I've lived here for two years now and I've played tourist and tour guide more times than I can count. While I've written posts about what-to-do in these cities before, this is what we did on my cousin's recent trip. She was here for five days so these were the highlights and the must-see destinations. I'm including links so you can see what I'm talking about.
If you were coming to visit, these are the places we would go.
Garden of the Gods. (see above) Hiking and photo opportunities. There's also a visitors' center/gift shop and horseback riding. Plenty of places for picnics too. Rains, I'm pretty sure, every afternoon in the summer.
Over Easy: A Daytime Eatery. We like the University Village location. Get there early or go on a Monday.
Our other favorite restaurant is Pho and Grill off of Powers Blvd. We've been there at least a dozen times.
Old Colorado City and Manitou Springs. Tourist-traps really, but some good gems for locals too. Shopping, food, drinks...these are the older parts of the city.
Summit Pikes Peak by taking the Cog Railway. It's a LOT of bang for your buck because it's $38 a person for a 4(ish) hour roundtrip. You feel like you really get an experience out of it. I've done it 3 times and I would go again.
Then, onto Denver...this can really vary depending on your interests. I definitely recommend the Botanic Gardens and The Museum of Nature and Science if you have a lot of time to burn. But if you don't want to spend the time doing that here's a few quick stops...
The Outlets at Castle Rock. This is shopping about halfway between Denver and Co Springs.
The Park Meadows Mall. This is in Lone Tree, at the south end of Denver. Easily the nicest mall I've seen. Ever. They have everything, including a food court that they call a "dining hall".
Head into downtown Denver and check out the Tattered Cover bookstore. It's independently owned, and they sell new and used books.
A few blocks from the bookstore is Coors Field, where the Rockies play. I'm sure you can do tours at some points during the year, or you can go to games (obviously) during the season.
Directly between Coors Field and the bookstore is Union Station and The Crawford Hotel. This is where we stayed for my birthday last year. (Actually that was this year...seems like a very long time ago..)
There's also Elitch Gardens Theme Park (which my students never stop talking about), The Molly Brown House (where I went in June), The Denver Zoo, and the Downtown Aquarium.
Anyone who has lived here or visited, what did I miss???
There's a ton of breweries too, but I've only been to a few. I've got a list of recommendations for food/drink/coffee/dessert that would require its own post.