|Denver is a geographically isolated city
sitting exactly one mile above sea level and over 600 lonely miles from
the closest major city. Concealed from the west by bold foothills and
towering 14,000-foot peaks, protected to the east by an expansive and
unforgiving high desert terrain, it is a place where everybody seems to be
from somewhere else. Today, modern-day pioneers flock to Denver for
world-class skiing and biking, serene hiking, and intense rock climbing.
They travel here from far and wide to imbibe famous microbrews, stand in
the humbling presence of massive peaks, or find prosperity in a booming
computer and telecommunications economy. The end result: blended but
cohesive neighborhoods, brimming with a diverse collection of cultures and
exuding character and charm.
Anchored by Civic Center Park and the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long, tree-lined pedestrian promenade, downtown is the perfect place to begin exploring the Mile High City. Downtown's vital mix of government, entertainment, business, and sport make Denver's central business district the envy of the West. Take a tour of the Colorado State Capitol Building, where the eighteenth step places you exactly one mile above sea level, or stroll through the nation's best collection of Native American materials at the Denver Art Museum. Shop away at the Denver Pavilions and Tabor Center or take in a Broadway show at one of the eight theaters comprising the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Spend a day wandering the shores of Colorado's Ocean Journey or seek adventure at Six Flags Elitch Gardens. After a long day of sightseeing, kickback in a brewpub and enjoy a microbrew, or treat yourself to a fine dining experience at one of downtown's excellent restaurants.
Historic Lower Downtown
The ghosts of the red light district of Denver's gold rush may still haunt the streets of lower downtown, but they are not alone anymore. The area, termed LoDo by locals, was virtually empty ten years ago. But since the opening of Coors Field, home to baseball's Colorado Rockies, the twenty-block district of 19th-century buildings is alive with energy and entertainment. The original commercial core of Denver underwent a major renovation and now sports a seemingly endless variety of trendy pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, shops, and luxurious loft apartments. Larimer Square, at the southern end of LoDo, occupies a portion of Denver's oldest street. Today, it radiates Victorian charm and bustles with delights such as Josephina's Restaurant and the eighties disco flashback, Lucky Star. The buildings, now occupied by upscale chains, including Morton's of Chicago, and Denver originals like the Wynkoop Brewing Company, have long histories as former brothels, saloons, and old-time general stores.
An eclectic residential district stretching east from downtown to City Park is home to Denver's famed Restaurant Row, a collection of elegant fine dining establishments, as well as a scattering of nightclubs and bars. It is also a great place to check out some of Denver's Victorian architecture and the impressive Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, a Romanesque masterpiece with towering, Gaudi-esque spires. A lively stretch of Colfax, Denver's longest and most eccentric avenue, wanders through Uptown. The area offers off-the-wall neighborhood bars, excellent ethnic cuisine, and the best in national music acts at the refurbished Ogden Theatre and Fillmore Auditorium. City Park, a beautiful legacy from the City Beautiful period, houses the Denver Zoo and the popular Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
Five Points/Curtis Park
Throughout Denver's illustrious history, Five Points and the Curtis Park district, northeast of downtown, has been a sanctuary for the African American community. Ever since Benny Hooper strolled into town in the 1920s and opened up his club/recreation center/hotel for black servicemen, the streets of Five Points have whispered jazz. Hooper's club underwent renovation a few years ago and reopened as the Casino Cabaret hosting some of the best jazz musicians in the country. The entire neighborhood is experiencing an urban renaissance as small businesses infiltrate the historic district and boost the economy. One of Denver's liveliest festivals, Juneteenth, fills the streets with laughter and frenzy at the dawn of each summer. Be sure to enjoy the best barbeque in town served up at M&D's.
Walking the diverse streets of Capitol Hill, you might actually feel the city's pulse pounding beneath your feet. Once the neighborhood of Denver's wealthiest citizens, their ancient Victorian mansions now stand alongside towering condos and apartment complexes. The area wears its decadent image with honor. Although activity clutters the streets at all hours of the night, the neighborhood is safe and friendly. Young hipsters brood along the same sidewalks that Neal Cassidy and Jack Kerouac treaded, searching for an evening fix of entertainment in one of the diverse array of clubs, coffeehouses, art houses, galleries, and bars. It is a great place to observe the way Denver moves through day-to-day life. The wealth of historical sightseeing includes the Molly Brown House and tours of the Governor's Mansion, which resides in south Capitol Hill in the ultra-trendy Governor's Park.
Cheesman Park/Congress Park
A diverse mix of ethnic, age, and income groups populate these old neighborhoods bordering Capitol Hill, barely a mile from downtown. The area serves as a hotbed for Denver's gay community and fashionable thirty-somethings. Cheesman Park, the former city graveyard, is now Denver's urban emerald. You'll find the best mountain views in the city on the park's central acropolis. The Denver Botanic Gardens occupies the East Side of the park and makes for a wonderful romantic stroll. The Congress Park vicinity encompasses Greek Town, a six-block section of Denver filled with eclectic festivities and animated diners.
This stylish district has some of Denver's best known attractions, including the beloved Tattered Cover Bookstore, and Denver's number one tourist attraction, the Cherry Creek Mall. The open air-shopping plaza across from the mall, Cherry Creek North, is a menagerie of upscale boutiques, art galleries, fine dining, and unique bars. It is great local gathering place on the weekend. The Cherry Creek Bike Trail runs behind the mall and is a good place to begin a journey downtown or to other destinations.
Residents of Denver are the leanest in the land and the active, healthy crowds are always running or pedaling around the verdant landscape of Washington Park. Volleyball games line the park lawns, and in-line thrill seekers and fierce road bikers put on dizzying displays around the park's bike path. But it also a great place to chat with locals and relax on a weekday afternoon. The surrounding neighborhood is one of Denver's most affluent, but the area is unpretentious and loaded with rare gems such as the hearty Italian restaurant, Carmine's On Penn.
Washington Park's wild southern neighbor is University Park, home of the University of Denver. The university area is a hot spot of cultural activity, and displays some of south Denver's finest architecture, including the Ritchie Center, a mammoth copper and sandstone structure with a bell tower bedecked in gold. From booming concerts at Magness Arena to mellow, folk gatherings at Swallow Hill, to pizza and pool at Anthony's, this neighborhood offers a little of something for everybody. South Pearl Street is a cozy little shopping spot and is home to the popular Japanese joint, Sushi Den.
Located on the western fringe of Denver, surrounded by the jagged hogback and a plethora of wide buttes, Golden (don't ever say it's a suburb) is a charming small town echoing Colorado's gold rush heritage. Home of the Coors Brewing Company and the Buffalo Bill's Museum, Golden is an excellent spot to experience a part of Western Americana. The locals have traded in their horses for mountain bikes, and the town boasts some of the best trail riding in the country at famed Apex Park and White Ranch Park. Take the kids to Heritage Square for a ride on the 19th century antique merry-go-round or a heart-pounding trip down the alpine slide.
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