Ultimate Denver Weekend Guide for Foodies

UPDATED: 12 July 2024

Denver, Colorado is an awesome place for a weekend getaway in the Western United States. With a lively and growing restaurant and arts scene that has exploded in the last few years, even people who have visited Denver before will find there are so many new things to see and do in the Mile High City.

If you are visiting for just a few days are looking to design the ultimate cool and off-the-beaten-track weekend itinerary with ideas from a Denver local – this is the guide for you! I’m a native New Yorker who moved to Denver in 2016 and started the New Denizen Instagram account. This constantly updated city travel plan will help foodies, design-lovers, and budding outdoor adventurers find the most fashionable, Instagram-worthy experiences to take in during their stay.

Denver is a premier vacation destination for 20- and 30-something travelers (it’s one of the cities with the fastest growing millennial population in America) across the world thanks to its amazing year-round weather (over 300 days of sunshine a year) and its ideal mix of an urban city experience that offers easy access to outdoor/adventure activities.

Pumped for your trip to Denver? Here’s how to rock your stay!

Day one: Arrive in Denver, explore downtown

If you are staying in Denver only for the weekend, I think you can get around fine without renting a car by walking, ride-sharing, using RTD public transportation, or one of those crazy electric bikes or scooters (if you must). Take the A line train directly from Denver International Airport to Union Station and get straight into your exploration of the Mile High City.

How to get around:

Walk through classic Downtown Denver

Larimer Square during Slow Foods Nation
Historic Larimer Square is lined with restaurants and small shops.

Although not as densely populated as downtown areas in New York, Boston, or San Francisco, Denver’s downtown is still worth strolling to give you a sense of the city’s laid-back style. Here is a recommended route:

  • Walk down the 16th Street Mall where you will find shops, restaurants. The most charming parts are between Wynkoop and Curtis.
    • Along the way, be sure to stop and learn about Denver’s historic Chinatown. Look for the white and wooden free-standing markers at 1620 Wazee St (in front of Rockmount Ranch Wear) and 1520 16th Street (in front of YumCha). A third marker is at 1890 Lawrence St in front of Denver Fire Station 4.
    • *Please note: The 16th Street Mall is in the midst of a reconstruction project that started in the spring of 2022 and is projected to continue through fall of 2025. During this time, some areas of the 16th Street Mall may be under construction. Please patronize businesses along this route!
  • Make a right at California, walking west until you hit 14th street where you will find the Denver Convention Center and one of Denver’s visual landmarks, the giant sculpture “I See What You Mean,” most commonly referred to as the “Big Blue Bear”.
  • Walk down 14th, past the Denver Center of the Performing Arts, continuing until you hit Larimer Street.
  • Now it’s time to take in some more history. Larimer Street between 14th and 15th is known as Larimer Square.  The most striking feature of this area is the collection of beautifully restored historic 19th-century buildings that line either side of the street, which was saved from destruction in the 1960s thanks to the work of Denver developer and conservationist Dana Crawford. The historic block is currently owned by Asana Partners of North Carolina, and is in the midst of changes.
  • Art lovers will want to check out the Dairy Block‘s alleyway space (which is free, outdoors, and open to the public) that filled with glowing neon artwork, larger-than-life installations, and pieces by world-famous art collectives like The London Police that will set your Instagram feed ablaze.
  • Also in the Dairy Block are a number of cute stores including Sarah O. (beautiful locally designed fine jewelry) as well as the Milk Market food market.
  • End the day by walking through the beautifully restored Great Hall at Union Station and taking a gander at the newly completed McGregor Square, where they often have (free) public events and activations.

Other favorites

If you’re looking for a little more to do during your walk, try a stop at one of these spots:

  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver – The MCA’s bright, modern space features rotating exhibitions by regional, national, and international artists. Previous exhibitions have included shows by marquee American artists like MacArthur “genius” grant recipient Tara Donovan and mixed-media artist Deborah Roberts. Be sure to check out the outdoor rooftop garden and cafe for a soothing respite from the city.
  • Admission is FREE for healthcare workers, active military and their families, SNAP beneficiaries, reciprocal museum members, and museum professionals (or other discount types). Reserve free tickets by calling 303-298-7554 Monday–Friday 9AM–5PM.
  • Admission is one penny ($.01) for Colorado residents on the first Saturday of the month (Recommended that you reserve tickets online)

New Denizen food and drink favorites

Although there are many great restaurants in Downtown Denver, I’m choosing to highlight restaurants that can only be found in Denver or are multi-restaurant operations that were founded in Colorado.

On the 16th Street Mall:

Larimer Square is home to a number of great eateries including:

  • Rioja – This is an upscale Mediterranean restaurant is a white-tablecloth establishment is helmed by Jennifer Jasinski, James Beard Foundation Award winner for Best Southwest Chef in 2013.
  • Tamayo – Denver-based restaurateur Richard Sandoval’s modern Mexican concept. This lively restaurant, which opened up over 16 years ago, is a Larimer Square stalwart and delivers excellent and interesting spins on Mexican classics. A must-order is the Queso Fundido with the chorizo add-on.

Union Station area:

View of the Great Hall at Union Station
Copper Lounge (on the balcony, right) has a bird’s eye view of Union Station’s Great Hall.
  • Cooper Lounge – Perched above the Great Hall of Union Station, this is the perfect place for drinks before or after dinner.
  • Mercantile – James Beard Award-winning chef Alex Seidel’s flagship Denver experience featuring seasonal dishes. Reservations are highly recommended, especially when dining on a weekend evening. Bonus: Read my review of the restaurant.
  • Poka Lola Social Club – Classy bar inside the Dairy Block/Maven Hotel.
  • BrutøByron Gomez now leads the kitchen of this restaurant, which earned a Michelin Star and Green Star in 2023 while under chef Michael Diaz de Leon. Diners experience a set menu inspired by Latin and global cuisine, with an emphasis on sustainable food practices. Only open for dinner service and reservations are a must.

Day two: Discover Denver’s creative corners

Devote your second day in the Mile High City to tapping into the creativity of the city by strolling through the museum district and walking through Denver’s hippest neighborhood: RiNo (River North).

Civic Center and museums

Clyfford Still Museum
Enjoy the serenity of the Clyfford Still Museum.

Start the day by heading to the heart of Denver’s museum district, which happens to be right near the State Capitol.

  • Clyfford Still Museum – Devoted to the works of abstract expressionist painter Clyfford Still, this beautifully designed museum is a joy to visit, whether you are familiar with his work or not. Be sure to take a moment to sit on the outside terrace, accessed from a door off of one of the galleries on the second level.
  • Denver Art Museum plaza – View the striking angular architecture of the Hamilton Building of the Denver Art Museum as well as the sculptures that can be found in the plaza surrounding the museum. The DAM underwent a major expansion and renovations of the Gio Pointi-designed North Building and a brand new building and restaurant, which opened to the public in Oct 2021. The museum redesign is lovely, featuring more family-friendly interactive stations sprinkled throughout, and worth a visit. Definitely take a whirl inside if you are there on a free admission day.
  • Civic Center Park – Take a quick walk through to get a glimpse of Colorado’s State Capital Building (it’s the one with the golden dome). During the holiday season, there are pretty light displays at night.

Other favorites

If you have time to spare, the following spots are worth checking out.

  • Denver Central LibraryUPDATE: As of Feb 2022 the library is undergoing construction and access is limited to the first floor only. If you’re in the area and need of a break from the sun/rain/snow, stop into the main branch library of the city. Head to the fifth and seventh floors to check out some artwork (and old maps of Denver) in the free galleries. Pro tip: Architecture buffs will want to stop into the Gates Western History Reading room on the fifth floor. It has a pretty cool design that seems to be inspired by Denver’s mining town history.
  • Brown Palace Hotel – Even if you can’t swing an Afternoon Tea (prices start at $65 and go up from there) at the historic hotel, pop inside to view the gorgeous nine-story atrium.

RiNo graffiti tour

Shepard Fairey mural in RiNo
View the works of graffiti artists spread all over the walls of RiNo.

Over a decade ago, artists and city leaders kicked off an effort to revitalize the RiNo neighborhood into a vibrant creative community. It has now grown into one of the best places in Denver to browse independent shops, see outdoor murals by world-famous artists, and stop in for a meal at some of most buzzed about restaurants in town.

Graffiti art has become synonymous with RiNo. Wherever there once was a blank wall you are now likely to find a work of art. Although RiNo will not host a street art event this year, you can still check out the existing artwork by doing a self-guided RiNo graffiti art tour of the most recent murals (2018: Google Maps) or go on a walking tour. Be sure to stop by the enormous Shepard Fairey mural painted on the side of Denver Central Market.

Shopping in RiNo

Modern Nomad in RiNo
Empire Collective Denver has an eclectic collection of home goods.

While you are checking out the art on the walls, pop into a few local shops to check out their wares and maybe pick up some unique souvenirs.

  • Topo Designs – This Colorado company is known for their colorful backpacks and bags. Their logo tees and shirts are the perfect addition to your inevitable Insta shots showing off your (real or staged) super-cool rugged outdoors person achievements in Colorado.
  • Empire Collective Denver – Awesome “design collective” space with unique home furnishings, textiles, and gift items, many from Colorado companies.

New Denizen food and drink favorites

Civic Center/ Cap Hill:

Coperta plates for dinner
Coperta is one of the top Italian restaurants in town, and a perennial favorite of mine.
  • Coperta – If you follow me on Instagram, you know I wax poetic about Coperta nearly every day of the week. Excellent Roman and Southern Italian food in Uptown neighborhood. Pastas are their strength. The Buccatini with guanchale is always on the menu and a definite crowd-pleaser.
  • City O’ City – Lively (and busy) vegetarian/vegan-friendly restaurant with food good enough that even meat-lovers will find something satisfying. Recommended: The Seitan Wings with Buffalo sauce are always a hit.
  • Leven Deli – Good for a casual lunch near the art museums. Family-friendly as well.

RiNo has a never-ending list of great places to eat. Here are a few of my favorites:

Exterior of Call Restaurant in RiNo
The patio at Major Tom RiNo offers a great place to sit and eat on a warm summer evening.
  • Super Mega Bien – Delicious South American food served in a dim sum format. For two people eating there at dinner, I recommend grabbing three to four small plates off the carts and ordering one item for the table off of the large dish menu if you don’t want to leave with any leftovers. Menu changes seasonally.
  • Death and Co. Bar – I am well aware that Death and Co. is from my hometown of New York City, but they chose to open their second location in Denver in the uber-hip Ramble Hotel and I couldn’t resist putting this on the list. The setting is gorgeous and the cocktails are killer.
  • Denver Central Market – Fantastic food hall with lots of options. Everyone in your party will leave happy. My picks are the pasta at Vero and getting some ice cream at Highpoint Creamery (my favorite ice cream place in Denver).
  • OMF (Our Mutual Friend) – Fun and lively taproom.
  • Stowaway Kitchen – Excellent spot for breakfast or brunch with lots of vegetarian options.
  • Beckon – Awarded one Michelin Star in 2023, this 17-seat restaurant requires securing an online reservation (with the meal paid in full) well in advance. Patrons are served a set menu with the option of purchasing a wine pairing or NA pairing. An excellent fine dining experience. Menu changes every month.
  • Major Tom – Sister restaurant of Beckon, situated right next door. Swanky champagne bar with Scandi influenced menu.
  • Infinite Monkey Theorem – Relaxed neighborhood brewery with excellent patio.
  • Dio Mio – Excellent handmade pasta place. Order at the counter, get your number, then find a table. Get your own bottle of water in the fridge. It can get pretty crowded after 7 pm, but unless you are with a large group, seating shouldn’t be an issue. My husband and I always order an appetizer plus our own individual pasta entrees. The Rigatoni with fennel sausage is my hands-down favorite.
  • The Greenwich – This Italian restaurant gets its name from Greenwich Village, which is where owner Delores Tronco last had a restaurant before moving back to the Mile High City. The space is pretty and modern and they’ve done a great job creating a warm and cozy vibe. The bar is particularly excellent.
  • Hop Alley – This Michelin Bib Gourmand restaurant serves great modern Chinese food in Denver. Come prepared for dishes to be on the spicy side. If you can secure an advanced reservation through their website, do it. Otherwise, it’s walk-in only. I advise getting their five minutes before they open for your best chance of bypassing a long wait to eat at the 57-seat restaurant. Three dishes should be enough for two people for dinner, but I always end up ordering way more (because everything sounds so good) and getting the rest boxed up for leftovers the next day. Don’t miss the Dan Dan Noodles.
  • Mister Oso – Latin cuisine, including some fire tacos, cebiche, and a killer Queso Fundido. Super-fun interior and garden patio.
  • Improper City – Enormous indoor and outdoor bar with lawn games, food trucks, and a relaxed atmosphere. Great place for large groups and a fun spot to hang out and enjoy the weather.
  • Comal – Swing by during their weekday operating hours for breakfast or lunch. The restaurant is closely tied to the work of Focus Points Family Resource Center, which works to provide economic opportunity for local residents through food service industry training and other programs.

Day three: Experience the great outdoors

One of the best things people love about living in Denver is the proximity to the mountains. You’ve probably noticed the Rocky Mountains in the skyline several times during your trip. Today’s the day to get a better look.

See the sunrise at Red Rocks and take a hike

Yogis meditating at Yoga on the Rocks at Red Rocks Amphitheater
Many people come to Red Rocks to enjoy the view while exercising, including for special events like Yoga on the Rocks.

Get up early (like 5 am – 6 am early, depending on the time of the year) to make the 20-30 minute drive to the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO so you can watch the sunrise over Denver.

If the weather is nice you’ll probably see people running up and down the steps of the amphitheater to get in their cardio, or doing various forms of exercise on the wide rows.

Be sure to take advantage of taking a scenic walk or hike along one of the trails that extend from the park. The Trading Post Trail is a good option if you’re short on time and you don’t really want to break a sweat – it’s only 1.4m and mainly flat terrain.

Be sure to check out the Red Rocks event calendar to make sure your visit does not coincide with an event (where access to the amphitheater would be restricted). However, if you are visiting in June – Aug, I highly recommend snagging a ticket to Yoga on the Rocks to do morning sunrise yoga!

If you do not want to drive, another option would be to hail a Lyft or Uber to drive you there and hail one (may take 10-15 minutes for the nearest driver to reach you) when you’re ready to head back.

Other hikes and walks

Chautauqua Park in Boulder, CO

Star of the McClintock Trail in Chautauqua Park, Boulder
The McClintock Trail offers views of the Flatirons.

An alternate area with great mountain views you can get to through public transport is to Chautauqua Park in Boulder, CO.  This park offers a wide array of hikes, from leisurely strolls to more demanding treks.

Take the FF1 or FF2 bus from Union Station to Broadway & Euclid Ave. Either make the 30-minute, 1.2 mile walk through a residential neighborhood to the park or hail an Uber/Lyft to make the 8-minute drive (Google Maps directions).

Those with a car during peak summer season need to note that the lot in the park (and surrounding streets) are paid parking. (You can always park further away on a nearby residential street and walk over if your thrifty.)

Stop by the Ranger Cottage to get recommendations about trails. Alternatively, you can check out the online trail map for trail closures ahead of your trip. Popular trails include the Chautauqa Trail and the McClintock and Mesa Trail.

A nice add-on to this hike would be a stop in Downtown Boulder. Walk along the charming Pearl Street Mall and stop for a meal or snack.

City Park, Denver

If you don’t want to leave the city but still want a little outdoor action, head to City Park for one of the most iconic views of Denver’s skyline. The best spot to stand is at the back of the Denver Museum of Nature and has the exact details on the best vantage point to get a view of the skyline with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

A stop at the Denver Botanic Gardens (where they frequently have special exhibits) is a nice add-on while you’re in the area.

Dinner with a view in Highlands

Chow Morso plate of pasta on Avanti F&B's rooftop patio
Avanti F&B has great food and drinks and a fantastic view of Downtown Denver.

While this residential neighborhood doesn’t have much in the way of points of interest or shopping, what it does have are some of the city’s best restaurants. I recommend closing out your final day in Denver with a meal with a view of the city.

Those looking for something casual will love Avanti F&B, a food hall with a great rooftop bar and great views of Downtown Denver. If you’d like something a bit fancier, Linger‘s rooftop bar has some great views.

New Denizen food and drink favorites

Red Rocks

Food options are very limited, with the Ship Rock Grille as your only option for a place to eat within the park. If you plan on hiking in the area, pack some snacks/lunch, or just wait until you get back to Denver to eat.

Downtown Boulder is chock full o’ adorable restaurants:

Bottle of juice from Wonder Press
You can find pretty glass bottle of pressed juice at Wonder Press in Boulder.
  • Leaf – Excellent vegetarian cuisine, just a block off from the Pearl Street Mall.
  • Wonder Press – For all your pricey pressed juice needs. If you can stomach the cost of the juices (around $7-11) it’s a great place to grab a (liquid) snack during the day. The bottles are beautiful, as is the light and airy dining space, often filled with freelancers tapping away on their laptops. (They also have a newer location on Platte Street in LoHi in Denver.)
  • Süti & Co – Cute little Scandi-style cafe and shop off of the Mall. Nice stop for sipping some coffee/tea and nibbling on some cookies or cake.
  • Rosetta Hall – Food hall with great rooftop.
  • Frasca Food and Wine – If you happen to be in Boulder during dinner time, Frasca is my number one pick. At this one Micheline Star restaurant, diners must choose from one of the available tasting menus (no a la carte dining except at the bar) and reservations (which you can make via their website) are very strongly recommended/necessary.

Besides the spots I’ve already called out, Highlands has tons of other great restaurants. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Spuntino – Chef Cindhura Reddy’s epic ode to Italian food that never EVER fails to impress.
  • El Five – Another Edible Beats restaurant with spectacular views and a tapas style format. Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Bar Dough – Strong on their pasta game.
  • The Bindery – New American food with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients. Sleek modern interior and smartly composed dishes.
  • Mizu Izakaya – Sushi here is fine, but their ramen is the standout. My favorite tonkotsu ramen in Denver.
  • Noisette Restaurant & Bakery – Michelin Recommended French restaurant from chef-owners Lillian and Tim Lu. The dining room is dreamy and romantic – the very type of calming, slowed-down atmosphere one craves for a beautiful date night.


Communal work area in the lobby of the Maven Hotel
The lobby at the Maven Hotel offers an inviting, communal space to work and relax.

For those who are visiting Denver for the first time, I recommend staying in the LoDo (lower Downtown) area near Union Station. The location makes many activities on this itinerary within walking distance and due to its central location public transportation and ride sharing options will be plentiful.


Bedroom at the Maven Hotel
The well-appointed bedroom of the Maker’s Suite at the Maven Hotel also features city views.
  • The Maven Hotel – From the city’s glamorous 100-year-old landmark Union Station, it’s an easy 5-minute walk to drop your bags off at the Maven Hotel, a slick new accommodation that opened in March 2017. The location is killer, and it’s situated within the larger Dairy Block shopping and dining development.  Another bonus of staying at the Maven is their complimentary car service which will do drop offs/pickups within a  2-mile radius of the hotel based on availability.
  • The Rally Hotel – Situated within spitting distance of Coors Field, this is the obvious pick if you love baseball and are here to see a Rockies game. One of the newest hotels in the downtown area
  • Oxford Hotel – If you’re looking for something more historical in the area, check out this stately hotel (which houses the art deco-styled Cruise Room bar and the stylish Urban Farmer restaurant)
  • Kimpton Hotel Born – Crisp modern hotel on the north side of Union Station.

A little further afield in RiNo:

  • The Ramble – For the design- and style-obsessed, the beautiful surroundings of the Ramble Hotel will make up for being outside the main central Downtown area. This is the hotel interior designer Emily Henderson stayed at during a 2018 visit to Denver. Bonus: Super Mega Bien and Death and Co. are right downstairs in the hotel’s ground floor.
  • Catbird Hotel – New independent boutique hotel with apartment style setup (and available for extended stays), located on the far end of RiNo that opened in August 2021. If you’ve got a car, or don’t mind being a little removed from the major tourist attractions, the rooftop looks dope and you’re near a ton of fantastic restaurants.

Looking for more ideas?

If you’re searching for even more ideas on where to eat in Denver, be sure to follow me @newdenizen on Instagram. I’m constantly updating my account with my latest food adventures in Denver (and beyond).

Also, please let me know what you thought of this guide (and if there’s anything else you think I should add information about) by leaving a comment below.

Like this article? Don’t forget to pin it!

Denver weekend city guide for foodies

6 replies on “Ultimate Denver Weekend Guide for Foodies”

Hi Laura, What an awesome blog you got here! Denver has a lot to offer. Never knew there are a lot of things to do, restaurants we never visited before, and places have never gone to yet (We’ll surely visit some of the places you mentioned here). Thank you and keep posting amazing content 🙂

Hi! My son and I are coming to Denver for the first time to celebrate his graduation from high school. We are thinking about going to Colorado Springs for one day. What would you recommend to do and to eat while there?

Hello Heather! Have you ever been to Garden of the Gods? It’s not very off the beaten path (it’s a pretty popular spot) but it is a great little walk outside on a day trip. The beautiful U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Museum is also in town. (They recently opened up a stunning new pedestrian bridge that connects the museum to the America the Beautiful park: Also there is Pikes Peak – you can drive to the top and a new visitors center just opened up this summer (, On your way down from Denver (or back up), you’ll pass by the US Air Force Academy. They just re-opened to the public. I really enjoyed a visit there a few years ago – however my favorite part, the Chapel is currently closed for renovations, but there is still the museum and walking around the grounds, if that strikes your fancy (;

I was in Colo Springs earlier this summer and really enjoyed the food at 503W ( It would be a great place for an un-fussy, yet delicious celebratory dinner! I also like Shuga’s for a casual lunch.

Hello! My husband and I are coming to Denver in a few months and were looking for things to do. We’ll definitely have to check out the Dairy Block, go shopping, and eat at a few of the restaurants that you mentioned. We had also wanted to go to Red Rocks. Thanks for the information and suggestions!

Oh my god, Laura, what a treasure trove! I moved to Denver two weeks ago and just bookmarked this page to help me explore. Really happy you mentioned the Botanical Gardens! It’s the first place I’ve visited and I loved them to bits <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.