The city is renowned for its outdoor activities, no matter the time of year. If you're visiting during the winter months, snowshoe or cross country ski in either City Park or Washington Park, both of which have foot-friendly paths. You can also ice skate on Fillmore Plaza, in the heart of tony Cherry Creek. The summer months encourage hiking, mountain biking, lake sailing, tennis, river kayaking, and golfing.
It's a little more than an hour's drive from Denver to Rocky Mountain National Park, but this national wonderment is worth a side trip for its unrivaled natural beauty. There, you'll behold snow-capped peaks, 17 mountains towering above 13,000 feet, and distinct ecological zones that hopscotch from forests of lush pine trees and swaying aspen groves to alpine tundra and ominous rocky earth.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Special Events & Attractions in Denver
Denverites are unabashedly fanatical about their professional sports teams. The Colorado Rockies pitch at LoDo's Coors Field. Invesco Field at Mile High is home turf to the Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos and pro soccer's Colorado Rapids, while the Pepsi Center plays center court to basketball's Denver Nuggets. You can also catch hockey's Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. A fast fact: All of the teams' sparklingly clean stadiums and arenas have been recently built or reconstructed.
If sports make you shrug, seize the sights instead. The Colorado State Capitol (136 State Capitol Denver), modeled after the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., is a stunning spectacle crowned with a gold dome. Test your altitude aptitude by climbing the 93-step spiral staircase to the open-air deck, affording jaw-dropping views of the city skyline and mountains.
To witness where your currency is made (sorry, no free handouts), follow the money trail to the Denver U.S. Mint (320 W Colfax Ave), one of only two mints in the United States. Knowledgeable tour guides provide a fascinating look into the history of coinage, and both kids and adults love getting up close and personal with the shiny pocket change that streams off the production lines. Admission is free, but tours must be booked three weeks in advance.
Get up close and personal with nature at the Denver Zoo (2300 Steele St), the fourth largest zoo in the country. There are the usual suspects -- lions, and tigers, and bears -- but the zoo's pride and joy is the Tropical Discovery exhibit, a glass-enclosed rainforest that winds past waterfalls, darkened caves, spectacular coral reefs, swamps, and the world's largest Komodo dragon exhibit.
Attractions abound near Confluence Park, a beautiful oasis located at the nexus of the Cherry Creek and South Platte Rivers, just west of downtown Denver. It's at this spot that Denver was founded in 1858.
You can watch the kayakers splash, surf, and spin through the rapids, bike, rollerblade or walk along the paved trail, or take in a summer concert. Visitors can rent kayaking equipment from Confluence Kayaks (1615 Platte St). If you'd rather just watch, hop aboard the Platte Valley Trolley for a 25-minute open-air riverfront ride that takes you between Confluence Park and the Children's Museum. Also take the time to tour the sea -- and its inhabitants -- at the world-class Downtown Aquarium (700 Water St).
If festival hopping is more your forte, peruse Denver's roster of events (www.denver.org/Events/), and you may end up spending your entire vacation zigzagging between the Denver International Film Festival and the Denver International Wine Festival, both held in November. Top-notch summer festivals like the Cherry Creek Arts Festival strut the works of more than 200 regional, national, and international artists. And for something completely offbeat, don't miss the Dragon Boat Festival, a traditional and contemporary Asian cultural display that celebrates the colorful ancient sport of dragon boat racing.
With so much to see and do in Denver, you may be tempted to forego a trip to the mountains, but it's worth taking the 28-mile drive on Interstate 70 to Mount Evans Scenic Byway, the highest paved road in the country, rising to 14, 260 feet high.
The scenery is breathtaking, there are picnicking areas near Echo Lake, and you're bound to see an abundance of wildlife. The road to the top is winding and narrow, so allow at least one hour each way. Inclement weather occasionally closes the byway, so make sure to check on road conditions before making the trek.
If arts and culture are your thing, Denver won't disappoint. Look on the next page for more information.