Having fun and public transportation aren’t necessarily terms that go hand-in-hand. But Denver’s RTD Light Rail, especially with the expansions of the last few years, provides a wide-reaching grid to deliver passengers to all sorts of destinations around the city and surrounding areas. It’s not just for commuters going to work, and so we’ve outlined some of best stops to explore Denver through the Light Rail system exclusively. These stations provide easy, quick and walkable access to more than 50 businesses. Save money on car shares, taxis or your own gas and leave the responsibility up to RTD as you explore what these stations are close to. Beneath each listed station, there are only places that are within a 10 block radius, or less than 15 minutes worth of walking.
To see the scope of where a light rail traveler can reach in Denver, check out the mapped guide showing which RTD stations we picked below.
Accessible by the A, B, C, E and W Lines, Denver’s Union Station is the hub for light rail travel in and around the city. After the renovations in the inside, the station has become a place to hang out even if you aren’t using public transportation. Within the station building, there are nine restaurants including Snooze and Mercantile Dining and Provision, two bars, three businesses and The Crawford Hotel. With such a central location, Union Station also provides easy access to these venues/businesses:
Coors Field: Watch the Colorado Rockies at their home field and don’t worry about driving home afterwards.
Museum of Contemporary Art: Rotating exhibitions of current artists both Denver-based and traveling since 1996.
Wynkoop Brewing Company: Touted as Colorado’s first brewpub and situated in the historic J.S. Brown Mercantile Building, Wynkoop was started by four Denverites, including John Hickenlooper, and still prides itself on making really good beer.
Jax Fish House and Oyster Bar: One of three locations for Jax (the others in Boulder and Glendale), this one in LoDo feels airy and fresh while serving the sustainable seafood that makes the restaurant so popular.
The Cruise Room: As one of Denver’s oldest bar, The Cruise Room inside the Oxford Hotel is a historic stop just steps from Union Station. The bar hasn’t closed for one day since Prohibition ended in 1933, even though it’s currently getting an update.
Tattered Cover Bookstore: Known as Denver’s most iconic bookstore, Tattered Cover is just a block from Union Station. Get lost in its shelves or attend one of its many book signing events. Everyone from Bruce Springsteen to John Oates has stopped by.
Citizen Rail: One of Denver’s newest restaurants resides just around the corner from the main platform of Union Station. Known for its wood fire cuisine and killer cocktails, the sleek new spot is worth peeking your head into.
The Dairy Block: The Dairy Block is a brand new development located where the historic Windsor Dairy use to reside. Currently, home to restaurants and bars like Kachina and Poka Lola, the block will soon add an alley with more retail to explore. In the meantime, stop by the block and try out one of the restaurants or pop into the Hotel Maven which features tons of local art in its dynamic lobby.
READ: Citizen Rail Opens Behind Union Station
38th & Blake Station
This is one of the first stops on the train that ultimately takes riders to the airport from Union Station. Instead of worrying about parking in the RiNo district, take the train from Union Station and arrive at 38th and Blake less than five minutes later, across the street from one of the iconic “Love this City” murals painted by four Denver street artists. At this station, there is access to a plethora of businesses in the northern part of RiNo and ultimately the ability to experience the entire district if you don’t mind hoofing it a little. Here are the sweet spots within a short walking distance of the 38th and Blake Station:
The Source: An “artisan food market” with 13 vendors and a bar. Not only are there restaurants, there is also an art gallery, a floral designer and a coffee shop among other businesses.
Black Shirt Brewing: Celebrating its five-year anniversary at the end of this month, Black Shirt Brewing is a place with a great patio, consistent live music and non-conformist beers.
Great Divide Barrel Bar: This is the second location for Great Divide, and is the packaging facility, canning line, barrel-aged and sour beer storage and also a small tasting room. It’s perfect for the beer loving adventurers.
Blue Moon Brewing: A staple of a brewery for Denver, Blue Moon started in 1995 as a tap room at the corner of 22nd and Blake. Now in RiNo, the tasting room offers over 20 taps that range from some of the old school favorites to new and innovative ones.
EXDO Event Center: This warehouse has been converted into a multi-faceted event space that often hosts massive parties like Roll Denver’s monthly themed roller skating party. There are also craft fairs, concerts, fashion shows and other events at the center, and it’s available for private parties as well.
Millers and Rossi: Located right next to EXDO event center you’ll find an unassuming gallery with a hidden secret. Just walk through the picture frame and you’ll find yourself inside a sexy bar.
Rebel: A trendy restaurant with ornate decoration inside and out, its New American menu changes frequently based on seasonality.
Butcher Block Cafe: The family-owned breakfast joint has been going strong for 30 years. Grab one of its famous homemade cinnamon rolls or enjoy breakfast all day every day.
Helikon Gallery: Contemporary art gallery with a large display space on the bottom floor and over a dozen artist studios on the second floor, which viewers can stroll through and take a peek inside.
Plinth Gallery: Modern art gallery with a focus on contemporary ceramic arts. The building that Plinth is in is now a recognized architectural landmark in the quickly growing RiNo neighborhood.
READ: Denver’s Newest Bar is Hidden Inside an Art Gallery
10th & Osage Station
Less than a 10-minute ride from Union Station, this stop doesn’t have as many options nearby as some of the other chosen ones, but it does provide at least one major must-see restaurant in Denver — Buckhorn Exchange. Aside from that, the other reason to take the light rail to 10th and Osage is to take a look at some of the exterior art in the area. Immediately stepping off the train, there is a sculpture to the north by Emanuel Martinez called Mestizaje, dedicated in 2003 and representative of Mexican culture through the 1960s civil rights movement. The neighborhood surrounding this station is called Mariposa and was created with a focus on community, bike-friendliness, outdoor living spaces and gardens, leading to a relaxed vibe that is pleasant to stroll through and admire the scenery and handful of sculptures and painted electric boxes. The five interesting businesses nearest to this station are:
Buckhorn Exchange: This is Denver’s first steakhouse with liquor license number one and has been serving food — including Rocky Mountain Oysters — and drinks since 1893.
Osage Cafe: With a full breakfast and lunch menu, this slightly hidden cafe rests beneath a breathtaking mural that stretches the length of the apartment complexes above it.
Art From Ashes: Mainly focused on youth events, Art From Ashes also provides adult workshops that “allow participants to express themselves through poetry, right-brain creative ability and the power of words.”
Renegade Brewing Company: A brewery known for beers bursting with flavor (and not following the beer-making norms) since its opening in 2011.
Museo De Las Americas: Art gallery that focuses on educating the community about Latino Americano art and culture from ancient to contemporary, through exhibitions and programming.
Santa Fe Art District: With over 30 participating businesses that include art galleries, coffee shops, restaurants and museums, this district has enough to entertain someone for at least an entire afternoon.
Interstate Brewery and Kitchen: Familiar comfort food classics served in an all-American setting that isn’t too kitschy and isn’t too expensive.
The Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project: Started by a grad student in Boulder, this brewery focuses on experimental flavors and styles while also highlighting global culture and that feeling of wanderlust.
READ: Denver’s At-Risk Youth Use Poetry to Heal at Art From Ashes
BONUS: Littleton Downtown Station
Unless you currently live in Littleton, you probably have not yet had a reason to take a leisurely stroll on Main and Alamo Streets. This is a “bonus” station because it’s technically not within Denver’s city limits, but you can access it from many part of Denver through the light rail. With the Downtown station, the entire area opens to residents of other surrounding cities as a picturesque setting for an outing with friends, a date or even by yourself. There are dozens of businesses to choose from, though only the restaurants and bars are highlighted below.
Ned Kelly’s Irish Pub: Small and basic Irish pub in a bright red brick building off of Main Street.
Olde Towne Tavern : Low-key “old school neighborhood watering hole” with American food and full bar.
The Alley: Owned and operated by Littleton natives, The Alley serves up “mountain-style Mexican food” and also has a build-your-own bottomless mimosa bar on weekends.
Jake’s Brew Bar: Beer garden with 36 rotating taps that is owned and operated by same locals that started Kate’s Wine Bar, to satisfy those with the more malty tastebuds.
Kate’s Wine Bar: Wide selection of wines with expert staff to help you along with your decision and seven appetizers to pair with the wine.
The Chocolate Therapist: Chocolate and coffee shop with on-site production of chocolate treats that are created with all-natural ingredients.
Toast: Small breakfast place that serves all the classics, new mixes on the classics and offers a separate gluten-free menu.
Reinke Brothers: An iconic Littleton costume shop with over 20,000 costumes for sale or rent. During Halloween season the store also doubles as a haunted house.
Theatre District Station
As the station name implies, this stop on the RTD Light Rail will bring riders to the middle of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. On one side of the station are the venues of the Denver Performing Arts Complex that host concerts, plays, musicals, film festivals and touring Broadway shows. On the other side is the Colorado Convention Center, where large-scale events are held like the Tattoo Masquerade and New Year’s Eve Decadence Festival. These areas can be notoriously difficult and expensive to drive and park in, so taking the light rail if it’s possible will make a night out to one of these venues more carefree. Aside from the DCPA and Convention Center, this station also brings pedestrians to a nice access point for the south side of downtown Denver.
Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC): As one of the largest performing arts centers in the United States with 10 performance spaces, DPAC has options for nearly any viewer who wants to be entertained.
Colorado Convention Center: Event space and facility that hosts more than 250 events each year and is known for its sustainability, earning five awards and recognitions so far for its innovation and sensibility.
Paramount Theatre: Historic in its architecture, this theater started as a movie house and has grown into a unique venue that showcases live music, comedy, dancing, movies and occasionally a Wurlitzer organ performance.
Union Lodge No. 1: Located right near DCPA, the little cocktail bar is a favorite among spirit loving locals for their pre-prohibition style cocktails. Make sure to get the Ramos Gin Fizz and thank us later.
Dazzle Jazz: Known as one of Denver’s best jazz clubs, the beloved venue has relocated to much bigger digs at the historic Baur’s Building. Check out its new location and stay for a live show.
Sam’s No. 3: A breakfast and lunch restaurant with an enormous menu, designed in the style of classic diners almost to the point of being tacky, Sam’s No. 3 has three locations in and around Denver and people love it.
Uncle Joe’s Hong Kong Bistro: Don’t let the modern interior fool you, Uncle Joe’s serves up some seriously authentic Chinese dishes. Don’t leave with out trying the dazzlingly spicy Jumping Chicken or its eclectic dim sum offerings.
Denver Mint: Each year the US Mint produces millions of coins for the United States. Take a free tour and learn the history of the historic building that has been in operation in 1863. Out of the five currently operational Mints in the US, Denver is only one of two you can tour.
27th & Welton Station
This is the best stop along the stretch of the D Line that runs between the Theatre District and 30th and Downing Stations because it’s the most central in the historic neighborhood Five Points. The intersection south of the station is what Five Points is named for — where 26th, 27th, Washington and Welton meet. At this juncture there are several options for dining, drinking or having a coffee break, described below:
Spangalang Brewery: Craft brewery that encourages people to stop by its taproom by not providing its beers nearly anywhere else.
715 Club: Re-opened after three decades of closure, this iconic Denver bar is a trip to the past in the best way possible.
Rosenberg’s Bagels: Deli serving New York style bagels and sandwiches that have been given a shout-out by many publications, including the New York Times.
Rolling Pin Bakeshop: Quaint bakery with breads, pastries, coffee and cakes. Owned in part by a baker who worked at Rosenberg’s for a few years before setting out on his own baking passion project.
Goed Zuur: Sour beers, boutique cheeses, charcuterie and fresh-baked breads that bring a European chic to Five Points. It’s also dubbed the nation’s very first sour beer bar.
Dunbar Kitchen & Tap House: An unassuming place that’s good for both friendly outings and family dinners, with approachable food made with high-quality ingredients and an extensive drink menu.
Coffee at the Point: Coffee shop serving locally roasted coffee from Novo with spacious interior perfect for small meetings or private work sessions on a computer.
The Station: If you’re a fan of ’90s fashion, look no further than The Station. The Five Points vintage store has a large collection of the best brands from Supreme to Bape.
Cervantes’ Masterpiece & The Other Side: If you’re hoping to enjoy live music in Five Points look no further than Cervantes. The historic venue is located in the old Casino Cabaret, which dates back to the 1930s. Jazz greats such as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman once graced the stage giving the area the nickname “The Harlem of the West.” Today you can find many local and independent acts playing there weekly.
Black American West Museum: Get to know Five Points’ rich African American history with the Black America West Museum. The small but important museum will take you through the history of African Americans that helped settle the American west.
Welton Street Cafe: If you’re a fan of authentic soul food, don’t miss Welton Street Cafe. Serving up collard greens, corn bread and, of course, fried chicken, you’ll leave full and happy after a meal at this neighborhood joint.
READ: The Good Neighbor – 715 Club and its Return to Five Points
18th & Stout Station
This station is situated between the free MetroRide and 16th Street MallRide, which means that through this station, passengers have access to the entire stretch of downtown Denver between Stout Street and Union Station for the cost of only the light rail ticket. The businesses listed below are the closest in walking distance from the station:
Guard and Grace: A modern steakhouse by owner and chef Troy Guard which serves small plates, steaks, drinks and offers a raw bar.
Dikeou Collection: This contemporary art collection is worth a visit, with displayed art as well as lectures, tours, educational workshops, live music, readings and other events that elevate conversation around and about creativity.
Syrup Downtown: A pancake house with a whole new twist, from Milwaukee native Tim Doherty. Syrup is a breakfast joint that might be worth the nap you’ll want to take afterwards with savory and sweet dishes, usually mixed together.
French 75: Located just a block away at 17th and Stout is French 75, a neo- French bistro by famed Denver restaurateur Frank Bonanno. Come to grab one of Bonanno’s French dips or stay awhile and savor his famous lobster mac ‘n cheese. Happy hour is supposed to be killer, too.
Trinity Methodist Church: Built in 1988, The Trinity Methodist Church is one of the oldest churches in the city. It is also home to one of the largest 19th-century organs still in operation today.
The Brown Palace Hotel: Celebrating its 125th year, the historic hotel has been an iconic building since the early days of Denver. Even if you don’t spend a night, poke your head in to see the beautiful eight story atrium featuring a stain glass ceiling.
READ: The Hidden Secrets of One of The Oldest Churches in Denver
Louisiana & Pearl Station
At first this station does not seem like a place to stop and have a little adventure, but the stretch of Louisiana Street between Washington and Pearl holds more than a handful of boutique businesses. These are all businesses that you can feel good supporting, knowing they are locally owned and operated.
Village Cork: Known for many years exclusively as a wine bar, Village Cork now has a full dinner menu to accompany its wine and cocktail list. But if it’s wine you’re looking for, go for their late night wine specials.
Duffeyroll Cafe and Bakery: What began as a pushcart on 16th Street Mall is now a three-location Denver establishment that is known for both savory and sweet “duffeyrolls.”
Berriegood Co.: Denver owned and operated acai bowl purveyor, which focuses on non-GMO and organic ingredients.
aikopops: Counter-style place that serves organic popsicles and other unusual treats, as well as sandwiches and soups.
Nixon’s Coffee House: Owned by Brad and Karen Nixon with the hopes of creating a safe community gathering spot, Nixon’s serves coffee by Kaladi and grab-and-go snacks by Share Good Foods.
Hanson’s Grill and Tavern: An old neighborhood locale, this restaurant is known for its Burger Madness on Monday and Tuesday nights, as well as the Sunday Funday brunch specials, like bottomless mimosas.
Sushi Den: Sushi Den is known for being one of the first sushi restaurants in Colorado to fly fresh fish in daily — a task it accomplishes by having an actual person stationed at a fish market in Japan, choosing the fish. Aside from sushi, the restaurant also has vegetarian, gluten-free and traditional items on the menu.
South Pearl District: Stretching from Buchtel to Jewel Avenues on South Pearl, this historic and charming district is home to boutiques, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. The district also hosts farmer’s markets, live music events and other community gatherings.
The Alameda Station, accessible via the E, F and H Lines, can be made into a worthwhile pit stop during a longer light rail trip or made into a final destination. South Broadway is a 10-minute walk from the station, an easy commute to make to access the multitude of establishments that flank both sides of the busy street.
White Whale Room: This mixture of bar and coffee shop is decorated with tasteful nautical touches and aims to serve as a community space, with patio events and participation in First Friday art shows.
Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey: Schedule a tour of the distillery that has been making Colorado whiskey for over a decade.
Illegal Pete’s South Broadway: Opened in 2013, this location of the Colorado chain has a large outdoor patio with misters, an indoor stage, a bar and restaurant and a bocce court.
Syntax Physic Opera: This is the physical iteration of the 11-year-old music, art and literary review publication Denver Syntax. Which means that it’s a hybrid of a bar, restaurant, art gallery and performance venue and it focuses on empowering local artists and musicians while also entertaining guests.
Bardo Coffee House: Late night coffee shop with a no-nonsense attitude and art displayed on the walls.
Adrift: Tiki bar with Polynesian themed cocktails and food. Happy Hour on its hidden patio is always a treat especially since the restaurant gives a portion of its proceeds to charity through the Mana Immersion Fund — a financial assistance humanitarian organization that Adrift founded.
Denver Biscuit Co.: Started in 2009 by Drew Shader as a food truck concept, Denver Biscuit Co. now serves Southern comfort food and biscuits out of brick-and-mortar locations around the city.
Skylark Lounge: Hipster bar and venue that has been a place on Broadway for decades (though now in a different spot on Broadway), with movie posters, jukeboxes, pool tables and a patio.
Hi-Dive: If you’re into dive bars, don’t miss Hi-Dive. The iconic bar and venue also hosts a myriad of local talents on any given night.
Beatrice and Woodsley: Rustic American menu served amidst an aspen-tree and fairytale decor that will make you feel like you’re in the woods more than on a busy street in Denver. Brunch is available on Saturday and Sundays but only dinner is served the rest of the week.
Mutiny Information Cafe: Secondhand book store with large selection of books, comic books, zines and albums with a coffee shop. Events like open mic nights and stand-up comedy are often held in the store, making it a staple in the creative community. The building was built in 1903, and book stores have occupied the space in different names for the last 30 years.
Gildar Gallery: A South Broadway art gallery featuring emerging contemporary artists. The gallery is currently closed until September 22 but it will reopen with an exhibit from William Stockman on September 22.
Boss Vintage: South Broadway is home to many vintage stores including Boss Vintage. With clothes dating back to the turn of the century, the shop has an extensive collection of clothes separated by decades.
Buffalo Exchange: Trendy consignment clothing store with items for men and women, and maybe a costume here and there.
Landmark Mayan Theatre: This historic building is one of the country’s three remaining Art Deco designed theaters, built in 1930. Now owned by Landmark, still showing movies but with a nostalgic and classy vibe.
Sexpot Comedy: An artist-driven multi-platform media enterprise, started by Kayvan Khalatbari and Andy Juett in 2012, Sexpot is responsible for over 35 comedy shows in Denver each year.
Read: Dive Into the White Whale Room
BONUS: Dayton Station
Cherry Creek Reservoir: Though there aren’t many businesses to explore around the Dayton Station, the easy access to Cherry Creek Reservoir is worth the 20 minute trip from 18th and Stout Station in downtown Denver. At the reservoir there is a beach open to swimming access and the Cherry Creek Marina also partners with Rocky Mountain Paddleboards to offer personal watercraft rentals. With those options at the reservoir that don’t require bringing your own equipment, the light rail allows a stress-free way to enjoy a slice of the outdoors without driving hours in traffic. Dayton Station is also accessible from the R Line, which departs from Lincoln Station in Lone Tree or Peoria Station in Aurora. This is another “bonus” destination because it is well outside Denver’s city limits.
The W Line, which parallels West Colfax, has potential but is slightly further from any businesses than the other lines and seems to be more beneficial for commuter traffic for the time being. But, the Perry Station serves as a convenient spot to access Sloan’s Lake and the quickly up-and-coming development between the lake and Colfax. The three spots listed below are between a 10 and 15 minute walk from the light rail station.
Sloan’s Lake Alamo Drafthouse with Barfly: Opened in May of this year, the second Colorado location of the Alamo Drafthouse features a bar that is influenced by the Beat generation and their history in Denver.
Sloan’s Lake: The biggest lake in Denver with a rich history of recreation, festivals and other water-related events in the city. Run, walk, bike, rollerblade, skate or sit by the lake for great views of both the mountains to the west and the city sky line to the east.
Tap and Burger Sloan’s Lake: Sister restaurant to Highland Tap and Burger on West 32nd Avenue, this is part of the new development between Sloan’s Lake park and West Colfax. It’s the same menu as the first location — with a variety of burgers as the centerpiece — and seems to have more seating.
Seedstock Brewery: Craft brewery with nice selection of taps and crowlers to take home.
Read: First Look Inside Denver’s New Alamo Drafthouse
BONUS: Wadsworth Station
With the rising rent prices in other districts of Denver, a growing number of established art galleries were not able to keep up and moved to an area that is actually in Lakewood, with lower prices. That’s why Wadsworth Station is a “bonus” stop, because it’s not technically in Denver. This area is now known as 40West Arts District and boasts dozens of businesses as partners for enriching creativity in the community. With so many businesses, the area is quickly becoming the newest artistic district, and is accessible via the W Line at Wadsworth Station. Most of the destinations can be reached within 15 minutes walk from the station.
40West Arts District: Some long-established businesses are part of the roster and others are newcomers. Enjoy jewelers, art galleries and other creatively-minded businesses all within walking distance.
The Edge Theatre: Unusual and interesting plays, as well as classics, are performed at this little theater which doesn’t allow children under eight.
Hyperspace Arcade: A retro arcade offering unlimited game play all day for a flat rate.
WestFax Brewing Company: Laid-back atmosphere at one of the newest breweries on West Colfax.
Gallery of Everything: As the name implies, this art gallery has something for everyone, including drawings, painting, photographs, jewelry, pottery and furniture. The gallery represents over 50 local artists.
Here’s a complete map of the routes available on Denver’s RTD Light Rail.