Guide to LoDo, Denver

LoDo: Denver’s Lower Downtown Hub and Transportation Center

Downtown Denver has its own sections and the largest of these is Lower Downtown, called LoDo. This is where there is tremendous energy in the city year-round with seasonal baseball games, holiday lights, and a selection of bars and restaurants.

Mindy Sink
30 May 2023

To understand Denver, you have to know where the train tracks are because the city was built out of this important transportation in the 1800s. The first Union Station, built in 1881, burned down in 1894, and what stands today is the version built-in 1914. Today it is once again a transportation hub for the city where both Amtrak and light rail trains, as well as buses, deliver and pick up passengers around the clock daily. Back in the day, hotels were built to accommodate train travelers, and many of those same hotels are standing today along with a few modern high rises to serve travelers. A couple of blocks away, there is Coors Field, a baseball stadium that opened in 1995, and in the other direction, you will find Larimer Square, a historic block of restaurants and bars. All around these streets are historic warehouses that are now microbreweries, bars, restaurants, shops, hotels, and art galleries. While there is no UpDo, or Upper Downtown, in Denver, this concentration of revitalized buildings is known as LoDo and it’s where the action is in downtown Denver.

Getting to LoDo

Take the light rail train or the RTD bus from Denver International Airport directly to Union Station.

What to see and do LoDo

Coors Field

Coors Field is the home of the Colorado Rockies baseball team. The stadium can hold over 50,000 people and has a row of purple seats where the stadium reaches 5,280 feet above sea level. There are tours of the stadium year-round if you’re here in the off-season. Inside there are restaurants and bars – yes, serving Coors beer! – and Rockpile seats are a bargain. The stadium has mountain views to the west so it’s a great spot to watch a sunset too.

National Ballpark Museum

For the baseball fans, this eclectic museum is a must. The collections on display can resemble someone’s obsession with this sport such as original seats from other ballparks, a turnstile from a ballpark, framed newspaper clippings about baseball games, and more of these types of “treasures.” Admission is free for kids under 16.

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

Not quite in LoDo, but a short walk away from the Central Platte Valley is the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver), in a distinctive black glass box of a building designed by British architect David Adjaye. The MCA Denver was designed to be environmentally sustainable and inside the space invites large and unusual works by local and international artists. There is a rooftop café with mountain views, programs for teens, and a full calendar of events that go beyond what is on display on the walls.

Union Station

In the summer a splash fountain outside of Union Station is popular with kids of all ages to cool off in hot weather.

You can spend the night, shop, and eat and drink in historic Union Station, or you can just wander through it and look at the Great Hall. Outside in summer is a splash fountain the kids (of all ages) love to run through to cool off; inside in the winter, there is a giant Christmas tree on display and days when Santa Claus is there for visits with families. Make it a date night to listen to live music and have a few drinks in the Great Hall of Union Station.

Shopping in LoDo

Don’t miss a chance to shop at Rockmount Ranch Wear, a historic building and store created by the creator of the snap-front Western shirt and still operated by his grandson today. Actual rockstars shop here for their intricately designed and colorful cowboy and cowgirl shirts, which also come in sizes for young kids. These shirts can be pricey so check out the t-shirt section that has their logo too.

If you’re looking for a little gift that will fit in your suitcase, stop in at 5 Green Boxes in Union Station. This locally-owned gift shop has clever cards, affordable jewelry, and ornate scarves, and some of these items are specific to Colorado, like a puzzle of the mountain peaks or a tote bag that mentions the state.

Are you a book worm? Then the Tattered Cover Bookstore is for you. It has multiple locations in and around Denver – including at Denver International Airport and in a much larger space a block away at McGregor Square. Although none of these are the original location, the Tattered Cover Bookstore, the name alone evokes a beloved Denver institution and it is a go-to for books and book-related gifts here. The store in Union Station is very small but has a good selection of periodicals, guidebooks, and current fiction and non-fiction.

Where to Eat and Drink in LoDo

Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner, Mercantile Dining & Provision in Union Station is a personal go-to for a sandwich or salad, especially when meeting up with travelers coming to visit Denver. Get one of their “All Colorado” picnic baskets for your day out, or just pick up a pastry from their grab-and-go counter instead of taking a seat in the dining room.

Another very popular place for breakfast or brunch is Snooze. Although this one in Union Station is not their only location, they are all equally busy thanks to their generous portions of delectable pancakes. Strawberry Shortcake pancakes or pineapple upside pancakes are light and fluffy, but there are also egg dishes, burritos, and savory sides like maple pepper bacon.

For street-level-dining fans. Tamayo in Larimer Square is an ideal option. It also has a bar and in the summer months, there is a rooftop bar with more seating for diners too. The menu is Mexican fare with tacos, enchiladas, guacamole, and more, plus margaritas, tequila, and Mexican beer.

For a sophisticated dining experience where you can celebrate a special occasion, impress friends, and enjoy an incredible meal paired perfectly with a glass of wine or cocktails, check out The Kitchen American Bistro. Consider their community table to meet up with some new friends. Drop in for brunch, lunch, or dinner.

The perfect spot for a pre-dinner or theater drink to celebrate is definitely Corridor 44. It’s a very narrow bar that specializes in champagne in historic Larimer Square There are small plates if you want to get a nibble here too.

Where to Stay in LoDo

Crawford Hotel is Union Station’s former offices that were turned into hotel rooms in 2014 and the hotel was named for Dana Crawford, a local preservationist credited with saving the buildings of LoDo from the wrecking balls of developers back in the 1970s and 1980s. The art collection here is specially curated in each room to be evocative of Colorado.

Go Out the Back Door

The alley behind the Maven Hotel is also filled with art and outdoor seating as this serves as a passage to other shops and bars across the way.

A block from Union Station is the Oxford Hotel, owned by Dana Crawford. This historic hotel has been open since 1891 and is connected to a neighboring building to provide spa and fitness studio space for hotel guests. The Cruise Room bar in the Oxford Hotel is worth a stop for its Art Deco style inspired by a famous luxury liner.

For a modern overnight stay in LoDo, the Thompson Hotel is a newly built hotel right along the 16th Street Mall. Inside, Chez Maggy, Reynard Social, and Duel Coffee offer guests a sophisticated setting for nourishment at all times of the day. Pet-friendly rooms and suites can have mountain or city views and one suite has a fireplace. The location is easy walking distance to Coors Field, Union Station, the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and Larimer Square, and a free shuttle bus can take visitors to Civic Center Park and the Colorado Capitol Building.

Housed in the historic Dairy Block, the Maven Hotel greets guests with an art collection curated by 910 Arts and a smart collection of shops in the lobby. There is a comfortable coworking space and easy access to several dining options in the Milk Market food hall or Kachina, a southwestern restaurant. Some rooms have a view of Coors Field and balconies to sit outside and enjoy that baseball weather.

Who Should Stay in LoDo

LoDo can accommodate business travelers, but it’s popular with people who are celebrating a special occasion, families who are in town for a baseball game, and singles who want to enjoy the nightlife.

About the author

Mindy SinkGuidebook author and travel writer Mindy has lived in Denver most of her life and is the author of a few guidebooks about the city and other places in Colorado. She loves to travel with her husband and their daughter in places where they can explore on foot, including hiking. Mindy writes frequently for The Denver Post about finding adventures in your own backyard.