Last Updated on July 13, 2020
Looking to make the most of one day in Denver, but need to stay on budget? Worry not, Denver can be done on the cheap.
I’m a Colorado native who has spent years getting to know Denver on a traveler’s dime, and I want to tell you all about my favorite spots. Lucky you.
Denver has an ever-evolving food culture, a world-class music scene, several professional sports teams, a bustling nightlife – all of which can be enjoyed on a budget in 24 ambitious hours. Are you ready?
Check out all the sights, sounds, flavors, and festivities Denver has to offer and don’t forget to check out my dream one-day Denver itinerary at the end of this post.
DENVER IN ONE DAY:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Getting to Denver from the Airport
2. Affordable Accommodation
3. Cheap Activities and Entertainment
A. South Pearl Farmer’s Market
B. City Park
C. Coors Field
4. Budget Food and Drinks
A. Stella’s Coffee Haus
B. Black Sky Brewery
C. Tex-Mex at Santiago’s
D. Late-Night Food at Jerusalem
E. 24-Hour Food at Tom’s Diner
5. Cheap Denver Nightlife
A. Bars on Colfax Ave
B. Live Jazz at El Chapultapec
6. One-Day Denver Itinerary
6. Final Thoughts
7. Additional Resources
Most out-of-state visitors arrive in Denver via Denver International Airport, one of the biggest air traffic hubs in the U.S. From there, the cheapest way to get to Denver is to hop on the light rail to Union Station and make the 40 minute trip to the city for $10.50. Visit Rtd-Denver.com for bus and train schedules.
Union Station sits conveniently in the heart of the city, surrounded by restaurants, bars, live music venues, and sports stadiums. This is a great place to start exploring.
Renting a car in Denver, though a tad more pricy, will give you more freedom and mobility about the town.
Couchsurfing, if you’re unfamiliar, is a website that links up budget-conscious travelers with generous people who are willing to host guests for free in their residence. Try it out. Couchsurfing is trusted worldwide and shady hosts are few and far between.
In terms of affordable hostels, Mile High House is your best bet. Because I am from Denver, I haven’t stayed there myself, but I’ve done my research — they have fair pricing and great reviews.
Pack Light, Travel Right: The Lightweight Traveler’s Carry-On Only Packing List
With Denver growing at such a rapid pace, there’s no shortage of fun things to do throughout the city. Here are a few of my favorite budget-friendly Denver past times that I recommend if you only have 24-hours to see it all.
Crepes. Brisket. Popsickles. Honey. Arepas. Fresh produce. Juice. Tacos. Pizza. On Sundays, it’s all waiting for you on South Pearl Street. That is if you’re ready to navigate through the thick swarms of stoned and ravenous market-goers.
Keep in mind that the South Pearl Street Farmer’s Market is only open on Sundays. If you’re one day in Denver lands on any other day, check out the many other farmer’s markets around town.
What I Recommend: A Palisade Peach – $1.50 – drizzled with CBD infused Colorado Hemp Honey – $3 a stick
City Park is more than just a park. While it offers over 300 acres of grass, lakes, monuments, playgrounds, basketball courts, and more, it’s also flanked by the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science – the city’s most impressive museum.
What I Recommend: Throw a frisbee around and soak in the sun or stroll over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science – $16.95
Breathtaking Day Hikes Near Denver
Whether you’re a baseball fan or not, you will have a good time at a Rockies game. Buy a $4 Rockpile ticket and wander the stadium with a cold Colorado beer at your side. Watch the sunset over the Rocky Mountains and feed off the electric energy of the optimistic crowd.
Not visiting during baseball season? Catch a Nuggets, Broncos, or Avalanche game instead (just keep in mind that it won’t be quite as cheap).
What I Recommend: A Rockpile ticket – $4 – and a cheeseburger at Smash Burger – $8.75
Over the last decade, Denver has quickly become a food and drink lover’s paradise. Check out a few of my favorite unique Denver hot spots that will satisfy even the most hungry and frugal-minded travelers.
Start your day at Stella’s — a beautiful house-turned-coffee-shop. Their delicious selection of pick-me-ups never failed to help me through a rough morning when I worked at the sushi bar across the street. Grab a seat on the patio and watch the day go by as you sip and soul search. That’s what drinking coffee is all about, right?
What I Recommend: Iced chai when it’s hot outside – $4.15, cappuccino when it’s cold – $4.15
Black Sky is far from your typical Denver brewery. Run by a welcoming, yet no-nonsense staff of heavy metal enthusiasts, this stop will be a memorable one. Sip an Apricot Weiss, order a pizza, and ask to peruse the infamous ‘Nomicon’ as metal (and only metal) music fills the confines. Stop by during their next heavy metal flea market if you want to see this place at its best.
What I Recommend: Hot Beef Injection (shot of Jameson with an au jus chaser) – $12
If you’re only in Denver for one day and you skip Santiago’s, your cheating yourself out of Colorado’s best Tex-Mex. Whatever you decide to order, smother it in their famous spicy green chile and let fate take care of the rest.
What I Recommend: Beef soft taco smothered with spicy green chile and crispy chile relleno – $8.25
Finish your night here, trust me. Jerusalem has been serving Denver fast and flavorful Middle Eastern food since 1978. No need to rush over after the bars close, this Denver fixture keeps its doors open until 5:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
What I Recommend: Combination “Super Dish” – $14.95, and homemade baklava – $2.50
Ok, I’ll admit it: this place can’t offer you the most delicious breakfast on Colfax, that’s just not their thing. This is morning-after-a-wild-night food. Visit Tom’s Diner for an opportunity to join Denver’s most eccentric and hungover for a cheap meal with great people-watching inside Colfax’s beloved 24-hour diner.
What I Recommend: French toast with bacon – $9, coffee – $2, and a window seat
If you catch me soaking in the booming Denver nightlife, chances are I’ll be at one of the fine establishments listed below. They’re a bit off the tourist path, so get ready to hang out with some fun-seeking locals.
Forget Denver’s downtown. If you want an authentic Colorado bar experience visit Colfax Avenue, a long stretch of bars, restaurants, and music venues that will keep you entertained late into the night.
Cheap Denver Dive Bars I Recommend:
- Sancho’s Broken Arrow: An eccentric Grateful Dead themed bar with a heavy psychedelic vibe.
- Bluebird Theater: A once dilapidated music venue that sat empty for nearly 80 years before it was rebuilt in 1994. It now brings in a steady stream of great music.
- Atomic Cowboy: A bustling bar serving some of Denver’s best late-night pizza with countless local beers on tap.
- P S Lounge: Its jukebox — full of CDs from the ’80s and ’90s — is the best in town. Ladies receive a free rose and everyone gets a house Alabama Slammer with their first drink.
Behold! Denver’s most old-school jazz bar. A staple downtown since 1933, El Chapultapec pumps out soulful live jazz seven nights a week. Its red leather walls and intimate dance floor make this cash-only establishment as good as it gets. Arrive early and snag a booth. Music starts at 9:00.
What I Recommend: Your favorite cheap beer and Freddy Rodriguez Quartet (Wednesdays and Thursdays)
It’s not going to be easy to squeeze everything — all the wonderful activities, entertainment, food, drinks, and culture I’ve listed above — into 24 hours in Denver. But it can be done! Here’s my best itinerary for squeezing every last wonderful Denver activity in with only 24 hours to do so. (I believe in you.)
Day One: Budget-Friendly 24-Hour Itinerary in Denver
- 12:00 p.m. Check into your Denver accommodation and drop off bags
- 12:30 p.m. Eat Tex-Mex at Santiago’s
- 1:30 p.m. Sip craft beer at Black Sky Brewery
- 3:00 p.m. Soak in the sun at City Park
- 6:00 p.m. Go to a Rockies game
- 10:00 p.m. Listen to live Jazz at El Chapultapec
- 11:30 p.m. Crawl the bars on Colfax Ave.
- 1:30 a.m. Eat a post-bar meal at Jerusalem
Day Two: Budget-Friendly 24-Hour Itinerary in Denver
- 8:30 a.m. Eat breakfast at Tom’s Diner
- 9:45 a.m. Grab a coffee at Stella’s Coffee Haus
- 10:00 a.m. Wander the South Pearl Street Farmer’s Market
- 12:00 p.m. Check out of your accommodation
So, there you have it. All of my favorite Denver hot-spots in one eventful (and affordable) day. No, this isn’t your typical Downtown Denver cookie-cutter one-day itinerary. This is the “Best of Denver” through the eyes of a local. I hope you enjoy yourself in my beloved home state.
Denver takes travelers by surprise. Come and visit. You’ll see.
You’re bound to see that Denver has tons to do on the cheap, even if you’re only stopping by for one day.
Catch a baseball game at Coors Field. Take a culinary tour of a booming city on the rise. Stop by a local brewery and drink a couple of delicious craft beers. Wander the streets in search of cheap, energetic live music. Stroll farmers’ markets and sip fresh-brewed coffee as you soak in the crisp-aired city that keeps on giving.
So, come spend your 24 hours in Denver on a budget – it’s completely possible. I’ll buy the first round.
Book Your Flight
Use Booking.com — my go-to booking website — to reserve hotels and hostels in Denver. Search Hostelworld to browse a gigantic database of affordable hostel options. Book with Airbnb to rent apartments, houses, or rooms from locals.
Rent a Car
Protect Your Trip
Travel is unpredictable. Use World Nomads to insure your trip against illness, theft, injury, and cancellation. They’re widely trusted among backpackers and travelers worldwide.