As part of a new series, Travel + Leisure is exploring America one three-day weekend at a time. Here's what to do on a short trip to Denver, Colorado.
Travelers looking for a top-notch weekend destination take note: Denver is easier to access and has more things to do than ever before. From a bustling dining scene to renowned art to outdoor activities, locals and visitors alike are realizing that the Mile-High City should be on every vacation bucket list.
If you're arriving at the Denver International Airport, the new University of Colorado A rail line costs just $9 and runs 37 minutes from the airport into Lower Downtown. Drop your bags off at the boutique Crawford Hotel in the recently renovated Denver Union Station and return downstairs for a drink. The Plaza Beer Garden boasts communal picnic tables, local craft brews, and pretzels on a patio great for people watching.
Head down the street to peruse the shelves at Denver's best indie bookstore, the Tattered Cover. If you've arrived early enough, check out the rotating exhibitions nearby at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and don't miss the views from the museum's rooftop café. Afterward, walk a few blocks to picturesque Larimer Square, where twinkle lights and Mediterranean fare await at Rioja.
If you want to go out, you have several options nearby: Green Russell (a dimly-lit spot for craft cocktails), Star Bar (one of Denver's best dive bars) or the Cruise Room (a classy, red-lit lounge located in the Oxford Hotel).
Early risers looking for a workout should grab a pastry from Mercantile Dining & Provision before heading to the 330-acre City Park for awesome views, or join the locals for a shaded 2.3-mile run around Washington Park (there's also great hiking in the nearby foothills). If it's a relaxing brunch you're looking for, head to Denver's Uptown neighborhood to try delicious benedicts and the ever-popular fig & pig flatbread at Beast & Bottle.
Shake off the brunch coma with a bike ride. Denver's bike sharing program, called B-cycle, was the first of its kind in the country. Try the popular Cherry Creek Bike Trail or use any of B-cycle's 87 stations to get around town.
In the afternoon, take a self-guided tour of Denver's best breweries (don't miss Great Divide, Ratio Beer Works, and Prost Brewing). Or opt for an organized tour from the reputable Aspire Tour Company, which specializes in brewery tours of the hot (but still somewhat industrial) River North (RiNo) neighborhood.
For dinner, head to RiNo's Hop Alley for a modern take on Chinese classics. Order the spicy fried chicken, chilled tofu, or the pork chop.
Wake up early and head to LoDo's Little Owl Coffee for single-origin beans and craft espresso. If you have access to a car or feel like taking a taxi, take the 20-minute drive to Red Rocks, the only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. It's a top choice for a concert, but you can also admire the amphitheater's iconic rock formations by running the stairs or hiking the 1.4-mile Trading Post Trail.
If you need an indoor activity (thanks, changeable Denver weather), check out the marvelous Clyfford Still Museum for a focused look at the iconic artist's work. Grab lunch at Masterpiece Deli, a 15-minute walk that takes you past the state capital building.
At the end of the day, head to Bar Dough in Lower Highlands for delicious wood-fired pizzas and a stellar wine list. Walk to Little Man ice cream for cold treats (the salted Oreo always delivers) out of a massive old-fashioned milk can before finishing the evening at Williams & Graham. The popular speakeasy may be hard to get into (call ahead for reservations), but it serves up some of the best cocktails in Denver.
For more long-weekend itineraries in America's best vacation destinations, click here.