Taking a Winter "Staycation" in Historic Denver

Cold or snowy days might keep us inside or in town, but you can still stave off cabin fever with some adventure in your hometown. Enjoy a staycation (or take a vacation to the city) and discover the beauty and history of Denver in winter!

Here are some suggestions for how to spend a fun-filled weekend or a leisurely several days exploring Denver’s past.

sepia photo of Brown Palace Hotel

Brown Palace Hotel, 1900

Day 1 - Brown Palace Hotel

The Brown Palace Hotel was built from 1889 to 1892 and was America’s second fireproof building. It’s named for Henry Cordes Brown, who came to Denver in 1860 and became known for donating land for the State Capitol building and giving the initial donation to found the city’s first library.

After you check in to the hotel, you can take a guided tour to learn more about its history from the Brown Palace’s own historian, Debra Faulkner.

For dinner, you can enjoy a three-course meal at Palace Arms restaurant. You may also want to go to the Ship Tavern for after-dinner drinks.

historic photo of street in front of Union Station

Union Station, 1914

Day 2 - Union Station and Larimer Square

The next morning, you can have breakfast at Ellyngton’s, check out, and then check in to the Oxford Hotel by Union Station.

In the 1870s, the railroad brought 100 new residents to Denver every day, and established the city as the population center and capital of the newly admitted State of Colorado. The silver boom led to the construction of Union Station, the largest structure in the West when it was completed in 1881. Following a fire in 1894, it was redesigned in 1914 in the Beaux-Arts style, to which it was restored in 2014, due in part to support from History Colorado’s State Historical Fund.

The Crawford Hotel inside Union Station offers tours of the station on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, or you can explore it yourself. The station also has many options for lunch, including the Cooper Lounge, a mezzanine that sits above the hall and mimics the luxury passenger trains of the 1920s.

In the afternoon, you can take a self-guided walking tour of the history of Larimer Square, an area that once boasted Denver’s first log cabin, theater, City Hall and post office. If the weather is right, you can also go ice skating at Skyline Park.

Upon your return to the Oxford, you can have some snacks at the Cruise Room or enjoy the hotel’s Bourbon Bar in the lobby from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. For dinner, you can dine at Wynkoop Brewery or any of the other dining destinations in LoDo. Be sure and enjoy the lighted Union Station and streets near Larimer Square after dark!

photo of Civic Center in winter

Civic Center, 1925

Day 3 - Capitol Hill

On the third day, you can eat breakfast at the hotel’s Urban Farmer restaurant. If you want to spend a third night away from home, head to Capitol Hill Mansion Bed & Breakfast Inn.

If you’re tired from the day before, take a guided bus tour from the magnificent Duke of Denver, Kevin Snow, through Denver History Tours to learn about the luxurious side of Denver’s history.

If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can go on another self-guided walking tour, taking your pick of a number of destinations including the State Capitol, Civic Center park, the United States Mint, Molly Brown House Museum and the Center for Colorado Women’s History at the Byers-Evans House Museum. To connect to stories farther back in time, check out the new exhibit on Ute history at the History Colorado Center.

Audio tours of the Capitol Hill area are available from Denver Story Trek by phone and via the Geotourist app, which offers an audio tour about Denver’s LGBT history.

For happy hour or dinner, check out Charlie Brown’s Bar & Grill, which opened as part of the Colburn Hotel in 1928. If you want to drive a bit farther for dinner, some of Denver’s other most historic restaurants include the Buckhorn Exchange, My Brother’s Bar, Bastien’s Restaurant and Gaetano’s.


This article was originally published by AAA Colorado.

Did you know AAA Travel and History Colorado have teamed up to offer specially crafted vacations called Curated Adventures? Find out more here.