Actually Cool Things You Can Do in Denver This Fall

You deserve some fun.

Now that we’ve finally had the Colorado summer we deserved—live music is back, our favorite restaurants are at full capacity, and our sports teams have returned—it’s time to gear up for all of the amazing fall activities in and around Denver (just make sure you're taking Covid precautions). From family-friendly fun at local farms to unique romantic excursions to making produce shopping more fun, here’s a list of things to do in Denver that has us praying for the weekend(s).

Meow Wolf
Meow Wolf

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Denver
One of the most highly anticipated attractions this fall is the opening of Meow Wolf’s latest permanent art installation and immersive experience at Denver’s Convergence Station. The four-story, 70-plus-exhibit installation officially opens September 17 and will feature artwork from 300 artists, over 100 of which are from Colorado. Convergence Station is set to be open from 10 am - 10 pm Sunday through Thursday and until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
 

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Erie
Just north of Denver is Erie, CO, where you’ll find the motherlode of fall activities at Anderson Farms. From the corn maze and pumpkin patch to spooky, Halloween-themed activities like the Zombie Paintball Hunt and Terror in the Corn, Anderson Farms is the place for fun this fall, especially if the family’s coming along. There are a ton of kid-friendly activities and events happening at the farm, including play areas, farm animals, and plenty of pumpkin-themed crafts.

Taste of Vail
Courtesy of Think Big Media

Eat your way through fall food festivals

$ - $$$
Various locations
Whatever your favorite food is, Denver’s probably got a festival for it. Sink your teeth into the Denver BBQ Fest at Empower Field at Mile High or sip to your heart’s content at the Denver Oktoberfest. If you feel like getting out of town, class things up with a culinary experience in the mountains at Fête Aspen or Taste of Vail. And while the Denver Food & Wine Festival’s Grand Tasting won’t be appearing until 2022, you can still check out two of its smaller fundraising events: the Riedel Wine Seminar and Dinner Under the Stars.
 

$12 - $14
Various locations
The “I Love the 90s” Bar Crawl is coming to Denver this fall, so grab your hair scrunchies and plastic chokers and get ready to chase some waterfalls. Or just chase your shots. Either way, this crawl will be one of the first since pre-pandemic, so there’s sure to be a good turnout. Enjoy a free, color-changing cup and no cover charge at some of Denver’s most fun bars, event schedule TBD.

GC Lounge
Courtesy of Prim + Co

Practice your swing at an indoor golf bar

$ - $$$
Various locations
Denver is a golf-loving city, with 16 courses in the metro area alone and almost 80 within a 20-mile radius. But indoor simulators and mini-golf courses that usually include a bar or restaurant are sweeping the city. There’s the South Broadway Country Club, complete with simulators and a full bar (which also has a buzzing location in the heart of Tennyson Street), and the soon-to-open GC Lounge, featuring Trackman simulators and tasty, “country club-inspired fare.” A new, “‘70s Masters-themed” mini-golf course will be opening in RiNo later this year, aptly named the RiNo Country Club, and on a similar plane is Denver’s own Urban Putt. Plus, you can never go wrong with a classic like TopGolf.

Take in Denver’s beauty while on horseback

$ - $$
Various locations
Take a romantic horseback ride with your SO at sunset or book a pony ride or pony party (yes, that’s a thing) for the kids at Bear Creek Stables in Morrison, and enjoy the Front Range views. 12 Mile Stables, based out of Aurora, also offers guided trail rides through prairies, over streams, and offers a “Sunset and Dinner Ride” featuring hearty cowboy fare for after your trek. In a different light, The Right Step, Inc. offers horseback riding but in a therapeutic way for people with special needs, and is also a 501(c)3 organization.

Go backyard leaf-peeping while sipping a cold one

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Various locations
Love fall foliage but hate leaf-peeping traffic? Stay close to home with easy hikes that still show off the best fall colors and pair well with local breweries, too. Feral’s favorite combination is North Table Mountain Park and a celebratory brew from New Terrain Brewing, though Colorado.com suggests pairing a trip to Golden Gate Canyon with a refreshing beer from Cannonball Creek Brewing. Foliage and fresh hops = fall done right.

The Fort Restaurant
The Fort Restaurant

$$ - $$$
Morrison
A true Western atmosphere and menu await at The Fort, where you can try everything from Bison Eggs and Rocky Mountain Oysters to elk, trout, and quail. Take your seasonal cocktail to the outdoor patio and warm yourself by a fire pit while stargazing, tour the adobe building and learn all about its long history, and don’t miss out on the 1840 Rendezvous Spanish Colonial Art Market, September 11 - 12.

Keep the fresh produce cooking with fall farmers markets

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Various locations
The transition from summer to fall doesn’t have to mean the end of fresh farmers market goods; several of Denver’s most popular markets are open late into the fall season. Check out the farmers markets in Boulder County (also available online year-round), Cherry Creek, City Park, University Hills, or Highlands Ranch; at Union Station; or on South Pearl Street, all open through late October or mid-November.

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Morrison
Yes, what you’ve heard is true: It’s the best place to see music in the known galaxy. And yes, it’s moving right along with its fall schedule, meaning the Red Rocks tradition of climbing up and down the stairs for beers can finally continue! Bonus: If your trip to Denver is off-season or you can’t score tickets, you can still drive on up and walk around for a gorgeous (free) sojourn anytime.

MCA Denver
MCA Denver

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Union Station
The Denver Art Museum and Clyfford Still Museum may be better known (and are definitely worth your time), but this small yet mighty option is a must. The exhibits change regularly and feature both local and national artists, and thanks to its small size, you only need an hour or two to explore the whole thing and enjoy a drink at the rooftop bar. Plus Colorado residents get in for just a penny on the first Saturday of every month.

Hit up a historic hotel bar

$ - $$
Various locations
There’s no doubt that the pair of marine-themed bars inside Denver’s two most historic hotels are worth checking out. At The Oxford Hotel, the Cruise Room’s Prohibition-era red hue and handcrafted cocktails are a cornerstone of Denver’s drinking culture. So it goes at The Brown Palace with Ship Tavern and all of its model boats (and if you fancy a cigar, head down the hallway to the Churchill afterward). But, we’d like to add another must-stop to the list: Charlie Brown’s, a piano bar with solid food, a two-for-one happy hour, and a patio where you can still light up (tobacco, that is). Bonus: All three of these joints are open on most holidays, so you can get your fix while you hide from your family.

The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, Autograph Collection
The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, Autograph Collection

$$ - $$$
Central Business District
This Downtown icon is over 125 years old and a traditional afternoon tea here is still one of the classiest experiences you can have in Denver. It’s the perfect excuse to get dressed up in a town where jeans are typically considered acceptable for almost any occasion, and options range from a $40/person tea, scones, and finger sandwich-filled experience to the $250 option for four that includes a bottle of Moët.

Hop on an e-scooter

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Various locations
Ah, yes. Many lament the scourge of the Limes and Birds and many, many other brands of rechargeable, shared scooters that now fill Denver’s sidewalks. There’s a lot of griping and moaning, and chances are the gripers and moaners haven’t jumped on one yet. Because they’re really fucking fun. And so cheap, too. Now that the city has decided you can ride in the bike lanes, you have little excuse to not try one out—besides, ya know, the possibility of going back home with a broken arm. Just tell everybody it was a snowboarding injury.

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Coors Field
Take yourself out to the ballgame for cheap—that’s right, fans are back at Coors Field and Rockpile tickets have returned, too. Score bleacher-style seats in sections 401, 402, and 403 for just $4 - $8 and use your extra baseball day budget for a cold beer and a hot dog. 

Larimer Lounge
Larimer Lounge

Catch an unforgettable concert

Free - $$$
Various locations
There used to be multiple shows going on every night in Denver. And then, the music went quiet… But let’s not dwell on that because live music is back, baby. Smaller venues like Lost Lake, The Black Box, Cervantes, HQ, and Larimer Lounge have reopened, and, sure, there might be some remaining safety precautions and tickets are limited, but it feels damn good to finally start getting our beloved Mile High music scene back. There are also a few free concerts left at Levitt Pavilion, plus a full schedule of ticketed events to come.

Free - $
Various locations
With over 20,000 acres of urban and mountain greenscape, the parks offer the perfect spot for a relaxing getaway, peppered throughout town—Wash Park, Cheesman, and City Park are all popular spots for partying outdoors. All you need is a blanket, some snacks, and a few cans of beer (remember, no glass!) and you’ve got a classic Colorado experience covered.

Free
RiNo and the Santa Fe Arts District
Over the past few years, Denver’s streets have become a whole lot more colorful thanks to a slew of new works by street artists, especially in these two neighborhoods. All you need is some free time to wander to find eye-catching examples painted everywhere from alleys and underpasses to the outsides of prominent businesses. If you’re looking for a socially distant friendly outdoor activity, these two districts are like open-air museums for modern art, just waiting to be explored. 

Pikes Peak Region Attractions
Pikes Peak Region Attractions

Get the hell out of town for a day trip

$ - $$
Various locations
As much as there is to do in Denver itself, escaping to the Rockies is one of the best ways to spend your time and options for day trips are plentiful. Head up to nearby Boulder to check out some of the local shops on the Pearl Street Mall, spend a weekend in Steamboat Springs (and don’t skip a visit to Strawberry Park Hot Springs), or head south to Colorado Springs for a drive up to the summit of Pikes Peak

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Idaho Springs
A quick 30-minute drive from town, this small mountain town is the closest spot to enjoy a nice long soak in the waters from a natural hot spring—which feels especially amazing on a cold day. Reservations for all day sessions (available Monday - Thursday for $18) or hour long passes (available Friday - Sunday for $20) must be booked online in advance. If you score one, you’ll enter the jungle-like dome where a pool with an average temperature of 90 to 100 awaits. And when you’re done, you can make a pit stop at Tommyknocker Brewery for beer and a bite on their outdoor patio before heading back to town.

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Various locations
With 41 State Parks in Colorado, including many close to the Denver area, it’s incredibly easy to get outside and spend some socially distant time in nature. Roxborough near Littleton has over 4,000 acres to explore that include forests, red rock formations, meadows where you can see the spring wildflowers blooming, and the historic Waterhouse Homestead—as well as birds, mule deer, and fox. Cherry Creek, Chatfield, and Castlewood Canyon are also great, nearby options for hiking and biking trails.

The Source Hotel and Market Hall
The Source Hotel and Market Hall

Sample local eats at a food hall

$ - $$
Various locations
Holy hell are there a lot of food halls in Denver now, and most are open and filled with culinary delights. Avanti, an OG of the movement, boasts an impressive lineup of rotating concepts. Denver Central Market not only has prepared foods from their vendors, but also great items to take home and cook including meats, cheeses, and other provisions. Milk Market currently has 10 venues open from restaurateur Frank Bonnano serving everything from pasta and pizza to burgers and salads. Stanley Marketplace is not only home to eateries like Annette and Rosenberg’s, but also has shopping. Edgewater Public Market also has shopping, and houses over 15+ unique food concepts. And there’s Zeppelin Station! And The Source! And Junction Food & Drink! And the new Golden Mill. And... you get the point.

Go brewery hopping

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Various locations
The sheer number of Denver breweries can be a bit daunting, but with extra time on your hands, this is the perfect chance to explore as many options as you can, especially since many of them have great patios for outdoor summer sipping. Scan our roundup of the best breweries to check out now for good options to start with, from newer additions to the classics.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem
The Infinite Monkey Theorem

Go distillery, winery, and cidery hopping

$$
Five Points
Sure, beer gets most of the attention when it comes to boozy beverages, but the Mile High is also packed with plenty of locally made non-beer options that are absolutely worthy of your attention... Some must-trys: Bigsby’s Folly and Infinite Monkey Theorem for a wine fix, Stem Ciders for bright, dry hard ciders, and The Block Distilling Company for vodka and gin made right in the neighborhood along with to-go cocktails.
 

Find your favorite bowl of Denver's most popular dish

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Various locations
Everyone who’s spent a significant amount of time in Denver has a favorite spot for green chile. Everyone. But even if you’re loyal to a certain bowl of this pork-studded regional go-to, there are countless options to try. Pretty much any restaurant with even a slightly Mexican or Latin slant will have a version so start sampling ASAP. Some must-visits on your green chile adventure? El Taco de Mexico, Uno Mas, and North County. Bonus: These spots are all offering to-go options, too.

The Weathervane Cafe
The Weathervane Cafe

Crush a breakfast burrito

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Various locations
If you’ve accomplished the task of eating green chile on its own, it’s time to take it up a notch. Perhaps no dish is more uniquely Denver than a breakfast burrito with green chile piled in or atop it. And there are a ton of options to satisfy your quarantine hungover urges—bonus, these babies are made for the to-go life. Santiago’s handhelds are ubiquitous, while at El Taco de Mexico (yeah, we mention the spot a couple of times, you need to go) when they ask if you want it smothered and with onions and salsa, your answers should be a resounding “yes” and “yes.” Folks line up early and often to snag the goods at Bonfire Burrito in Golden, and Weathervane Cafe in City Park West has a sneakily good breakfast burrito, served with hatch green chile salsa for dipping.

$$ - $$$
Union Station
If you’ve done even a minimal amount of research on Denver, you’ve probably read that the capital’s historic train station has been renovated and stuffed to the gills with awesome stuff to do. And it’s true! Plus, indoor seating is back and their patios offer some of the best seats for spring dining. Tuck into the petite Iberian Ultreia for a gin & tonic as large as your head, head out the back of the station to Tavernetta for fresh pasta, or grab a pancake flight for brunch at Snooze

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Erica Buehler is a Thrillist contributor.
Molly Martin is a freelance writer in Denver, Colorado who is always on the lookout for fun things to do. Follow her Mile High adventures @mollydbu on Twitter and Instagram.
Colin St. John is a Denver-based writer, editor and joke maker. He's written for Rolling Stone, Deadspin, Esquire, and Pitchfork.