Situated in the heart of the Rocky Mountain region, with spectacular mountain views in all directions, Denver is a thriving city with great restaurants and breweries, museums and, most importantly, super-easy access to exciting winter outdoor activities.
Whether you’re looking for an urban winter adventure, or plan to venture beyond the city limits for winter fun, the Mile High City has plenty of wonderful surprises in store.
Tubing is Denver’s quintessential winter pastime, and Colorado Adventure Park is arguably the best spot to do it. The park boasts several groomed hills and terrains that satisfy every level and need for speed. You can rent single or double tubes. And you don’t have to trek up a hill either. Just take the lift, and you’re ready for another exciting ride down. Sit back in an Adirondack chair when you’ve had enough and toast a few s’mores.
For a more meditative experience, strap on snowshoes and head to Rocky Mountain National Park, located about an hour and a half from Denver. Winter is the perfect time to escape the crowds that flock here during warmer months. There are miles of trails that cut through dense pine forests and lead to frozen lakes and rivers, surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the majestic Rockies.
The Blossoms of Light at the Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the city’s most anticipated winter events. Thousands of twinkling lights adorn the snow-covered gardens. A nightly stroll here feels very much like a winter wonderland, complete with warm drinks and delicious treats. Denver Zoo Lights is an equally beautiful event, where elaborate installations bring the wonder and beauty of wildlife and nature to colorful life.
If you thought that Denverites give up bike riding in winter, you’d be wrong. They keep their wheels spinning with bigger tires that allow them to navigate snow-covered trails. Resorts such as Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby or Devil’s Thumb Ranch in Tabernash (both less than a two-hour drive from Denver) have packed snow trails that are ideal for fat bike riding.
The centrally located Downtown Denver Ice Rink is a seasonal favorite. There are always special events throughout the season, from yoga classes to music parties. But for something a little different, head to Evergreen Park where, when Mother Nature cooperates, you can skate on a frozen lake. And for some “old-fashioned skating,” take a drive out to Louisville, located a half hour outside of Denver. You can enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, live music, local vendors and the 5,000-square-foot rink.
It makes sense that you can snowboard and ski right in the heart of Denver’s city center. In fact, Ruby Hill Rail Yard is the only urban terrain park of its kind in the country. The goal of the rail yard is to make winter sports accessible for everyone. That’s why snowboarding and skiing here are always free. Moreover, each year, the rail yard designates days on which even the gear is free of charge.
Who wants to be cooped up in sprawling indoor malls when 16th St. Mall — a lively, mile-long, tree-lined promenade — makes shopping outdoors a pleasure. There are hundreds of retail shops, restaurants and bars, many of which are outfitted for outdoor dining even in winter. And you’re likely to come across nightly events and entertainment, too. For a more curated shopping and dining experience, head to Denver’s trendy LoDo neighborhood to check out Dairy Block.
Outdoor sports may reign in Colorado, but beer is also king here. You’d need a lifetime to sample all the local brews. Not to worry: Come winter, Denver hosts an extravagant beer celebration called Winter Brew Fest. Swing by and you can taste some of the best creations from master microbrewers across the state. Craft vendors, food trucks and live entertainment will be on hand, so a good time is pretty much guaranteed.
A mere 20-minute drive will take you to the charming town of Golden. Start your visit with a stroll down Clear Creek Trail, which runs through the downtown area, with historic buildings from Colorado’s gold rush days that now house breweries, unique shops, art galleries and restaurants. And Golden’s museum list is as long as its history. Stop by the Colorado Railroad Museum and the Golden History Museum. The geology and quilt museums are also worth a visit. And don’t miss Golden History Park, a re-creation of a typical old mountain ranch.
If you plan on doing lots of winter activities in Denver, then schedule some downtime at Indian Hot Springs, located 30 miles outside the city. Picture this: a glass atrium, lush tropical plants and you soaking in a hot mineral pool with temperatures just above 100ºF. Or warm up in a geothermal cave that also features hot mineral baths. For more relaxation, book a massage or a spa treatment.
Gear up: If you plan to enjoy winter outdoor activities in Denver, find out exactly the type of equipment and gear you might need. Most places will rent necessary gear, but you can probably save money by bringing your own or borrowing from friends and family. Either way, make sure you’re prepared.
Plan for transport: Some of the best things to do in the Denver area in winter require a car, so plan accordingly. At Avail’s airport and convenient neighborhood locations, you can skip the rental counter line and be on your way in minutes.
Book ahead: Cold winter weather doesn’t stop Denverites or visitors from seeking out winter activities like ice skating, tubing, snowboarding and skiing. So for a guaranteed spot, take the time to book activities in advance.
You'll need a car if you want to pack as many activities as possible into your Denver winter trip. When you borrow a car with Avail, you'll have access to local, clean and safe vehicles of all sizes. And Avail's upfront, affordable pricing includes 24/7 roadside assistance and insurance coverage from Allstate so you can enjoy your trip with peace of mind.
Cruise along the Pacific Coast or head inland to weave through the mountains. These 15 scenic drives in and near Los Angeles are perfect for your next road trip.
Planning a camping trip? Use these 10 tips to ensure you have what you need for a fun, comfortable outdoor adventure.