Denver is an energetic, young city with 300 days of annual sunshine, brilliant blue skies, and stunning mountain scenery. Founded in 1858 as a gold-mining camp, Denver is located at the base of the majestic Rocky Mountains, 5,280 feet above sea level—exactly one mile high.
Much of the city’s rich Western history has been preserved in the architecture and in museums such as the Colorado History Museum, which vividly describe the stories of entrepreneurs, heroes, and heroines of the past and at Buffalo Bill’s Grave and Museum, which brings to life the story of the West’s most famous scout and showman. When gold was discovered, Denver became a boomtown filled with fortune seekers, wagon trains, and cowboys.
Today, Denver is one of the country’s fastest growing cities—and one of the most exciting. Getting out and exploring it all is easy, with an extremely walkable downtown, centered on the 16th Street Mall—a mile-long pedestrian promenade lined with outdoor cafes, entertainment centers, and shops. Free shuttles leave either end of the mall, as often as every 90 seconds, allowing visitors to catch a free shuttle ride to various downtown attractions.
A new light rail system connects downtown to a series of nearby attractions including the Downtown Aquarium, a world-class interactive aquarium featuring more than 15,000 fish and even Sumatran tigers. Close by is Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, one of the only downtown amusement parks in the country, and three new downtown stadiums are the venues for eight professional sports teams.
If you would rather be shopping, Denver is the largest shopping destination in a 600-mile radius. Just three miles from downtown, the Cherry Creek Shopping District tempts locals and visitors alike with hundreds of boutiques, galleries, stores, and restaurants.
Denver’s arts and cultural scene is thriving, from neighborhood arts districts and innovative public art displays throughout downtown, to the Denver Performing Arts Complex—the second largest in the country—offering ten performance venues seating 10,000 people for symphony, opera, ballet, and Tony Award-winning theatre. The new Ellie Caulkins Opera House is recognized as one of the finest acoustical venues in the world.
The Denver Art Museum features the world’s premier collection of Native American art, while its astonishing new Hamilton Building, designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, has changed the architectural landscape of Denver with its striking modern design.
Like culture, you are also never far from nature. Grab your walking shoes, or rent a bike and explore some of Denver’s 200 parks or 650 miles of bike and pedestrian trails that connect the city’s neighborhoods. Or, tee off at one of the 90 metro area golf courses, including one designed around ancient red-rock boulders in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
Within a two-hour hour drive, you can also take a day trip to the mountains and experience crisp mountain air and invigorating scenery, while skiing at top-notch resorts, hiking, horseback riding, fly fishing, whitewater rafting, and mountain climbing and still be back in time to hit the town’s nightlife scene. Click here for more information on excursions through Denver Adventures.
Because when the sun goes down, Denver’s nightlife heats up. The city is filled with live music and dance clubs and has more than 2,000 restaurants. Visitors can savor inventive cuisine prepared by nationally recognized chefs or delve into authentic Southwestern and Mexican recipes passed down through generations. Buffalo and beef are traditional Western fare and pair well with a pint of handcrafted beer—which Denver just happens to brew more of than any city in the world, with more than 80 different beers brewed here daily.
Denver is filled with something for all of your five senses—the breathtaking sight of the majestic Rocky Mountains and 300 days of annual sunshine, the sound of incredible outdoor concerts, the smell of crisp mountain air, a touch of whitewater rafting in the city, and the taste of mouthwatering cuisine prepared by nationally recognized chefs—all making for an experience that will awaken your senses like nowhere else.
Within just a one-mile radius, there are three sports stadiums, the country’s second-largest performing arts complex, an assortment of art and history museums, a mint producing ten billion coins a year, a river offering whitewater rafting, the country’s only downtown amusement park, a new first-rate aquarium, more than 7,400 hotel rooms and more than 300 restaurants, brewpubs and music clubs.
Ready to explore and see how Denver will awaken you? The city’s lively downtown divides into several distinct areas, each with its own character and flavor.
Civic Center Park
Civic Center Park has vibrant flower gardens, fountains and Old West bronze statues, all surrounded by some of Denver’s most intriguing architecture. The Colorado State Capitol is modeled after the U.S. Capitol, topped by a gold-plated dome with a step on the west side of the building that is exactly one mile above sea level.
Flash back in time at the adjacent Colorado History Museum, which tells the colorful story of the gold miners, cowboys, soldiers, and explorers who have called Colorado home. Across the street, the Denver Public Library, designed by Michael Graves, is a beautiful mixture of towers and rotundas featuring a complete meeting center that was used as the site for the historic Denver Summit of the Eight.
The Denver Art Museum is itself a piece of art. The original 28-sided building was designed by Gio Ponti of Milan, Italy, and is covered with one million gray-glass tiles that reflect the sun in patterns. Inside are 30,000 art objects including the world’s finest collection of Native American art. The remarkable new Hamilton Building, designed by world famous architect Daniel Libeskind, has changed the city’s landscape with its striking modern design.
A block from the park is the U.S. Mint, where free tours allow visitors to watch the process of “making money.”
On the southern border is the Golden Triangle Arts District, an eclectic mix of museums, galleries, shops, and restaurants.
16th Street Mall
The 16th Street Mall is a mile-long pedestrian promenade filled with outdoor cafes, shops, fountains, and open plazas in the heart of downtown Denver. The mall was designed by I.M. Pei and is lined with 200 trees and 50,000 flowers seasonally.
Free shuttles leave either end of the mall as often as every 90 seconds, making it easy to get around and allowing visitors to catch a free shuttle ride to various downtown attractions.
Highlights of the mall include Denver Pavilions, a two square block entertainment and retail complex featuring contemporary clubs and restaurants along with a Hard Rock Cafe, Coyote Ugly, Lucky Strike Lanes, Virgin Records Megastore, Nike Town and more.
A short shuttle ride away are the Shops at Tabor Center, a two block long, glass enclosed shopping center filled with an assortment of stores and restaurants, including a 30,000 square foot ESPN Zone.
If you’re an avid reader, make a stop at the Tattered Cover, one of the nation’s largest independent bookstores.
Towering office buildings are softened by many historic structures showcasing the city’s Western roots, including the famed 100-year-old Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, with its eight-story atrium topped by a spectacular stained-glass roof.
To the west of the mall is the Colorado Convention Center, a massive two-million-square-foot facility featuring a 584,000 square foot exhibit hall—a 14-acre room.
Next door, experience Denver’s thriving arts and culture at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Covering four square blocks, it is the largest performing arts complex in the world under one roof with 10 theatres seating 10,000 people and the new $92 million Ellie Caulkins Opera House is recognized as one of the finest acoustical venues in the world. From opera, symphony, and ballet to Tony Award-winning theatre and touring Broadway shows, you’re sure to find some great entertainment options.
A convenient light rail system also takes visitors to most major must-sees in the surrounding area, including the Five Points neighborhood, where you’ll find culinary gems serving up Southern soul food and Caribbean cooking tucked away in quaint historic buildings.
LoDo, the 26-square-block lower downtown historic district, is the place to be for hot nightlife, incredible restaurants, live music, art galleries, sports bars, and brewpubs—many housed in preserved Victorian buildings. Visitors can savor innovative fine dining with an emphasis on steak and buffalo, fresh seafood (flown in daily), and Southwestern and Mexican dishes with recipes passed down through generations. Take in a Rocky Mountain sunset from a rooftop cafe, while horse-drawn carriages clatter by on the streets below.
In the adjacent Larimer Square—Denver’s trendiest block, there are several coffee shops, restaurants, art galleries, and nightclubs, along with regionally exclusive boutiques, including Cry Baby Ranch, HUB, John Atencio, LFT, Mariel, and Violet, making for truly unique shopping. Or, experience some major league entertainment at Coors Field, the 50,000-seat home of the MLB Colorado Rockies. Sit in the row of purple seats, which are 5,280 feet above sea level—exactly one mile high.
South Platte Valley
Next to LoDo is the South Platte Valley, the center of the city’s entertainment venues. Check out the excitement of Elitch Gardens Amusement Park, one of America’s only downtown amusement parks, featuring 50 thrill rides, roller coasters, action stunt shows, and a water park with tube rides, wave pools, and water slides.
If you’re into sports, catch the action next door at the Pepsi Center, a 20,000-seat arena, home to the NBA Denver Nuggets, NHL Colorado Avalanche, and AFL Colorado Crush.
The $93 million Downtown Aquarium, a world-class interactive aquarium with 15,000 fish, sharks, and even Sumatran tigers is also located here. Visitors follow two rivers that both start 12,000 feet above sea level: the Colorado River through arid canyons of the Southwest and the Kampar River through the jungle rainforests of Sumatra.
If it’s playtime, the Children’s Museum is located next door and is nationally recognized for its creative approach to learning. The museum features the country’s only outdoor, year-round, plastic ski mountain, where many youngsters get their first experience on skis.
Also in this area is Confluence Park, featuring an 11-mile paved bike and jogging trail that follows the river and connects a series of parks including Skate Park—the largest urban skate park in the United States. Throughout the metro area, there are 650 miles of paved trails—the largest urban bike trail network in the country. Need a splash? At Confluence Park, the South Platte meets Cherry Creek and offers rafting and kayaking right through the heart of the city.
Just a short distance south is INVESCO Field at Mile High, the 76,000-seat home of the NFL Denver Broncos. Built along the banks of the South Platte River, the stadium is a beautiful facility with all the latest in high-tech amenities.
On the eastern edge of the South Platte Valley is Auraria Campus, an urban campus area for three colleges with 34,000 students.
Across the river is the Highlands neighborhood, an eclectic urban area with great shops and cafes. For outdoor enthusiasts, close by is the REI Flagship Store, a massive 100,000 square foot sporting goods emporium with its own climbing wall and mountain bike test courses.
Just a short drive from downtown Denver are other neighborhoods worth exploring, where the curious traveler can find hidden gems like locals’ favorite cafes, shops, and galleries. Just three miles southeast of downtown is the Cherry Creek Shopping District, the largest and most varied shopping area between Chicago and San Francisco with nearly 500 shops, department stores, galleries, and boutiques. The stores are divided between the tree-lined streets in Cherry Creek North and the upscale Cherry Creek Shopping Center, featuring Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s, and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Two miles east of downtown is City Park, the largest green space in Denver. The view from City Park encompasses 200 named peaks—some 120 miles of snowcapped mountains. The Denver Zoo is the fourth most popular zoo in the country with 4,000 animals representing 750 species from across the world. The zoo has opened various new facilities in recent years including Primate Panorama, one of the largest primate facilities in the nation, and Predator Ridge, a scene straight out of Africa with a pride of lions.
A short stroll away is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the fourth largest museum of its kind in the country with an IMAX theatre, planetarium, and thousands of natural treasures, including Prehistoric Journey, a fascinating look at the three-and-a-half-billion-year history of the earth.
If you’re a nature lover, from City Park it’s a short drive to the tranquil beauty of the Denver Botanic Gardens, an oasis in the city filled with 23 acres of distinctively themed lush gardens overflowing with native and exotic flowers and plants. It is considered one of the top five public gardens in the country.
Twelve miles west of downtown Denver is the quaint western town of Golden. Colorado’s first capital has an Old West feel with covered plank board sidewalks, false-front stores, and western shops.
Learn how beer is brewed at Coors Brewery, the largest single brewing site in the world, just off Golden’s main street, offering free tours and samples—cheers! Just south of Golden, is the famous, one-of-a-kind Red Rocks Amphitheatre—a premier venue to catch an unforgettable concert under the stars. This 9,000-seat amphitheatre is cradled by huge 300-foot boulders to create a natural acoustical wonder, playing host to everyone from the Beatles and U2 to top symphony orchestras. The new visitor center has a Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame dedicated to the groups that have performed there. You can also grab your walking shoes and hike the surrounding trails.
Across the valley, visitors can venture to Dinosaur Ridge, the site where the first dinosaur bones in America were discovered. There is a museum and walking trail where many bones can still be seen in rock outcroppings.
Nearby is Heritage Square, a recreated Colorado town from the 1870s with shops, a melodrama theatre, and amusement park rides, including an alpine slide and miniature steam railway. Take a historical ride through the era of smoke and steel at the Colorado Railroad Museum, which has the West’s largest collection of narrow-gauge locomotives.
Journey to the top of Lookout Mountain to Buffalo Bill’s Museum and Grave, where the museum tells the story of this famous frontier scout, buffalo hunter, and showman. The views from the gravesite are spectacular.
From Golden, it is only a 30-minute drive west to the old gold mining towns of Central City and Black Hawk, where visitors can strike it rich. Once called the “Richest Square Mile on Earth” because of the half billion dollars of gold that was mined there, the two towns have come alive again with the excitement of casino gambling. There are more than 30 casinos offering 10,000 slot machines and hundreds of black jack and poker tables, all in an authentic Old West setting.
Just 30 minutes west of Denver is the beautiful town of Boulder, nestled amidst the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder is home to the University of Colorado and offers various free attractions as well as hiking and biking trails. Take a tour and see how tea is made at Celestial Seasonings or view original Western art at the Leanin’ Tree Museum. Or, stroll the Pearl Street Mall, an outdoor pedestrian mall lined with colorful shops and cafes. On your way back from Boulder, stop by the Butterfly Pavilion, one of the largest facilities of its kind, featuring a tropical indoor garden with 1,200 free-floating butterflies and an insect center.