The air may be a little thinner in Denver, but it won’t be the lack of oxygen taking student travelers’ breath away. It’s a city that not only propels you into the future with its modern architecture and thriving culture, but also blasts you into the past with its ancient roots and mining history. Student tour groups will have so much to do in the Mile High City, they’ll never want to leave.
Student Attractions at a Mile High
The beauty of Denver: No matter the reason for your student trip, there is an attraction that will satisfy your needs. “Denver, the Mile High City, offers exciting educational, cultural and performance options for student groups at any age, all in an area surrounded by the outstanding natural beauty of the Colorado Rocky Mountains,” according to the public relations department at the Denver Convention and Visitors Bureau. From free museum tours and artsy venues to outdoor adventures and fossil digs, Denver has it all and more.
Start by taking your youth group to that magical spot at exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. Located on the west entrance stairs of the State Capitol Building, a mile marker is set in place identifying one mile above sea level. From this spot, student tours can get a stunning view of downtown as well as the Rocky Mountains in the distance. Inside the Capitol, school groups can enjoy a free tour, taking in the immaculate architecture of the building, constructed with Colorado white granite and a real gold-plated dome.
After a quick lesson in government and politics, your school trip will have a chance to learn about the money-making process. But don’t worry, it won’t cost you anything. The U.S. Mint provides free tours of its facility, where student groups can witness everything from the coins coming off the production lines to the quarters being struck. Outside the doors of the Mint, your students can wander the streets of downtown, hitting the Denver Pavilions shopping complex and popular 16th Street Mall. A real treat for any crew, particularly a student performance group, is the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the second largest of its kind in the country. Guided tours take you behind the scenes from set design and wardrobe selection to dressing rooms and rehearsal studios.
Your student tour can venture through Larimer Square, a shopping and dining area with old Victorian-style buildings and one-of-a-kind shops. A perfect end to your student group’s walk around downtown is a visit to Confluence Park, located where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River meet. This was where Denver was founded as a city back in 1858, at the height of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush.
Just to the east of downtown is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where student tours can visit the newest permanent exhibition, Expedition Health, among many other fascinating displays. Back in the heart of downtown, student travelers will find the Denver Art Museum, with bold architecture originally designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti, and an expansion created by Daniel Libeskind designed to mimic the peaks of the Rocky Mountains. For a fun experience away from the inspiring museums of Denver, student travel groups can head over to Elitch Gardens, one of the only urban amusement parks in the country. Students can let lose in the 70-acre park, taking a ride on a roller coaster or zipping down a water slide.
While the downtown area is chock full of exciting museums, parks, attractions and shops, no trip to Denver would be complete without a visit to the nearby mountains. There are many ways for your student travel group to get a taste of the Rockies. Head directly West of downtown and you’ll find Dinosaur Ridge, an outdoor museum where the first large dinosaur bones were unearthed. After your school group explores the area and has a dig at Backyard Bones, it can grab a bite at the Stegosaurus Snack Shack. For a look at true geological beauty, take your students over to Red Rocks Amphitheatre, an acoustic gem only Mother Nature could have created. This open-air venue is free and open to the public, but your field trip can get a guided tour that allows them to get up on stage and belt it out.
Denver is known not only for its majestic scenery, but also for its rich Western history. Buffalo Bills Grave and Museum features memorabilia from the life of Buffalo Bill, Native American artifacts and old Western gear. Your student tour can sign up for the “Buffalo Burgers & Buffalo Chips” package, which includes a buffalo burger lunch, buffalo chip throwing, a hike up to Bill’s grave and a museum tour.
Dynamic Student Sightseeing Tours in Denver
When you take a school trip on a sightseeing tour, the last thing you want is for it to be just another bus ride. Well, you won’t get that with Banjo Billy’s Bus Tours, an historic adventure around Denver or Boulder in a tricked out school bus that looks like a hillbilly shack. It’s safe to say your student travelers have never seen anything like this. For a longer tour that includes anything your students want to see in Denver, try Colorado Sightseer, Inc., which offers historic tours that can last up to seven hours. Denver Inside and Out completely immerses your student tour group in the life and times of 1920s Denver. This tour takes students back to the legendary 1922 robbery of the U.S. Mint, asking them to help unravel the mystery of that infamous day.
Student Performance Venues All Around Denver
Many of Denver’s popular attractions offer student performance groups the opportunity to show off their skills in front of a crowd. Downtown, students can perform at the Children’s Museum of Denver or in the first rotunda of the State Capitol Building. Sports venues like Coors Field and the Pepsi Center will let student performance groups sing the national anthem before games or put on a pre-game show in one of the entranceways. Student groups can perform in the student union at Johnson and Wales University, or in front of the Downtown Aquarium. For a peaceful concert setting, head over to City Park and perform in their pavilion, with the serene lake as your backdrop.
Grab a Bite at these Top Student Restaurants in Denver
After a long day of mountain adventures, your student tour will be hungry for some delicious local fare. Casa Bonita, a Denver favorite, is a veritable wonderland of food and entertainment. Designed to look like a Mexican village, the restaurant not only features quality food options, but also a plethora of attractions from Wild West gunfights to cliff divers. If you’re looking for more of a relaxed Mexican dining experience, try Hacienda Colorado, which features a distinct twist on traditional Mexican aptly named Mountain Mex.
Denver may have great Mexican food, but it offers numerous other types of cuisine as well. And Gunther Toody’s is the perfect place to try some old-fashioned American dishes. Imagine shuffling your student tour through the bright red doors of a 1950s-style diner and facing an old blue Chevy driving through the wall. A waitress in a poodle skirt greets you as old tunes blast from a jukebox. Students will love the traditional burgers and root beer floats reminiscent of the hopping fifties era.
Where to Stay: Student Accommodations in Denver
With 270 hotels in the metro area, Denver provides many options where your student travelers can rest their heads. If you’re looking to stay downtown, opt for the chain hotels like the Comfort Inn or Courtyard by Marriott. Both offer decent rates and are located close to many major attractions. Some cheaper rates can be found east of the city, closer to Denver International Airport. 3737 Hotel, a pleasant boutique hotel located in the Stapleton area, has surprisingly low rates and includes breakfast. It’s a little further from downtown, so transportation is necessary, but it’s well worth it for a nice homey stay.
It seems that Denver has far too much to offer that it can’t all be covered. So you’ll simply have to go there for your next student trip and breathe in the wonder that is the Mile High City.