Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver’s Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Get High Without Getting High - Enjoying the Mountain Views for Free
With the majestic Rocky Mountains towering above it, Denver is a city that begs to be explored vertically as well as horizontally. Thankfully, altitude-seeking travelers don’t need to break the bank to access those sweet mountain vistas and thin, crisp air.
Red Rocks Park, just 15 miles outside of Denver, offers spectacular natural scenery complete with around 200 rock formations, hiking trails winding through pine forests, and amphitheaters carved right into red sandstone cliffs. The park’s elevation ranges from 6,450 to 6,940 feet above sea level, meaning you can easily get a Rocky Mountain high—naturally—by exploring the ridges and valleys. Entrance to the park is just $10 per vehicle. Go early to snag one of the first-come, first-served camping spots if you want to wake up surrounded by those red rock walls.
Genesee Park, nestled in the foothills west of Denver, tops out at 8,500 feet elevation. Free shuttles run on weekends in summer so you can avoid the parking fee and get ferried to various trailheads. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the network of trails, from easy paths skirting beaver ponds to challenging climbs with rewarding summit views.
Pack a picnic and head to Mount Falcon Park in Jefferson County to combine phenomenal panoramas, a refreshing dose of mountain air at 7,200 feet elevation, and free admission. The views of the Continental Divide get better and better as you ascend the network of hiking trails culminating with the ruins of John Brisben Walker’s mountaintop castle.
If you want to get even higher without paying a cent, drive Trail Ridge Road through Rocky Mountain National Park. The scenic highway crests at 12,183 feet—the highest paved road in America—yielding nonstop vistas of craggy peaks, verdant valleys, and wildflowers in bloom. Entry is free on 6 designated fee-free days throughout 2023. Or apply for an annual parks pass which provides unlimited access to all national parks for just $80.
Finally, skip the lift ticket and ride the free bus up to the base of the lifts at Keystone Resort. At 11,444 feet, the summit here offers the same far-reaching views of snow-capped mountains without forcing skiers and riders to pay for access. Wander the village, snap some selfies with the mountain panorama behind you, and fill your lungs with that fresh alpine air.
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- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Get High Without Getting High - Enjoying the Mountain Views for Free
- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Cheap Eats and Local Treats - Affordable Dining Options
- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Hit the Slopes on the Cheap - Saving on Skiing and Snowboarding
- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Brewery Hopping - Finding Denver's Best Beers for Less
- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Free Entertainment and Activities - Museums, Parks and More
- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Transportation Deals - Discounted Getting Around Option
- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Lodging Bargains - Hostels, Hotel Deals and Creative Accommodations
- Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Insider Tips to Save - Locals Share Their Money-Saving Hacks
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Cheap Eats and Local Treats - Affordable Dining Options
Satisfying your hunger in the Mile High City doesn’t have to put a dent in your wallet. From authentic Mexican joints to hip coffee shops, Denver offers plenty of cheap eats where you can fill up on local flavor for $10 or less per meal.
Start your day right with a hearty breakfast sandwich or burrito from one of the many locations of Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant. This local favorite serves up classic dishes like huevos rancheros, chilaquiles, and breakfast burritos loaded with eggs, potatoes, cheese and your choice of meat for under $5. Grab a booth or belly up to the counter and enjoy watching the skilled grill cooks in action.
For a caffeine fix, head to Weathervane Cafe or Stella’s Coffee Haus. At these indie cafes near downtown and South Broadway, you can get a tasty latte or mocha for $3-4 and linger over your laptop while soaking up the chill, artsy vibe. The pastries, breakfast tacos and loaded toast at Weathervane are winners too.
When it comes to lunch, bicyclists,hipsters, students and business folks alike flock to Illegal Pete’s for Mission-style burritos bursting with flavorful fillings like chipotle chicken, chili verde pork and grilled veggies. A regular-size original burrito costs just $6.50. Enjoy a Mountain Sun Pubdraft beer for $3 or splurge on a margarita for $5.
For authentic, inexpensive Vietnamese food, dive into steaming bowls of pho, banh mi sandwiches, or vermicelli bowls heaped with grilled pork, shrimp and veggies at New Saigon. Entrees hover around $9-11. Order the salt and pepper calamari as an appetizer if you want to sample their non-traditional cuisine. This family-owned spot in an unassuming strip mall is popular with locals.
If you’re craving Italian, check out Marco’s Coal Fired Pizza for artisanal pies cooked in a coal-fired oven. A personal 10-inch pizza like the margherita or funghi will run you $8-9. Happy hour brings even cheaper deals on beer, wine and cocktails to help you wash it all down. The exposed brick walls, dark wood and romantic lighting make Marco's a hip date spot too.
For a sweet treat, Coolberries Creamery & Yogurt has you covered. Create your own frozen yogurt sundae with tasty toppings like fresh fruit, candies and hot fudge for around $5. Or order their signature gelato - about $4 a cup. The bright, modern shop offers a nice respite on a hot day. Kids love the self-serve format too.
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Hit the Slopes on the Cheap - Saving on Skiing and Snowboarding
With world-class ski resorts like Vail, Breckenridge, and Aspen drawing travelers from across the globe, hitting the slopes in Colorado can put some serious strain on your wallet. Lift tickets alone will set you back over $100 a day at many destinations. Then you have to factor in ski or snowboard rentals, lodging, food, and more lift tickets if you want to ride multiple resorts. But savvy shredders can slash costs and still enjoy epic skiing and riding without breaking the bank.
The key is flexibility. Jay Blevins from Boulder raves about the 4-Pack deal from Vail Resorts which allowed him to score 4 days of skiing for just $349 instead of the usual $700+ he would’ve paid buying individual lift tickets. “It was awesome to be able to ski Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone and not be locked into any one resort,” Jay said. “I chased the best snow conditions each day and got way more value.” Vail Resorts offers the 4-Pack and also a 10-Day Adult Classic Pass that can save you up to 50% off window lift ticket rates.
For even more flexibility, a season pass like the Ikon or Epic Local can unlock skiing and riding at over 20 Colorado resorts for the entire winter. James Tan from Denver invested in the Ikon Base Pass which set him back $750 but has already paid for itself in his eyes. “I've been able to hit Arapahoe Basin, Winter Park, Steamboat and Copper and we're only halfway through the season,” said James. “I'll ski free for the rest of the winter.” Look for early purchase incentives to save up to $150 on season passes.
Once you’ve got your pass, you can save big on rentals and lessons through discounted package deals. Many resorts partner with local shops to offer rent, lesson and lift packages like a 2-day Learn to Ski deal with rentals, 2 lessons and a lift ticket for under $275 at Loveland. Multi-day lesson packages bring rates down incrementally, so a 3 or 4 day option can save you 15-20%. “Taking lessons multiple days in a row allowed me to progress so much faster,” said Alicia Meyers from Austin. “Our instructor got to know my learning style and I was skiing blues by the end.”
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Brewery Hopping - Finding Denver's Best Beers for Less
Known for its craft brew scene, Denver is a hoppy paradise—if you know where to go. With over 100 breweries in the metro area, there are plenty of places to belly up to the bar for budget suds without sacrificing taste. The key is tapping into the local insider knowledge.
“Skip the downtown breweries. That’s where you’re paying tourist prices,” advises Tom Wilson, homebrewer and president of the Mile High City Brew Club. “Head to neighborhoods like Five Points, Sunnyside and Berkeley to hang with locals and avoid inflated happy hour rates.”
Wilson recommends hitting up Ratio Beerworks on sunny afternoons. “They have picnic tables outside and $2 off pints from 1-4 pm. You can’t beat their Dear You dark lager or Hold Steady chocolate rye ale when the weather’s nice.” First Draft Taproom & Kitchen is another favorite for everyday drink specials. “Their list is always changing and weeknights from 9-close, drafts are $4-5 no matter what you order,” says Wilson.
For a true hidden gem, Allison Davis from Denver Beer Divas suggests heading down South Broadway to Baere Brewing Company. “It’s kind of off the main drag but that just means less crowds and more chill vibes. Happy hour is every day from 3-6 pm with $1 off full pours.” She says to try one of Baere’s rotating sours or their Good vibes IPA if you like hoppy brews.
While mega-breweries like Coors, Breckenridge and New Belgium run tours and have sprawling taprooms perfect for sampling flights, true suds scholars know where to sip for less. “Skip the big names and ask the bartender at your local dive what Colorado brews they have on tap,” advises Davis. “You can often score BOGO deals on pitchers at neighborhood bars without dealing with the chaos of a tour bus drop-off.”
Don't be afraid to chat up fellow barflies either. Denver natives are always eager to share their favorite watering holes. Mark Levine, resident beer buff, enjoys throwing back pints at small neighborhood taprooms like Call to Arms Brewing Company, where the super-fresh beer is cheap and the vibe is all locals. "I discovered CTRMS because some regulars were raving about their Dear Mr. Fantasy hazy IPA when I popped in Muse Brewery one night after work. Now it's my go-to spot too."
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Free Entertainment and Activities - Museums, Parks and More
Art aficionados flock to the Denver Art Museum (DAM), which offers free general admission on the first Saturday of each month. The diverse collections span from Native American art to modern masterpieces. Emily Chang says, “I love attending on the free days. The crowds aren’t too crazy, and I can take my time exploring all the galleries at my own pace.” She suggests taking advantage of the museum’s large sculpture garden and rooftop café—no admission required.
Another beloved yet budget-friendly spot is the Denver Botanic Gardens. Melanie Hastings raves, “I was so impressed that it only costs $15 to explore 24 acres of gorgeous gardens and greenhouses. That’s an absolute steal.” Free Community Days run once monthly from November to April, granting complimentary access to all the gardens' exhibits.
History buffs find plenty to love at the History Colorado Center downtown where select exhibits are always free. James Wilson recommend catching a free 45-minute tour on Saturdays and Sundays. “The guides really bring the past to life,” he says. “Even the paid exhibitions are worth it for just $14 admission.”
For family-friendly fun, check out the Downtown Aquarium. Sarah Chang loves browsing the aquatic exhibits with her kiddos. “My kids can watch the mermaid shows and explore Stingray Reef for free. Of course they beg to go on the rides too, but we can easily spend a whole afternoon just enjoying the free parts.”
In summer, free pop-jet fountains at Commons Park offer another oasis to beat the heat—bring your bathing suit! And free fitness classes like yoga in the park can get your sweat on without spending a dime.
From live music and festivals to parades and street fairs, Denver serves up endless free entertainment options. The bustling 16th Street Mall hosts free performances by local bands and touring groups nearly everyday. Or time your visit for the Five Points Jazz Festival, Denver PrideFest or Colorado Dragon Boat Festival.
When asked for his inside scoop on free attractions, lifelong Denverite Mark Chen advises, “Don’t underestimate our amazing public library system. From author talks to art exhibits, there’s always free events happening at the Central Library downtown and throughout the city.”
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Transportation Deals - Discounted Getting Around Option
Getting around the Mile High City is a breeze thanks to Denver’s user-friendly public transit system. Savvy sightseers can navigate the city affordably by taking advantage of discounted transportation deals.
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates Denver’s network of buses and light rail lines. Frequent service to downtown and major attractions makes RTD the simplest and cheapest way for visitors to get around.
“I barely had to wait 5 minutes for the next train anytime I wanted to zip downtown from my Airbnb in Capitol Hill,” says Anne Miller, who relied solely on RTD during her Denver getaway. “Even late at night, I never felt stranded.”
A 3-hour pass costs just $3.50 and provides unlimited rides on any bus or train during that timeframe. Dianna Cheng recommends the day pass option: “For only $6, I could take as many trips as I wanted for a full 24 hours. That came in handy when I was criss-crossing the city to hit up different breweries.”
Traveling in a group? The Regional Day Pass is an even better bargain at just $12 for a carload of up to 6 people. Erica Chang used this with friends on a recent Denver trip. “We packed our group into one car but then just took the train or bus everywhere. It ended up being less than $2 per person for the whole day of transportation.”
Looking to venture into the mountains? RTD’s bus routes extend beyond the city center to access iconic destinations like Red Rocks Park, Golden, and Boulder. Though one-way fares departing from downtown Denver cost $5-9, the scenery makes it worthwhile.
“The bus ride to Red Rocks along Bear Creek Canyon was like a mini-sightseeing tour,” Chang says. “We got to soak in the mountain views without the cost and hassle of driving ourselves.”
If you’ll rely heavily on public transit during an extended stay, consider picking up a 7-Day Regional Pass for $30. This provides unlimited use of all RTD services including airport routes.
“The weekly pass paid for itself by the third day of my trip,” calculates Derek Sims, who used it to commute to trailheads and back each day. “RTD made it easy to have a car-free visit without the typical public transit headaches.”
Besides the RTD network, free shuttles provide transportation access to popular districts like Lower Downtown (LoDo) and Cherry Creek. These are operated by the Downtown Denver Partnership and Cherry Creek Shopping Center respectively.
“I never paid a cent for transportation between my hotel downtown and the shops and restaurants of Cherry Creek thanks to the free hop-on, hop-off shuttle,” says Jenn Hughes. “It was clean, frequent, and dropped me off right at the door of the stores.”
Travel experts visiting Denver encourage taking advantage of these transportation deals to avoid rental car costs. “Between RTD’s light rail and buses, the free shuttles, andabundant rideshare scooters and bikes, I got everywhere I needed to go without ever needing a car,” Miller reports.
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Lodging Bargains - Hostels, Hotel Deals and Creative Accommodations
“I saved over $100 a night by booking my Denver trip for late April instead of peak summer,” explains Michael Chen. “The weather was still mild with some snow left in the mountains. Fall is another sweet spot for lower hotel prices.”
Consider using opaque booking sites like Hotwire and Priceline to unlock deep discounts at major hotel chains. “I only paid $75 per night for a 4-star hotel downtown by booking through Hotwire’s ‘Hot Rate Deals,’” says Lauren Kim. “I didn’t know the hotel name until after booking but the savings were worth it.”
Hostels offer an ultra-affordable lodging option with prime locations and built-in community. The Hostel Fish in downtown Denver has boutique-style private rooms from just $40 per night alongside economical dorm-style beds. “I loved meeting fellow travelers from around the world in the communal kitchen and lounge areas,” says James Moore. “Even the dorms felt surprisingly quiet and secure.”
Those craving nature can camp on a budget at one of Denver’s many KOAs. “We booked a KOA cabin with a kitchenette for under $100 and enjoyed mountain views right from our campsite,” explains the Chang family. Sites with full hook-ups allow RVers to save on lodging too.
Temporary residents eager to live like a local turn to services like Furnished Finder. “I rented a furnished basement apartment in Wash Park for a month,” says Heidi Boyd. “It was half the price of an extended stay hotel.”
For ultra-short stays, options like Dayuse allow travelers to book blocks of time at hotels. “I booked a Dayuse rate at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco to shower and freshen up before my redeye,” explains Alex Mi. “It was just $50 for 5 hours in their gorgeous spa-inspired room.”
Those with friends in the area can crash on couches found via Couchsurfing. “We stayed free with a friendly host who gave us insider tips on exploring Denver’s vibrant neighborhoods,” recalls the Yangs. “It was a cultural exchange more than just a place to sleep.”
Mile High City on a Dime: Experiencing Denver's Breweries and Mountains Without Breaking the Bank - Insider Tips to Save - Locals Share Their Money-Saving Hacks
Ask any local and they’ll tell you the real Denver is found off the tourist track in the city’s vibrant neighborhoods. Savvy sightseers tap into inside knowledge to uncover hidden gems while keeping their wallets intact.
Lifelong Denverite Mark Chen reveals his favorite free attraction is the downtown branch of the public library. “It offers breathtaking architecture, regular author talks, and free exhibits year-round,” he says. “The Western History section provides interactive displays detailing Colorado’s frontier past.”
For cheap eats, office worker Alicia Meyers skips the downtown lunch rush in favor of street food. “I love walking a few blocks to the civic center on my lunch break and grabbing banh mi sandwiches, empanadas, or tacos for under $5 from the food trucks lined up along Bannock Street,” she says. “The variety is amazing and I get to soak up some sunshine.”
When seeking budget-friendly brews, homebrewer Tom Wilson bypasses crowded downtown taprooms in favor of neighborhood gems. “I bike over to Call To Arms Brewing in the Tennyson district to fill my growler for less than $15,” he explains. “The brewmaster is usually hanging out and happy to chat about his latest IPAs and stouts.”
Nature lover Melanie Hastings takes advantage of free Saturdays at Denver Botanic Gardens. “I love exploring the tropical conservatory when admission is complimentary,” she says. “It’s so serene wandering through the orchids and humidity on a cold winter day.”
For cheap outdoor adventures, anesthesiologist Dan Martin invests in an annual National Parks pass. “For $80, I have year-round access to hike, climb and explore Rocky Mountain National Park,” he explains. “My Golden Age pass gets me and my carload of friends or family in free.”
When seeking deals on lift tickets, skier Jay Blevins swears by multi-resort passes. “The Epic and Ikon passes unlock so many mountains at a fraction of the cost of buying individual tickets,” he says. “I ski at a different area every weekend and will easily get 30+ days this season.”
For car-free travel, engineer Derek Sims relies on RTD’s regional day pass. “Whether I’m exploring downtown or the mountains, the all-day pass allows unlimited rides on any bus or train for just $12,” he explains. “It’s the cheapest way for our group to get around.”