21 Things to Do in Golden, CO: Exploring History and Adventure

Julie Diebolt Price Avatar
Things to do in Golden CO - several people standing on rocks in and around Clear Creek, with greenery overhanging the sides and the Coors Brewery in the background.
Clear Creek and Coors Brewery. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Named for the precious metal that lured prospectors and settlers from across the country during the Gold Rush, Golden, Colorado, is a vibrant gateway to adventure, history, and innovation. A short 15-mile drive west of Denver, Golden feels like a world apart with wide open spaces and stunning landscapes of the Front Range and the Rockies.

Golden uniquely blends natural beauty, historical depth, and innovative spirit. Whether you’re drawn to the roar of Clear Creek, the towering presence of Lookout Mountain, or the quiet streets lined with historic buildings, Golden invites travelers to explore and discover everything it offers.

Downtown Golden

When I arrived in Golden, the vibrant ruby and golden leaves on the trees against the blue sky were a welcome sight—the unseasonably warm fall days made a perfect setting for Golden.

On my walking tour of Downtown Golden, I enjoyed the Old West ambiance with a small-town feel. The Welcome to Golden Arch makes a perfect selfie background.

Things to do in Golden CO - woman with grey hair and sunglasses stands beneath a sign stretching over a street that reads, "Howdy Folks! Welcome to Golden".
Author with Welcome to Golden. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

Table Mountain Inn was the perfect home base for my visit. This historic hotel, located on the main street in downtown Golden, Washington Avenue, was steps away from fun things to do, boutiques, saloons, dining halls, outdoor activities, and more.

Read More: Why Table Mountain Inn is a Great Destination in Colorado

1. Golden Visitor Center

The Golden Welcome Center is on the north side of Clear Creek Washington Avenue and has an abundance of brochures and information about the area available on outside racks. It also includes maps and guides about where to stay, dine, play, and shop in Golden. The Golden Visitor Center is close to the Golden History Museum and the Golden History Park.

2. Golden History Park

At Golden History Park, formerly Clear Creek History Park, you can tour the original buildings from the Pearce Ranch in Golden Gate Canyon, and get a taste of pioneer life.

The 1800s cabins are authentic, and you can peek through their windows. You can also spot other structures from the ranch, such as the barn, chicken coop, and two-seat outhouse.

The ranch belonged to Thomas and Henrietta Pearce, who raised eight children there. By 1912, it became one of the largest ranches in the area.

Admission is always free.

3. Golden History Museum

At the Golden History Museum, you’ll meet the legendary people who built Golden and learn about the local famous breweries. Exhibits include:

  • Versatile program meeting rooms.
  • A children’s hands-on gallery.
  • A collection of 15,000 historic objects.

Admission is always free.

Things to do in Golden CO - Foothills Art Center
Foothills Art Center. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

4. Foothills Art Center

Heading up the hill from downtown, the Foothills Art Center, founded in 1968, is housed in the former First Presbyterian Church. The Center offers a selection of exhibits, events, and programming for the community and artists. As of this writing, it is closed for construction.

Things to do in Golden CO - Sherpa House Restaurant
Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

5. Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center

The Sherpa House Restaurant and Cultural Center is worth seeing. You can meditate with a prayer wheel on the artistically landscaped grounds and enjoy an authentic Nepalese meal in the restaurant, which was doing brisk business the evening I was there.

Things to do in Golden CO - Colorado School of Mines building
Colorado School of Mines with Hang Gliders. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

6. Colorado School of Mines

The renowned Colorado School of Mines graduates students specializing in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. The students, called Orediggers, are in high demand when they graduate because they earned a reputation as problem-solvers, leaders, and innovators. The graduates receive silver-plated metal diplomas engraved with the seals of the Colorado School of Mines and the State of Colorado.

7. Mines Museum of Earth Science

The Mines Museum of Earth Science is the repository for the most extensive public collection of minerals from Colorado. Mines Museum is home to one of the Apollo 17 mission’s Goodwill moon rocks.

Visitors can explore an indoor cave showcasing glowing minerals, hike along the Bob Weimer trail, and stop by to see authentic triceratops trackways. The exhibits rotate regularly, so there is always something new to see.

Things to do in Golden CO - American Mountaineering Center, two-story, square red brick building
The American Mountaineering Center. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

8. American Mountaineering Museum

If you’re interested in mountaineering history, safety, and culture, take advantage of the Bradford Washburn American Mountaineering Museum. It’s the first and only museum in the nation dedicated to this subject.

Since its establishment in February 2008, the museum has been striving to interpret knowledge about mountains and educate people on mountaineering history, safety, and culture in a new and innovative way.

The museum is in the American Mountaineering Center. With 3,500 feet of space, it features exhibits on climate, science, cultures, and humanities related to mountains, guaranteeing a rich, exciting, and interactive visitor experience.

9. Clear Creek Whitewater Park

The Clear Creek Whitewater Park, established in 1998, is an exceptional recreational attraction in Golden. It offers a thrilling experience of recreational canoeing and kayaking, covering a quarter of a mile of exciting and splashing fun with an 800-foot course. The course is a challenging series of drops and pools, shallow surf waves, and extreme surf and wave drops. The U.S. Olympic Kayak Team practices at the course.

10. North Table Mountain

About 60 million years ago, North Table Mountain and its sister mesa, South Table Mountain, were formed by lava flow. Table Mountain Park offers over 15 hiking trails, making it an ideal destination for those with limited time and who want to go hiking near Denver. The best time to visit is in spring and early summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom, but the trails are open year-round.

Things to do in Golden CO - Colorado Railroad Museum, full-sized locomotive and other train cars against a blue sky.
Colorado Railroad Museum. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

11. Colorado Railroad Museum

The train horn blasting draws people from near and far to the Colorado Railroad Museum. Watching the behemoth steam engine provides entertainment for anyone. Even better, catch a ride on that very same steam engine, and you’ve got entertainment for the whole family.

With paid admission, you can tour cabooses in the rail yard and get a real sense of train travel in the Old West.

12. Coors Brewery Tour

Because Golden is the home of Coors Brewery, it is only fitting for you to schedule the Coors Brewery Tour into your itinerary. Coors Brewery is world-famous for being the largest single-site brewery.

The Coors Brewery Tour showcases the history and passion for brewing. You get a 30-minute look at their malting, brewing, and packaging processes, along with viewing old photos, historical beer cans, bottles, neon signs, and other memorabilia from the Coors archives. Tours and brews sampling times vary, so check their website for details and schedule.

13. Golden City Brewery

Famous for being the second largest brewery in Golden, after Coors Brewery, Golden City Brewery has been pioneering craft beer since 1993. It’s Golden’s original microbrewery.

Founded by two geologists, Charlie & Janine Sturdavant, the Golden City Brewery began operations in the old machine shop behind their historic Golden home. The brewery is still in the machine shop, with a second level added later. The carriage house is the tasting room, and the beer garden is in the backyard.

They are known for crafting exceptional Red and Pale Ales and various other beer styles.

14. Distilleries

If you are looking for something a little stronger than beer, you’ll find some distilleries in Golden offering specialty drinks and unique atmospheres. You can get hand-crafted cocktails at Golden Moon Distillery, State 38 Distilling, and Local Distilling.

Day Trips Outside Golden

15. Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Golden Gate Canyon is about 20 minutes northwest of downtown Golden and less than 15 minutes past the Canyon. The Park is managed by Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

Here is a list of all the outdoor activities you can enjoy at Golden Gate Canyon State Park.

  • Archery
  • Biking
  • Birding
  • Boating
  • Camping
  • Fall Colors
  • Fishing
  • Geocaching
  • Gold Panning
  • Hatchery Tour
  • Hiking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Kayaking
  • OHV Trails
  • Paddleboarding
  • Rock Climbing
  • Range Shooting
  • Skating and Sledding
  • Skiing & Snowshoeing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Star Gazing
  • Swimming
  • Weddings
  • Wildflower Viewing
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Winter Lodging

The Park is dog-friendly. You can rent a cabin or yurt, and it requires a Parks Pass.

16. Lariat Loop Scenic Byway

The Lariat Loop National Historic Byway scenic drive will take about two to three hours, depending on how many stops you make.

From Golden, take Highway 6 to Lookout Mountain Road. Go up the mountain, then southwest down to I-70 at Genesee. Take Highway 74 through Evergreen to Morrison and complete the loop when you reach Highway 6 again.

When I was there, countless hang gliders were plying their skills in the sky around Lookout Mountain and Golden.

Things to do in Golden CO - two people hang gliding above Lookout Mountain.
Hang Gliders on Lookout Mountain. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

17. Morrison-Golden Fossil Areas National Natural Landmark

Incredible fossils and geology are at Triceratops Trail, Dinosaur Ridge, and other sites within the Morrison-Golden Fossil Areas National Natural Landmark.

Colorado’s Front Range includes the long hogback ridge between the Rocky Mountains foothills and the Great Plains grasslands. Originally named the Dakota Hogback, it became the Dinosaur Ridge because of all the fossils in this area.

Check in at the Gift Shop in the Main Visitor Center, where you can take a guided tour by bus, the most popular way to experience Dinosaur Ridge.

Read More: Best Dinosaur Museums in the US

18. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater offers many exciting live music performances and fitness programs like Yoga on the Rocks. Visitors can take self-guided tours beginning one hour before sunrise and continuing one hour after sunset. You can start by walking through the Visitor Center and exploring the interactive educational displays that highlight the geological and musical history of Red Rocks.

Many short self-guided hikes are available to experience the beautiful Red Rocks environment fully. Red Rocks Parks and Amphitheater is about 17 miles from Downtown Denver.

SheBuysTravel Tip: It was late in the day when I was there. Traffic was building for the concert that evening, and access was restricted. You must plan your time carefully here. If you’re going to attend a show, ride-sharing options are a good choice.

19. Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite

William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, a frontiersman, scout, and host of a Wild West show, is buried at the top of Lookout Mountain. He asked to be buried on the mountain overlooking the Great Plains, where he spent much of his life. The Buffalo Bill grave is well marked.

Cody got the nickname “Buffalo Bill” because of his prolific slaughter of bison to feed the Kansas Pacific Railroad workers after the Civil War.

The Buffalo Bill Museum opened in 1921 in partnership with the City and County of Denver by Buffalo Bill’s foster son, Johnny Baker. Johnny and his wife Olive, owners of the artifacts, managed the museum, café, and shop, which the Bakers named “Pahaska Tepee” after Cody’s hunting lodge outside Yellowstone Park.

Read More: Best Things to Do in Cody Wyoming Near Yellowstone

Things to do in Golden CO - visit the Lookout Mountain Preserve and Nature Center Wildlife
Lookout Mountain Preserve and Nature Center Wildlife. Photo credit: Julie Diebolt Price

20. Lookout Mountain Nature Center

The Lookout Mountain Preserve and Nature Center is less than two miles from the Buffalo Bill Museum and Gravesite.

At the Nature Center, many nature enthusiasts volunteer to observe and document the natural surroundings. During my visit, I noticed several individuals sitting on benches, drawing, sketching, and taking notes while they observed the beautiful scenery.

The interactive exhibits fascinated me because I could get up close and look wildlife in the eye.

Families, solo travelers, and school groups can all have a great time at the Center. Kids will especially enjoy the hands-on playroom and observation room; everyone can participate in the naturalist-led programs. And for those who want to explore independently, a walk through the nature preserve is a great option.

21. Boettcher Mansion

In the Lookout Mountain Nature Preserve, the Boettcher Mansion is a gem in a secluded setting. The Mansion was built as a lodge for hunting season and a summer home for Charles Boettcher, a hardware-selling magnate, and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, it serves as a venue for social gatherings like weddings, receptions, commitments, and memorial ceremonies.

Places to Eat in Golden

With many great places to eat in Golden, it’s difficult to say which was my favorite. I ate at Table Mountain Grill & Cantina, Sherpa House Restaurant and Culture Center, Woody’s Wood Fired Pizza, Ali Baba Grill, and the Golden Mill Food Hall.

Read More: Best Restaurants in Golden CO: A Foodie’s Guide

Places to Stay In Golden

There are many great places to stay in Golden. I was fortunate to stay in a suite at the Table Mountain Inn. Located on Washington Avenue, I was mere steps away from the excitement and charm of this Wild West town.

Read More: Best Hotels in Golden CO

Julie Diebolt Price is an award-winning professional photographer, educator, author, and travel writer. She writes about two things – photography and travel (along with a little food and beverage). Julie educates and mentors aspiring photographers. As a journalist who loves to travel, she creates memorable experiences and shares them with words and pictures.
Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *