Denver in One Day (On the Cheap): A Local’s 24-Hour Itinerary

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The Denver, Colorado skyline view from City Park

Denver in One Day (On the Cheap): A 24-Hour Itinerary

 

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 wallet, 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.

Getting to Denver from the Airport Affordably

Union Station — Denver, Colorado’s main ground transportation hub

 

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.

Not-So-Expensive Accommodation in Denver

If you’re looking to spend 24 affordable hours in Denver, you can find luck with cheap hotelsAirBnbs, Couchsurfing, or sleeping in hostels.

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 hosters 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

Affordable Activities and Entertainment in Denver

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.

Peruse the Stalls at South Pearl Street Farmer’s Market

A budget beekeeper wearing a cowboy hat stands on front of a farmers market in Denver

The Bee Wrangler peddling hemp honey at the South Pearl St. Farmers Market

 

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

South Pearl Street between Iowa and ArkansasWebsite


Soak in the Sun at City Park

City Park is more than just a park. Not only does it offer over 300 acres of grass, lakes, monuments, playgrounds, basketball courts, and more, but it is 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

2001 Colorado Blvd, Denver, CO | Website

Catch a Dirt-Cheap Rockies Game at Coors Field

German Marquez rearing back to throw a pitch at Coors Field in Denver, Colorado

No better park to catch a game than Coors Field

 

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 as cheap).

What I Recommend: A Rockpile ticket – $4 – and a cheeseburger at Smash Burger – $8.75

2001 Blake St, Denver, CO | Website

Budget-Friendly Food and Drinks in Denver

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.

Get Your Caffeine Fix at Stella’s Coffee Haus

A male and female barista hug as they smile at Stella's Coffee Haus

Get your boost at Stella’s

 

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 coffee is for, right?

What I Recommend: Iced chai when it’s hot outside – $4.15, cappuccino when it’s cold – $4.15

1476 S Pearl St, Denver, CO | Website


Listen to Metal and Drink Beer at Black Sky Brewery

The outside of Black Sky Brewery in Denver, Colorado with a wall painted black and a devil on the logo

Beer. Pizza. Metal. Black Sky Brewery.

 

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

490 Santa Fe Dr, Denver, CO | Website


Eat Denver’s Best Tex-Mex at Santiago’s

A Denver taco smothered in green chile that is delicious 24 hours a day

Santiago’s serves Colorado’s Best Tex-Mex — no questions asked

 

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

571 Santa Fe Dr, Denver, CO | Website


Devour a Late-Night Meal at Jerusalem

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

1890 E Evans Ave, Denver, CO | Website


Mingle with Denver’s Eccentrics at Tom’s Diner

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

601 E Colfax Ave, Denver, CO 80203 | Website

Cheap Nightlife in Denver

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.

Crawl the Bars, Music, and Restaurants on Colfax Ave.

A colorful and psychedelic sign for Sanchos Broken Arrow, an affordable bar in Denver, Colorado

Get weird at Sancho’s

 

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.

Dance to Live Jazz at El Chapultapec

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)

1962 Market St, Denver, CO | Website

A Cheap and Busy One-Day Itinerary for Denver

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.

Enjoy Denver in One Day (On the Cheap)!

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.

Plan Your Trip to Denver: Travel Tips & Resources

Book Your Flight

Find cheap flights to Denver by searching with Skyscanner or Momondo. Both sites pull fares from a huge network of airlines to help you find an affordable flight every time.

Book Accommodation

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

Search RentalCars.com to compare prices among hundreds of car rental brands. Use Turo to rent cars, trucks, campervans, (and more) from locals.

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.

Travel Better

Look through my complete list of travel and blogging resources and use my carry-on only packing list to get ready for your next trip. See precisely how I travel the world and maintain this blog.

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