Heading to Denver for SNA’s 2023 Annual National Conference? With events and education sessions to attend, an Exhibit Hall to explore and thousands of school nutrition peers to mingle with, your conference days are already set to be packed with fun, inspiration and new opportunities—but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t leave room for exploring the city too!
Whether you’ve decided to just come for the conference or to turn your trip into a longer vacation, the city of Denver has plenty to offer, and day trips or evenings out are great ways to catch up with old friends or get to know any new ones you’ve met at ANC. Explore the city, check out the museums, head outdoors, eat great food, attend some shows—the possibilities are endless! Don’t worry, we won’t leave all the planning up to you: Scroll through the slideshow below for 15 ideas for how to spend your free days or evenings in Denver.
The places suggested here are for informational purposes only. Please conduct your own research to ensure hours, location, availability and other details.
Historic Downtown Denver Walking Tour
Up for traversing the city on foot? The Historic Downtown Denver Walking Tour from VISIT DENVER is a free, self-guided tour that will take you through three prominent areas of downtown Denver: LoDo, the Theatre District and the Golden Triangle. VISIT DENVER’s guide includes a brief history of each of the stops along the way, and without the constraints of a tour guide or a ticket, you’re free to set your own pace. Will you stop and linger at Coors Field, the Museum of Contemporary Art or maybe the Colorado State Capitol? Or will you pick up the pace and make sure you have time to hit every stop? This tour can be whatever you make of it!
Red Rocks Park & Ampitheatre
If you want to enjoy some of Colorado’s beautiful, natural scenery without a long drive, Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is a great option. Red Rocks Amphitheatre is an iconic, naturally formed outdoor venue, and The Avett Brothers will be performing from July 7-9. Even if you don’t have tickets to an event, the park, hiking and biking trails, Amphitheatre, visitor center, trading post and Colorado Music Hall of Fame are all free to visit during the day—and it’s only around a 20-minute drive from Denver!
Public Art Walking Tour
Another self-guided tour option from VISIT DENVER, this one focuses on Denver’s art scene. The Public Art Walking Tour will also take you through downtown Denver to locations like the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Public Library and Civic Center Park, all of which feature indoor and/or outdoor public artworks.
If you’re interested in learning more about Denver’s street art and prefer a guided experience (and don’t mind paying for it), check out the Denver Graffiti Tour, a guided walking tour that will show you Denver’s best street art and teach you the history behind each piece.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
Dinosaurs, space, wildlife, Egyptian Mummies and the human body—explore those phenomena and much more at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science! With three floors of exhibits, there’s sure to be something that will pique your interest.
P.S. If you’re planning on visiting more than one museum during your stay, you can save some money on tickets with the Denver City Pass! The pass offers discounted admission to three, four or five out of seven of Denver’s best attractions, including the museums listed here, as well as the Denver Downtown Aquarium, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus.
16th Street Mall
After a day of inspiration, learning sessions and mingling with your school nutrition peers at ANC, take a few steps outside of the convention center to explore Denver’s 16th Street Mall. The mile-long pedestrian-friendly mall has dozens of cafés, restaurants and shops, making it the perfect place to grab dinner or do some shopping.
Although we can't vouch for these restaurants, Yelp reviewers have given high marks to (make reservations where you can now!):
Click here for more restaurant reviews on Yelp.
Denver Art Museum
To stimulate your artistic side, check out the Denver Art Museum! Some of their collections include Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Ancient Americas, as well as Latin American Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, Textile Arts and Fashion, Architecture and Design and more. You can even unleash your own creativity in the museum’s hands-on Design Studio, Creative Hub and Storytelling Studio.
Looking for a less traditional museum experience? Make sure your phone is charged and head to the Denver Selfie Museum for some unique photo ops. As the first ever Original Selfie Museum in the U.S. (and only a 5-minute walk from ANC at the Colorado Convention Center), the Denver Selfie Museum houses tons of colorful and quirky art installations and backdrops for you to use to get the perfect selfie.
Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station
Take the fun, quirky vibes of the Denver Selfie Museum, turn them up to the max and add a heavy dose of surrealism—that might get you close to knowing what to expect from Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station (but we doubt it). An immersive, interactive art installation meant to transport you into an otherworldly, fantastical realm, the Convergence Station is hard to describe, but if you’re looking for unique experiences you can’t get anywhere else, it definitely needs to be on your Denver to-do list.
Photo courtesy of Meow Wolf
History Colorado Center
Before you leave town, take advantage of the opportunity to learn more local history by visiting the History Colorado Center. With more than 100 artifacts that illustrate how Colorado became what it is today, an exhibit telling the story of Colorado’s oldest residents, the Ute people, through art, photography and artifacts and an interactive exhibit featuring famous Coloradans (and more), this museum is a must-see when in Denver.
Photo courtesy of the History Colorado Center
Little Man Ice Cream
If you’re in the mood for dessert after a long day, or looking for a mid-day treat to help you deal with the summer heat, check out Little Man Ice Cream. Little Man’s original location is a giant milk can-shaped shop, making it an iconic Denver landmark where you can enjoy unique, regularly updated flavors of homemade ice cream—some recent flavors include pistachio orange blossom, salted caramel peanut butter cup, Mexican chocolate and salted Oreo.
Comedy Works Downtown
Named one of the best comedy clubs in the U.S. by USA Today, Comedy Works’ downtown location is just a 10-minute walk from the Colorado Convention Center, making it a great option for some late-night entertainment. They have shows most evenings, hosting both famous and talented, upcoming local comedians. Among others, actor and comedian Leah Rudick will be performing from July 6-8.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum
If space is your thing (and you couldn’t get enough of it from the Museum of Nature & Science) head over to the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum! The museum houses over 50 aircraft and space vehicles, including a replica of a Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter signed by some of the cast and crew, and exhibits on astronauts, flight simulators and more.
Pre- or Post-Conference Day Trips
If you're arriving to Denver early or plan on extending your trip by a couple of days, check out these day trip options:
Rocky Mountain National Park: Don’t miss out on visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s only about an hour and a half drive from Denver, and includes 355 miles of hiking trails, 147 lakes and 77 mountains over 12,000 feet. If hiking isn’t your thing, there are plenty of scenic drives throughout the park that will give you the same beautiful views and the chance to spot wildlife like elk, moose, bighorn sheep or pika.
Garden of the Gods: For a free, awe-inspiring outdoor adventure, head south to Colorado Springs, home of the Garden of the Gods, a park made up of massive formations of red rocks that create a breathtaking landscape covering more than 1,300 acres. This park is an outdoorsman’s dream, with plenty of hiking, rock climbing, horseback riding and biking opportunities, as well as various guided vehicle, Segway and walking tours and a free, self-guided audio tour. There’s also a free visitor and nature center featuring exhibits that explore the park’s history, a café and a gift shop!