There are plenty of reasons to visit Denver and Colorado Springs. But it all boils down to the type of environment you enjoy most.
Do you see yourself as a city lover hungry for vibrant nightlife options and dining opportunities? Or would you rather escape to parks and mountain trails to enjoy a paradise of landscape scenery?
If you said yes to parks and mountain trails, you’ll fit right in Colorado Springs. But if nightlife and dining opportunities are your main priority, you’d enjoy Denver more.
Then again, there are a few things that might change your mind once you learn more about each city.
Denver is known for its nightlife and excellent food options. But that doesn’t mean partying and eating are the only highlights the city has to offer. Shopping, history, art museums, sports stadiums, parks, and even outdoor adventure. Denver has it all.
With regards to outdoor adventure though, it’s about a 30- to 60-minute drive to the mountains. Nevertheless, Denver still offers plenty of outdoor activities if you’re not an avid hiker.
Kayaking, skiing, biking, and jet skiing are some of the many activities you can do if you want to break a sweat.
If you’re wondering why so many choose to live in Denver, it’s not solely because of its incredible nightlife. The weather is lovely year-round and you’ll hardly ever run out of things to do, even for a local.
Safe to say, every neighborhood in Denver has a unique flavor of its own. The River North (RiNo) area calls to artists and creatives the most. South Broadway, also known as SoBo, offers unique experiences of every theme:
- Live music
- Unique eateries
- Vintage clothing stores
- Bars, taverns, and breweries
- Arthouses and movie theaters
The Highlands and Lower Highlands (LoHi) area is popular for its many parks, shopping districts, and restaurants. And at the core, the Lower Downtown (LoDo) area is where you’ll find Denver’s eclectic party scene. Plus, LoDo features Cherry Creek – a premiere and upscale destination for shopping, dining, and more.
Altogether, you’re never far from an exciting and new experience in Denver. Whether it’s finding unique goods, exploring the city’s food scene, tasting unique cocktails, or a beautiful mountain hike.
What Makes Denver Unique?
The Unmissable Arts, Creative, and Music Scene
Art, music, and creativity thrive in Denver. The city hosts some of the best events every year, whether it’s local street art or an epic concert.
For an unmissable experience, visit the Red Rocks Park & Amphitheater. Also befitting the name “Garden of Angels,” a trip to Red Rocks Park is enough to say your trip to Denver was worth it.
But what makes the park so enticing and captivating, to begin with?
The Red Rocks Park covers a massive 243 hectares (600 acres) of open wilderness. But while grassy plains surely appeal to any outdoor or nature lover, it’s not the main draw that brings in thousands every year.
Red Rocks Park is known for its 121-meter (400 ft) towering red-sandstone formations. Best of all, it’s also home to world-class amphitheaters that seat 9,000 guests in total.
Ever wish you could experience a concert that’s out of this world? Red Rocks Park is it. At night, and especially during a sunset, the park transforms into an even more stunning landscape. A landscape so mesmerizing that anyone would feel beatified no matter which area of the park you’re at.
The park is open to anyone who wants a beautiful hike. However, its biggest attraction is undoubtedly the live music experience you’ll hardly get elsewhere.
Moving past towering rock formations and glorious landscapes sits the city’s amazing art scene. And the Denver Art Museum sits as one of the top art attractions the city has to offer.
The art you’ll find here? The largest Native American art collection. Additionally, the Denver Art Museum is also home to several special exhibits. Some of which include:
- British art
- Alaska Native art
- Star Wars costumes
- Latin America and contemporary art
Don’t miss the Frederic C Hamilton wing too – an architectural masterpiece worth admiring. Just before you leave, dine at The Ponti offering a locally sourced dining experience.
Looking for more?
The Clyfford Still Museum features 95% of Clyfford Still’s work, one of the founders of American abstract expressionism. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science is perfect for kids, adults, and any science whiz.
Other great museums include:
- Meow Wolf
- Wings Over the Rockies
- Museum of Contemporary Art
- Blair-Caldwell African American Museum
- Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art
Want more art, creativity, and inspiration? Head to the River North Art District, also known as RiNo. This area is a hotspot for all artistic and creative types. The Golden Triangle Creative District is also another area in Denver worth visiting as it’s home to over 15 art galleries.
Finally, there’s also 40 West Arts, Art District on Santa Fe, and South Pearl Street.
Endless Nightlife Opportunities
With already plenty enough to do in the day, there’s even more to do at night around Denver. Night clubs, breweries, lounges, speakeasies, rooftop bars, and even wineries.
Denver’s nightlife opportunities are endless, to say the least. Whether you’re a beer lover or wine connoisseur, looking for a place to jam and hang, or wanting a sophisticated cocktail, you’ll find it here.
Nightclubs and Dancing the Night Away
To start off, check our Grizzly Rose or Beta Nightclub if dancing till the break of dawn calls to you. Club Vinyl is also perfect if you’re looking for great music and open dance spaces. The music here changes frequently, ranging from hip-hop or Latin to salsa, reggaeton, or 90’s faves.
Want to learn how to tango? Mercury Café is the best place to do so. While tango is the main dance instruction taught in Mercury Café, you can also learn the swing or dance to the blues.
Rooftop Bars, Cocktails, and Wine Bars
Now if big crowds and thumping music sounds too much, you still have a lot of nightlife options. Those looking for a cozy and chill night out will love 54thirty Rooftop. If you enjoy a great view with a cold drink in hand, this is the place to be. Plus, the rooftop bar’s specialty cocktails are a must-try.
For a mix of panoramic views, great drinks, and Mediterranean flavors, check out El Five. Guests can choose to stay indoors or outdoors.; expect great views regardless of where you’re at.
El Five’s signature cocktails include vermouth and sangria paired excellently with any of the restaurant’s tapas.
If you want to go rooftop-bar-hopping throughout your time in Denver, don’t miss these out:
- The Red Barber
- Kisbee on the Roof
- ViewHouse Ballpark
- The Woods Restaurant & Rooftop
- Tap Fourteen Rooftop Beer Garden
Moving past rooftop bars, Denver still has hundreds more to offer tourists. And if you prefer your typical bar or lounge back home with a modern twist, hit up Dew Drop Inn.
This lounge bar is exactly the definition of a classed-up dive bar. Apart from this bar’s delicious cocktails, Dew Drop Inn is also known for its generous and flavorful food selections.
Worth checking out is also La Bouche, described as the love child of French sophistication and a relaxed Coloradan. You’ll find only the most carefully selected wine selection at La Bouche. And without a doubt, these would all pair excellently with a quiche or cheese brule.
Want unique cocktails? The L, Forget Me Not, and Ghost Donkey are places that will surely satisfy your hunger for cocktails.
Beer and Breweries
Last but not least, finding a brewery that serves excellent beer is hardly a challenge. Denver is often referred to as the “Napa of beer.” That should give you some context as to what you can expect in this vibrant city.
Your best brewery options? RiNo beer garden, without a doubt. Think German Oktoberfest vibes, and if that’s right up your alley, be sure to visit and order a round.
You wouldn’t say no to burgers and beer, right? Well, that’s the main highlight offering at Tap Fourteen — burgers and cold tap beer.
If you’re looking for something closer to where the beer action is, visit Denver Beer Co. And for quirky brews, Woods Boss Brewing Co sits at the top of that list. You also have TRVE Brewing Co. for serious beer lovers.
Finally, there’s also Star Bar, Falling Rock Tap House, Great Divide Barrel Bar, and Euclid Hall.
Union Station is Denver’s main transportation hub. But don’t mistake it for being just a historical attraction. The famed landmark has become a popular gathering place for tourists and downtowners.
Inside, you’ll find coffee shops, restaurants, a bookstore, and even a Farmer’s Market every Saturday. The main hall also has leather couches, WiFi, and a comfortable lounge, perfect if you need a spot to work.
Book lover? The Tattered Cover bookstore surely has interesting reads to keep you pinned for hours.
That’s not all.
This gorgeous landmark is also one of the best places to dine and drink. For those in the mood for pancakes and anything brunch, check out Snooze.
If you prefer to visit Union Station at night, there’s The Cooper Lounge and The Terminal Bar for classy cocktails. And for eclectic award-winning dishes, these restaurants are undoubtedly satisfying:
- Stoic & Genuine
Of course, Union Station also has coffee shops, sandwich shops, pizza shops, and on-the-go meals. All of which are lined together so you have plenty of options.
Overall, spending the entire day in Union Station is an itinerary in itself. You could start off with a hot Americano followed by brunch at Snooze or lunch at Ultreia, and end the night at a cocktail bar.
Dozens of Outdoor Adventures
You don’t need to be an outdoor junkie to enjoy Denver’s outdoor scene. The city is jam-packed with adventure, left and right. It’s almost surprising because you’d also wonder how Denver seems to fit it all.
Start your outdoor adventure by taking a beautiful, breathtaking hike at Rocky Mountain National Park. Dense forests, granite peaks, flower-filled meadows, and glistening lakes. Who could say no to this picture-perfect landscape?
After an unmissable hike at Rocky Mountain, head to Aspen, one of the best mountain vacations you’ll find. Popularly known as a ski destination, Aspen has more to offer past powder turns and skiing.
Winter in Aspen is beautiful, and springtime is even more awe-inspiring. Come summer, you have music festivals, live music, and miles of trails perfect if you want to go exploring. Around Aspen are also several restaurants you seriously don’t want to miss.
Up for a road trip? The Million Dollar Highway offers a scenic drive that will blow your mind. In no way is the Million Dollar Highway just a “highway” though. There are several hairpin turns and tight S-bends along this drive.
However, the drive is well worth it. Along the way, you’ll be greeted with mist-shrouded peaks and fir trees and wildflowers to accompany you all the way.
Not outdoorsy enough yet for you? You can visit the ancient cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park. Or, surf down the tallest dunes at the Grand Sand Dunes National Park. There’s also the Ski Vail if you’re up for more skiing and paddling the Arkansas River for those that want soft adventure.
Colorado Springs often comes up as one of the bucket list destinations to visit, and for good reason. Families and those eager to escape city life will enjoy Colorado Springs. However, outdoor lovers will enjoy the city even more.
Think scenic hiking trails, awe-inspiring rock formations and landscapes, and sunny parks. Not only is Colorado Springs an outdoor lover’s dream, but it’s also perfect for families and honeymooners. The city also features several quaint mining towns, museums, and landmarks for cultural and history buffs.
Whether you’re planning a family trip, a romantic getaway, or a new adventure, there’s plenty to love about this city.
What Makes Colorado Springs Unique?
Garden of the Gods Park and Pikes Peak
Two of the most common names you’ll hear about Colorado Springs: Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods. For avid hikers, these two parks are the ultimate dream.
But also, both parks draw in thousands of crowds every year. Both are ideal hiking choices and offer unique, spectacular rock formations. With regards to Garden of the Gods, the park boasts soaring red-rock formations, dating back to 300+ million years.
Part of the park’s main attraction also includes the “Balanced Rock” and “Kissing Camels” rock formations.
Pikes Peak, in contrast, bears the name America’s Mountain. Climb to the top and you’ll see why. On a good day and with clear skies, you can see these five cities from the summit of Pikes Peak:
- New Mexico
Driving around Pikes Peak is also possible, but hiking the trail is a far better option. Now, if you’re thinking the Garden of the Gods Park and Pikes Peak are only suited for hiking purposes, think again.
There are several reasons why both attract so many crowds annually.
Aside from hiking, you can also opt for picnicking, horseback riding, or simply going on a soulful retreat. Both parks also make for inspirational photography shots.
The Broadmoor Cog Railway Train
Hailed as America the Beautiful by poet Katharine Lee Bates, there’s no doubt Colorado Springs is beautiful. And if you truly want to get to know everything Colorado Springs has to offer, take the Broadmoor Cog Railway Train.
Don’t worry about picking window seats either. Every seat on the Broadmoor Cog Railway Train is the best seat. Thanks to its huge windows, everyone can get a full glimpse of the attractions and sights that lie along this journey.
The entire journey covers a total of 9 miles (14.4 km), but it feels much shorter than that. Because of all the natural beauty you’ll see throughout, it’s easy to lose track of time.
One of the most stunning sights you’ll see along the way is Minnehaha Falls. Part of the route also includes seeing the entire landscape of Pikes Peak.
Take note, though, that there aren’t any bathrooms on this train. But either way, there’s no doubt you’ll be too focused on soaking it all in throughout the ride.
Old Colorado City
If you’ve come to visit Colorado Springs, it means you’ve been meaning to take a break and recharge. Old Colorado City is the definition of that.
This quaint town was once Colorado’s capital. In the 1890s, Old Colorado City was a gold rush town lined with saloons, gaming parlors, and brothels – everything Wild West.
Now, Old Colorado City offers a charm meant for those who enjoy a quiet afternoon wander. Around the town, you’ll find a variety of boutiques, restaurants, shops, and art galleries.
If you’re also looking for nightlife opportunities, Old Colorado City is the place to go. There are live music performances, local pubs, and bars that serve eclectic spirits, along with wine and cocktails.
One could easily spend hours touring the entire town. It’s also a great way to spend early mornings, whether it’s by a coffee shop or indulging in great breakfast spots.
Be sure to check out some of the unique shops in the area too. One worth mentioning is Conscious Living, offering eco-friendly products for both your home and body.
Food-wise, Paravicini’s Italian Bistro has become quite the hotspot both for locals and tourists. Pizza parlors are also fairly popular around the area. But if you prefer something unique, the Wild Ginger Thai restaurant is worth a go. There’s also Jorge’s Mexican Restaurant and Jake and Telly’s Greek Taverna if you’re craving something different.
Chock-Full of Outdoor Fun
It’s no secret that Colorado Springs is an outdoor lover’s dream. And although you might think it’s just landscapes and hiking trails, Colorado Springs has much more to offer than that like:
Cave of the Winds
The Cave of the Winds Mountain Park is more theme park than it is a mountain. Inside, there are three tours you can do, ranging from mild to wild adventure.
The Lantern Tour includes touring a dark cave with just a lantern or candle to light the way. Caving 101 is more adventure packed, mainly because it involves crawling through muddy passageways with just a flashlight.
For adrenaline junkies, Via Ferrata and Wind Walker Challenge Course are great options. Around the area, there’s plenty for kids to do too. You can also opt for zip-lining or dive into a world of virtual reality at the Lantern Virtual Reality Theater.
If you’re looking for chill adventure, Colorado Springs has plenty of SUP opportunities. You can also visit several splash and water parks, ideal for families and kids. Some of which include:
- Aga Park
- Uncle Wilber Fountain
- Julie Penrose Fountain
- Deerfield Hills Spray Ground
Prospect Lake and Palmer Lake are excellent choices if you enjoy a quiet kayak and a day in peace. Alternatively, you can opt for river rafting at the Arkansas River every May to September.
More Outdoor Adventure
What’s great about Colorado Springs is that you’re never limited to just one type of outdoor activity. Whether you’re traveling as a couple, with family, or with friends.
Up for a challenging activity? Go rock climbing in any of these mountains and canyons:
- Red Rock Canyon
- Garden of the Gods
- North Cheyenne Cañon
- The Denver and Boulder area
- Colorado National Monument
Prefer something along the lines of off-road adventure? Sign up for a jeep tour. Or, you can even do a full-day excursion riding a bike or segway.
For a more intimate and relaxing adventure, you can soak in grand views on a hot-air balloon. You can also visit Canon City and plan an entire day’s worth of jam-packed activities.
In Canon City, tourists can opt for several outdoor opportunities. One of which is exploring the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park on a gondola, sky coaster, zip line, or by hiking. In fact, you can even spend the night at any of Canon City’s campsites.
Lastly, Colorado Springs’ list of outdoor fun wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Manitou Incline. The famous trail is not for the faint-hearted. What’s more, it’s also the most challenging hike in the country.
Every year, the Manitou Incline attracts avid hikers, Olympic athletes, runners, and even the military. How tough is the Manitou Incline? According to many, difficult even for advanced hikers and runners.
The trail is only 1 mile (1.6 km) in total length but demands 2,768 steps to get to the top. For a heart-pumping adventure and workout, nothing beats the Manitou Incline at Colorado Springs.
Is Denver or Colorado Springs Better?
Put simply, Colorado Springs offers a slower-paced vacation, whereas Denver is more fast-paced. Nightlife, entertainment, excursions, and things to do are all virtually limitless in Denver.
Akin to city life, Denver is a vacation where you’ll never feel bored. There’s always something to do, whether it’s spending time outdoors, relaxing at a park, admiring street art, or partying. If you’re looking for something new to try, Denver takes the cake.
Colorado Springs, on the other hand, is a big city but with a rural or small-town feel. Your outdoor opportunities in Colorado Springs are second to none and even better than what you’d find in Denver. Here, you’ll find a ton of parks, trails, and no shortage of activities for breaking a sweat.
However, Colorado Springs also offers plenty of sights and attractions for families. If you’re planning a romantic getaway that leans more toward the peaceful side, Colorado Springs is the better choice.
But if you prefer a honeymoon getaway with more dining options and better nightlife, Denver is the ideal choice.
Overall, choosing between the two isn’t a tough call when you know what your travel itinerary is.
If you’ve planned a more relaxing vacation with outdoor adventure to do spontaneously, visit Colorado Springs. But if you’re more of the type that doesn’t plan and prefers spontaneous bursts of exploration, visit Denver.
Is It Better to Stay in Denver or Colorado Springs?
Between Denver and Colorado Springs, the better choice to stay depends on several factors. Denver has more to offer, but Colorado Springs is perfect if you simply want a more relaxing vacation. Colorado Springs also offers a strong family atmosphere, a more outdoor-focused community, and small-city vibes.
Whereas in Denver, you’re looking at urban life, better nightlife, hip vibes, and a faster-paced lifestyle. Also, Denver offers better choices when it comes to international sports and cultural variety.
If there’s one thing Denver has an advantage over Colorado Springs, it’s the diverse range of options. Museums, theater, sports, activities, food, nightlife, you name it. This is also perhaps why Denver attracts so many young professionals because of the city’s many exciting and new experiences.
Is Colorado Springs Cheaper Than Denver?
Both Colorado Springs and Denver are affordable cities, but overall, Colorado Springs is cheaper. Rent, housing, groceries, and general living expenses are cheaper in Colorado Springs than in Denver.
According to Numbeo, rent prices in Denver are about 22% higher. For groceries, Colorado Springs is about 13% cheaper. Rent is also 45% higher in Denver than in Colorado Springs.
That said, restaurant prices are more expensive in Colorado Springs by about 7%. Due to Denver’s extensive selection of restaurants, it’s easier to grab affordable and great value finds. This also means Denver might be better in terms of a short-term vacation. But for the long haul and if you’re thinking of moving, Colorado Springs is the cheaper option.
Denver Zoo vs. Colorado Springs Zoo
The two biggest differences between the Denver Zoo and Colorado Springs Zoo are size and terrain. Denver Zoo is bigger and features flat terrain. This also means you’ll see more animals and it’s easily walkable.
In contrast, Colorado Springs Zoo is smaller but you can get closer to the animals. A highlight of visiting the Colorado Zoo is being able to feed the giraffes. For kids, this is an excellent opportunity. However, walking around can be a challenge since it’s also very hilly.
Is Colorado Springs Higher Than Denver?
Colorado Springs is 305 meters (1,000 ft) higher in elevation than Denver. Colorado Springs’ elevation sits at 1,905 meters (6,250 ft) whereas Denver’s sits at 1,615 meters (5,300 ft).
The elevation also affects the climate of both cities. Although both offer pleasant weather year-round, Denver sees more snow than Colorado Springs by about 18.3 inches (46.5 cm).
Is It Cheaper to Fly Into Denver or Colorado Springs?
Denver is one of the busiest airports in the country, which means there are more flights in and out of the city. As a result, fares are often cheaper than the fares to Colorado Springs.
That said, flying into Denver also means more expensive parking and heavier traffic. Overall, it’s a more time-consuming experience.
According to several testimonials online, the Denver International Airport can get extremely busy. This means that you’re likely to see larger crowds and longer waiting lines overall.
Colorado Springs in comparison is more expensive to fly to, but there are several advantages as well. One is that rarely will you ever see a busy Colorado Springs airport. This means it’s less of a hassle to fly to. Not to mention, cheaper parking as well.
Plus, Colorado Springs has a smaller airport, meaning shorter security lines and a faster waiting time. If you ask the same question on forums online, they’ll tell you the same thing. Flying to Colorado Springs offers a much better and more convenient experience.
It’s also worth noting that there are instances when flights to Colorado Springs are cheaper. It’s possible to book a flight to Colorado Springs that’s $60 to $80 cheaper than if you would fly to Denver.