Denver vs Colorado Springs: Which City Should You Visit in 2023?

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Deciding whether to visit Denver or Colorado Springs? Here’s what you need to know!

I grew up just outside of Denver in Lakewood, Colorado, and have visited both cities many times. I wanted to share my opinions as a local and a traveler to help you choose which city is worth a spot on your itinerary. 

Denver has grown tremendously in popularity over the last decade or so. The influx of people, businesses, and wealth have all transformed the city into a sort of playground for hip, affluent young people in their 20s and 30s. The city is full of breweries, trendy eateries, and covered markets with upscale seating and dining options. 

Colorado Springs, for its part, is Colorado’s second largest city – an outpost that’s located south of Denver. It’s much more conservative – home to the infamously far right fundamentalist organization Focus on the Family. You’ll also find Colorado College in Colorado Springs, one of the most prestigious liberal arts schools in the country. 

I’d argue that these sorts of contradictions are part of the appeal of Colorado Springs. 

Denver vs Colorado Springs

Table of Contents
Denver vs Colorado Springs: Which City is Better to Visit?
Key Differences Between Denver and Colorado Springs 
Denver: Best Things To Do
Colorado Springs: Best Things To Do
Where to Stay in Denver
Where to Stay in Colorado Springs
FAQs: Denver vs Colorado Springs

Denver vs Colorado Springs: Which City is Better to Visit?

If you’re trying to choose between Denver and Colorado Springs, I’d recommend that you visit Denver. Colorado’s capital city generally has more to do and see, and a wider selection of restaurants and bars. There’s very little to do in downtown Colorado Springs, so almost all of the top attractions are outside of the urban center. 

Colorado Springs feels a bit off of the beaten path, which can be a big advantage. While nearly everyone who visits Colorado by plane makes a pit stop in Denver (it’s home to the region’s largest international airport), far fewer make it down to the Springs. 

Key Differences Between Denver and Colorado Springs 

The main difference between Denver and Colorado Springs is that Denver refers to an entirely urban downtown area while Colorado Springs is more of a region. There is a downtown Colorado Springs, but most of the best things to do are outside of the city in the nearby mountains and foothills. 

Here are some of the other key differences between Denver and Colorado Springs. From pricing to activities to restaurant scenes, here’s everything you need to know when choosing which of these Colorado cities to visit. 

Downtown Colorado Springs with the mountains as a backdrop
Downtown Colorado Springs

Costs & Prices 

Neither Denver nor Colorado Springs is a particularly cheap place to visit, but Colorado Springs is a cheaper destination. 

Denver area hotels are likely to be pricier than the options you’ll find in Colorado Springs. For budget-friendly Denver hotels, consider staying in one of the hotels in the Denver suburbs. You can drive into the city pretty easily, and there are some charming options in nearby areas like downtown Golden

Coloradans drive everywhere, so you will need a car to explore both Denver and Colorado Springs. Denver’s public transit is passable if you live near LoDo, but most people will choose to drive even within the city. 


Denver’s culinary scene is much more vibrant and diverse than what you’ll find in Colorado Springs. Some of my favorite spots in Denver are City O’ City, a vegetarian restaurant in Capitol Hill, Linger in the Highlands, and Kaos Pizzeria near Washington Park.

Colorado Springs’ culinary scene is mostly a collection of chain and family-style restaurants. There are a few standout spots like the Edelweiss German Restaurant or Arceo’s Mexican Restaurant, but for the most part the options aren’t terribly exciting. 


Denver takes the cake for cultural institutions in Colorado. 

Denver has a number of museums, art galleries, and unique neighborhoods that are worth visiting. Kids will love visiting the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Children’s Museum, Denver Zoo, Botanical Gardens, and Elitch Gardens. Denver also has an aquarium, a collection of smaller art museums and galleries, and the Denver Mint, the largest producer of coins in the world. 

That’s not to say that you can’t find any culture in Colorado Springs. The region is home to over 60 galleries and a collection of other centers dedicated to the arts. You can also visit the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, which features a collection of fine arts and historical artifacts from the region. 

The Japanese gardens at the Denver Botanical Gardens
Denver Botanical Gardens

Hiking & Outdoor Activities

When it comes to hiking and exploring the outdoors, Colorado Springs has the edge. The most popular hiking trail in Colorado Springs is the Garden of the Gods, an area with incredible red rock formations. There is a network of easy walking trails, some of which are paved. 

For those looking for a more serious challenge, the Manitou Incline is a 1 mile, 2000 foot vertical climb along a historic rail line. It’s punishing, grueling, and slightly monotonous, so only tackle it if you have enough water and are really looking to push yourself. (I did the Manitou Incline exactly once and wouldn’t do it again! But that’s just me.)

There are no real hiking trails in Denver, but a series of trailheads are accessible by car. Rocky Mountain National Park is a 90 minute drive from downtown Denver. My favorite trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is Emerald Lake, a 3.6 mile hike to a stunning alpine lake (fabulous in both summer and winter). 

Sunlit mountains in Colorado Springs
The Garden of the Gods near Colorado Springs.


Because Denver and Colorado Springs are only about an hour’s drive from one another, the weather is very similar. You can expect lots of sunshine throughout the year, even during the winter months. The summers are warm and dry, while the winters are a mix of mild and cold days. 

Both cities experience significant winter snowfall. Denver and Colorado Springs both average about 57 inches of snow each year. 


I don’t consider Denver or Colorado Springs to be particularly safe cities, especially when compared to other areas of Colorado like Boulder or Golden

According to US News and World Report, Denver’s crime index is 6.6, worse than many other similarly sized metro areas. Colorado Springs’ crime index is 7, slightly better than Denver. For comparison, New York City’s crime index is 8.8, significantly better than both Denver and Colorado Springs. 

Take care to lock your car, hide valuables, and avoid walking in secluded areas at night in both of these Colorado cities. 

Stickers cover a garage door in RiNo, Denver
City Streets in Denver, Colorado

Denver: Best Things To Do

Denver is a city with a ton of things to see and do. One of my favorites is to visit Red Rocks Amphitheater, a natural amphitheater in nearby Morrison, Colorado. Many top musicians come to play at Red Rocks during the summer months, and you can also attend events like Yoga on the Rocks and Film on the Rocks between concerts. 

Within the city of Denver, most of the top attractions are located near downtown. Union Station is Denver’s recently renovated train station. It’s the perfect place to grab a drink, meet up with a friend, or fire off a few emails – there’s usually a lot of open seating. 

Denver neighborhoods like RiNo and LoDo are also great to stroll around. You can find your next great book at the Tattered Cover, a bookshop in LoDo, or peruse the street art in RiNo. On the first Friday of the month, you can also check out the Santa Fe Arts District, when the galleries open to the public. 

✔️ Visit Red Rocks Amphitheater
✔️ Wander through Union Station
✔️ Explore the River North Arts District (RiNo)
✔️ Stroll around LoDo and Larimer Square
✔️ Visit the National Western Stock Show, held in Denver each January

A clear, sunny view of the Denver skyline and Rocky Mountains
The Denver skyline

Colorado Springs: Best Things To Do

Most of the best things to do in Colorado Springs are outdoor activities. You can explore the incredible Garden of the Gods, drive up Pikes Peak, or hike the Manitou Incline. In general, Colorado Springs is a very family-friendly place to visit. 

The Cave of the Winds is a popular Colorado attraction. This large cave system near Colorado Springs was first documented in 1880, though it was known by people of the Apache and Ute tribes long before that time. The Cave of the Winds offers both discovery tours and haunted lantern tours to the public. 

Finally, you can visit Royal Gorge and take a train ride across it. The Royal Gorge Bridge is the highest suspension bridge in the United States, and you can see Royal Gorge from inside a gondola. Alternatively, you can ride the Royal Gorge Railway, a locomotive that travels along a historic train line through the gorge (instead of above). 

✔️ Explore the Garden of the Gods
✔️ Drive up Pikes Peak
✔️ Hike up the Manitou Incline
✔️ Spelunk (or just pretend to) in Cave of the Winds
✔️ Take the
train across Royal Gorge

A walking path through the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs
A view of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

Where to Stay in Denver

Denver is a bustling city with a number of interesting and fun neighborhoods that you can stay in. If you’re looking for more detailed information about where to stay in Denver, I have included a separate post with my recommendations at different price points. 

Young travelers should consider staying at Hostel Fish, a trendy hostel in downtown Denver with affordable dorm rooms. 

Without further adieu, here are my top recommendations for hotels and places to stay in Denver:

📍 Budget recommendation: The Slate Denver, Tapestry Collection By Hilton
The Slate Denver is a central and budget-friendly hotel built in an old school building in downtown Denver. The rooms are sleek and modern, and many rooms have a view of the mountains. 

📍 Mid range recommendation: The Rally Hotel at McGregor Square
The Rally Hotel is a brand new property in McGregor Square in downtown Denver very close to Coors Field. The rooms are spacious and the hotel has every amenity you’ll need, including an outdoor rooftop pool and a great fitness center. 

📍 Luxury recommendation: The Ramble Hotel
I have a friend who stayed at The Ramble a few years ago and she’s told me several times how much she loved it. Every detail is well thought out, the rooms are beautiful, and the location in art-filled RiNo couldn’t be better. If you have the budget for a stay at The Ramble, you’re sure to love it. 

City streets in River Arts North District in Denver
RiNo, a neighborhood in Denver

Where to Stay in Colorado Springs

Colorado’s second largest city has a number of hotels and accommodations to choose from. For your first visit, I’d recommend staying in the historic downtown area. There, you’ll find the best selection of hotels, nightlife, and adorable Colorado Springs charm. 

On subsequent trips, you might consider staying outside of the city limits in a more rural part of the county. 

Young, budget-conscious travelers should consider staying at Kinship Landing. The space is beautiful and there are a mix of private rooms and dorm rooms at various price points. This is where I would personally stay if I were visiting Colorado Springs. 

Here are my other top recommendations for places to stay in and near Colorado Springs: 

📍 Budget recommendation: Kinship Landing
Kinship Landing is technically a hostel, so you’ll see younger travelers at this eco-friendly property. In addition to dorms, there are rooms and suites that are suitable for families and couples.

If you’re put off by the idea of staying with backpackers or the suites are out of your price range, you might prefer to stay at The Academy Hotel Colorado Springs, which is a more standard budget-friendly hotel. 

📍 Mid range recommendation: Element Colorado Springs Downtown
The Element Colorado Springs Downtown is a modern hotel with an indoor swimming pool and free breakfast each morning. There are views of the city, and most rooms have a kitchenette so that you can cook your own meals. 

📍 Luxury recommendation: Garden of the Gods Club & Resort
The Garden of the Gods Club & Resort is an upscale accommodation located outside of downtown Colorado Springs adjacent to the Garden of the Gods park. Many rooms at this resort boast mountain views and fireplaces. The property has a full spa and golf course, along with tennis courts and an olympic-sized pool. Fine dining options are available onsite. 

Brick buildings in downtown Colorado Springs
Downtown Colorado Springs

FAQs: Denver vs Colorado Springs

Trying to decide between Denver and Colorado Springs, but still have a few questions? Here are the answers to some of the most queries from travelers choosing between these two Colorado cities.

Is Colorado Springs or Denver cheaper?

Colorado Springs is definitely cheaper than Denver, but neither city is especially budget friendly. The biggest difference is the price of accommodations, and you’ll definitely find overall cheaper hotel prices in Colorado Springs. 

Does Colorado Springs feel like a big city?

No, Colorado Springs doesn’t feel like a big city. It feels like a mid-sized city with views of the mountains and restaurants where the staff might recognize you if you returned three or four times. 

Is Denver or Colorado Springs better for families?

Denver is a better place for families to visit. There are tons of activities to choose from for kids of all ages, from museums to art galleries to outdoor amusement parks. 

However, families can still have a fabulous trip to Colorado Springs. The Cave of the Winds, Garden of the Gods, and Royal Gorge Bridge are all great activities to enjoy with kids in Colorado. 

Does Denver or Colorado Springs have better nightlife?

Denver definitely has one of the most lively nightlife scenes in Colorado. There are bars and restaurants for all types of travelers, from budget-friendly dives to fine dining. Most nightclubs are located in LoDo near 11th Avenue and Broadway.  

One of my favorite bars in Denver is Linger, a trendy international street food restaurant with creative cocktails and views of the city. The site of the bar was once a mortuary, so a lot of the decor is mortuary-themed. You can find it in the Highlands at 2030 W 30th Ave, Denver, CO 80211.  

Is Denver or Colorado Springs better for hiking?

Colorado Springs has better access to hiking than you’ll find in Denver because it is set much closer to the mountains. Garden of the Gods has a number of light hiking and walking trails, and the park is free to visit just outside of downtown Colorado Springs. 

That said, you certainly can access a number of hiking trails from Denver, so long as you have a car. Boulder is a great spot to visit if you’re looking for wonderful hikes near Denver. 

A sunny view of a quiet street in Downtown Denver
Downtown Denver

Conclusion: Denver vs Colorado Springs

Both Denver and Colorado Springs are great cities for exploring the outdoors and are great places to visit. However, if you only have time to visit one Colorado city, I’d recommend that you explore Denver. 

Denver is the capital of Colorado and has more things to do, a wider variety of restaurants to visit, and is still relatively close to the mountains. There are breweries, vibrant city streets, and a number of museums, all in downtown Denver. 

Colorado Springs is a great city, too, but it’s better known for its access to the outdoors. It would be a great choice if you’re looking for a Colorado city that feels off the beaten path and is only a short drive from fabulous hiking trails. Downtown Colorado Springs, however, is the sort of place where I stop for a coffee or lunch, not a destination in and of itself.