DU Field Notes: Best Stops Using Light Rail/Public Transit

In this series, the DU Newsroom introduces readers to the world outside of campus by exploring Denver and the near beyond.

When DU students (full-time baccalaureate and some graduates while class is in progress), staff and full-time faculty benefit from an RTD CollegePass or EcoPass, they essentially get a passport to everything Denver has to offer. RTD’s bus and train network serves nearly 3.1 million people and covers 2,342 square miles, which the DU community can travel for free.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, RTD has continued to move forward, but with new rules for runners:

  • All passengers are required to wear face masks.
  • Capacity is limited to around 15 passengers per bus, 20 on larger buses, and 30 passengers per carriage.
  • If you are unable to maintain a social distance of 6 feet, do not board. Instead, wait for the next vehicle.

A major light rail stop at the north end of campus and a pair of bus lines that stop nearby provide countless ways to access adventure and get acquainted with the landmarks, nooks and crannies of Denver – which are still operational during the pandemic.

Union Station

Photo by Ellen Jaksol

What has become the symbol of Denver’s rebirth is also the city’s great connector. Union Station offers an easy way to reach the airport (via RTD’s A line), the foothills (with W Line, G Line or Flatiron Flyer buses), the ski slopes (on CDOT’s new Bustang service) or the bustling downtown Denver. Of course, staying in the classic yet contemporary Great Hall works too. Shops and restaurants are everywhere and an energetic town is right outside the doors.

How to get there from DU: Take the E line northbound to Union Station.

Fun fact: Union Station was, when completed in 1881, the tallest structure in the West. The City of Denver renovated and reopened the building in 2014.

The Denver Zoo

denver zoo
Photo courtesy of Denver Zoo

The Denver Zoo began with just one bear – a gift to Mayor Thomas McMurry in 1896. Not being the ideal pet, the bear was allowed to live in City Park, where it was soon joined by bison, birds, prairie dogs and wolves, according to the Denver Public Library. Today, the 80-acre zoo hosts 3,600 animals and a variety of fun and quirky events for all ages, in all seasons.

How to get there from DU: Take the Route 24 bus northbound to the York Street and 23rd Avenue stop. Walk half a mile east (into City Park) to reach the zoo entrance.

Fun Fact: The Denver Zoo was the first in North America get rid of cages and bars, providing natural habitats for his animals.

The Bluffs regional trail

Photo by Visit Denver

The Bluffs Regional Trail is the perfect escape when you need a quick getaway and a dose of vitamin D. An easy walk on the 2.7 mile loop may only yield a 200 elevation gain feet, but it offers rewarding views of the Denver metro area, prairie vegetation, wildlife, and the state’s famous Front Range mountain range. Bikes, dogs, and picnics are welcome, but don’t expect a lot of shade. (Sunscreen is a must.)

How to get there from DU: Take the E line southbound to Sky Ridge station. Walk or bike 1.2 miles southwest to reach the trailhead.

Fun fact: pike peak, visible from the trail on a clear day, is the most visited mountain in North America. It is named after Zebulon Pike, who “discovered” the mountain in 1806 (indigenous people had lived there for over a millennium). It turns out that Pike failed in his attempt to climb it.

16th Street Mall

16th Street Mall
Photo by Visit Denver

It’s a bit kitschy and could definitely be classed as a tourist trap, but the outdoor pedestrian mall on 16th Street is another must visit. Tantalise your taste buds at one of the many catering kiosks or purchase this symbolic souvenir for your friends and family. Take advantage of the free MallRide to ride all 18 blocks – and don’t miss the state capital and Civic Center Park to the east.

How to get there from DU: Head north E-line to Union Station or the F or H lines northbound to 16th and California Street.

Fun Fact: The 16th Street Mall, which opened in 1982, was designed by internationally renowned architect IM Pei.

Santa Fe Arts District

Santa Fe Arts District
Photo by Visit Denver

Tucked away in an often overlooked corner of Denver, the Santa Fe Arts District comes alive on the first Friday of each month with an artistic walk through the many galleries in the neighborhood. The food is good too, with a pluralized palate that includes Jamaican, Ethiopian and Latin American flavors.

How to get there from DU: Take the E, F, or H line northbound to the 10th and Osage stop and walk southeast (the heart of the neighborhood is at 8th and Santa Fe).

Fun fact: the neighborhood is also home to Denver’s oldest restaurant, Buckhorn Stock Exchange, located a few steps from the tram stop.

Denver Botanical Gardens

Botanical gardens
Photo by Visit Denver

Planted on 24 acres of carefully cultivated space, the Denver Botanical Gardens offers an escape from the metropolis. The flora is diverse, sown in such a way as to showcase plants that are both native and adapted to western climates. But the gardens also offer many places to relax, read or relax. A full schedule of activities and events includes yoga classes and a summer concert series. Students get a discount on entry with ID.

How to get there from DU: Take the Route 24 bus northbound to the Josephine Street and 9th Avenue stop.

Fun fact: the gardens are located next to Denver’s Cheesman Park, which was once a cemetery. Truly.

Cherry Creek Mall and Shopping District

Cherry Stream
Photo by Visit Denver

When “where can I buy…?” is the question, Cherry Creek is often the answer. The shopping center at the intersection of the University and the 1st offers an exhaustive range of fashion, food and decoration stores. A newly remodeled movie theater provides an escape for a date or a rainy day. The surrounding shopping district is full of restaurants and shops. And an expansive farmers market runs in season on Saturdays and Wednesdays.

How to get there from DU: Take the Route 24 bus northbound to the University Boulevard and Cherry Creek North stop.

Fun fact: the (real) Cherry Creek once served as a dividing line between two separate municipalities – Denver City and Auraria – which is why the road network runs north to south on one side of the river and east to west on the other.

Arvada Old Town

Arvada Old Town

For small-town charm a stone’s throw from the big city, check out Arvada Old Town, filled with shops, galleries and plenty of options to eat or drink. To keep the fun going this summer (and stay safe), the city has blocked off stretches of its streets for dining and lounging.

How to get there from DU: Take the E line northbound to Union Station and change to the G line to the Olde Town Arvada stop.

Fun fact: Arvada was once known as the “Celery Capital of the World,” in recognition of its Easter celery, which was served for holiday dinners at the White House in the early 1900s.

Five Points

five points
Photo by Evan Semon

Few places in Colorado’s capital have such a rich history as the Five Points District, so named for the unique convergence of streets in its center. Known as the “Harlem of the West”, Five Points has once hosted jazz legends like Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis. Today, it hosts lively outdoor street festivals and boasts a resurgent list of restaurants, bars and public art.

How to get there from DU: Take the F or H line northbound to the 18th and California stop; take the L line and drive to the 27th and Welton stop.

Fun fact: The “Green Book” a guide to African-American hideaways that became the basis of an Oscar-winning film, lists several Five Points locations, including his iconic Rossonian Hotel, once known for being home to one of the West’s most famous jazz clubs .


red rocks
Photo by Tamara Chapman

The Colorado foothills provide an easy and accessible introduction for those who want to enjoy the state’s natural playgrounds. Take the W line to its terminus at Golden and the hiking, biking, and climbing opportunities abound. Moreover, the famous Red Rocks State Park is just a short Uber or Lyft ride.

How to get there: Take the Line E northbound to the Auraria West stop; take the W line westbound to the JeffCo Government Center station.

Fun Fact: Before statehood, Golden City was the capital of the Territory of Colorado. The former legislative building is now a restaurant, the Grill of the old Capitol.

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