DEN)
- Price with Dollar Flight Club: $48.20
- Average Price: $222.58
- San Francisco (SFO) to Denver (DEN)
- Price with Dollar Flight Club: $58.00
- Average Price: $199.63
Best places to find cheap eats in Denver
There’s a lot more to the food scene in Denver beyond the local delicacies of Rocky Mountain oysters and the iconic green chile. Even if you’re on a budget, Denver is jam-packed with incredible restaurants that feature an eclectic mix of cuisines. Here are some great picks for budget-friendly food in Denver.
One of the few American Indian restaurants in the country that serves customizable salads, sandwiches, and bowls. The stuffed fry bread and bison ribs are real crowd-pleasers here.
Comal provides training to low-income women – many of whom are immigrants and refugees from Mexico, El Salvador, Syria, Ethiopia, and Iraq – in culinary and business skills. The highly-rated restaurant primarily serves Mexican, Latin American, or Syrian dishes, depending on the day.
Denver’s best diner serves big portions of delicious home cooking and local favorites. Breakfast is the star of the show here but an incredible meal can be had all day long.
This is a one of a kind hot dog shop that serves reinvented classics alongside out of the box offerings like elk, rattlesnake, and pheasant.
Fast-casual, local chain slinging massive burritos and bowls along with some of the best queso you’ve ever had.
Get ready to see more of Denver while spending less
Whether you’re an avid hiker with a deep love for the outdoors or a beer aficionado that loves a great live music bar, Denver truly has something for every budget traveler. Between the unrivaled natural beauty, an incredible food scene, and tons of affordable things to do, there’s never been a better time to experience Denver on a budget.
If you’ve always wanted to see a concert at Red Rocks, catch a game at Coors field, or experience the view from atop a towering “fourteener” like Mount Evans, it’s high time you sign up for free to receive instant cheap flight alerts and start planning your trip to the Mile High City.
BY: ZACH ANDERSON, CONTENT MARKETING & FLIGHT EXPERT
Zach is a digital marketer, copywriter, and flight deal expert at Dollar Flight Club where he helps 1 million people travel more. As a digital nomad, he is deeply passionate about location independence, Thai food, and helping others see the world affordably.