You don’t have to know about art to have a great time at the Denver Art Museum. Located on the southern boarder of Civic Center Park, the venue features not only an array of changing exhibits, but many permanent collection galleries, interactive art spots, and plenty for kids to see and experience throughout the museum.
Bonus, children 18 and younger are always FREE, and there are a handful of FREE days throughout the year.
One of the main attributes the Denver Art Museum is known for is its collection of American Indian art, as well as an extensive showcase of pre-Columbian and Spanish Colonial art objects, one of the finest collections in the world.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg, the two-building museum has thousands of works to see, both in the permanent and visiting collections.
History plays a big part too. Though founded in 1893, the museum didn’t land in a set space until 1971 when it opened in what is now known as the Lanny & Sharon Martin Building.
It’s that castle-looking structure seen from the park, and one of only two buildings in North America designed by the Italian architect Gio Ponti.
The museum expanded with the opening of the Frederic C. Hamilton Building in 2006, right across the street from the original venue.
For a time the Martin Building was closed as the new structure, designed to resemble the mountain skyline by architect Daniel Libeskind, became the main hub.
Due to the popularity of the art museum, the old building was renovated and reopened in 2021.
While the outside of the Martin Building looks the same, the eight-level interior now boasts a new design complete with expanded contemporary artist space, unique views of the city and mountains, a refreshed Northwest Coast and Alaska Native gallery, Asian art gallery, a new gallery of European Art dated before the 1800s, textile art and fashion gallery, and a dedicated photography gallery.
Also to note, the expansion made possible a complete display of all of the museum’s Western art collection for the first time ever.
Now there are 12 collections always on display, plus numerous special and traveling exhibits. Some of the special shows are international blockbusters, and others, quieter but equally amazing displays.
In fact, sometimes the Denver Art Museum gets first looks at exhibits before they travel on. Check out the informative docent tours to help enrich the visitor’s experience, which are included with admission.
Another aspect to note is the Storytelling Studio, a great spot for all ages. Here, a featured artist is often at work and guests can come up to observe and ask questions about what they are doing and their process.
Aside from that, there’s a themed art project based on the artist’s work, and another craft kids and adults can do that pays homage to an exhibit at the museum.
There’s no limit to how many materials you can use or how long you can stay in the studio, just as long as the museum is open.
Other parts of the Denver Art Museum also cater to younger visitors, encouraging them to be part of the art and explore creativity. There’s the Thread Studio in the north building, a station to design a box inspired by Korean lacquer art in the Asian Art galleries, and more.
Also, keep an eye out for family labels throughout the European Art before 1800 galleries and the Western American Art galleries, they are meant to help you quiz little ones about what they see and start a conversation.
With so much to do, it’s easy to spend a day here. But if you get hungry, it’s okay to leave the space to eat outside or at a nearby restaurant and come back in when you’re done.
A good one to check out is the museum’s own, The Ponti, located on the north campus and named after the famed architect who designed the building.
Here, James Beard Award-winning chef Jennifer Jasinski serves local, innovative American fare with a strong push of vegetables and fresh ingredients. The restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
One thing to keep in mind when visiting the museum, general admission tickets are available to purchase several weeks in advance. Tickets are timed to help stagger entry, though it’s possible to get tickets at the counter on most days.
For special exhibits it’s best to reserve early. While many of the shows at the Denver Art Museum are included in the ticket price, some cost extra to see.
Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Ave. Pkwy., Denver, 720-913-0130
Daily: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Tuesday: Open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Adults: $13/Colo. Resident; $18/Others
Seniors (65+) & Military (with ID): $10/Colo. Resident; $15 Others
College Student (with ID): $10/Colo. Resident; $15 Others
Kids 18 & Under: FREE
Denver Art Museum Members: FREE