Denver is a geographically isolated city sitting exactly one mile above sea level and over 600 barren miles from the next closest major city. Concealed from the west by bold foothills and towering 14,000-foot peaks, and 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 the booming computer and telecommunications economy. The end result: blended but cohesive neighbourhoods, brimming with a diverse collection of cultures and exuding character and charm.
Anchored by Civic centre 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 art at the Denver Art Museum
. Shop away at the Denver Pavilions
and Tabor centre
or take in a Broadway show at one of the eight theatres 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, kick back 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 from Denver's gold rush days may still haunt the streets of lower downtown, but they are not alone anymore. The area, termed LoDo by locals, was virtually empty 10 years ago. But since the opening of Coors Field
, home to baseball's Colorado Rockies
, this 20-block district of 19th-century brick buildings has come 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 such dining and dancing delights as Josephina's Restaurant
and the 80s 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.
City Park 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 neighbourhood bars, excellent ethnic cuisine, and the nation's best musical 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 centre/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; it hosts some of the best jazz musicians in the country. The entire neighbourhood 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.
While walking the diverse streets of Capitol Hill, you might actually feel the city's pulse pounding beneath your feet. Once the neighbourhood of Denver's wealthiest citizens, this area, which wears its decadent image with honour, blends the past with the present with ancient Victorian mansions and contemporary condos and apartment complexes. Although the streets are always filled with people at all hours of the night, the neighbourhood is safe and friendly. Young hipsters brood along the same pavements 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. A wealth of historical sightseeing includes the Molly Brown House and tours of the Governor's Mansion, which resides in south Capitol Hill near the ultra-trendy Govn'rs Park.
/ Cheesman Park A diverse mix of ethnic, age, and income groups populate these old neighbourhoods bordering Capitol Hill, barely a mile from downtown. The area serves as a hotbed for Denver's gay community and fashionable 30-somethings. Cheesman Park, the former city graveyard, is now Denver's urban emerald. You will 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 filled with eclectic festivities and animated diner-type restaurants.
This stylish district features 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 a 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 nearby destinations.
Washington Park Residents of Denver are the leanest in the land which can be attested by the the active, healthy crowds that are always running or pedaling around the verdant landscape of Washington Park
. Volleyball and soccer games fill the park lawns, and the bike path is always glutted with in-line thrill-seekers and fierce-pedaling road bikers. Numerous park benches and giant shade trees make for great places to chat with locals and relax on a weekday afternoon. The surrounding neighbourhood is one of Denver's most affluent, yet is unpretentious and loaded with rare gems such as the hearty Italian restaurant, Carmine's On Penn
Washington Park's wild southern neighbour is University Park, home of the University of Denver. The area is a hot spot of cultural activity, and displays some of south Denver's finest architecture, including the Ritchie centre, 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 Pizza and Pasta
this neighbourhood offers a little of something for everybody. South Pearl Street is a cosy little shopping spot and is home to the popular Japanese joint, Sushi Den
Located on the western fringe of Denver, surrounded by a jagged hogback and a plethora of wide buttes, Golden is a charming small town (do not ever say it is a suburb) that echoes Colorado's gold rush heritage. Home of the Coors Brewing Company
and the Buffalo Bill 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