Actually Cool Things You Can Do in Denver This Winter

Stay cozy and entertained.

Imagine: It’s a Friday afternoon or Saturday morning in mid-winter, and you’re itching to kick off your fuzzy socks and oversized sweatshirt and actually go out in public for the first time in weeks. Where to begin? Ditch your takeout and tendency to Netflix binge this time around and get your blood flowing—literally, metaphorically, whatever tickles your fancy. Learn how to cook paella, sweat out your seasonal depression, or experience all the holiday bliss that the Mile High City has to offer with a brand-new list of things to keep you busy this winter. Don’t worry: Your fuzzy socks will be waiting for you when you get home.

RiNo
Why exercise normally when you can sweat profusely? All jokes aside, hot yoga is super popular and a killer workout, and Denver has an abundance of studios. But let us direct you to Blake Street’s Body Alive studio, which offers hot yoga, hot pilates, and a hot body challenge, among other awesome classes. Expect a heated room that’s 102º F with 40% humidity and prepare to sweat your winter blues away.

ReRoot
ReRoot

Bring the outdoors in

Various Locations
The pandemic inspired a lot of folks to invest more time and money into brightening their indoor spaces, meaning houseplant sales skyrocketed. Luckily, Denver has a ton of plant shops offering easy-to-care-for plants, rare finds, and everything in-between. Some of our favorite independent shops include Broadway’s Birdsall & Co., RiNo’s ReRoot, Cap Hill’s Plant Garage, and Overgrown Home in the West Highlands. Take your pick—no matter where you end up, you’re going home with a new green baby.

Laugh your ass off

Various locations
Anytime is a good time for a laugh. But especially so if you’re going to be avoiding the approaching winter weather. Grab a few tickets to a comedy show, some friends (if you’ve got ‘em) and enjoy a couple cocktails while letting the professionals do their thing. Comedy Works has two locations in Denver, making it even more convenient to make a star-headliner show. But it’s also totally worthwhile to check out some of Denver’s other comedy clubs, like the Denver Comedy Lounge, the Improv Comedy Theater and Restaurant, or Denver Comedy Underground for local and national talent that kills.

National Western Stock Show
National Western Stock Show

Elyria-Swansea
This is part-Denver tradition, part-rite of passage if you haven’t yet gone. The NWSS is one of those Colorado specialties that screams state pride and gives a nod to the Wild West of the past. It’s also whatever you make it, with general admission, individual event tickets, and season tickets for the real serious cowfolk. Check out the insane skills of bull riders, ranchers, and watch as children ride sheep in what’s known as Mutton Bustin’. Plus a serious amount of other awesome events, too.

Georgetown
Taking a trip on the Georgetown Loop Railroad is always a fun idea. Amazing views you can’t get anywhere else, rich history, and actual former mine sightings all make for a pretty epic day trip (especially if you stop in downtown Georgetown after). But even better? The incredible holiday festivities that are back on track (ha! Get it?) this winter season. Experience the railroad’s Victorian Holiday Celebration, Santa’s Lighted Forest, and other exciting seasonal offerings. Weather permitting, of course.

YumCha
YumCha | Photo courtesy of ChoLon Restaurant Concepts

Explore what’s new on the food scene

Various locations
The Denver restaurant scene has been busy this year. New concepts have popped up left and right and especially so in recent months. From chef Lon Symensma and ChoLon Restaurant Concepts comes YumCha, the newest spot for piping hot dumplings, noodles, and other savory snacks. The team at The Culinary Creative Group—and particularly chef Max MacKissock—just opened A5 Steakhouse, the name a nod to the rating of Wagyu beef that’s available on the menu. And if you’re trying to get a healthy dose of fried chicken, check out one of the many recently opened spots, including Dave’s Hot Chicken and The Crack Shack.

Strap on the skates or snowshoes

Various locations
Take advantage of the best parts of Colorado winters by gliding (or stepping gracefully) around and around. The beloved Downtown Denver Rink at Skyline Park will be making a triumphant return this year, and though word is still out on the Rink at Belmar, our fingers and toes are crossed. You could also take up a new hobby—like snowshoeing—and head to St. Mary’s Glacier, Golden Gate State Park, Echo Lake Park, Silver Dollar Lake, or a ton of other places close to the city for breathtaking views and a leg workout to remember. Need the proper gear? Well of course, REI has you covered.

Cook Street Culinary School
Cook Street Culinary School | Photo courtesy of Think Big Media PR

Cook spectacular dishes with help from the pros

Various locations
Cooking classes are always perfect date ideas; if all else fails, at least you have some tasty leftovers. And despite not necessarily being a requirement anymore, virtual classes are still widely popular for people staying safe (and warm) indoors without sacrificing their desire to learn. Play with your food a little at Cook Street Culinary School, which offers a wide array of classes, cuisines, and seasonal specials. Pizzeria Locale also regularly offers its virtual Dough From Scratch class where you can learn to make a variety of seasonal pizzas. Be sure to check the website and follow along on socials for the next class announcement.

Auraria
‘Tis the season for supporting our boys on the ice. Don your coziest merch, grab an ice cold Coors Light and some nachos and settle in for some excitement. If you haven’t been yet, the Breckenridge Brewery Mountain House is a primo spot for good beer, good eats, and being right in the thick of the action at Ball Arena. The plethora of food and beverage options on the main levels are also equally worthy of a trip.

Blossoms of Light
Denver Botanic Gardens

Relish Impressive Holiday Light Displays

Various locations
Denver knows how to celebrate the holidays, that’s for sure. In addition to vendor markets and seasonal activities galore, we take our festive lighting very seriously. The Mile High Tree is always a big draw to downtown, as is Union Station’s annual Grand Illumination. Denver Botanic Gardens’ Blossoms of Light display is always a huge attractor of fans of the brightly colored and sparkly, and other notable holiday light extravaganzas include Bandimere Speedway’s Christmas in Color, Denver Zoo’s Zoo Lights, and Hudson Gardens’ A Hudson Christmas.

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. 

Meow Wolf
Meow Wolf

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.

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.

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.

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 2021 schedule, meaning the Red Rocks tradition of climbing up and down the stairs for beers can continue. Just watch out for ice as chilly season descends upon us. 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

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.

Crush a breakfast burrito

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.

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 wrap yourself in your favorite scarf and sit in the atrium’s regal atmosphere sipping tea while the cold winter wind blows outside. 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.

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.

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

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.

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Erica Buehler is a Denver-based freelance writer. Follow her @e_buehler on Instagram and @e_buehler_ on Twitter for more updates on Denver food and other Mile High shenanigans.
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.