Budget Friendly Denver

AAA/Frank Swanson
By AAA Travel Editor Frank Swanson
October 03, 2018
Denver, one of the fastest growing cities in the country, has also seen its cost of living increase as well, and visitors have been feeling the pinch with cheap hotel rooms virtually impossible to find. If you find your own vacation budget stretched to the breaking point, here are five top things to do downtown that also happen to be great bargains.
The American Museum of Western Art in the historic Navarre Building in downtown Denver, Colorado
AAA/Frank Swanson
American Museum of Western Art – The Anschutz Collection
1727 Tremont Place
(303) 293-2000
One of Denver’s fun things to do for less than $10 is to spend an afternoon wandering among paintings of dramatic landscapes, cowboys and Native Americans at the American Museum of Western Art – The Anschutz Collection. Captivating paintings are arrayed from floor to ceiling salon style, and an audio device allows you to learn about collection highlights at your own pace. The Victorian-era Navarre Building housing the collection has a history every bit as colorful as the paintings inside. Starting out as a girls’ school (1880s), it became a bordello and gambling den (1890s), then took a turn as a swinging jazz club owned by bandleader Peanuts Hucko (1960s) before being refurbished to house the current museum (1990s).
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Cheesman Park Pavilion in Cheesman Park, Denver, Colorado
AAA/Frank Swanson
Cheesman Park
1599 E. 8th Ave.
(720) 913-1311
Cheesman Park should be on your list of places to go in Denver for a number of reasons: its tree-lined paths, sweeping lawns and flower beds are lovely, it’s on a hill and on a clear day offers spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains, and the Neoclassical Cheesman Pavilion at its center is a perfect setting for vacation photos. Best of all: There’s no entry fee because it’s a public city park. Take time to wander outside its boundaries to ogle the neighborhood’s historic mansions or visit the AAA GEM Denver Botanic Gardens (though it does charge a fee), which occupies the park’s eastern edge.
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The Denver Trolley on the South Platte River in downtown Denver, Colorado
AAA/Frank Swanson
Denver Trolley
1416 Platte St.
(303) 458-6255
Searching for fun things to do with kids but don’t want to bust your travel budget? Riding the open-air Denver Trolley along the South Platte River is not only exciting for little ones, but a fascinating journey into a bygone era for the whole family and costs just $5 a person. The short 25-minute trip out and back does double duty as a sightseeing excursion (you’ll have excellent views of downtown and Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park) and as a method of transportation—it stops to let passengers on and off at the Downtown Aquarium, The Children's Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus and Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
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Small cakes on display in a bakery
iStockphoto.com/Ivlianna
The Market
1445 Larimer St.
AAA Inspector Rating
(303) 534-5140
The Market has been a Denver landmark since 1983, when it opened in an ornate 1870s Victorian commercial building in historic Larimer Square. Once a down-and-out neighborhood of dilapidated storefronts threatened with urban renewal, Larimer Square is now the epicenter of a thriving district of places to eat, drink, shop and listen to live music. The Market played a part in the transformation, attracting locals with its freshly prepared food, generous portions and affordable prices. If you’re looking for an East Coast-style deli or crave a decadent dessert, this is the place.
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Exterior view of the U.S. Mint building with sign
powerofforever/iStockphoto.com
U.S. Mint
320 W. Colfax Ave.
(303) 405-4761
Although breaking into the AAA GEM U.S. Mint might be easier than scoring a coveted tour ticket and dealing with the procedural hassles (armed escort, metal detector, no bags or purses allowed, no place on site to store bags or purses, etc.), getting a peek inside the place where all those quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies are made is still among Denver’s most impressive things to see. And at zero dollars, the price of admission is pretty good. (Their jokey motto is, “We don’t need your money. We make our own.”) You’ll learn all about the process of minting coins as well as the mint’s history in Denver, and you’ll get to look down onto the production floor as machines spit out shiny new pocket change.
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