Stand in front of the Colorado State Capitol building, and you’ll understand how Denver got its nickname, “The Mile High City.”
This government building stands precisely 1,609 meters – one mile – above sea level. Good weather, interesting places to explore, art, culture, attractions and nightlife are all the elements of a memorable urban vacation. In Denver, visitors will find all this, plus a gateway to some of the most breathtaking scenery, skiing and year-round outdoor adventures that Colorado has to offer.
Arts and Culture
Plan to spend at least a day in Denver’s Golden Triangle Museum District. Eight of the city’s must-see museums are in this area, located at the south end of downtown. At the History Colorado Center, learn how Colorado’s western past has shaped its character. Featuring jutting peaks and sharp angles, the building that houses the Denver Art Museum is a work of art in itself. The museum holds a collection of 70,000 art objects from around the world, including an American Indian art collection that represents the work of nearly every tribe in North America.
Other museums in the district are the Byers-Evans House Museum, Denver Firefighters Museum, Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, Molly Brown House Museum and Clyfford Still Museum. You’ll also find the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra, Denver Musicians Association, Colorado Ballet, Curious Theatre Company, Denver Public Library and the Art Hotel. In addition, this cultural area is home to art galleries, open studios, specialty stores, spas, coffee shops, bars and restaurants, all dedicated to “the art of living with art.”
Denver’s Art District on Santa Fe is another big arts center, with the largest concentration of art galleries in the state. Located just outside of downtown, this district has more than 60 galleries, shops and restaurants. The galleries host Collector Preview Events the third Friday of every month, where art aficionados can meet the artists in person and view their work.
The first Friday of every month is dedicated to the arts in Denver. Several cultural districts, including the Art District on Santa Fe, the Golden Triangle Museum District, RINO (River North) and others, open their galleries, shops, bars and restaurants for a wonderful night of art.
While Denver’s terrific art and historical museums do a great job of linking the city to its Western roots, you’ll find living history within the walls of one of the city’s most famous and luxurious hotels: The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa on 17th Street. Guided tours are available, where you can learn about the time that John, Paul, George and Ringo stayed here in 1964, during the Beatles’ famed concert at the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre nearby.
Families will be excited to find Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park, the only theme park in the U.S. located within an urban center. Spend a day enjoying its 50-plus attractions, live shows and waterpark. At the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, check out dinosaurs, space exhibits, a planetarium and IMAX theater. Continuing with the nature theme, head to the Denver Zoo to see exotic animals such as elephants, rhinos, zebras and gorillas – more than 3,500 species in all.
Sports fans will want to head to Coors Field for a Rockies baseball game. Year ‘round, there’s a sporting event somewhere in town – Denver has seven professional sports teams.
Shopping enthusiasts will love Denver, as the city’s diverse shopping centers offer everything from top brands and designers to unique districts with local boutiques and galleries.
Cherry Creek Shopping Center has 160-plus chic stores including Tiffany & Co., Apple, Coach, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and other high-end retailers. Across the street is Cherry Creek North, a walkable, tree-lined shopping district full of cafés, boutiques, galleries and more.
Check out the 16th Street Mall, where you’ll find all your favorite American brands. An absolute must is a stop at Rockmount Ranch Wear in the LoDo district. This shop pioneered and helped popularize American Western wear including the famous snap shirt, worn by icons such as Elvis Presley and Robert Redford.
Among the boutique shops at Larimer Square, right in the heart of downtown, you’ll find a range of high-quality and distinctive local designers offering clothing, accessories, jewelry, wine, chocolate, home goods and salon/spa services. Larimer Square also has several nightclubs and a dozen of the best restaurants in Denver, including Rioja and TAG, which offers Asian and Latin American fusion cuisine.
Traveling between Denver destinations is made even more fun by catching a Mile-High Pedicab – a modern version of the rickshaw. The drivers often love acting as mini tour-guides while pedaling you to your next downtown destination. Or, you can hop on a B-cycle at one of the city’s 80 bicycle-sharing stations.
Denver is a health-conscious city. Many restaurants advertise farm-to-table and organic ingredients. For a true Denver dining experience, try The Fort. This adobe “castle” has been serving its famous fare since the 1960s. The menu features food inspired by the area’s historical characters: pioneers, Native Americans, mountain men, as well as Mexican and Spanish immigrants. Buffalo, elk and quail are staples here. In fact, The Fort serves more than 80,000 buffalo entrées every year.
Beer, Breweries and Nightlife
Visitors might find Denver’s identity in its local craft breweries and spirits, such as Stranahan’s Colorado Whisky, famous worldwide. Savoring it at the distillery itself and witnessing it being made and bottled is a unique experience.
This tradition of locally made beverages directly influences the lifestyle and Western spirit of the city. In fact, local beer is a big deal in Denver. Don’t pass up a Denver microbrewed beer when it’s on tap.
They brew more beer in the Denver Metropolitan area than in any other city in the U.S. The beer culture is relaxed, fun and innovative, and microbreweries take advantage of Colorado’s pure mountain water to produce more than 200 different beers every day.
Take advantage of the Beer Trail map to find dozens of brewpubs including the Denver Beer Company, with its adventurous, constantly changing menu. With loads of brewery tours, rooftop cafés, sports bars, restaurants and shops, Denver offers seemingly endless choices and a great vibe.
Even though Denver offers a world-class experience, the city’s vibe never feels pretentious. It’s a casual city, home to those who appreciate the beauty and richness of the great outdoors and the unique urban offerings around them.
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