12 Completely Free Things to Do in Denver

Fun doesn’t have to cost a thing.

Denver is a vibrant city full of life, culture, and fun things to do around every corner, and being on a tight budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your favorite activities. Whether your one true love is art, history, animals, or exercise, there’s something for everyone on the cheap in the Mile High. Explore the vast wilderness right next door, find your new favorite park, hang out with adoptable cats, or be inspired by incredible works of art, all at no cost (transportation excluded). Here’s a list of some of the best things to do and see in Denver that are entirely free.

Appreciate Denver’s public art

In addition to being an extremely artsy city, Denver also has multiple pockets where street art and sculptures are plentiful and a day can be well spent walking around and admiring it all. From the Santa Fe Arts District to RiNo (River North) and several spots in between, you can see for yourself the color and talent decorating the Mile-High. There are even some suggested routes and interest points you can find easily online if you’re not sure where to start.

Denver Art Museum
Denver Art Museum

Take advantage of free museum days

Denver is full of incredible art and history museums, and many offer free entry on certain days throughout the year. Be sure to check the calendars for free days at the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Clyfford Still Museum, to name just a few.

Go for a hike

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, especially for Denverites—but in case you didn’t know, there are like, a ton of mountains, forests, and waterfalls to explore right next to our city. Even if you aren’t looking for a long drive or challenging hike, there’s truly something for everyone who needs a bit of a nature bath. Unless you’re entering a state or national park, in which case there is likely some kind of entry fee, you can wander the Rockies to your heart’s content for no cost at all.

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre

Who says you have to pay hundreds of dollars to visit Red Rocks? If you’re game for going when there isn’t actually a concert going, it’s still a totally worthwhile visit. Walk around the famous theater, take a peek at the Red Rocks and Colorado Halls of Fame, or venture off into the many hiking and biking trails surrounded by that picturesque red rock, Front Range scenery.

Take a trip to the zoo

While there is a little bit of effort and luck involved in entering the Denver Zoo’s lottery for its free days, there are a substantial amount of dates offered for those who win each year. If chosen, hop on over to see your favorite striped, spotted, or camouflaged friends for a free day of fun for the whole fam.

Denver International Airport
Denver International Airport

Go skating, blading, or something else that gets you moving

In addition to Denver’s many green parks, there are also several skate parks that are free to visit. Whether you’re a skater, blader, or biker, grab whatever your wheels are and head to the Downtown Denver skatepark, Central Park skate park, or about a half-dozen more. Additionally, with winter just around the corner, a number of free ice rinks will soon be opening in and around Denver if ice skates are more your style. DIA’s ice rink is free to use this season, to name just one.

Check out historic Downtown Denver

Get your steps in and appreciate some of Denver’s rich history and architecture with some downtown strolls. Union Station (especially if you haven’t visited) is always a good time, whether you’re checking out the vendors inside or just staring in awe at its impressive exterior. Other notable Downtown Denver stops include the Capitol Building, The Brown Palace, The Oxford Hotel, and the Daniels & Fisher Tower. You can get a well-rounded look at the heart of Denver with a free walking tour like this one.

Hammond's Candies since 1920
Hammond's Candies since 1920

If you’ve ever wondered about the creation of all your favorite sweet treats and have a morning or afternoon available, consider heading to Hammond’s Candies for a fun and family-friendly factory tour. All you need to do beforehand is reserve a spot for your group, and the rest is made easy once you’re there. Watch the beauty of melted chocolate, spun taffy, and so much more transform into the familiar candies you know and love. (And, if you’re willing to spare a couple of bucks at the end, take a souvenir or two home.)

Open year-round (weather permitting), there’s really never a bad time to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens. And throughout the year, there are specific days when you can visit for free. Be sure to check out the Gardens’ calendar to see which days are no charge, then simply arrive and be bewildered by the beauty of all things botany. (Fair warning: The gift shop may tempt you out of your budget.)

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Itching to see some wildlife and feel like you’re getting out of the city? Just northeast of Denver is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, where you can customize your trip based on how much time you have to visit. Drive, hike, or bike along the routes here and keep an eye out for various types of wildlife, depending on the season: Bison, coyotes, and birds of prey are just a few of the incredible creatures you might spot.

Read a few pages at Tattered Cover or the Denver Public Library

Denver’s own indie bookstore chain doesn’t cost anything to visit (unless you walk out with a few new reads, of course), but is a great way to spend some time, especially if the weather is less than ideal. From its Littleton outpost to its two-story McGregor Square location, each has the same cozy bookstore vibe with a unique style. Similarly, any of the numerous Denver Public Library locations are free to visit, and a good way to find your next book, get some work done, or simply have some peace and quiet.

Pack a picnic and head to a park

Got some snacks at home but need a change of scenery? Denver boasts more than 250 urban parks, which include off-street trails, historic parkways, and green spaces too. Pack your favorite outdoor blanket, something delicious, and a good book or playlist, and head out to Wash Park, City Park, Sloan’s Lake Park, or any other of the many wonderful, peaceful parks in the city for a day of relaxation and fun.

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