Your Denver Layover Guide

See the Mile High City between flights.

By Hannah Lott-Schwartz

Denver may be laid-back, but its airport has a wholly different feel. Nearly 65 million travelers pass through Denver International Airport (DIA) each year, making it one of the busiest in the world. It’s also the second-largest airport anywhere, with plans to grow. DIA kicked off a $1.5 billion expansion last year and recently added a train with direct service between the airport and downtown so you no longer have to spend long layovers in a terminal. Instead, travelers with $10.50 and four or more hours between flights can take unlimited rides on the A Line to various neighborhoods across Colorado’s capital. Here’s how.

Denver Through the Ages

Make your first stop Union Station (1701 Wynkoop St.; 303-592-6712), at the end of the A Line. A $500 million renovation has transformed this beautiful Beaux-Arts relic from 1914 into a gathering place for both residents and tourists. But before you explore, consider making a quick detour across the street to drop your bags off at Lugden (1660 17th St., Suite B7; 303-747-5600; hourly bag storage, $3 a bag), a luggage storage service. Once you’re unencumbered, you can return to Union Station for a bite at any of the station’s 10 chef-owned restaurants. Keep an eye out for pastries, drinks, and other items made with honey from the urban hives on the roof.

If the weather’s nice and you want to stretch your legs, Denver B-cycle (303-825-3325; rentals, $9 a half hour) has dozens of bike-rental stations across the city. Or opt for a leisurely walk down the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long promenade just one block over from Union Station that’s lined with big-name brands, indie shops, and everything in between. Be sure to poke around the 16th Street location of Tattered Cover Book Store (1628 16th St.; 303-436-1070), a Denver institution since 1971 that holds regular events and a well-stocked supply of tomes both old and new.

When you’ve browsed your fill, it’s less than a 10-minute walk to the heart of Larimer Square, Denver’s oldest and most historic block. Twinkling market lights are strewn in the narrow alleys that lie between Larimer’s grand Victorian buildings. There’s also plenty that’s new: modern boutiques, bars, and eateries, many with patio seating ideal for people-watching.

For Art’s Sake

If you have the time, make your way next to two museums just a mile away: the Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy.; 720-865-5000; admission, $13), whose rotating exhibits focus on everything from midcentury design to large-scale paintings by emerging artists, and the Clyfford Still Museum (1250 Bannock St.; 720-354-4880; admission, $10), dedicated to the 20th-century abstract expressionist and home to 95 percent of his work.

Another option: Hop back on the A Line for a quick ride to 38th/Blake Station, gateway to the River North Art District. Better known as the RiNo, this former industrial area has become one of Denver’s most vibrant neighborhoods. It attracts creatives of all sorts, who have set up artist studios, craft breweries, and vintage boutiques. If you don’t have long, you can get an abridged version of the district at Zeppelin Station (3501 Wazee St.; 720-460-1978), a large multipurpose building with food stalls and small shops, including RiNo Made (720-710-9111), which sells products by only RiNo makers. Whittle away any remaining time by exploring the RiNo’s street art and stepping through any doorway that looks interesting—chances are, it is.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: June 2019