What are some of the best places in Denver for outdoor fun?

Denver is a growing city with 2.5 million people in the metropolitan area, and with the Great Plains sweeping away to the east, the foothills of the Rocky Mountains immediately to the west, and a dry, mild climate (where you’ll find 300 days of sunshine), it’s easy to see why so many people have flocked here. To enjoy the magnificent scenery for yourself, check out these top spots in Denver:

1. Denver Botanic Gardens. Entering these gardens is like stepping into a tropical paradise. Roam the 23 acres with more than 15,000 types of plants. Stop by the new 50,000-square-foot Greenhouse Complex, which houses a two-story pavilion filled with waterfalls and orchids, and the Orangery, which shelters citrus trees in the style of fashionable 17th-century European homes.

2. The Denver Zoo. The beautiful 80-acre grounds here host nearly 4,000 animals. Visit the unusual monkeys and apes in the Primate Panorama, and then the polar bears and sea lions in the arctic Northern Shores.

3. Hyland Hills Water World. This is one of the largest water parks in the country — adults can cool off in the football-field-sized wave pool and fly down one of the 12 thrill-seeking rides. Then bring the kids to Wally World, a miniature water park specifically for the short set.

  • On November 11, 2011
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is there to see in Denver?

    Running through the center of Denver’s downtown shopping district, 16th Street Mall is a tree-lined pedestrian promenade of red and gray granite. Outdoor cafés, shops, restaurants, hotels, fountains and plazas line its mile-long walk, and European-built shuttle buses offer transportation from either end of the promenade. Along the mall, you’ll find Larimer Square. This restoration of the first street in Denver includes a collection of shops, galleries, nightclubs and restaurants set among Victorian courtyards, gaslights, arcades and buildings. Get a full tour by taking a carriage ride around the square.

    If you’re looking for vintage items, you’ll find more than 400 shops along a 14-block stretch of South Broadway that sell everything from books and music to vintage Western wear and museum-quality furniture on Antique Row. Take the light rail to Broadway and Interstate 25 (I-25) to begin your tour. Most dealers are between the 400 and 2000 blocks of South Broadway and the 25 and 27 blocks of East Dakota Avenue.

    Arvada Center for Arts & Humanities hosts concerts, plays, classes, demonstrations, art galleries and a banquet hall. The amphitheater seats 1,200 (June to early September). There’s also a historical museum with an old cabin and pioneer artifacts. Downtown Aquarium-Denver is another cultural gem. This world-class 106,500-square-foot aquarium brings visitors face-to-face with more than 300 species of fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates from around the world. Be sure to check out the pool stocked with stingrays.

    A ride on the Ski Train from downtown Denver to Winter Mountain Ski Resort in Winter Park has been a favorite day trip for skiers, hikers, bikers and family vacationers in Denver since 1940. Operating on weekends year-round, the 14-car train takes you on a spectacular 60-mile wilderness ride through the Rockies and across the Continental Divide, climbing 4,000 feet and passing through 28 tunnels before dropping you off at the front entrance of the beautiful Winter Park Resort. Tickets are for round-trip, same-day rides only, and reservations are highly recommended.