Where to Stay in Denver First Time: Best Areas & Safety

In this post, I will help you to decide Where to stay in Denver without a car, for first time, best areas to stay in Denver, best hotels in Denver for all budgets, and safest places to stay in Denver.

Most neighborhoods in and around the Denver city is a safe for tourists but you should be aware of surrounding, stick to the well-lit areas, avoid walking into less populated areas, and travel in groups if you can. Cherry Creek and LoDo are some of the safest neighborhoods in Denver.

Where to stay in Denver, Colorado?

The best areas to stay in Denver for first-timers are Lower Downtown, Five Points & RiNo, Central Business District, Capitol Hill, Cherry Creek, Uptown, Lower Highlands, and Central Park. These are popular neighborhoods to book a hotel.

Lower Downtown (LoDo) is the overall best place for first time tourist. It is the heart of the city that is known for its vibrant nightlife, trendy restaurants, and proximity to attractions like Union Station and Coors Field.

Lower Downtown and Capitol Hill are the best places to stay in Denver without a car. They are walkable, central, and well-connected public transportation with a good light rail system. You can easily get around on foot, by public transportation without the need of having a car.

Five Points has a rich cultural history, and RiNo is an artsy and hip area with numerous galleries, breweries, and street art. It’s a good option if you’re into art and want a more eclectic vibe.

If you’re in Denver for business or want to be close to downtown amenities, the CBD is a convenient choice. It’s also home to the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian-friendly area with shops and restaurants.

Capitol Hill is known for its historic architecture, diverse community, and proximity to attractions like the State Capitol and Civic Center Park. It’s a good choice if you prefer a more residential and laid-back atmosphere.

Cherry Creek is a great choice for anyone who wants to combine shopping with a hike along the Cherry Creek Trail, while City Park is the home of the largest park in the city, where you can spend days strolling and sailing around the lakes.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:LoDo (Lower Downtown)
💎 Best luxury hotel:Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:The Oxford Hotel Downtown Denver
💰 Best budget hotel:Hilton Garden Inn Denver Union Station, Co

Map of the best areas and neighborhoods to stay in Denver for tourists:

Map of best areas to stay in Denver
Map of best areas to stay in Denver

How to get around Denver without a car?

Getting around Denver without a car is possible thanks to various public transportation options, as well as biking and walking. Here are some ways to navigate the city without a car:

Public Transportation:

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates a light rail system with multiple lines that connect various parts of the city, including downtown Denver, the airport, and surrounding suburbs.

RTD also operates an extensive bus network that covers Denver and its suburbs. You can use buses to access areas not served by the light rail. There are also RTD’s commuter rail lines that connect Denver to nearby cities like Boulder and Aurora.


Denver has an extensive network of bike lanes and bike-sharing programs like B-cycle. You can rent a bike and use it for short trips around the city.

Many streets have dedicated bike lanes, and the city’s bike-sharing program makes it easy to access a bike for a short ride.


Denver is a pedestrian-friendly city, especially in downtown areas and many neighborhoods. Walking is a great way to explore the city and enjoy its vibrant street life.

Ride-Sharing Services:

Services like Uber and Lyft operate in Denver, offering convenient transportation options when public transit isn’t ideal.

Denver International Airport (DIA):

If you’re arriving at DIA and need transportation to the city, you can take the RTD A-Line commuter train, which connects the airport to downtown Denver.

Remember that Denver’s public transportation system can be efficient, but it’s essential to plan your routes and schedules in advance to ensure a smooth journey without a car. 

Additionally, be mindful of safety and adhere to local traffic rules when using bikes, scooters, or walking as your modes of transportation.

8 Best areas to stay in Denver for first-time tourists are:

1. LoDo (Lower Downtown)

LoDo (Lower Downtown), where to stay in Denver for first time tourists

Lower Downtown (LoDo) is best overall area to stay in Denver for first-timer travelers due to its prime location. Located between the South Platter River and the Central Business District, LoDo has a central location, plenty of choices in restaurants, shops, bars, hotels, nightlife, and beautiful Victorian-style architecture buildings.

LoDo also boasts the renovated 1914 Beaux-Arts Denver Union Station, which is the largest transport hub in Downtown Denver, as well as the city’s busiest train station.

Union Station provides access to the free 16th Street Mall shuttle, the free Downtown Denver Circulator, RTD’s front-range bus route, Amtrak trains, and the FasTracks light rail line. You can easily take the A-line train straight to Denver International Airport.

You can find 10 chef-owned restaurants and bars, boutiques, and the 112-room Crawford Hotel in the Denver Union Station. You can dine in one of its restaurants and grab a drink at the Terminal Bar.

There is also Union Station Farmers Market on Denver Union Station Plaza from mid-May to mid-October where you can buy fresh, local fruits, veggies, cheese, and bread.

Located on Larimer Street between 14th and 15th, The Larimer Square is the first designated historic district in Denver, it was the former business hub of the city and makes a fabulous destination for any history buffs. It hosts Denver Chalk Art Festival every June.

Throughout the rest of Lower Downtown, you will find an incredible selection of attractions to keep all manner of tourists happy. 

For starters, it is an ideal place to stay for sports fans while visiting the city, as both Coors Field and the Pepsi Center are located here. Coors Field is home to the Colorado Rockies Baseball Team, while the Pepsi Center features the Colorado Avalanche of the NHL and the Denver Nuggets of the NBA.

This makes Lower Downtown incredibly convenient for those attending a game or any other event taking place at the venues. If sport isn’t your thing, perhaps you would prefer some of the historical attractions Lower Downtown has to offer.

For example, you have the Museum Of Contemporary Art Denver. Opened in 1996, it features a rotating collection of art that is changed 3-4 times per year. Its rooftop cafe offers stunning views of the downtown.

Art lovers will want to visit the Robischon Gallery to see the works of contemporary artists and David Cook Fine Art to see American paintings from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

You could even go all out and treat yourself to a stay in the historic Oxford Hotel. Opened in 1891 and listed on the National Register Of Historic Places since 1979, it is one of the best luxury hotels in the city. This allows you to combine both history and class throughout the duration of your stay.

Even those who want something a little more relaxing will have options in this part of Downtown Denver. Confluence Park, where the South Platte River and Cherry Creek meet, is a fabulous outdoor location, where you can enjoy the region’s beautiful landscapes, without having to leave the city.

LoDo also offers plenty of family-friendly attractions where families can spend a fun day out with their kids such as the Downtown Aquarium, Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, and an amusement park Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park.

Denver is a city of breweries, you can sample craft beer at Wynkoop Brewing Company which is Denver’s first brewpub opened by former Denver Mayor and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. There are also 2 weeks of Oktoberfest every fall around Ballpark District.

Other places of interest are the vibrant, walkable district of Dairy Block, a world-class destination for shopping and dining; and Tattered Cover Book Store, one of the largest independent bookstores in the United States.

When you combine everything it offers with its great location, Lower Downtown may well be the best, most well-rounded neighborhood in all of Denver.

LoDo has a wide range of accommodations that suit all budgets, family, couple, solo, business traveler from backpacker hostels, boutique hotels, to high-end luxury.

Stay in  LoDo (Lower Downtown) if you’re first time travel to Denver; you travel without a car; you are traveling to or from the city by train; you want to stay at one of the best hotels in Denver;

Best places to stay in Lower Downtown:

  • luxury ($$$): Hyatt Centric Downtown Denver, great 5-star hotel, centrally located in Champa street, within walking distance from Convention Center. Easy access the Pepsi Center, Denver Performing Arts Complex and Larimer Square.
  • mid-range ($$): The Oxford Hotel Downtown Denver, popular 4-star hotel, located in central Denver, within walking distance from the Union Station, and the Pepsi Center.
  • mid-range ($$): Hilton Garden Inn Denver Union Station, Co, 4-star accommodation, conveniently located close to major sights such as Union Station, Pepsi Center and Coors Field. Great base for first-timers and car-free travelers.

See more about the USA: Best Areas to Stay in San Francisco

2. Five Points and RiNo

Five Points and RiNo, where to stay in Denver for nightlife

Five Points and the River North Arts District (RiNo) is located just to the Northeast of Lower Downtown. It was known as the “Harlem of the West,” which was a traditionally African American area in the early 20th century.

One of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, first settled in the 1850s, it is a great place to come for anyone interested in the history of Denver. 

In recent years, it has become one of the fastest developing neighborhoods in the entire city, massively increasing its appeal to tourists. Soul food eateries, coffeehouses, craft breweries, bars, and pubs intertwine with historic theatres and ballrooms.

While not featuring many attractions specifically designed for tourists, the Denver Central Market is well worth a visit. An open-air Food hall and market selling meat, fish, pizzas, baked goods, and fresh produce, is a great way to get a feel for the traditional cuisine and culture of this part of Denver.

The festivals held throughout the year in Five Points then enhance this experience even further, for those lucky enough to be visiting when they take place.

The Five Points Jazz Festival takes place each May, with performances in both the streets and historic venues, celebrating the history of Jazz music in the city. Meanwhile, the Juneteenth Festival draws thousands of visitors to the city to celebrate the history of African Americans, with parades, performers, and street vendors.

The nearby Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library and Black American West Museum can give an even deeper insight for those interested, detailing the role of African Americans in the pioneer era.

RiNo is one of Denver’s hippest nightlife neighborhoods with many jazz bars, restaurants, breweries, cideries, wineries, and distilleries.

If you love street art, RiNo is also for you. You can take Denver Graffiti Tour to learn more about murals, graffiti, and street art. There are also plenty of art galleries like Plinth Gallery, Wonderbound, and fooLPRoof contemporary art.

If you love vintage vehicles, be sure to visit the Forney Museum of Transportation where you can find one of the largest and most unique transportation collections!

For anyone wanting to turn their vacation into a cultural experience, Five Points is a great location to stay in Denver. Staying in a local boutique hotel, taking in the area’s history, and relaxing in the pools, parks, and playgrounds on offer is a sure-fire way to guarantee your trip is a success.

Stay in Five Points and RiNo if you looking for lively nightlife; you love street art; you are interested in history and culture; you’re a foodie; you want to learn about African Americans or Jazz music;

Best places to stay in Five Points /RiNo:

  • mid-range ($$): Catbird Hotel, 4-star hotel on Walnut Street, featuring 24-hour front desk, private parking, and family rooms. Close to two breweries for good food and beer.
  • mid-range ($$): The Source Hotel, 4-star hotel that has an outdoor swimming pool, close to Great Divide Brewing. It has a central locations and lots of restaurants in the hotel.
  • mid-range ($$): The Ramble Hotel, 4-star accommodation that has Very Good Breakfast, set in a great location, close to downtown and lots of restaurants and coffee shops.

3. Central Business District

Central Business District, best place to stay in Denver for business travelers

The Central Business District is located at the heart of the Downtown area, it is filled with many office skyscrapers, corporations, and facilities, making it the ideal choice for business travelers.

Great restaurants and some of the best hotels in Denver are located throughout the Central Business District. This is ideal for workers from out of town who need to unwind after a long, hard day.

The Colorado Convention Center is one of the highlights of the Central Business District. Opened in 1990, it features meeting rooms, ballrooms, and even an indoor amphitheater, making it the perfect place for conferences and conventions, of which it holds more than 400 each year.

The Central Business District isn’t just for business travelers though. For starters, the convention center holds many of the city’s major affairs, like the Great American Beer Festival, Denver Comic Con, and the Denver Auto and Boat shows, making it a destination well suited for tourists as well.

You then have a number of other attractions in the Central Business District specifically designed for tourists as well.  There is the American Museum Of Western Art – The Anschutz Collection, where you can enjoy one of the largest collections of art depicting the American West. 

You have the Denver Performing Arts Complex, one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States, where you can enjoy performances of things such as ballet, dance, opera, orchestras, and more.

The Central Business District is even home to the mile-long, pedestrian-friendly mall, 16th Street Mall. The largest outdoor mall in Denver, it contains more than 40 outdoor cafes and stores, laid out in the design of a rattlesnake.

You can also find Denver Pavilions on the 16th Street Mall, a shopping hot spot, home to many shops, restaurants, bars and a movie theater.

While it’s within walking distance to the attractions it can be dead at night because it’s not a residential area. You can find some of the cultural attractions nearby like the Denver Selfie Museum and the Denver Firefighters Museum.

The Central Business District is the best area to stay in Denver on business and for those who are attending an event at the Colorado Convention Center.

Stay in Central Business District if you want to stay at the heart of Downtown Denver; you travel without a car; you are traveling on business; you’re in Denver for a short time, one night or for a weekend.

Best places to stay in Denver CBD:


See more:

4. Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill denver on a budget

Capitol Hill along with Lower Downtown is the best area to stay in Denver without a car because they are both cental neighborhood with plenty of things to do and see by foot and public transport. The bus system, bike share and your feet will get you most places.

The hip area of Capitol Hill (known as Cap Hill by locals) is located immediately to the east of Golden Triangle, at the other end of Civic Center Park. As the name suggests, the most prominent attraction in Capitol Hill is the Colorado State Capitol Building.

Built in the late 19th-century, it is built to resemble the United States Capitol building. Each year visitors come to Capitol Hill from far and wide to see its beautiful architecture and learn about the history of the state of Colorado.

Beyond the State Capitol itself, Capitol Hill is an area filled with historic attractions throughout.

One of the most popular attractions in Capitol Hill is the Molly Brown House Museum. The former home of socialite Molly Brown, who was a survivor of the Titanic disaster, the museum is listed on the National Register Of Historic Places and shows exhibits relating to her life and Victorian Denver.

Elsewhere in Capitol Hill, another popular site is Saint John’s Cathedral. Built in the early 1900s, it features some of the most beautiful architecture in not just Capitol Hill but Denver as a whole. It is a great way to view beautiful craftsmanship and learn about the religious history of the city.

Golden Triangle is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city with many 19th-century Victorian houses and bungalows.

Important landmarks nearby like the Clyfford Still Museum, United States Mint, Central Library, History Colorado Center, Denver Art Museum, and the Kirkland Museum Of Fine & Decorative Art.

Denver Story Trek is a great way to explore the stories behind Denver’s historic landscapes and landmarks.

You can also be close to the green parks of the 23-acres Denver Botanic Gardens, Cheesman Park, and Congress Park.

Stay in Capitol Hill if you’re a first-time visitor or on a budget; you want to be near the heart of the city; you are interested in Victorian architecture or the religious history of the city;

Best places to stay in Denver in Capitol Hill:


5. Cherry Creek

Cherry Creek along with Downtown is one of the safest neighborhood to stay in Denver. Cherry Creek is a unique district, located to the southeast of Capitol Hill, along the banks of Cherry Creek itself. It is an area that is equally well known for both nature and shopping, two incredibly contrasting pastimes.

In its south, Cherry Creek Shopping Centre is one of the largest malls in Denver. Upwards of 160 stores are spread out over more than 1,000,000 square feet, intertwined with dining options, a movie theatre, a children’s playground, and seasonal farmers markets.

In Cherry Creek North, you’ll find more locally owned businesses, with everything from shops and restaurants to salons and spas. The combination of these two locations makes Cherry Creek a perfect choice for shopaholics, no matter their style or taste.

A short way from Cherry Creek North you will also find the Denver Botanic Gardens. Containing gardens, a conservatory, and a sunken amphitheater, you can learn about plants from around the world, as well as maybe even catch a concert in the summer if you’re lucky.

On the natural side of things, Cherry Creek Trail follows Cherry Creek around the outside of the neighborhood. Traveling for 40 miles from The Pinery, on the outskirts of the Denver metropolitan area, to Confluence Park in LoDo, it provides a fabulous river walk for anyone who wants to explore more of Colorado’s famous landscape, without needing a car to do so.

Stay in Cherry Creek if you want to visit the Denver Botanic Gardens; you love shopping; you want to stay in a safe neighborhood; you want to walk the Cherry Creek Trail.

Best places to stay in Denver in Cherry Creek:


6. Uptown – North Capitol Hill

Located north of Capitol Hil, Uptown is the oldest residential district in Denver with many Victorian and Queen Anne buildings and tree-lined streets, lovely shops, and a relaxed vibe.

Located to the north of  Cherry Creek, City Park is an area dominated by the park itself and surrounded by a small residential neighborhood. As the largest park in Denver, it is a great option for anyone who loves spending time outdoors enjoying nature. 

Lakes contain ducks and numerous other species of birds, fish, and amphibians for the avid wildlife spotters out there. Meanwhile, boathouses hold vessels to take you out on the water, to make the most of the tranquil setting.

Nature lovers will even enjoy the incredible selection of species on offer in Denver Zoo, which is located within the park. Containing more than 3,500 animals, spread out across 550 species, more than 2.2 million visitors travel here each year to explore the wonders it has to offer.

There are even attractions that don’t relate to nature too, such as the Denver Museum Of Nature & Science. Opened in 1900, it is a non-profit organization that contains exhibits to teach you about Colorado, as well as the rest of our planet and universe.

Stay in Uptown if you’re traveling with families; you want to visit the Denver Zoo or the Denver Museum Of Nature & Science; you prefer a more remote, natural destination;


7. Lower Highlands / LoHi

Lower Highlands is a part of “The Highlands”. Highland is located on the opposite side of the South Platte River from Downtown Denver, giving you a fabulous view of the Downtown skyline. Being somewhat cut off from the rest of the city, there aren’t a huge number of tourist attractions to be found here.

LoHi is probably the most family-friendly neighborhood closest to downtown Denver. It has some festivals like the LoHi Music Festival, street fairs, some of the most expensive restaurants in the city like Linger. There are also restaurants, bars, and shops along Tennyson Avenue in North Highlands.

One of the most popular is the Downtown Aquarium, located on the outskirts of the district. Containing more than 5000 animals of over 500 species spread out across 107,000 square feet, it is a fabulous place to see and learn about a wide range of marine life. Highland Bridge and Avanti Food and Beverage complex are also worth visiting!

However, the primary reason to stay in Highland when you visit Denver is for the easy access it provides to Rocky Mountains National Park.

Located some 60 miles away, even further above sea level, it is one of the most famous National Park’s in the world. While Denver is a great city in its own right, it would be a shame to come this close and not explore the landscapes and wildlife that Colorado is so famous for.

Stay in Highland if you’re looking for a family-friendly area; you want to visit the Downtown Aquarium; you want to explore Rocky Mountains National Park.


8. Central Park

Our final destination of the former site of the decommissioned Stapleton International Airport, Central Park and Stapleton is located in the very north-eastern section of Denver. This largest residential district has some of the most affordable hotels in Denver located here.

Central Park is Denver’s third-largest park, eighty acres with wonderful trails, a big playground, and a worthy view of the Rocky Mountains.

Detached from much of the city, it isn’t a place that will be right for the majority of people. That said, it does have a few selling points for the right type of traveler.

The Stanley Marketplace is a shopping center and hipster meeting place with several restaurants, shops, and businesses.

The other reason people stay in Central Park is to visit Rocky Mountains Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Covering almost 16,000 acres, it gives you the chance to spot some of the 330 species of wildlife that live there, including birds, bison, coyotes, deer, prairie dogs, raccoons, and ferrets. 

Stay in Central Park – Stapleton if you are traveling on a budget; you want to visit the Rocky Mountains Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.


Where should I stay in Denver for the first time?

Lower Downtown is the best place to stay in Denver for first-timers due to its prime location. If you stay here, you will be located within easy access to attractions, as well as restaurants, bars, and shops.

What are the best areas to stay in Denver?

Lower Downtown, Five Points & RiNo, CBD, Capitol Hill, Cherry Creek, Uptown, Lower Highlands, and Central Park are the best areas to stay in Denver because they are the most popular areas for tourists that offer many things to do and see.

Where to stay in Denver without a car?

Lower Downtown and Capitol Hill are the best areas to stay in Denver without a car because it has a super central location and well-connected public transport. You can easily get around on foot, or by using a light rail system.

Where to stay in Denver with a car?

Most hotels in Downtown Denver offer paid parking. If you are looking for a hotel with free car parking in Denver, look into Drury Inn and Suites Denver Central Park or Woolley’s Classic Suites Denver Airport.

What is the safest area to stay in Denver?

Cherry Creek and Downtown are safe places to stay in Denver for tourists with plenty of things to do and see. It is recommended to always practice common sense as you travel to any big city. 

Where Should I Not Stay In Denver?

You should avoid staying in bad neighborhoods and stick into touristy areas such as Lower Downtown. Also always stay alert, and pay attention to your surroundings.

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The Mile High City is a fabulous destination. Its amazing climate changes with the seasons, and it is filled with attractions, amenities, luxury hotels, and sports bars and teams. This ensures everyone will have a great time, no matter when or why you choose to visit Denver.

To sum up, the best places to stay in Denver for tourists are Lower Downtown, Five Points/RiNo, Central Business District, Capitol Hill, Cherry Creek, and Uptown. These areas provide a variety of accommodations for all budgets.

Overall, I recommend LoDo as the best area to stay in Denver for the first visit. Downtown is the most convenient location and it has a widest choice in accommodation. There are plenty of things to do and see that you can easily explore by public transport and on foot without a car.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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