10 budget-friendly places around Denver

Interactive map of places in this post, plus  ONA16 conference hotel, the Hyatt Regency in downtown Denver /Lauren Booker

By Deonna Anderson #iamdeonna
and Lauren Booker #laurenbisme

[junkie-dropcap]C[/junkie-dropcap]olorado is known for its diverse landscape, including such high points as Rocky Mountain National Park and Pikes Peak. Beyond such natural beauty, Colorado — especially the Online News Association Conference 2016’s host city Denver —  has a lot to explore.

But conferences can be expensive,  and your finances might not stretch to spending a lot on extra activities. So, we’re here to help, with 10 affordable options for fun outside of ONA16.

Got more of your own to suggest? Share below in comments!

colorado state capitol
State Capitol, Denver, Colorado / J. Stephen Conn

1. Colorado State Capitol Tour

Location: 200 E. Colfax Ave., Denver, Colo 80203

Description: Colorado’s State Capitol building, modeled after the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., offers three tours — historical, legislative and the dome walk. On the dome walk, visitors  can climb a 99-step spiral staircase to an open-air deck with a view of the the city skyline and the Rocky Mountains, according to the Capitol website. While reservations for tours of the Capitol building are encouraged, you can always join a tour that is not at capacity or take a self-guided tour. Unfortunately, the dome is off limits on self-guided tours.

Hours of operation: The Colorado State Capitol is open to the public from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday  Group tours are offered on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 

Link to related website: https://www.colorado.gov/cga-legislativecouncil/tours-0

2. Clyfford Still Museum

Location: 1250 Bannock St., Denver, Colo 80204

Description: Clyfford Still is considered one of the most important painters of  the 20th century. He was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, who used abstract forms, expressive brushwork, and monumental scale to convey themes related to the “human condition” — creation, life, struggle, and death. The museum’s collection includes about 3,125 of Still’s works created between 1920 and 1980, according to the museum’s website. Entrance is free from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday. Otherwise, tickets are $10 for adults (or $9, if purchased online), $8 for seniors 65 years or older, and $6 for students and teachers with valid ID.

Hours of operation: Closed on Monday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Link to related website: https://clyffordstillmuseum.org

3.  Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Rocky Mountain Arsenal
Sunrise, Lake Ladora, Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. September 11, 2011 / / Michael Levine-Clark

 Location: 6550 Gateway Road, Commerce City, Colo. 80022

Description: Located northeast of Denver, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is home to more than 330 species of wildlife, including bison, bald eagles, deer and burrowing owls. The species on the land vary each season, according to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal. During fall, visitors can expect to see coyotes, mule and white-tailed deer bucks. Long before becoming a refuge managed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1990s, the site was where Plains Indians followed bison and lived off the land.  During World War II, it was transformed into a chemical weapons manufacturing facility — where its name originated — and later used for Cold War weapons production.

Hours of operation: The refuge is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The visitor center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.  Entrance is free.

Link to related website: https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Rocky_Mountain_Arsenal/visit/plan_your_visit.html

4.  Great Divide Brewing Co.’s Ballpark: Brewery & Tap Room

Great Divide Brewing Co.
Great Divide Brewing Co. / Dan Cederholm

Location: 2201 Arapahoe St., Denver, Colo. 80205

Description: Great Divide’s original brewery and taproom were established in 1994. The brewery has 16 taps of seasonal and year-round brews. And you can take bottles to go. While ONA16 attendees are in Denver, they can enjoy Great Divide’s Hoss Oktoberfest Lager. The brewery is a six-minute drive, 15-minute bus ride or 20-minute walk from the conference venue.  If you’re hungry, the brewery has food trucks on site daily.

Hours of operation: Tours are offered on the hour between 3 and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and between 2 and 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The average tour time is 30 minutes. If you want to visit outside of tour hours, the brewery is open from noon to 8 p.m. Sunday through Tuesday and noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Link to related website: http://greatdivide.com

5.  United States Mint – Denver Mint

Location: 320 West Colfax Ave., Denver, Colo 80204-2693

Description: Visitors can learn about the history of the United States Mint, the country’s only manufacturer of legal coinage and commemorative coins. The Denver Mint, established in 1863, is one of six mint facilities in the U.S. Reservations are required, along with some security regulations.  And, yes, you can take some products home with you, via the mint’s gift shop.

Hours of operation: Tours are offered from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday.

Link to related website: http://www.usmint.gov/mint_tours/?action=startreservation

6. Denver Botanic Gardens

Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory, Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, Denver / Daderot
Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory, Denver Botanic Gardens, 1007 York Street, Denver / Daderot

Location: 1007 York St., Denver, Colo. 80206

Description: The Denver Botanic Gardens feature a variety of spaces at York Street, just a short drive away from the conference location. Spanning 24 acres, the park is home to international, water and arid gardens.   The garden also has a Science Pyramid that allows visitors to step inside and learn about the steppe regions through technology. The dining options in the York Street location include Offshoots Café, which features locally produced ingredients, and seasonal fare bistro the Hive. Cost is $12.50.

Hours of operation:  9 a.m. to 8 p.m.Monday through Sunday

Link to related website: http://www.botanicgardens.org/

7.  Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum, Hamilton Building / Daniel Libeskind, 2006
Denver Art Museum, Hamilton Building / Daniel Libeskind, 2006

Location: 100 W. 14th Ave. Parkway, Denver, Colo. 80204

Description: With more than 70,000 works of art, the Denver Art Museum features art exhibitions that will pique the interests of many. The current exhibitions include Women of Abstract Expressionism, Rhythm & Roots and #Dancelab. There are also foreign works of art displayed in Shock Wave, which is an exhibition on Japanese fashion design, and Printed and Painted, a display of bark cloth from the Pacific. For Colorado residents, it’s $10; others, $13.

Hours of operation: Closed Monday. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, 

Link to related website: http://denverartmuseum.org/

8.  LoDo (Lower Downtown District)

Location: Office, 1536 Wynkoop St., Ste. 108, Denver, Colo. 80202

Description: The Lower Downtown District is home to a wide range of art galleries, food options and indie shops. Attractions in LoDo, the oldest neighborhood in Denver, include the Museum of Contemporary Art, Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park and Coors Field, home to the Colorado Rockies baseball team. If you feel the need to unwind and relax, try  Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa. The food options are all encompassing, from coffee shops to nightclubs to international restaurants.

Hours of operation: Hours vary

Link to related website: http://www.lodo.org

9. Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave 

Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, Golden, Colorado.
Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, Golden, Colorado. The Phasaka Tepee was once the main building and is now a gift shop / Wally Gobetz

Location: 987 1/2 Lookout Mountain Rd., Golden, Colo. 80401

Description: A renowned figure in the American West, Buffalo Bill was known for his skills in hunting bison and for his Wild West shows. Exhibits at the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave commemorate his life and achievements. It’s about a half-hour drive west of Denver.  Take advantage of the free admission on Sunday, Sept. 18 to see cultural presentations by Native Americans. If you can’t make it Sunday, admission will be $5 for adults.

Hours of operation: Monday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Link to related website: http://www.buffalobill.org


10.  16th Street Mall – Pedestrian Mall

Location: 16th Street, Denver, Colo. 80265


With more than 300 stores, Denver’s Pedestrian Mall is sure to have something for any shopper. There are chain stores like Express, Banana Republic and Ann Taylor. The mile-long mall also has local shops, such as Fashion Denver, Eve Inc. and Molly’s of Denver. A number of restaurants,  including Yard House, Rio and McCormicks offer drinks and food drinks during happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m. Tip: The mall recently increased security after several  incidents of assaults made the news earlier this  summer. Visitors are advised to exercise caution, especially late at night.


Hours of operation: Open 24 hours

Link to related website: http://16thstreetmalldenver.com