16 Mistakes Tourists Make While Visiting Denver

Denver has become a popular tourist destination thanks to its rich cultural history, thriving brewery scene, stunning parks and more. But visitors to the Mile High City don’t always know how to get the proper experience ― and many make their fair share of missteps.

We asked Denver locals to share some of the faux pas they’ve observed. From packing the wrong outfits to underestimating the effects of the high altitude, here are 16 mistakes tourists often make while visiting Denver ― and some advice for avoiding these errors during your travels.

Spending all your time indoors

“Don’t stay indoors, opt to go outside. We love our outdoors and you will, too. Hop in on a game of volleyball at Wash Park (Washington Park), or play a round of golf at one of the many courses throughout the city. There is something for everyone. So before you book a museum each day, consider a day outside.” ― Breanna Phippen, blogger at Bites with Bre

Not taking the altitude seriously

“Don’t underestimate Denver’s altitude. Denver has an elevation of 5,280 feet, making us closer to the sun. Your body will need time to adjust to the altitude, which will affect working out, hiking and drinking. Make sure to pace yourself, stay extra hydrated, wear sunscreen and know that headaches and nosebleeds can happen while visiting the Mile High City.” ― Jamie Lee, blogger at The Denver Housewife

“Book yourself a float tank, IV therapy or both. Your body will thank you. The altitude is no joke and can affect anyone. Sip your adult beverages slowly and don’t expect to hit any personal records in your fitness.” ― Phippen

Going out without layers

“Going out in the late afternoon without layers is a mistake when traveling in Colorado, particularly in the early spring and late fall. The air feels much warmer than the outside temperature from the sun, so you’ll be comfortable wearing a short sleeve or tank. However, as soon as the sun goes down over the mountains, it instantly feels much colder and you’ll want a jacket.” ― Shelby Elmore, a marketing professional

“Denver is known for its uncertain weather. We can often see all four seasons in a day or week. Pack layers for your trip since it can snow until the middle of May, and heavy afternoon downpours and hailstorms are normal during summer afternoons. Wear comfortable shoes, hats, sunscreen and layers because you never know how the weather will change during the day.” ― Lee

Wearing uncomfortable footwear

“Consider your footwear. Ditch the dress shoes or high heels for Birkenstocks and gym shoes. We appreciate the laid-back style, and the majority of bars, restaurants and even clubs require casual for their dress code.” ― Phippen

Disregarding cyclists

“Share the road. We are a bicycle-friendly community. Road cyclists will always choose the bike lane, but remember they have the right to the full car lane. It’s also easier to get around the city by bike, scooter or foot, so ditch the car rental.” ― Phippen

The Mile High City has plenty to offer if you do things right.

Brad McGinley Photography via Getty Images

The Mile High City has plenty to offer if you do things right.

Missing out on hidden gems

“The biggest mistake I’ve seen tourists make while visiting Denver is often overlooking all of the city’s hidden gems. Of the unique features that make Denver authentically local, guests should explore our small, distinctive neighborhood streets ― each anchored by one of our large, beautiful city parks. Guests can also enjoy hundreds of off-the-beaten-path, chef-driven restaurants, as well as plenty of small bars, breweries and quaint boutiques. Denver is a unique city in that it is both urban yet rural, outdoorsy yet chic, and cultured, yet rustic. It’s a great big city filled with a small-town atmosphere.” ― Tony Dunn, general manager of Sheraton Denver Downtown

Forgetting to hydrate

“Pace yourself and hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Denver is the Mile High City, so if you are coming from sea level, be kind to your body and dial it back on physical exertion and alcoholic drinking until your body acclimates to the altitude. The city is famous for its outdoor activities and breweries, but if you want to be in a position to actually enjoy all that the city has to offer (rather than feeling sick or winded), please remember to slow it down at least for the first day or two, and be sure to drink lots of water!” ― Laura Young, blogger at New Denizen

“You’d be surprised how much more the elevation seems to increase the effects of alcohol. Also, drink a ton of water, especially if you’re drinking, because you’ll feel much more dehydrated.” ― Elmore

Ordering Rocky Mountain oysters and expecting oysters

“Skip Rocky Mountain oysters. No, they are not oysters from the sea. Many tourists can be tricked by the name until they learn what they really just ate: deep-fried bull testicles.” ― Phippen

Overdoing it with edibles

“If you are canni-curious, talk to the budtender before eating the whole edible. As [Colorado is] one of the first states to legalize marijuana, Denver is a great destination for cannabis tourism. However, that goes in hand with our weed being strong. Take it easy when consuming. Our edibles can take a few hours to hit, too. For example, an edible chocolate bar sold as a 100-milligram package is divided into tiny 10-milligram squares. That little square alone is enough to send you to the moon.” ― Phippen

Not asking locals for recs

“One mistake I see travelers make is that they feel the best restaurants are the ones in the heart of downtown or the ones with the best Yelp review. These can be good, don’t get me wrong. But the best is when you ask people (or strangers) from that city what their hidden gem is and why. It makes the experience more exciting and authentic. This way you aren’t always mystified by location or atmosphere, but you understand who’s living in the city and their contributions to it. This may take you off the normal route, but it’ll take you so much further with that unique memory to take from it.” ― Haley Paez, blogger at Mile High & Hungry

Expecting to be right in the mountains

“Denver is not the mountains. Those are to the west, and we are situated east of the mountains between the foothills and plains. If you are looking to head to the mountains without trekking to a ski town, plan a visit to Golden, Evergreen or Idaho Springs. All of these towns are within 20 to 40 minutes from the city.” ― Phippen

Skipping breakfast burritos

“Don’t pass up the chance to devour breakfast burritos. Denver loves their breakfast burritos so much the mayor declared an annual statewide Breakfast Burrito Day (Oct. 14). We like our burritos served handheld-style, wrapped in a piece of foil and stuffed with green chili.” ― Phippen

Getting coffee from a big chain

“Skip the coffee chains and caffeinate at one of the many roasteries like Huckleberry, Thump Coffee or Pablo’s Coffee, to name a few.” ― Phippen

Missing sunset

“Don’t miss a Broncos-colored sunset from one of the many outdoor patios. Speaking of patios, Denverites love happy hour ― they can start as early as 2 p.m. and stay as late as 7 p.m.” ― Phippen

Sticking to the 16th Street Mall

“While there is the free shuttle that runs up and down 16th Street Mall, this is not the best spot to be if you want to vacation like a Denverite. Hop on a scooter to RiNo and take a stroll through the RiNo art alley to find the freshest murals and art come to life. Walk to Larimer Square to shop the boutiques or take an Uber to Cherry Creek North for luxury shopping.” ― Phippen

Judging it based on other cities

“A mistake I see is people predetermining cities based on expectation or comparing it to others. The beauty of all the cities and subcommunities of the world is their own personality that only they can provide. There’s value in every place, and it makes it more enriching to let the city be in the driver’s seat. A common one for Denver is that the food scene is weak compared to other places. But when you take the time to see who’s here and let them express their passion, you’re bound to be surprised.” ― Paez

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