TATTERED COVER BOOK STORE
No visit to Denver would be complete without a journey through the Tattered Cover Book Store, one of the top independent booksellers in the country. This astounding literary marvel boasts several metro Denver locations, but the store in the renovated Lowenstein Theater on a burgeoning stretch of East Colfax is the talk of the town. Grab a latte from the in-house java joint, plop down in one of the overstuffed chairs or sofas to wrap your hands around the latest bestseller, or attend a free book signing or author lecture from big names like John Gray, Al Gore, Annie Leibovitz and Garrison Keillor. Tattered Cover's newest location is at Denver Union Station.
UNITED STATES MINT TOUR
To see where your currency is conceived (sorry, no free handouts), follow the money trail to the Denver U.S. Mint. The free, 45-minute tours are led by knowledgeable guides and provide a fascinating look into the history of coinage. Both kids and adults will love getting up close and personal with the shiny pocket change that streams off the production lines. Tours are available Mon.–Thurs. from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Same-day tour tickets are available at the Tour Information window, which opens at 7 a.m.; no advance tickets are available.
DENVER CENTRAL LIBRARY
Denver Central Library has an impressive art gallery on the seventh floor. The library is best known, perhaps, for its Western History Collection, which covers the earliest explorations, Spanish land grants, Native American history, the gold rush era and the present day with a particular focus on the Rocky Mountain West.
FREE FESTIVALS YEAR-ROUND
Denver's festivals are fun and often completely free. You'll be exposed to only-in-Denver sights, sounds and tastes. Don't miss the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, held every summer, or the Colorado Dragon Boat Festival in Sloan's Lake Park in July. Learn more about Denver's festivals.
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts – home to the Newton Auditorium, Temple Buell Theatre, Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Garner Galleria Theatre and a wealth of smaller stages – hosts several free performances throughout the year. There are rules, of course: No advanced reservations are accepted; seating is general admission; children under six-years-old are not allowed; and tickets are only available on a first-come, first-served basis on the day of the performance. Despite the regulations, it's worth braving the lines to experience some of the best theater in the country.
RED ROCKS PARK & AMPHITHEATRE
Carved from towering red rock monuments, Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre is one of the world's most renowned concert venues. When there's no concert, the free Visitor Center has a museum and Performers Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave in, around and over the colorful red rocks.