Denver International Airport is humungous – it is, in fact, the largest airport in the U.S., spanning a whopping 53 square miles. It is also, perhaps, the greenest airport in the country. More importantly, Denver Airport offers plenty of things to do during a layover.
Denver Airport is a hub for United Airlines and Frontier Airlines. The airport offers connectivity to other airports across North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. If you find yourself at Denver Airport with hours to kill, you don’t have to worry! There are loads of things to do in Denver Airport as well as nearby. Whether you’ve got just a couple of hours or an entire day to spend at Denver Airport, here are 8 things you can do on your Denver Airport layover.
1. Wine and Dine
If you’re traveling with a bunch of people, head straight to Denver Central Market – there’s something for everyone there, from burgers to burritos to sushi! To grab a sandwich to go, Snarf’s Sandwiches is your best bet. Feeling a bit thirsty? Breckenridge Brewery has just what you need to quench your thirst. Choose your brew from a line-up of award-winning beers and munch on a delicious pulled pork combo sandwich from Brother’s BBQ that shares the space. At Elway’s, you’ll get to dig into delicious steaks and sip on an impressive range of cocktails.
If you want to try a really good hot dog Steve’s Snapping Dogs has exactly what you need. A Colorado original, Steve’s dishes up award-winning gourmet hot dogs, made from a blend of pork and beef with a distinctive smoky flavor. Are you even in a real airport if there’s no food from Wolfgang Puck? At the Denver Airport, you’ll get to try out his pizzas, sandwiches, and salads, plus cocktails, beer, and wine. La Casita has tamales to go and many other Mexican treats like burritos, green chili, quesadillas, tacos, tostadas, and huevos rancheros. Don’t forget to drop in at the iconic Little Man Ice Cream shop. It’s known best for its ice cream sandwiches, and signature shakes like the Whiskey Apple Pie and Illuminati Shake.
2. Chat with a garrulous gargoyle
An animatronic talking gargoyle was commissioned for the airport’s 24th birthday, in what’s seemingly a nod to all those crazy conspiracy theories. The airport decided a few years ago that they’d rather have fun with all that than try and convince folks there’s nothing really going on. The gargoyle has a smart comeback for almost everything and keeps passengers entertained. When another visitor asked about his age, the gargoyle replied that he was 243 years old and still works out “all the time.”
3. Shop till you drop
Shopping is a great option to pass the time while you’re on a Denver Airport layover. There’s plenty of options here -from high-end luxury brands to last-minute airport souvenirs. For a hefty dose of retail therapy, head on to the SkyMarket, a 2,600-square-foot retail store that offers everything from apparel to snacks to newspapers. The best part is that most of the items here are locally sourced. Buy your airport novel from The Tattered Cover, the airport outlet of Denver’s most famous bookstore.
Children will enjoy spending time (and their parent’s money!) at the Kazoo & Company Toy Store. There’s a Kiehl’s, Tumi, MAC cosmetics, The Body Shop, Johnston & Murphy, Urban Decay, and a Lavelier Store for brand aficionados. Be sure to check out Tuleh Ruche for a diverse range of women’s clothing styles and accessories, and Earth Spirit for handcrafted products, sculptures, silk scarves, jewelry, and more. You also have all the usual airport electronics and book stores like inMotion, iTravel, SimplyBooks, and Duty-Free shops.
4. Enjoy the ‘paw’sitivity
Denver Airport’s Canine Airport Therapy Squad program has been wildly successful. Volunteer pet parents walk their adorable pets around the airport. These little beacons of positivity wear ‘pet me’ vests and offer harried travelers a chance to take a break, pet a pooch, and increase their happy hormones. It’s science, we tell you!
5. Get a dose of culture
Denver International Airport has a pretty amazing art collection that reflects Colorado’s unique spirit and culture. The airport offers plenty of art to gawk at the giant blue Mustang sculpture outside the airport to over 20 permanent and several revolving exhibits throughout the terminal. The Jeppsen Terminal has a Native American Exhibition that tells the story of Native Americans in the region through paintings, photographs, and music.
6. Enjoy the views
This is not something we can say about all airports, but the Denver Airport offers some stunning views of the Rockies. You’ll get the best views of the mountains by gates C23 and C24. Colorado boasts sunshine all year round, so the odds of you catching some fantastic sunrise or sunset views here are pretty high.
7. Settle down for a snooze
Getting a little shut-eye during your Denver Airport layover is a great idea, especially if you’re someone who finds it difficult to sleep in an airplane. There are Minute Suites here that offer daybeds, desks, and showers – perfect for some quiet time! If you’re flying American, Delta, or United Airlines, you can purchase a day pass to access their lounges. These lounges are ideal spots to nap in before boarding your flight.
8. Investigate the Illuminati
The Denver Airport has spawned the craziest conspiracy theories for many years – from secret Illuminati tunnels to satanic codes to ghosts from a Native American burial ground. While it’s mostly been debunked, you can still enjoy the murals and statues that inspired them. Of late, the Denver Airport has cheerfully embraced the theories. Hence, Gregoriden or Greg for short – a three-foot animatronic gargoyle that drawls “Welcome to Illuminati headquarters! I mean … Denver International Airport!” Whether you believe in them or not, you can still spend some time exploring the area just to make sure no Illuminati or lizard people are wandering about.
Things to do near Denver Airport
If your Denver layover is long enough, you can spend a few hours exploring the city. Denver has plenty to offer sightseers. If you’re going to downtown Denver, check out the beautifully restored Union Station, the History Colorado Center, and the Denver Art Museum. Be sure to take a tour of the State Capitol and the Coors Field, home to the Colorado Rockies. Explore the Golden Triangle Creative District, Larimer Square, and the Downtown Aquarium. Keep in mind that the airport is almost 25 miles from downtown Denver, so you need to make sure you have enough time on your hands before you venture out of the airport.
Denver Airport Travel Tips:
- Before you venture out during your layover at Denver Airport, make sure you are permitted to do so.
- If you want to spend time enjoying all that Denver Airport has to offer, be sure to reach the airport early. Make sure you book your Denver Airport parking spot ahead of your travel so that there’s no last-minute hurrying.
- Avoid public transportation and services like rideshares or taxis as far as possible – opt instead to drive yourself to the Denver Airport if you need to catch a flight. You can further minimize your risk by booking your contactless SeaTac airport parking spot online.