Should I rent a car during my week in Denver?
September 16, 2009 3:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm going to be in Denver for a seminar. Arriving Saturday, leaving Thursday. Staying a little east of the city center. Should I bother renting a car?

I'm pretty outdoorsy but also pretty cheap. Does Denver have sufficient public transit to easily (and without taking hours) get out of the downtown area into natural places for hiking and swimming?
posted by TheManChild2000 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Denver is a ridiculous sprawl with middling public transit. You'll want a car.
posted by martens at 3:29 PM on September 16, 2009

What Denver does have, actually is insanely cheap car rentals, often, because they are such a huge airport and etc. When I went to Denver I was very very happy I had a car, even though when I went to a MeFi Meetup, I took public transportation and it was fine.

Peeking at [who I use to eyeball these sorts of things] you could get a car for about $200-ish [before any other discounts you might have like AAA or whatever] so you can figure out how much that hits your cheapness vs convenience buttons. With a car you could take off after work and head to Garden of the Gods or something. Without a car, you're likely to just bum around. Usually I'm the one who is all "oh no, save a tree, take the bus!" but Denver may be an exception.
posted by jessamyn at 3:36 PM on September 16, 2009

Best answer: If you like the outdoors you'll definitely want to visit Boulder, which is about 30-40 minutes northwest. You can drive straight up into the mountains, park your car and walk around. The views are incredible.
posted by Aanidaani at 3:40 PM on September 16, 2009

Chautauqua (west of Boulder) and Golden (just west of Denver) are great places to hike, and you'll want a car for both. East of downtown isn't especially close to the sort of thing you're looking for, as far as I know. I disagree vehemently with martens, though, about the sprawl. The city itself is extremely easy to get around by bus and bike.
posted by monkeymadness at 3:57 PM on September 16, 2009

Hey Jessamyn, quick correction is that Garden of the Gods is in Colorado Springs, and I wouldn't recommend anyone coming here (aside from the hour+ commute). That being said, one thing we have that Denver doesn't is actual proximity to the mountains -- Denver is actually pretty far (relatively) out on the plains.

I definitely second the recommendation of Boulder, which is snuggled right up against the mountains. Additionally, the bus service between Denver and Boulder is exemplary, frequent trips for $4.50 one way with nice comfy seats.

TMC2k, it really depends on what you're looking for. There are plenty of natural and seminatural parks in the Denver metro area, which are accessible by public transit. However, if you're looking for anything seriously montane, you're pretty much into an hour commute anyway, and that probably by car.
posted by 7segment at 4:02 PM on September 16, 2009

You definitely need a car if you want to go anywhere.

Though I'm loathe to contradict the divine Jessamyn, I've found the car rentals at Denver International Airport to be the most expensive of any airport I've ever rented from. Priceline was no help either. I have no idea why they were so pricey, but the best I could do was about $35 a day (for a about a 8 day rental), when I've gotten cars at many other airports for as little as $10 a day. The airport taxes and surcharges are also way high.
posted by jasper411 at 4:20 PM on September 16, 2009

Figure out where you want to go and use this website to plan your bus trip:

You will see how long it takes to get to your destination.
posted by CodeMonkey at 7:57 PM on September 16, 2009

Hi, I live in Denver. I think that you can do fine here without a car. While it is true that Denver Metro is a big sprawl...the west side of the front range communities (as mentioned above) are accessible by bus and abut the mountains (well, foothills actually). Denver's public transportation is actually pretty good. I think it depends on how much of a nature experience you want. If you want to really get away from people (at least as much as you can within a short drive from a metropolitan area) then, of course, you are going to want to rent a car and head west on I-70 or southwest on Hwy 285 or get up above Boulder around Nederland or other places off the Peak to Peak highway--or really any of many, many options that a car will provide. If you are happy with the Nature-Urban interface than you can get up to the awesome Boulder Open Space and do some great hiking. Public transportation in Boulder is great and it is an easy bus ride between Denver and Boulder (take the express). If you want to do a lot of bus riding you can take the bus from Boulder 20 miles up Boulder Canyon to Nederland and check a small sort-of mountain town, too. Really great stuff all around. I need to emphasize that the hiking that is adjacent to Boulder--and there are many different trailheads from all sorts of parts of Boulder is incredible. Here is just one pic of the Flatirons area (bus accessible in Boulder).

It also depends on where you are staying and your accessibility to your seminar...I trust you have figured that part out. Have a great time!
posted by fieldtrip at 8:02 PM on September 16, 2009

Response by poster: I have two extra days so I decided to spend them in Boulder (where I am sitting as we speak). Glad I got a car, as my hotel is in some industrial area where I won't be seeing much fun stuff. It was $200 for the week. Thanks all.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 4:31 AM on September 20, 2009

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