Denver, the Mile High City, the gateway to the American West and the Rocky Mountains offers a huge amount to the visitor, a whole holiday’s worth of entertainment before you venture out into the wilds of Colorado or enjoy the skiing at North America’s best rated ski resort, Telluride. According to Yahoo’s Summer Search Trends, Denver is the number one most searched city in the US. Fortunately there is a vast amount to do in the other seasons.
In this blog post, I am going to look at a few reasons why you might want to visit Denver.
1. A Walkable City Centre
Transport from Denver International Airport is easy train ride to Denver Union Station in Downtown Denver. The station hosts much of what is great about the city, with farm to table restaurants, bars, and shops, but it is much more than a restaurant hub. They have really taken care to recreate the atmosphere and look of a historic train station.
There are 300 days of sunshine, but if you don’t fancy walking around, Denver has a good network of electronic bike hire. And there is a lot of shopping, from small boutiques with local arts and crafts to the Rockmount Ranch Western wear shop, to the Tattered Cover, an amazing book store.
Denver Union has two hotels you might like to consider staying in. The Crawford Hotel is an independent hotel which does its best to highlight some of the local attractions. So exclusive daily amenities included are a beer from the Terminal Bar, a scoop of ice cream from the Milkbox Ice Creamery, a coffee from the PigTrain coffee company and priority seating at Snooze, an A M Eatery. The hotel has 112 guest rooms with three room categories, The Pullman, the Classic and the Loft.
If you were looking for something more modern, you might book into the The Maven, with its 172 rooms and its clean, modern design with may rooms featuring local artwork. It too provide exclusive offers at local amenities, such as a daily Margarita or craft beer at the Airstream, and a cup of drip coffee at Huckleberry Roasters.
Although the city is walkable, you will also want a ride on the Denver Trolley, a tram ride based on some of the restored rail transit system throughout Denver before the arrival of the automobile. Car No 25 is the last remaining, completely intact electric rail away car out of the original stock of 250.
2. The Diverse Neighborhoods
Each neighbourhood has a distinct feel and flavour. Downtown combines the Ourdoorsy Colorado with an Urban feel. It is the the centre of Denver, physically and spiritually, so a good place to start.
Five Points is one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods,, originally known as the Harlem of the West because it was played by some of the Jazz greats. The district is also mentioned frequently in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Now its creativity and vibrancy lives in in the coffee houses and breweries, museums telling stories and live music from a number of independent music venues. Restaurants will serve up some of the best Caribbean, soul food, catfish and barbecue in the world. If you are there in May, you will catch the Five Points Jazz Festival http://www.artsandvenuesdenver.com/events-programs/five-points-jazz-festival
The River North Art District or RiNo district is where “art is is made’. It is a blend of urban charm and industrial revival with historic factories and warehouses now offer up jazz bars and coffee houses, art galleries and working studios, and a wide range of creative businesses. Lonely Planet named RiNo as one of the top 10 neighborhoods to the visit in the US, still clinging to its punk rock roots, in the street murals that pop up over night, in the experimental galleries that play open house on Friday nights. It has been transformed into the cultural dynamo of the American West.
Cherry Creek is Denver’s premier outdoor retain and dining destination, 16 blocks of fashion, jewellery, home furnishings, spas and salons, and the Cherry Creek Shopping Center.
Fine dining is provided in venues such as Chef Nobu’s Matsuhisa and Chef Paul Nagan’s restaurant. In July there is the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, held over the 4thJuly weekend, with live music, art, performance and food, of course.
The Art District in Santa Fe with its First Friday Art Walks and Capitol Hill and the Golden Triangle is a culturally stimulating district with 8 of Denver’s museums. But time to move on to Reason No 3
3. Red Rocks Park
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is one of the great entertainment venues of the world designed by Mother Nature. It is some 6,450 feet above sea level and between two three hundred rock structures pricing a perfect acoustic environment.
The Red Rocks provide a variety of recreation possibilities from hiking and biking, a challenging outdoor work out area, shopping an dining. It is also the site of The Colorado Music Hall of Fame, a contemporary music museum
4. Food and Drink
Denver’s local culinary scene is thriving with many chef owned restaurants, farm to table bistros, classic steakhouses and historic restaurants.Eating al fresco, particularly from rooftop bars and restaurants is particularly popular with the pleasant climate and amazing views. You could take breakfast at the Bacon Social House with its awesome collection of bacon, from Applewood, to Habanero, from Chipotle to Candied and a lot more. As the name suggests this is a social venue and particularly welcomes families. The Clean Juice Bar in the Cherry Creek Shopping District offers USDA certificated organic juices and smooothies, açai berry bowls and toasts.
Broadway Market is Denver’s newest food hall, a collection of open concept restaurant stalls offering up food from all over the world in a contemporary art-filled community space. The Woodie Fisher Kitchen and Bar is one based in Denver’s oldest volunteer fire station, and the oldest landmark in the Union Station District. The dishes served up pays homage to the old firefighter who gives the restaurant its name by incorporating dishes that play with fire. Try the smoked pork shot ribs, and the chocolate dessert with scorched meringue.
The Ale House at Amato’s is is one of Denver’s top bars for celebrating Colarado’s craft beers, wines and distilleries, and with amazing views of the Denver skyline from the rooftop patio. It serves great food, the service is excellent. A great place for a beer or cocktail on the patio.
The Denver Art Museum, the building, is an architectural work of art, intended to change the way you experience art and architecture. The collections include art from Africa, Asia, Oceanic, American Indian, European and American before 1900, Photography, Architecture and design, Latin American, Textile Art and Fashion, the Ancient Americanism Modern & Contemporary and Western American. It will host exhibitions throughout the year.
The Light Show at the DAM explores representations of light in art through a thought provoking narrative, looking at objects curated through the museums nine departments, and focuses on physical lighting the natural world, as well as metaphorical, spiritual and divine representations of light.
If you would like to stay in a “Art House”, The ART, a hotel is a pretty unique experience. The Hotel is based in the Golden Triangle Creative District, and offers amazing views of Denver and the Rocky Mountains through its floor to ceiling windows paired with contemporary art in the rooms and suites. The hotel is about delivering experiences in a great comfort. The Fire Restaurant offers refined flavours from locally sourced produce, classic techniques and modern presentation. This hotel is worth a visit to Denver on its own
The Arts scene is not limited to the Museums, however, there are several Districts bursting with creative endeavour. On the First Friday of every month, the Art District on Santa Fe offers Art Walks through its 30 participating galleries and studios, dealing with everything from traditional art, photography, graphic art, textiles and sculptures. https://denversartdistrict.org/events/2020/3/6/first-friday-art-walk-march
On the last Friday of each month, the final Friday Art Walk allows you to explore the many creative spaces in the Golden Triangle Creative District.
Street Art is flourishing in Denver. The RiNo, River North Art District has a lot of graphic art, murals, and graffiti on its walls.
There is an influential annual mural event, the Colorado Crush Street Art Festival which is held in September. The Denver Graffiti Tour takes you through RiNo, showing you not just some of the best graffiti in the area but also some of the best restaurants and bars.
Latimer Square has a Chalk Art Festival each summer. Obviously less permanent, and inspired by the Italian tradition of beautifying city streets, the atmosphere here watching the artists at work is again something pretty unique to Denver.
Not to be outdone, the Ladies Fancywork Society has crochet bombed benches and signs around the city, but also describes itself as a “diabolical art hydra capable of putting together large-scale projects, international art shows and installations.
6. Sports Fans
Colorado is a paradise for the lovers of the great outdoors, particularly with the Rocky Mountains being on the doorstep, but there is plenty of outdoor activity in Denver itself. There are some 85 miles of paved bike trails in Denver, particularly the Cherry Creek Path and the Greenway Trail. Denver is considered to be one of the top 5 cities in the US for cycling.
The Mountain Parks are for those who want something a lot more strenuous and challenging. They include famous attractions such as Buffalo Bill’s Grave (and Museum) on top of Lookout Mountain.It is now one of the top attractions in Denver and Colorado.
There are plenty of options when it comes to watching pro-sports, with the Colorado Rockies (MLS Baseball) and the Denver Broncos (NFL). Soccer is represented by the Colorado Rapids. Denver has a pro(super league) rugby club, the Denver Barbarians. You can visit and tour many of the stadiums, such as Coors Field, the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame, the Empower Field at Mile High. The Pepsi Center has a show which demonstrates how the venue converts from ice hockey to basketball, and then into a music venue where many of the big names have played.
7. Get Close to Nature
Denver’s Back Garden boasts Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain. There is so much to do here that I will have to prepare a separate post, so in this post I will just give an overview of 14,115 feet of outstanding beauty. It is one of 53 mountains in Colorado but also one of the most attainable. It can be ascended now by car…. Cheating or by bike and foot. There are plans for a third route, the Cog Railroad, to be opened in 2021.
The Garden of the Gods is Nature’s playground, a trail through the extraordinary geology of the region. It starts at the Trading Post where you can grab your picnic and perhaps some of the local fudge. And of course on finishing the trail, you will pick up your souvenirs. If you want to explore more of the trails and have limited time, a guided horseback tour will give you a real taste of the west. Other options include segways and jeeps. Climbing is permitted (with proper gear) although you are required to register. The park was given to the state of Colorado and remains free to enjoy.
The state of Colorado has some of the most impressive scenery to be found in the US, with some fantastic experiences of the Old and New West. But a visit to Colorado is not complete without several days (at the very least) spent in the vibrant and diverse city that is Denver. The City hosts a number of events through the year that reflects its diverse cultural history, which includes African-American with its jazz, music and dance, soul and food, its asian ambiance, from dragon boats to bonsai, kimchi to Kimonos, its hispanic, its Irish backgrounds reflected on the food and culture. Diversity is shown in the Colorado Gay Rodeo and Denver Pride Festival. And how could you miss the Denver PowWow, a celebration of the proud people who originally inhabited this region.
Listen to stories from the Northern Cheyenne and the Blackfeet/Comanche Nations. Watch the intertribal dancing, listen to the drumming and get transported back into a bygone era
Is Denver the coolest city in the US? You will have to visit Denver and find out for yourself.