There are many Denver tourist traps....
#1. The amtrak station overcharges people on papers, the guy is just a jerk
#2. Parking in downtown denver is a complete and total ripoff, the arrogant and flamboyant parking lot owners want 20 dollars a day for parking as high as 50 dollars a day during special events, to reinterate park at I-25 and broadway for free and take the light rail into the downtown area
and spend the extra 20 dollars on lunch and a movie or something
People will tell you to go here. They will lure you in with stories of caves, and cliff divers, and mariacchi bands, and old time photographs, and video arcades, and sopapillas.
But this place is a dive. The food is awful. No joke, the worst food you will ever eat. They herd you like cattle through the lines, where you are forced to order, and then pick up your cafeteria style mexican food. Its not authentic. Its not fresh. Its not good.
Nothing they serve is good. Not the chips and salsa. Not the fajitas. Not the enchiladas. Not the tacos. Not even the fried ice cream.
Wait, the sopapillas are good. No, they are great! Smothered in honey, they are excellent.
Unique Suggestions: Make it bearable? Drink lots of cervezas or margaritas and make it a fast trip.
Fun Alternatives: Alternatives? There are a ton of other places to take the kids for entertainment. There is the Zoo, Ocean's Journey, Elitch bowling alley, Dave and Busters, Elitches Six Flags, the Butterfly Pavilion. Food alternatives? If you want Mexican, go to Blue Bonnet on Broadway, or Dora's on Parker Road in Aurora, or Jose OShea's in Lakewood, or a hundred other Mexican restaurants in Denver.
I actually haven't been there because it is too expensive ($14.95 adult) for what is there. I have several friends who have taken guests there and no one has been that thrilled. It only takes about 1 1/2 hrs to walk through the whole place. I don't know what they were thinking 'Ocean Journey' in Denver?
It's a small theme park, especially if you are used to ones in the East or West Coast. Pretty pricy for the size. They have been expanding since they were bought by Six Flags, so maybe eventually they will be a bit bigger. Though they are at the edge of downtown, so I don't know how much room they have to grow.
Eat before of after touring the aquarium, Ocean Journey. The food really 'sucks'; was old and partially kept warm under warming lights which further dried out the tasteless entree. The food is way overpriced.
16th Street Mall is a waste of your time. It's dirty and there is nothing much down there. You may enjoy sitting out on one of the patios in the spring or summer and watching all the stuff going on, but most of the stuff is homeless people fighting with each other.
The Biggest tourist trap in town is Colorado's Ocean Journey. Its Denvers version of an indoor aquarium, much like the one in Monterrey, CA. Their prices are much too high. I went in 1999 and it costs something like $7 to park your car, and $17 per adult to get in. It takes abt 1 1/2 - 2 hours to go thru the whole place. The food is brutally expensive as well. Two of use each had a hamburger and soft drink for about $11. All in all it cost 2 adults $55 to spend about 2 hours there!!
The Denver Mint is free and has long lines in summer, but in the end you just peer through glass at large, noisy machines. If you don't have to wait, go for it, but I wouldn't plan my morning around it or stand in line too long.
Adolph Coors Brewery. While this is a total tourist trap, you have to go once to see the factory that produces such staples as Original Coors (plus Elway is pimping this beer hard) and Coors Light (a favorite among soriety gals). Take the tour, because at the end, you can sample some free beer. Note: this is not like the brewery tours in Europe - they only serve you a limited amount of beer!
One thing alot of tourist did at the 16thStreet Mall was ride the horse drawn carriages to get from one end of the mall to the other. it is pretty expensive but some people did it more for the experience. it is free to ride the shuttle that goes up and done the street entead. tahat will save you some money to do other things.
Despite all positive feedbacks about Denver Botanic Gardens on VT and among Denver residents, I rate it as a tourist trap. My reasons can be such as, I saw better gardens than this one (for example Kiev, Ukraine), and most part of the Gardens is not as beautiful as it should be for the money I paid to get into the garden ($8.50 for adults, $5 for students).
Unique Suggestions: The only thing I liked was Conservatory that made me feel like I am in the forests near Amazon River.
Fun Alternatives: Go to Cheesman Park which is right behind the fence of Botanic Garden. Although Park doesn't have a lot of flowers, but you may walk in the shades of numerous trees and enjoy the Greek style Memorial with fountains.
Many people will tell you that the Denver Mint is one of two operating mints in the U.S. This is true.
However, they do not provide walk-in tours of the place. I cannot tell you how many people have asked me where the mint is. It's just not open for tours, not since 9/11/2001.
Unique Suggestions: Call them first and ask. They will occasionally do a tour for schoolchildren, or if enough people sign up in ADVANCE.
From their website:
Denver Mint Reservations
Plan ahead for this tour. Tours for groups of six or fewer citizens at a time may be arranged (at least two weeks in advance) through your Senator or Representative. The Congressional staff should contact the Denver Mint Legislative Affairs Office at (202) 354-6700 to arrange your tour.
We were on vacation last week in Denver. It was our first time in Denver and we could barely find our way around. We had purchased two vouchers from Expedia.com that would allow us to take your "Denver Mountain Parks" tour. The vouchers instructed us to call Gray Line Denver by 7 pm the day before we were to take the tour. When I called I told the woman who answered the phone that we had vouchers and that we wished to confirm reservations. Perhaps that was a wrong choice of words because she abruptly told me that "we don't take reservations". I repeated that we had vouchers from Expedia and in a rude, abrupt tone of voice said that it did not matter, that if we wanted the tour we would have to be at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center's valet entrance by the tour departure time the next day and that they then would see whether we could take the tour or not!!!!!! Can you imagine my exasperation???!!! So in a tone of voice, the same that she had used with me, I icily said "Thanks for all your help." At that point she hung up on me!
The next day we fought the Denver traffic for several miles from our hotel room in Aurora until we finally arrived at the Cherry Creek Shopping Center. We could not find the valet entrance so with foreboding I called again the contact number on our vouchers for Grayline. The same ill-tempered woman answered. I told her that we were trying to find the valet entrance. She said and I quote: "1st and Milwaukee." Using a tone of voice that reflected apprehensiveness I asked "Where is 1st and Milwaukee" and began to tell her where we were at that point but she interrupted me, saying "You are the one who called yesterday, aren't you?" I said "Yes, I am." She said "You have an attitude and we don't want you on the tour!!!!" I could hardly believe that she said that!! We had came from a long distance from out of town. We had paid for the vouchers. We had fought the Denver traffic. But we had just been told that we were unwelcome on the tour!
Unique Suggestions: Buy your tickets in advance and not vouchers from a travel agency. Be willing to tolerate rude employees.
The homeless sell these mostly in the 16th Pedestrian Street Mall area. One will ask for a donation of $1, another will try to sell you one for 50 cents, yet another will simply ask for no specific amount but ask you to help the homeless. Give if you want but give WHAT you want.
Too crowded, expensive, and full of rude kids. Try neighborhood bars instead.
Unique Suggestions: LoDo is bearable when the Rockies are playing - before the game at least. It is a fun area to grab food and a beer before buying a cheap ticket. Go watch the Rox lose.