Free Tours in Denver, Boulder & Colorado Springs

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There are plenty of quality free tours to round out any expedition in Colorado, especially in the Front Range cities of Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs. Take these suggestions, and you’ll walk away with money in your pocket and enlightenment for your brain.

The United States Mint Tour

Alas, there are no free samples at the conclusion of this free tour, but you do get a fascinating view of the mint’s history and of present-day coin manufacturing. Denver’s mint facility was established in 1863, a year after Denver was founded when miners rushed to stake their claim on the gold that was discovered here. Today, the Denver Mint typically produces more than 50 million coins a day including all denominations of circulating and commemorative coins.

Know Before You Go:
Reservations are required; make them on the mint’s website up to two months in advance. Arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your reservation to go through security. The only thing you can carry in with you is an ID-sized wallet; leave all other things in the car because no storage is available. Tours are Monday through Friday (excluding federal holidays) and start on the hour 8am–2pm. Tour information is available at 303-405-4761.

The Money Museum

Explore your love/hate relationship with greenbacks at The Money Museum in the Denver branch of the nation’s central bank, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. Want to wrap your mind around what $30 million looks like? You can do it here. Think you have a better design for the nation’s currency? They provide the supplies for you to take a stab at creating the United States’ next dollar. Learn how to tell the difference between a counterfeit and a legit $20 bill. When was your last chance to view a $100,000 bill? This might serve as your one and only.

Know Before You Go:
No reservations are required for self-guided tours Monday through Friday (excluding bank holidays) from 8:30am–4:30pm Reservations required two weeks in advance either online or by calling 303-572-2300 for guided tours, Monday through Friday 9:30am–1:30pm. Photo ID required for those 18 and older.

The Governor’s Residence at the Boettcher Mansion

The Colorado Governor’s mansion in Denver was constructed as a private residence in 1908. Today, visitors can see art and artifacts from three prominent pioneer families — Cheesman, Evans and Boettcher — who lived in the home from 1908 to 1958. The last private resident, Edna Boettcher, bequeathed the glorious home to the state to be used as a governor’s residence. Known fondly as Colorado’s Home, a highlight of the tour includes a Waterford crystal chandelier in the ground-floor drawing room that previously hung in the White House ballroom in the late 19th century.

Know Before You Go:
No reservations are accepted, but groups larger than 10 should call 303-866-3682 to discuss arrival time and numbers.

Colorado Capitol Building Tour

Among the many things you’ll learn on a Colorado Capitol Building tour is that the 24-karat- plated dome capping the building commemorates Colorado’s Gold Rush days. More details about the building’s construction and stained glass, early Colorado history, presidential portraits and more are unveiled to tour participants. On your way out be sure to spot the plaque that marks one mile above sea level on the 13th step on the building’s western side. 

Know Before You Go:
Tours are every hour from 10am–3pm Monday–Friday. Visitors should use the north entrance (at Colfax and Sherman). Tour info: 303-866-2604.

The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

If you’ve been perplexed by weather phenomena, perhaps it’s time to head to Boulder to visit the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Devoted to atmospheric and related sciences, NCAR’s visitor center is open daily to the public. At noon Monday through Friday, enjoy a one-hour tour that informs guests about climate and weather from the perspective of a world-class laboratory. The views of beautiful Boulder from atop the center’s perch can’t be beat.

Know Before You Go:
If you miss out on the noon-hour tour, you can still check out the cell-phone self-guided tour. There’s also a special children’s version that is perfect for kids 4 to 12.

U.S. Air Force Academy

Tour on your own timetable and stop by the visitor center and the Cadet Chapel, and walk along the nature trail at the U.S. Air Force Academy at the foot of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs. If you visit on Monday, Wednesday or Friday at noon, you might spot the cadets marching to lunch.

Know Before You Go:
Backpacks and large bags are prohibited. The visitor center is open daily from 9am to 5pm, excluding holidays; the academy grounds are open from 8am to 6pm. The Cadet Chapel is periodically closed to the public for weddings, funerals and other services. Enter the academy through the north (exit 156B from I-25) or south (exit 150 from I-25) gates. All adults are required to carry photo ID.

U.S. Olympic Training Center

Get in the Olympic spirit and support Team USA at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Enjoy a 12-minute film and 45-minute walking tour of the athlete training facilities where you just might witness a future medal-winner completing his/her workout in the gymnasium, aquatics center, weight-lifting space and other areas. Nearly 140,000 visitors a year experience Olympic magic on this free tour.

Know Before You Go:
The majority of the tour is conducted outside, so dress in layers for Colorado’s shifting weather. In the fall/winter, tours are scheduled Monday to Saturday every hour from 9am to 4pm. There are no scheduled tours on Sunday.

Professional Sports Facilities, For a Small Fee

Tours of Denver’s professional sports facilities including the Pepsi Center (Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets), Coors Field (Colorado Rockies) and Sports Authority Field at Mile High (Denver Broncos) are offered for a small fee to allow visitors to see the behind-the-scenes world of professional sports teams.

Know Before You Go:
Tour group sizes are limited. Be sure to call ahead before arriving to determine the exact schedule and availability.
 

Photo: Colorado State Capitol building in Denver; copyright flickr/krossbow.

The Colorado State Capitol building in Denver offers free tours, Denver, Colorado
Colorado State Capitol building in Denver
Copyright flickr/krossbow

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