Denver City Guide


Photo courtesy ©2006 Denver CVB Denver is full of contrasts, encompassing the urban skyscrapers of the downtown and the nature-rich Rocky Mountains on the outskirts. See more pictures of city skylines.

Denver is a city that revels in contrasts. It's a burgeoning megalopolis where skyscrapers line the bustling downtown streets, their facades framed by the magnificent Rocky Mountains looming in the distance. Leafy neighborhoods parading aristocratic Victorian mansions sit opposite modern new cultural marvels teeming with trendy urbanites too young to remember the oil crash of the 1980s that sent the city spiraling into an economic meltdown.

City Skyline Image Gallery

It's an easygoing, laid-back city that welcomes cowboy boots and stilettos, ball gowns or Birkenstocks, tuxedos or T-shirts. And the city's spectacular climate of more than 300 days of sunshine a year packs Denver's 20,000 acres of parkland with diehard outdoor enthusiasts, even in winter.

Boasting the fifth busiest airport in the country and more than 10.5 million overnight visitors a year, Denver is booming and embracing its vibrancy with unabashed gusto.

The Best of Denver

Long overshadowed by the glamorous Colorado Rockies ski resorts that lull the fur-clad glitterati to their pristinely powdered slopes, Denver has emerged from the woodwork as a progressive, world-class city that prides itself on its unpretentious roots, laid-back lifestyle, and unrivaled beauty. Denveris part cosmopolitan chic, part urban cowboy country, both of which add to the city's mass appeal. Its residents are considered the thinnest, on average, in the America and the highest educated, with numerous opportunities to explore the city's outdoors as their unrivaled playground. A proliferation of hot, new restaurants and watering holes, cultural wonderments, revitalized neighborhoods, and swanky shopping districts have positioned the Mile High City -- so nicknamed for its location at exactly one mile above sea level -- as a vacationer's paradise.

Denver's attributes are vast and varied. The city lays claim to more public parks than any other metropolis in America; a burgeoning cultural scene, including a new state-of-the-art opera house and art museum expansion; and a delightful downtown area rich in history and ripe with posh hotels and pulsating nightlife. First-rate restaurants include al fresco cafes that are perfect for prime people-watching on the 16th Street Mall, a one-mile pedestrian promenade that stretches from one end of downtown to the other.

Photo courtesy ©2006 Denver CVB The pedestrian promenade of the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver is a one-mile stretch of restaurants, shopping, and more.

Requisite outings for tourists include visits to the Colorado State Capitol, Larimer Square, the Denver Art Museum, and the Museum of Science and Nature. Visitors should also take advantage of out-of-town excursions to Mount Evans Scenic Byway and Rocky Mountain National Park, where you can leisurely meander around lovely lakes or hike to the summit of 14,259-foot Longs Peak, the highest mountain in Colorado.

Fast Facts & Info

Fast Facts & Info

Geography and landscape: As it was during its Gold Rush days, Denver is still the largest metropolis between California and Missouri, situated at the far western tip of North America's high rolling plains and at the eastern edge of the jagged Rocky Mountains, many of which jet higher than 14,000 feet. Stand on the 18th step of the Colorado State Capitol, at precisely 5,280 feet above sea level, and you'll experience the altitude high that makes the Mile High City moniker so apt. Altitude sickness is not uncommon here, and visitors are encouraged to drink lots of water, despite the city's low humidity and temperate climate.

Denver champions the tenth largest downtown in the United States -- a dynamic enclave flanked by a mile-long pedestrian promenade chock-a-block with outdoor cafes, upscale restaurants, shops, and cultural sights. It's the hub of Denver's thriving commerce and where most visitors spend the majority of their time.

Photo courtesy ©2006 Denver CVB Visitors should take in the views of Denver from the rotunda of the state capitol building.

Denver is the largest city in Colorado, spanning 156 miles and harboring more than half a million people. The Denver metropolitan area, which encompasses a population of more than 2 million, also includes the counties of Jefferson, Broomfield, Arapahoe, Adams, and Douglas County, one of the fastest growing communities in the state.

General orientation: "If you get lost, look for the mountains." Abide by that mantra, and getting around Denver isn't difficult. The mountains, which sit to the west, are visible from just about anywhere in the city and provide orientation to even the most disoriented Denver visitor.

Downtown streets are laid out in a north-south, east-west grid, and Broadway, which runs north-south, acts as the dividing line between east and west addresses. Ellsworth Avenue runs east-west and serves as the dividing line between streets running north and south. Grab an Official Visitors Guide, available free at the airport, if you want a good map.

Safety: Although Denver is a predominantly safe city, police and neighborhood watch groups patrol the downtown area and urban communities to keep crime at bay. As with any large city, however, pay close attention to your surroundings and don't walk alone late at night. Panhandlers are prevalent on busy street corners, along the 16th Street Mall and on East Colfax, but you'll find them more annoying than threatening.

Climate/weather: Denver experiences four distinct seasons, making it an eminently pleasurable year-round destination to enjoy just about every outdoor pursuit imaginable. While it's true that the mountains endure heavy snowfalls, the city enjoys a far more moderate climate, contrary to the thorny myths that Denverites spend the winter months holed up in their homes, imprisoned by a blanket of white. True, the city has made national news for its occasional blizzards, but in true Mile High fashion, the sun shines brightly the next day, quickly giving way to dry streets.

The hottest month is July, when the average temperature reaches 88 degrees Fahrenheit, and the coldest month is January, with the average high of 43 degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature in spring hovers around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, while fall temperature highs range from 85 degrees Fahrenheit in September to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in November.

Denver has no shortage of things to see and do -- but you have to know where you're going to take advantage of everything the city has to offer. In the next section, we'll provide tips for getting around the Mile High City.

Getting In, Getting Around Denver

©2006 Denver CVB Denverites joke that the airport is so far away it might as well be in another state. In truth, the trip to the airport is 24 miles from the city center.

Before you can begin sightseeing in Denver, you need to figure out how to get around. Here's a primer:

From the Airport

Car rental: Most of the major rental car companies -- Advantage, Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis -- are a short shuttle scoot away from Denver International Airport. Rental car counters are located in the Jeppesen Terminal, on the fifth level, and all the companies provide courtesy shuttle service to their facilities. Once you've collected your luggage, step outside the baggage claim exit doors, and you'll see the shuttles with their respective company name slowly circling the airport terminal. All of the rental car companies provide maps to get you on your way to Denver.

Public transportation: Numerous shuttle providers and limousines lie in wait to shuffle passengers between Denver International Airport and various points in and around the city -- including several hotels. Prices are generally around $20 per person for shuttle service and $65 and more for limousine service.

Regional Transportation District, or RTD's, skyRide is the direct public transit bus from the airport to downtown Denver's Market Street Station, located at the west end of the 16th Street Mall. All buses leave the airport from Level 5, Island 5, outside Door 506 on the west side of the terminal and Door 511 on the east side of the terminal. Fares range from $6 to $10 one-way, and exact change is required. You may purchase a skyRide roundtrip ticket or pass in advance. Several hotels near the airport also provide door-to-door shuttle service from the airport terminal to their property.

Driving In

Rush hour: There's an ongoing joke among Denverites that Denver International Airport is so far away from the city center that it may as well reside in another state altogether. That's not quite the case, but if you're a first-time visitor, the 24-mile ride from the airport to downtown can seem like an eternity. Still, the highways are easy to navigate, signage is straightforward, and a map is helpful. The major highways, however, are congested with construction, making rush hour ripe for frustration, so allow yourself extra time if you're driving between 7 am to 9 am and 4:30 pm to 6 pm.

Rules of the road: Seatbelts are required in the state of Colorado, and you can be ticketed for not buckling up. Child restrains are mandatory for all children younger than 6 years old, and children less than 1 year old must be strapped in a rear-facing child restraint seat.

Highway speeds vary throughout Colorado, but for the most part, the highway speed limit in and around Denver is 55 mph. As you head out of town, the limit increases to 65 mph. Here's an insider tip: the police rigorously patrol the highway in and out of the airport, so resist the urge to put the pedal to the metal.

Getting Around

Public transportation: Denver is still playing catch-up when it comes to contemporary methods of public transportation, but the Regional Transportation District or RTD operates numerous bus routes and a limited light rail system. Service within Denver and to the outlying suburbs and communities is prompt and plentiful, and there are 65 Park-n-Ride locations throughout the Denver-Boulder area for stowing your car.

One-way bus tickets are $1.50; seniors, Medicare recipients, and disabled patrons pay 75 cents, and children age 5 and younger travel free. Regional and Express fares vary, and light rail tickets range from $1.50 to $2.75, depending upon the zone. Exact change is required on busses, and light rail tickets can be purchased at station vending machines. FasTracks, a 12-year comprehensive plan to build and operate high-speed rail lines, expand and improve bus service, and increase the number of Park-n-Rides throughout the region, is progressing; but for now, it's the bus or bust.

Taxis, on foot, or by bike: Somewhat surprisingly, Denver is not a town overwhelmed with taxis. They are available, but don't expect to find a litter of yellow cabs lined up at hotels or perched on every street corner. Should you need a taxi, it's best to phone ahead. If you're slumbering at a downtown hotel, then you'll want to explore the city center on foot.

Denver boasts an extremely walkable downtown, coupled with free shuttles that transport visitors from the far west end of the 16th Street Mall to the east end, which sits just steps away from Civic Center Park and the Colorado State Capitol.

As for biking, it's the hip way to travel, and bikes are nearly as common in Denver as cars. If, however, you plan to sightsee or conduct business outside of the downtown area, a car is highly recommended.

Now that you know how to get around Denver, we'll tell you what to do, starting on the next page with special events and attractions.

Denver Special Events & Attractions

©2006 National Park Service Rocky Mountain National Park is about an hour away from Denver -- and definitely worth the trip.

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.

Denver Arts & Culture

©2006 Denver CVB The amazing Denver Performing Arts Complex can seat 10,000 for all types of performances, from ballet to opera.

Recently, Denver has experienced a soaring renaissance in the world of art and culture. With the additions of the new Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Denver Art Museum expansion wing, and the 2007 opening of the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art, the city is literally exploding with a world-class cultural climate. Add to that the prolific art displayed at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and it's no wonder that the city is receiving accolades from near and far.

Of course, Denver's intrinsic fabric is founded on its Wild West heritage, so if you find yourself there in January, dust off your cowboy boots, don your cowboy hat, and belt those Wrangler jeans, because the National Western Stock Show comes to town, and it's an unforgettable snapshot into Denver's fabled past.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Arts & Culture in Denver

Denverites pride themselves on the fact that their city has been named the most educated city in America, boasting the greatest percentage of college graduates of any major metropolitan area in the United States. Perhaps that, in part, explains why there's such an outpouring of support for the arts.

The city swells with museums, but the best of the bunch is the Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave), fresh off the heels of a $92 million makeover, courtesy of world-renowned master designer Daniel Libeskind.

The museum's new Frederick C. Hamilton wing, clad in titanium and jutting skyward with geometric peaks and angles, showcases 40,000 square feet of dramatically bold gallery space for its permanent collections and traveling exhibitions. For sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains, head upstairs to the sculpture deck.

Proponents of the performing arts get their fill of pop and classical music, ballet, opera, and Broadway plays at the Denver Performing Arts Complex (14th and Curtis Sts), the second largest in the nation with 10 theatres seating 10,000 people. The Ellie Caulkins Opera House, completed in 2005, touts superb amenities like seat-back translation title screens, plenty of leg room, and the Chambers Grant Salon, a bar, restaurant, and live jazz venue flanked by original works from Colorado artist Vance Kirkland.

Also worth exploring is the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (2001 Colorado Blvd), which recently added a space museum and the world's most advanced digital planetarium to its existing repertoire of fossils, Egyptian mummies, dinosaur "enviroramas," and special exhibitions. The museum's IMAX Theater, located in the recently renovated Charles Gates Planetarium, presents surround-sound nature, science, travel, and adventure films on a 41/2-story-tall screen.

Sneak in a visit to the Buffalo Museum and Grave (987-1/2 Lookout Mountain Rd) honoring William "Buffalo Bill" Fredrick Cody, the famous frontier Scout who's buried atop Lookout Mountain. Indulge in a Mid-East feast at Ali Baba Grill (109 Rubey Dr) before heading to a summer concert under the stars at Red Rocks Amphitheater (Interstate 70, Exit 259 South), arguably one of the most scenic and pristinely beautiful iconic cultural treasures in Colorado. Even if you can't catch a concert, it's worth stopping into the visitor's center just to ogle at the displays of the big name bands (U2, The Beatles, the Grateful Dead, Wilco, Sting) that have graced the magical stage.

Feeling cultured? Don't stop here. On the next page, learn about the interesting architecture and landmarks scattered throughout this great city.

Denver Architecture & Landmarks

©2006 Denver CVB Learn more about the unsinkable Molly Brown at her historic home on Pennsylvania Street.

In 1890, William M. Thayer, author of Marvels of the New West, wrote, "the most marvelous growth of modern times is the city of Denver, Colorado..." It was during Colorado's gold and silver boom that overnight millionaires began demanding opulence and elegance, and their newfound wealth quickly led to multistory masonry mansions lining the dusty neighborhood streets. From there, Queen-Anne-style homes ensued, as did aristocratic stone mansions and castle-like fortresses jutting with turrets and towers.

When the silver crash of 1893 took Denver into the deep holes of despair, downtown buildings were demolished, fortunes were lost, and the city's urban core lay in a crumble of debris. Devastated city leaders rallied together, and their perseverance led to Denver's historic preservation movement, which still continues today, particularly in Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo), where old brick warehouse buildings have been lovingly and meticulously restored.

The city now boasts more than 300 designated historic landmarks and dozens of historical districts, including LoDo, Capitol Hill, and Country Club, which flaunts some of the most spectacularly grand estates in the city. As you're wandering the streets of Denver, look for the plaques designating historical significance.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Architecture & Landmarks in Denver

You can behold the Grande Dame of Denver's classic architecture at the Mobil Four-Star Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th St), built from Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone in 1892 by renowned architect Frank Edbrooke, who also designed the Colorado State Capitol. The regal lobby, plied with Mexican onyx, extends skyward, exposing six tiers of balconies bedecked with opulent cast-iron grillwork and a gorgeous stained-glass ceiling.

Built in 1889 of Colorado rhyolite and sandstone trim, the recently restored Molly Brown House (1340 Pennsylvania St), named for the flamboyant woman whose heroism in the sinking of the Titanic made world headlines, displays early 20th century-style furnishings, along with temporary exhibits and the Brown family's personal possessions.

Take a guided tour of the stately Byers-Evans House (1310 Bannock St), built by Rocky Mountain News founder-editor William Byers. This Victorian splendor, owned by William Gray Evans, son of Colorado's second territorial governor, has been carefully restored to the 1912-24 period.

Stroll through Larimer Square (1400 block of Larimer St), the site of Denver's original community and commerce. Initially home to brothels, saloons, and unseemly hotels, the area was demolished and deemed "Skid Row" before historic preservationists intervened, tearing down the unsightly buildings and renovating all 16 of them into beautiful Victorian replicas.

And don't miss the Colorado State Capitol building (136 State Capitol, Denver), a visual spectacle constructed of white marble, onyx, sandstone, and granite from Colorado quarries. The Corinthian-styled building, famed for its gold-plated dome rising 272 feet above the ground, offers temporary exhibits, visitor galleries, and informative tours.

Who doesn't want to shop -- or, at least, windowshop -- when visiting a new city? Check out the next section for tips on where to find the best shopping in Denver.

Denver Shopping

©2006 Denver CVB Indulge in the ultimate in chi-chi retail therapy by going to Cherry Creek shopping mall.

By and large, Denver is a casual town. Jeans are the frock de jour, cowboy boots are the shoes of choice, and coats and ties are reserved for out-of-the-loop out-of-towners on expense accounts. All of which goes to say Denver is not Rodeo Drive or the Magnificent Mile -- and that suits Denverites just fine.

Still, there are an abundance of indoor and outdoor shopping malls, plenty of independently owned kitschy clothing boutiques, ubiquitous retail chains, and of course, stores that specialize in Western wear. Saddle up!

Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Denver

Those searching for Western duds should point their boots straight to Rockmount Ranchwear (1626 Wazee St) a third-generation, family-owned business that sells shirts, prairie skirts, jeans, scarves, dusters, and just about

anything else that a cowgirl or cowboy could ever want. Mosey through the store's museum, devoted to all things (what else?) Western.

More fine shopping can be found at the Denver Pavilions

(500 16th St), a modern three-tiered outdoor structure encompassing popular retail shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues. If you prefer antiquing to forging for the latest fashions, head to South Broadway's Antique Row, a 14-block stretch of eclectic shops that pedal yesteryear collectables. 

Bona fide foodies and Denver insiders flock to the Pearl

Street Farmer's Market (1219 S. Pearl St), held every Sunday (summer months only) on a fetching residential block flanked by one-of-a-kind boutiques, popular restaurants, coffee bars, sweet shops, and gelato stops.

After you've purchased some of Denver's best duds -- Western or otherwise -- you can put on your finest and head out to enjoy the city's nightlife. Find out more on the next page.

Denver Nightlife & Entertainment

©2006 Denver CVB Lower Downtown Denver, or LoDo, is a sure bet if you're looking for fun nightlife spots.

Most visitors to Denver don't expect the bright lights, big city New York City-style of nightlife, and that's a good thing, because by and large, restaurant kitchens close early, bar crowds spill onto the sidewalks at precisely 2 am, and because of strict noise ordinances, concerts skid to a stop around 10 pm. That's not to say that the seemingly infinite number of Denver's bars, theaters, and clubs aren't packed to the rafters with revelers perfectly willing to perch on a barstool until the lights go dim.

Neighborhoods like Cherry Creek swell with sophisticates that typically turn in early, but Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo), South Broadway (SoBo), Highlands, and the stretch of nightlife spots along East Colfax crawl with a younger audience that are all too happy to party until a greasy breakfast calls -- usually at Pete's Kitchen, a 24-hour, perpetually packed habitat for those who don't seem to require much sleep.

An onslaught of recent openings -- an altitude-high sky bar at the Mobil Three-Star Grand Hyatt Hotel; Steuben's, an Uptown restaurant extolling the virtues of comfort food and late-night weekend kitchen hours; and Slim 7, an A-list back-alley bar behind Larimer Square, are all adding to the energetic verve

of Denver's entertainment scene.

Insider's Guide:

The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Denver

The Best of Nightlife & Entertainment in Denver

There are plenty of people willing to brave the elbow-to-elbow lines and strict door policy at Rise Nightclub (1909 Blake St.), and while the South Beach-inspired hotspot pulsates with uber-hip scenesters, there are far better places to experience Denver's ever-evolving -- and essential -- nightlife.

On the outskirts of downtown, in the Ballpark District, is El Chapultepec (1962 Market St, 303-295-9126), an aging dive bar that emanates with live jazz -- the best, in fact, in Denver. Since the space is the size of a shoebox, seats are hot commodities -- so arrive on the early side. Dress is casual.

Wine bars are all the rage in the Mile High City, and you can pop the cork at Cru Wine Bar (1442 Larimer St, 303-893-9463) in Larimer Square, Sketch (250 Steele St, 303-333-

1763) in Cherry Creek, and the Platte Valley's Paris Wine Bar (1553 Platte St, 303-217-5805). It's tough to recommend a wine for all of these places because the wine rosters are forever changing and evolving. But if you find a wine you like, make sure to get the name and ask if it's going to be part of the rotation periodically.

Sports bars are huge in Denver, none more so than the Sports Column (1930 Blake St, 303-296-1930). The glitterati hang at Cherry Creek's North Restaurant (190 Clayton Lane, 720-941-7700), while beer-imbibers soak up the suds at the Wynkoop Brewery Co. (1634 18th St, 303-297-2700), Denver's first brewpub.

There's no better place to engage in live, free entertainment than on the Pearl Street Mall (1420 Pearl St) in the college community of Boulder, a 30-minute drive from downtown Denver. The four-block-long pedestrian mall encompasses Boulder's core of shops, restaurants, and street performers -- easily some of the best in the country.

Mimes, fire-eaters, musicians, comedians, and perhaps the most famous entertainer -- the Zip Code guy (tell him in what city you live, and he'll spit out your Zip code in seconds flat) -- grace the lushly landscaped mall street day and night, year-round.

After a night out on the town, you may want to plan leisurely activities for the following day. Go to the next page for tips on how to relax and unwind in Denver.

Relaxing & Unwinding in Denver

©2006 Denver CVB Stop and smell the flowers -- and maybe even catch a concert under the stars -- at the Denver Botanic Gardens.

Denverites adopt a leisurely lifestyle, enjoying a day of relaxation just as much as a full-throttled, 24-hour buzz. Given the close proximity to the mountains and the acreage of parks and open spaces, there's always time to reflect, rejuvenate, and simply take it easy.

Locals linger over coffee for hours in funky caffeine houses, most of which have Wi-Fi. If the hustle and bustle of the city becomes too taxing, the snow-capped peaks are less than 30 minutes away, and there are several other spots in the city to nurture your nature side.

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Denver

Insider's Guide: The Best of Relaxing & Unwinding in Denver

One of Denver's best-kept secrets is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge (56th Ave and Havana St). Bring a book and your binoculars and unwind in the swells of shortgrass harboring mule deer, bald eagles, white pelicans forging for fish, and burrowing owls. If you're an angler, cast your hook in one of the lakes that allows catch-and-release fishing. You'll need a fishing license, your own equipment, and $3 for a fishing pass.

During the summer months, Denverites relax under the stars at the Denver Botanic Gardens (1005 York St), a blooming botanical paradise in which to enjoy some of the top musical acts in the country in one of the most serene outdoor landscapes in Colorado.

Pack a picnic, bring a bottle of wine and a blanket, and stretch out on the grass, while listening to the likes of the Indigo Girls, Judy Collins, B.B. King, and Bruce Cockburn. The lineup is usually announced in mid-April, and concerts run May-August. Tickets are available on the Denver Botanic Gardens Web site and at the on-site ticket window. A forewarning: Tickets sell out quickly, so keep close tabs on the concert calendar.

While live concerts aren't a part of the lineup at Washington Park (East Louisiana and South Downing Sts), lake fishing (don't forget your license), paddleboating (available for rent at the lake house), croquet, horseshoe pits, flourishing flower gardens, and sunbathing all make this popular park a wonderful spot to relax. 

No visit to Denver would be complete without a visit to the Tattered Cover Book Store (1628 16th St). There are three locations for this astounding literary marvel, but the newest store, in the renovated Lowenstein Theater (on Colfax Ave and Elizabeth St across from East High School), is the talk of the town. Grab a latte and plop down in one of the overstuffed chairs or sofas, cuddled up with the latest best seller.

If you simply want to unwind, grab a newspaper and a latte and watch the world go by at The Market (1445 Larimer St), a local institution whose coveted patio provides prime real estate for unparalled people-watching.

If you prefer to take in the sights of a new city with a group tour, you'll be interested in the next section. There, we provide information on organized tours of Denver.

Denver Organized Tours Overview

©2006 National Park Service One way to see the amazing scenery at Rocky Mountain National Park is to go on The Colorado Sightseer tour.

While it's always fun to explore new cities on your own, a guided tour can often provide the best footnotes for a memorable trip.

To experience Denver's fabled Wild West past, don your sneakers and embark on a history tour of Lower Downtown Denver's most unique hotels, businesses, saloons, and brothels. For more information on this tour, check out www.lodo.org

If you want to soak up the state's pristine wilderness, The Colorado Sightseer specializes in full-length day trips to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Seasoned Chef Cooking School celebrates the arrival of the city's bumper crop of farmers markets with a walking and tasting tour of the Cherry Creek Farmers Market -- the largest outdoor farmers market in the city.

Denver History Tours offer history-themed walking and bus excursions of the city and the Rocky Mountain region, all of which are led by trained historians.

Just as there is much to see and do in Denver, there are also many options for places to stay. We have some suggestions on the next page.

Denver Hotels Guide

Brown Palace Hotel The Brown Palace Hotel offers luxurious amenities.

Denver accommodations come in all shapes, sizes, and comfort levels, but it's the Old World charm, excellent restaurants, astounding architecture, and lush amenities that attract globetrotting travelers to the Mobil Four-Star Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th St) in the heart of downtown. You're sure to be spoiled and pampered at this hotel.

Another option is the Mobil Three-Star Hotel Teatro (1100 14th St), which is conveniently located across from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. And if you want to do some sightseeing, the hotel makes it easy...and fun: Hotel Teatro offers Range Rovers to transport you around the downtown area. As for food, the hotel's two on-site restaurants offer a variety of choices for everyone in the family.

The Mobil Three-Star Grand Hyatt Denver (1750 Welton St), conveniently located just one block south of the 16th Street Mall, offers spacious accommodations, state-of-the-art conference facilities, and a handsomely appointed lobby bar manned by the city's top pianist who tickles the ivories six nights a week.

Now that you have some ideas about where to stay, you can shift your focus to the really fun stuff: food. In addition to a variety of topnotch accommodations, Denver boasts great dining options for visitors, whether you're looking for casual fare or fine dining. On the next page, we'll provide some recommendations.

Denver Restaurants Guide

©2006 Denver CVB From dining al fresco to indulging your taste buds in decadent cuisine, Denver has plenty of dining options for everyone in your traveling group.

It's a well-known fact that Denver is better known for its houses of steer than its temples of pho. But while the city's steakhouses continue to draw throngs of diners, Denver is unashamedly shedding its cattle-centric image in favor of a chef-driven culinary climate that celebrates world cuisines -- all of which translates into a smorgasbord of inspiring menus.

For the best steak in town, sans the chains, steer yourself toward Steakhouse 10 (3517 S. Elati St), a welcoming spot overseen by a tag team of Greek brothers who pride themselves on their Greek hospitality coupled with the kitchen's Prime grade "Gangster" steak and brandy-flamed Saganaki.

Denver touts an impressive caboodle of ethnic haunts, most notably Mexican taquerias, the best of which is El Taco de Mexico (714 Santa Fe Dr), a no-nonsense, bare-bones joint revered for their chile relleno burrito draped with excellent green chile.

For the best Vietnamese in town, look no further than the perfectly assembled spring rolls at New Saigon (630 S Federal Blvd), and for terrific dim sum any day of the week, head to Super Star Asian (2200 W Alameda), a convivial spot with rolling carts and an exhaustive array of shareable delights, including savory pork buns.

To sample the most authentic Chinese fare in Denver, sharpen your chopsticks and go to JJ Chinese Restaurant (1048 S Federal Blvd), where the wonderfully traditional menu will deepen your appreciation of real Chinese cooking.

The top burgers in town can be found at the venerable Cherry Cricket (2641 E 2nd Ave) and Steuben's (837 E 17th Ave), a hip neighborhood spot bedecked with retro stylings and two patios.

Mizuna (225 E 7th Ave), an upscale contemporary restaurant, generates raves for its decadent lobster macaroni and cheese, while Vesta Dipping Grill (1822 Blake St) has won both local and national accolades for chef Matt Selby's globetrotting menu featuring more than 30 dipping sauces paired with dishes like harissa-grilled chicken and venison bathed in coconut milk.

If you happen to be in town during Denver Restaurant Week  -- usually held the last week in March -- you can indulge in a multiple-course dinner for the fixed price of $52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one (not including tax or tip) at more than 150 of the city's best restaurants. Speaking of tipping, the average tip for a meal out in Denver is between 18 to 20 percent.

Are your bags packed? Before you walk out the door, take a peek at the next section for suggested itineraries that will enable you to hit on all the highlights of the Mile High City.

It's a well-known fact that Denver is better known for its houses of steer than its temples of pho. But while the city's steakhouses continue to draw throngs of diners, Denver is unashamedly shedding its cattle-centric image in favor of a chef-driven culinary climate that celebrates world cuisines -- all of which translates into a smorgasbord of inspiring menus.

For the best steak in town, sans the chains, steer yourself toward Steakhouse 10 (3517 S. Elati St), a welcoming spot overseen by a tag team of Greek brothers who pride themselves on their Greek hospitality coupled with the kitchen's Prime grade "Gangster" steak and brandy-flamed Saganaki.

Denver touts an impressive caboodle of ethnic haunts, most notably Mexican taquerias, the best of which is El Taco de Mexico (714 Santa Fe Dr), a no-nonsense, bare-bones joint revered for their chile relleno burrito draped with excellent green chile.

For the best Vietnamese in town, look no further than the perfectly assembled spring rolls at New Saigon (630 S Federal Blvd), and for terrific dim sum any day of the week, head to Super Star Asian (2200 W Alameda), a convivial spot with rolling carts and an exhaustive array of shareable delights, including savory pork buns.

To sample the most authentic Chinese fare in Denver, sharpen your chopsticks and go to JJ Chinese Restaurant (1048 S Federal Blvd), where the wonderfully traditional menu will deepen your appreciation of real Chinese cooking.

©2006 Denver CVB From dining al fresco to indulging your taste buds in decadent cuisine, Denver has plenty of dining options for everyone in your traveling group.

The top burgers in town can be found at the venerable Cherry Cricket (2641 E 2nd Ave) and Steuben's (837 E 17th Ave), a hip neighborhood spot bedecked with retro stylings and two patios.

Mizuna (225 E 7th Ave), an upscale contemporary restaurant, generates raves for its decadent lobster macaroni and cheese, while Vesta Dipping Grill (1822 Blake St) has won both local and national accolades for chef Matt Selby's globetrotting menu featuring more than 30 dipping sauces paired with dishes like harissa-grilled chicken and venison bathed in coconut milk.

If you happen to be in town during Denver Restaurant Week  -- usually held the last week in March -- you can indulge in a multiple-course dinner for the fixed price of $52.80 for two, or $26.40 for one (not including tax or tip) at more than 150 of the city's best restaurants. Speaking of tipping, the average tip for a meal out in Denver is between 18 to 20 percent.

Are your bags packed? Before you walk out the door, take a peek at the next section for suggested itineraries that will enable you to hit on all the highlights of the Mile High City.

Suggested Itineraries for Visiting Denver

©2006 Denver CVB The exotic fish of the Downtown Aquarium are conveniently located just steps from downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall.

With so much to do in Denver, you can easily become overwhelmed. But don't worry -- this section offers a great way to break up your day (or days), and explore the top highlights of the Mile High City. Whether your priorities lie in taking in the arts and culture of Denver (such as the Denver Art Museum), shopping at indoor and outdoors malls (such as the one in Cherry Creek), or exploring the city's outskirts (such as Rocky Mountain National Park), the following suggestions will point you in the right direction.

's Special Events & Attractions

's Special Events & Attractions

The attractions and special events below really shouldn't be missed during your visit to Denver. Follow these itineraries to ensure that you see the most you can in the time you have.

1 day: Every visit to Denver should begin where the city first put down community roots -- in Larimer Square (1445 Larimer St). This pristinely restored, Victorian-revived enclave is dotted with java joints, unique shops, trendy bars, and globetrotting restaurants, most notably Rioja (1431 Larimer St), a Mediterranean-inspired food temple that lures the cognoscenti with its indelible artichoke mousse ravioli.

Just down the street from Larimer Square is Sakura Square (1255 19th St), a tiny Tokyo that includes the Denver Buddhist Temple and Pacific Mercantile, a wonderfully authentic Japanese supermarket. Walk across the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian footbridge connecting the Platte River Valley to the 16th Street Mall, and you're just steps away from the Downtown Aquarium (700 Water St). There, you'll encounter exotic fish, Sumatran tigers, moray eels, and stingrays.

Want to live on the edge? Look no further than Six Flags Elitch Gardens Theme Park, home to more than 45 thrilling rides, including Twister II, a heart-stopping 10-story rollercoaster with a 90-foot-drop.

If your adventurous streak hasn't run its course, don't miss the spectacular REI flagship store (1416 Platte St), an outdoor-lover's paradise that allows visitors to practice their rock-climbing skills, test-drive bikes, and practice their kayaking maneuvers on adjacent Cherry Creek.

2 days: Walk and talk with the animals at the spacious Denver Zoo (23rd Ave and Steele St), home to more than 75,000 species of ubiquitous, unusual, and endangered critters. Nostalgics won't want to miss the Conversation Carousel featuring wood-carved renditions of several endangered species.

During the summer months, cool off at Pirate's Cove Aquatic Park (1225 Belleview Ave) complete with a 35-foot slide tower, spray garden, lazy river, and 25-meter, six-lane pool. If time permits, surround yourself with fluttering butterflies at the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center (6252 W. 104th Ave), a foliage-flush, humid habitat beautified by thousands of kaleidoscopic butterflies, moths, and skippers.

3 days: Breakfast on pineapple upside down pancakes at Snooze (2262 Larimer St) before hitting a Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coors Field. The games are rarely sold out, so tickets are easy to come by -- but stay away from scalpers. The stadium sports the thinnest air in major league baseball, and a block of purple seats on the 20th row of the upper deck marks the point where it's exactly one mile above sea level. The "Rockpile" seats, located 500 feet from home plate, are only $4 per ticket, and the crowds who sit there are some of the loudest and liveliest in baseball.

's Arts & Culture

's Arts & Culture

There is no shortage of arts and culture in Denver, from the unique collections at the Denver Art Museum to the exhilirating performances at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Use the following itineraries to help you fit it all it in.

1 day: Spend the morning winding your way through the Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave) galleries, pausing to reflect on the stellar Native American and Spanish Colonial art collections, for which the museum is noted. With the highly anticipated opening of the new Frederick C. Hamilton wing, crowds will clamor for tickets, so buy them in advance.

While away the afternoon in the Golden Triangle Museum District (located between Speer, Colfax, and Lincoln Sts.), an artsy enclave comprised of several small stage live theaters and more than 50 galleries, artist's studios, restaurants, and specialty boutiques.

Shutterbugs shouldn't miss Camera Obscura Gallery (1309 Bannock St), one of the oldest photography galleries in the nation and a boon for those interested in both vintage and contemporary images. At the William Havu Gallery (1040 Cherokee St), prepare to drool over the show-stopping, cutting-edge works from top-drawer artists from around the world.

Enjoy an early dinner at Cuba Cuba (1173 Delaware St), an infectiously upbeat spot to nosh on paella and plantains before making your way to the Curious Theater Company (1080 Acoma St), a local's favorite for provocative live stage performances.

2 days: Linger over coffee and eggs Benedict at Racines (650 Sherman St), one of Denver's most popular morning joints for conversation and a caffeine fix. Spend the afternoon at the Colorado History Museum (1300 Broadway), a site that showcases an amazing collection of William Henry Jackson photos and the "Colorado Chronicle," an 1800-1949 timeline that uses press clippings, dioramas, photographs, and plaques to illustrate the state's historical past.

Brush up on your artifacts at the Museum of Science and Nature (2001 Colorado Blvd), while taking in a film at the museum's IMAX Theater or floating in space at the Charles Gates Planetarium.

©2006 Denver CVB Coors Field is home the Colorado Rockies. Tickets are pretty easy to come by in this stadium, which in some points is exactly one mile above sea level.

3 days: Start your day the old-fashioned way at Davies Chuck Wagon Diner (9495 W Colfax Ave), a quintessential roadside breakfast shack that dishes out decadent chicken fried steak and eggs. Consider this your morning fuel for a full day wandering around the historic town of Golden -- one of the state's original boomtowns.

Explore the stone-structured Astor House Museum (822 12th St), a Western-styled Victorian hotel that housed the state's legislators in the 19th century. While you're there, you can partake in a walking tour of the 12th Street Historic District or head up to Boettcher Mansion (900 Colorow Rd) for an estate tour of period crafts dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

's Architecture & Landmarks

's Architecture & Landmarks

Denver is known for its historic preservation movement, particularly in the LoDo area. The following suggested itineraries will help you take in the many architectural treasures and landmarks throughout the city.

1 day: Stroll through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, stopping to gawk at the Colorado State Capitol building (136 State Capitol, Denver). Across the street at City Grill (321 E. Colfax Ave), join the legions of legislators who come here for the juice-dribbling cheeseburgers.

After lunch, take a leap of faith and enter through the sculpted brass doors of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (1530 Logan St), one of the finest (and most overlooked) examples of French Gothic architecture in the region. The imposing exterior, constructed of acanthus stone and bolstered by a green ceramic tiled roof, is stunning, but so is the interior with its hand-painted, stained-glass windows and jaw-droppingly beautiful art.

Feast on potato-crusted scallops or roasted butternut squash risotto at the Red Room (320 E Colfax Ave), one of many restaurants located throughout the Denver area owned by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

2 days: Walk through the nostalgic hallways of Union Station (1701 Wynkoop St), Denver's grandly appointed historic train station that resides on the west end of 17th Street. Opened in 1881, the original Italian Romanesque structure was destroyed by fire in 1894 and later rebuilt in Beaux-arts style, complete with a red marquee, three-story arched windows and 64-foot-high ceilings. The basement houses one of the world's largest model-railroad collections.

Another must-see landmark is the Mobil Four-Star Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th St), the undisputed crown jewel of Denver architecture. Book a tour to discover the cast of presidents, dignitaries, and entertainers that have slumbered here, the likes of which include Dwight Eisenhower (who has a suite named after himself), the Beatles, and Queen Marie of Romania.

Satiate your hunger pains at the Mobil Two-Star Buckhorn Exchange (1000 Osage St), Denver's oldest restaurant and a designated historical landmark for its impressive collection of taxidermy and Old West memorabilia, including a Col. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody display. Nosh on Prime grade steaks and a stellar selection of wild game dishes like elk, smoked buffalo, and rattlesnake.

3 days: Begin your morning with prime rib hash and eggs at the Rialto Cafe (934 16th St), one of Denver's original silent movie houses, then make your way to Four Mile Historic Park (715 S. Forest St), a former stagecoach stop that now marks the site of Denver's oldest log home. Costumed guides lead tours of the 12-acre farmstead outfitted with period furnishings, old farming machinery, and outbuildings. On weekends, take a horse-drawn carriage ride.

Spend the evening watching a concert, ballet, or theater production at the Art Deco-styled Paramount Theater (1631 Glenarm Pl), the city's last grand movie theater turned elegant haven for the performing arts.

©2006 Denver CVB The Colorado State Capitol building is modeled after the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

's Shopping

Whether you're just looking for some souvenirs to commemorate your trip or want an all-out shopping excursion, there are plenty of malls and boutiques to choose from in this great city. Following are some suggested itineraries.

1 day: Cherry Creek North (2960 E. 2nd Ave) leads the way when it comes to chi-chi retail therapy. Everywhere you turn, well-heeled socialites strutting Prada bounce down the streets armed with bags of highfalutin' fashions foraged from the hundreds of chic shops that line the manicured streets bumper to bumper with BMWs.

Follow the other well-to-do denizens to Garbarini (3003 E. 3rd Ave), a sleek and chic clothing emporium brimming with trendy lines like Paper Denim Cloth, AG, Antik, Nougat, Ya Ya, Alvin Valley, and Vertigo.

Find the year's most coveted toys at Kazoo and Company (2930 E. 2nd Ave) or The Wizard's Chest (230 Fillmore St), and outfit your home with fancified furnishings from HW Home (199 Clayton Lane).

Make time to slurp fresh oysters shucked at Ocean (201 Columbine St, 303-377-5350), one of Cherry's Creeks hottest spots for gossip swaps (and showing off your new stilettos.).

2 days: At Belmar Shopping Center (7000 W. Alameda Ave), an al fresco mini-metropolis, shopping is intertwined with bowling, dining, gallery-hopping, people-watching, and summer flings at the Parisian Street Market. Sample authentic Mexican foodstuffs from Chama (425 S. Teller St, 303-935-5170), helmed by one of Denver's top toques before plunging wallet-first into groovy shops like Kamala (7240 W. Alaska Dr, 303-935-3337), a snazzy emporium stocked floor-to-ceiling with worldly art and handcrafted jewelry.

For the latest in footwear and ski and snowboard apparel, visit The Fall Line (386 S. Teller St, 303-937-6325). Pure Parisian-styled furnishings can be procured at the shabby-chic antique flea market, a summer-only outdoor marketplace parading 50 different vendors. Turn your own flea market finds into treasures by taking part in the Retro-Revamp 101 class.

3 days: Hopefully, you've packed light, because you'll want to spend a day shopping on Antique Row (400 S. Broadway), a cluster of 400 antique shops and dealers hawking everything old and vogue.

Dust off your credit card, jump on the light rail, and begin your treasure troving at East Evans Avenue, working your way north to East Ellsworth Avenue. Pop into Decade (56 S. Broadway, 303-733-2288) for fabulous retro home furnishings and vintage clothing; peruse the chaotically stocked shelves at Blinky's Antiques and Collectibles (1590 S. Broadway, 303-778-7583), named, of course, for Blinky the Clown; and gape at the gorgeous estate jewelry lining the glass cases at Somewhere in Time (1415 S. Broadway, 303-777-3659). Take a lunch break at Pasquini's Pizzeria (1310 S. Broadway, 303-744-0917), a kitschy pizza palace that's as colorful as the antique shops that surround it.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Denver's Nightlife & Entertainment

Even if you've had a full day of sightseeing, you'll want to save some energy for the many nightlife and entertainment options in Denver. Below are suggestions on to best spots to check out during your stay.

1 day: Play a challenging 54-hole miniature golf course, race around an outdoor electric go-kart track in authentic NASCAR-themed speedsters, or zoom down a drag racing course at Highlands Hills Adventure Golf & Raceway (9650 N. Sheridan Blvd).

Chill out at 5 Degrees (1475 Lawrence St), a trendy lounge for cosmopolitan cool cats imbibing fancified cocktails and perfectly concocted martinis, like the OO7, a James Bond classic. Head next door for a gaggle of giggles and guffaws at Comedy Works (1226 15th St), the city's most popular stage for both established (bold name headliners like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld have performed there) and up-and-coming comedians.

Dance 'til you drop at The Church (1160 Lincoln St), Denver's hottest spot for DJ-spun tunes, live salsa bands, and up-to-the-moment fashion statements. At 2 am, when the doors close, brave the bright lights at Pete's Kitchen (1962 E. Colfax Ave), a classic Denver 24/7 iconic diner that appeases late-night revelers with butter-slung hash browns, breakfast burritos, and strong coffee.

2 days: Eat like a local at Dixons Downtown Grill (1610 16th St), a popular hangout for the pancake set to perch on the patio and catch up on street scuttle. Amble over to ESPN Zone (1187 16th St) for a fun-filled morning of interactive sports games, sure to test your competitive edge. You'll find virtual tennis, air hockey, hoop games, and much more.

If it's been a while since you've bowled, see how well you score at the Hollywood-esque Lucky Strike Lanes (500 16th St). In the evening, sway to the sultry sounds of national stage talent at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret (1601 Arapahoe St), a sumptuously sexy nightclub headlined by Lannie Garret, Denver's most versatile chanteuse.

3 days: Today, test your luck on the slot machines in the picturesque mountain town of Central City, home of the world-renowned Central City Opera House (400 S. Colorado Blvd) and its neighboring casinos.

Spin the reels at Fortune Valley Casino (321 Gregory St), the town's newest gaming facility featuring blackjack and poker tables, video poker, and more than 900 slot machines. There's live music in the casino bar and for a bite to eat, try Cedar Grille, the on-site steakhouse restaurant with appetizers, seafood, and desserts to please everyone in the family.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Denver

If packing your days with sightseeing is not your bag, take a low-key approach by using the following itineraries that include some of Denver's most tranquil outings.

1 day: Begin your day over beignets, buttermilk biscuits, and a Bloody Mary at Lucile's Creole Cafe (2124 14th St), a cozy New Orleans-style food temple that's always littered with both local and national newspapers.

Take a look at Denver's weather forecast (sunny, no doubt), put on your shades and make the short 30-minute drive to Evergreen, a tranquil mountain town just west of Denver that touts the virtues of the TallGrass Spa (997 Upper Bear Creek Rd). Framed by mesmerizing mountain views and flower-studded meadows, this forested oasis offers hot stone massages, rejuvenating body scrubs and wraps, relaxing manicures and pedicures, and all-day pampering packages. A last-minute appointment can often result in 20 percent off selected services.

Browse the shops in downtown Evergreen and enjoy dinner at SoHo (28215 Hwy 274), where the live jazz is a perfect foil for the contemporary American menu.

©2006 National Park Service The beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park is just about an hour's drive from downtown Denver.

2 days: Lounge in bed at the Mobil Three-Star Hotel Teatro (1100 14th St), a sanctuary for weary travelers who find it difficult to part with the Fritte linens, gorgeous Art Deco decor, and luxurious bath amenities, including terrific rain showers.

Take a relaxing afternoon drive to Colorado Springs, an hour south of Denver, to tour the Garden of the Gods, a distinctly unique 1,300-acre rock garden and geological site. The wind and rain sculpted red sandstone formations, 300 million years in the making, are simply beautiful, and you can hike and horseback ride, sans crowds, along the myriad trails. Save time to stop in at the site's Visitor's Center.

3 days: Denver struts a plethora of public golf courses, but Arrowhead Golf Club, a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course that resides in Roxborough Park, boasts a

magnificent setting with rolling terrain, towering, ancient red sandstone rocks, and dramatic panoramic views.

If you haven't quite perfected your swing, practice makes perfect at Harvard Gulch Golf Course (660 E. Iliff Ave), a nine-hole, par-3 course in South Denver that only takes about an hour to play. Fees are $6.50.

Canterberry Golf Course (11400 Canterberry Pkwy) is also a good bet for pros, with the added benefit of Beckett's Table, a spectacular club restaurant featuring Sunday brunch, an excellent wine list, and innovative New American cuisine with global twists. The parmesan-dusted truffled fries and Thai curried mussels are delicious.

While the Rocky Mountains may be the first thing you think of when hear the word "Denver," they are just one beautiful part of the Mile High City. Visitors can also enjoy arts and culture, interesting architecture, and a wide variety of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife venues. Visit Denver today to enjoy miles of fun in this incredible city.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Midson has lived here, there, and everywhere. She currently resides in her native city of Denver, where she writes full time. Lori is a frequent contributor to Sunset and CITY magazines, the restaurant critic and dining editor at Colorado AvidGolfer magazine, and the Colorado-based editor for multiple Zagat Surveys. She has also written for Life & Style Weekly, Executive Travel, AAA's EnCompass, Acura Style, Midwest Express, and 5280 magazine.

With so much to do in Denver, you can easily become overwhelmed. But don't worry -- this section offers a great way to break up your day (or days), and explore the top highlights of the Mile High City. Whether your priorities lie in taking in the arts and culture of Denver (such as the Denver Art Museum), shopping at indoor and outdoors malls (such as the one in Cherry Creek), or exploring the city's outskirts (such as Rocky Mountain National Park), the following suggestions will point you in the right direction.

's Special Events & Attractions

's Special Events & Attractions

The attractions and special events below really shouldn't be missed during your visit to Denver. Follow these itineraries to ensure that you see the most you can in the time you have.

1 day: Every visit to Denver should begin where the city first put down community roots -- in Larimer Square (1445 Larimer St). This pristinely restored, Victorian-revived enclave is dotted with java joints, unique shops, trendy bars, and globetrotting restaurants, most notably Rioja (1431 Larimer St), a Mediterranean-inspired food temple that lures the cognoscenti with its indelible artichoke mousse ravioli.

Just down the street from Larimer Square is Sakura Square (1255 19th St), a tiny Tokyo that includes the Denver Buddhist Temple and Pacific Mercantile, a wonderfully authentic Japanese supermarket. Walk across the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian footbridge connecting the Platte River Valley to the 16th Street Mall, and you're just steps away from the Downtown Aquarium (700 Water St). There, you'll encounter exotic fish, Sumatran tigers, moray eels, and stingrays.

©2006 Denver CVB The exotic fish of the Downtown Aquarium are conveniently located just steps from downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall.

Want to live on the edge? Look no further than Six Flags Elitch Gardens Theme Park, home to more than 45 thrilling rides, including Twister II, a heart-stopping 10-story rollercoaster with a 90-foot-drop.

If your adventurous streak hasn't run its course, don't miss the spectacular REI flagship store (1416 Platte St), an outdoor-lover's paradise that allows visitors to practice their rock-climbing skills, test-drive bikes, and practice their kayaking maneuvers on adjacent Cherry Creek.

2 days: Walk and talk with the animals at the spacious Denver Zoo (23rd Ave and Steele St), home to more than 75,000 species of ubiquitous, unusual, and endangered critters. Nostalgics won't want to miss the Conversation Carousel featuring wood-carved renditions of several endangered species.

During the summer months, cool off at Pirate's Cove Aquatic Park (1225 Belleview Ave) complete with a 35-foot slide tower, spray garden, lazy river, and 25-meter, six-lane pool. If time permits, surround yourself with fluttering butterflies at the Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center (6252 W. 104th Ave), a foliage-flush, humid habitat beautified by thousands of kaleidoscopic butterflies, moths, and skippers.

3 days: Breakfast on pineapple upside down pancakes at Snooze (2262 Larimer St) before hitting a Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coors Field. The games are rarely sold out, so tickets are easy to come by -- but stay away from scalpers. The stadium sports the thinnest air in major league baseball, and a block of purple seats on the 20th row of the upper deck marks the point where it's exactly one mile above sea level. The "Rockpile" seats, located 500 feet from home plate, are only $4 per ticket, and the crowds who sit there are some of the loudest and liveliest in baseball.

's Arts & Culture

's Arts & Culture

There is no shortage of arts and culture in Denver, from the unique collections at the Denver Art Museum to the exhilirating performances at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Use the following itineraries to help you fit it all it in.

1 day: Spend the morning winding your way through the Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave) galleries, pausing to reflect on the stellar Native American and Spanish Colonial art collections, for which the museum is noted. With the highly anticipated opening of the new Frederick C. Hamilton wing, crowds will clamor for tickets, so buy them in advance.

While away the afternoon in the Golden Triangle Museum District (located between Speer, Colfax, and Lincoln Sts.), an artsy enclave comprised of several small stage live theaters and more than 50 galleries, artist's studios, restaurants, and specialty boutiques.

Shutterbugs shouldn't miss Camera Obscura Gallery (1309 Bannock St), one of the oldest photography galleries in the nation and a boon for those interested in both vintage and contemporary images. At the William Havu Gallery (1040 Cherokee St), prepare to drool over the show-stopping, cutting-edge works from top-drawer artists from around the world.

Enjoy an early dinner at Cuba Cuba (1173 Delaware St), an infectiously upbeat spot to nosh on paella and plantains before making your way to the Curious Theater Company (1080 Acoma St), a local's favorite for provocative live stage performances.

2 days: Linger over coffee and eggs Benedict at Racines (650 Sherman St), one of Denver's most popular morning joints for conversation and a caffeine fix. Spend the afternoon at the Colorado History Museum (1300 Broadway), a site that showcases an amazing collection of William Henry Jackson photos and the "Colorado Chronicle," an 1800-1949 timeline that uses press clippings, dioramas, photographs, and plaques to illustrate the state's historical past.

Brush up on your artifacts at the Museum of Science and Nature (2001 Colorado Blvd), while taking in a film at the museum's IMAX Theater or floating in space at the Charles Gates Planetarium.

©2006 Denver CVB Coors Field is home the Colorado Rockies. Tickets are pretty easy to come by in this stadium, which in some points is exactly one mile above sea level.

3 days: Start your day the old-fashioned way at Davies Chuck Wagon Diner (9495 W Colfax Ave), a quintessential roadside breakfast shack that dishes out decadent chicken fried steak and eggs. Consider this your morning fuel for a full day wandering around the historic town of Golden -- one of the state's original boomtowns.

Explore the stone-structured Astor House Museum (822 12th St), a Western-styled Victorian hotel that housed the state's legislators in the 19th century. While you're there, you can partake in a walking tour of the 12th Street Historic District or head up to Boettcher Mansion (900 Colorow Rd) for an estate tour of period crafts dating from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

's Architecture & Landmarks

's Architecture & Landmarks

Denver is known for its historic preservation movement, particularly in the LoDo area. The following suggested itineraries will help you take in the many architectural treasures and landmarks throughout the city.

1 day: Stroll through the Capitol Hill neighborhood, stopping to gawk at the Colorado State Capitol building (136 State Capitol, Denver). Across the street at City Grill (321 E. Colfax Ave), join the legions of legislators who come here for the juice-dribbling cheeseburgers.

After lunch, take a leap of faith and enter through the sculpted brass doors of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (1530 Logan St), one of the finest (and most overlooked) examples of French Gothic architecture in the region. The imposing exterior, constructed of acanthus stone and bolstered by a green ceramic tiled roof, is stunning, but so is the interior with its hand-painted, stained-glass windows and jaw-droppingly beautiful art.

Feast on potato-crusted scallops or roasted butternut squash risotto at the Red Room (320 E Colfax Ave), one of many restaurants located throughout the Denver area owned by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper.

2 days: Walk through the nostalgic hallways of Union Station (1701 Wynkoop St), Denver's grandly appointed historic train station that resides on the west end of 17th Street. Opened in 1881, the original Italian Romanesque structure was destroyed by fire in 1894 and later rebuilt in Beaux-arts style, complete with a red marquee, three-story arched windows and 64-foot-high ceilings. The basement houses one of the world's largest model-railroad collections.

Another must-see landmark is the Mobil Four-Star Brown Palace Hotel (321 17th St), the undisputed crown jewel of Denver architecture. Book a tour to discover the cast of presidents, dignitaries, and entertainers that have slumbered here, the likes of which include Dwight Eisenhower (who has a suite named after himself), the Beatles, and Queen Marie of Romania.

Satiate your hunger pains at the Mobil Two-Star Buckhorn Exchange (1000 Osage St), Denver's oldest restaurant and a designated historical landmark for its impressive collection of taxidermy and Old West memorabilia, including a Col. William "Buffalo Bill" Cody display. Nosh on Prime grade steaks and a stellar selection of wild game dishes like elk, smoked buffalo, and rattlesnake.

3 days: Begin your morning with prime rib hash and eggs at the Rialto Cafe (934 16th St), one of Denver's original silent movie houses, then make your way to Four Mile Historic Park (715 S. Forest St), a former stagecoach stop that now marks the site of Denver's oldest log home. Costumed guides lead tours of the 12-acre farmstead outfitted with period furnishings, old farming machinery, and outbuildings. On weekends, take a horse-drawn carriage ride.

Spend the evening watching a concert, ballet, or theater production at the Art Deco-styled Paramount Theater (1631 Glenarm Pl), the city's last grand movie theater turned elegant haven for the performing arts.

©2006 Denver CVB The Colorado State Capitol building is modeled after the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

's Shopping

Whether you're just looking for some souvenirs to commemorate your trip or want an all-out shopping excursion, there are plenty of malls and boutiques to choose from in this great city. Following are some suggested itineraries.

1 day: Cherry Creek North (2960 E. 2nd Ave) leads the way when it comes to chi-chi retail therapy. Everywhere you turn, well-heeled socialites strutting Prada bounce down the streets armed with bags of highfalutin' fashions foraged from the hundreds of chic shops that line the manicured streets bumper to bumper with BMWs.

Follow the other well-to-do denizens to Garbarini (3003 E. 3rd Ave), a sleek and chic clothing emporium brimming with trendy lines like Paper Denim Cloth, AG, Antik, Nougat, Ya Ya, Alvin Valley, and Vertigo.

Find the year's most coveted toys at Kazoo and Company (2930 E. 2nd Ave) or The Wizard's Chest (230 Fillmore St), and outfit your home with fancified furnishings from HW Home (199 Clayton Lane).

Make time to slurp fresh oysters shucked at Ocean (201 Columbine St, 303-377-5350), one of Cherry's Creeks hottest spots for gossip swaps (and showing off your new stilettos.).

2 days: At Belmar Shopping Center (7000 W. Alameda Ave), an al fresco mini-metropolis, shopping is intertwined with bowling, dining, gallery-hopping, people-watching, and summer flings at the Parisian Street Market. Sample authentic Mexican foodstuffs from Chama (425 S. Teller St, 303-935-5170), helmed by one of Denver's top toques before plunging wallet-first into groovy shops like Kamala (7240 W. Alaska Dr, 303-935-3337), a snazzy emporium stocked floor-to-ceiling with worldly art and handcrafted jewelry.

For the latest in footwear and ski and snowboard apparel, visit The Fall Line (386 S. Teller St, 303-937-6325). Pure Parisian-styled furnishings can be procured at the shabby-chic antique flea market, a summer-only outdoor marketplace parading 50 different vendors. Turn your own flea market finds into treasures by taking part in the Retro-Revamp 101 class.

3 days: Hopefully, you've packed light, because you'll want to spend a day shopping on Antique Row (400 S. Broadway), a cluster of 400 antique shops and dealers hawking everything old and vogue.

Dust off your credit card, jump on the light rail, and begin your treasure troving at East Evans Avenue, working your way north to East Ellsworth Avenue. Pop into Decade (56 S. Broadway, 303-733-2288) for fabulous retro home furnishings and vintage clothing; peruse the chaotically stocked shelves at Blinky's Antiques and Collectibles (1590 S. Broadway, 303-778-7583), named, of course, for Blinky the Clown; and gape at the gorgeous estate jewelry lining the glass cases at Somewhere in Time (1415 S. Broadway, 303-777-3659). Take a lunch break at Pasquini's Pizzeria (1310 S. Broadway, 303-744-0917), a kitschy pizza palace that's as colorful as the antique shops that surround it.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Denver's Nightlife & Entertainment

Even if you've had a full day of sightseeing, you'll want to save some energy for the many nightlife and entertainment options in Denver. Below are suggestions on to best spots to check out during your stay.

1 day: Play a challenging 54-hole miniature golf course, race around an outdoor electric go-kart track in authentic NASCAR-themed speedsters, or zoom down a drag racing course at Highlands Hills Adventure Golf & Raceway (9650 N. Sheridan Blvd).

Chill out at 5 Degrees (1475 Lawrence St), a trendy lounge for cosmopolitan cool cats imbibing fancified cocktails and perfectly concocted martinis, like the OO7, a James Bond classic. Head next door for a gaggle of giggles and guffaws at Comedy Works (1226 15th St), the city's most popular stage for both established (bold name headliners like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld have performed there) and up-and-coming comedians.

Dance 'til you drop at The Church (1160 Lincoln St), Denver's hottest spot for DJ-spun tunes, live salsa bands, and up-to-the-moment fashion statements. At 2 am, when the doors close, brave the bright lights at Pete's Kitchen (1962 E. Colfax Ave), a classic Denver 24/7 iconic diner that appeases late-night revelers with butter-slung hash browns, breakfast burritos, and strong coffee.

2 days: Eat like a local at Dixons Downtown Grill (1610 16th St), a popular hangout for the pancake set to perch on the patio and catch up on street scuttle. Amble over to ESPN Zone (1187 16th St) for a fun-filled morning of interactive sports games, sure to test your competitive edge. You'll find virtual tennis, air hockey, hoop games, and much more.

If it's been a while since you've bowled, see how well you score at the Hollywood-esque Lucky Strike Lanes (500 16th St). In the evening, sway to the sultry sounds of national stage talent at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret (1601 Arapahoe St), a sumptuously sexy nightclub headlined by Lannie Garret, Denver's most versatile chanteuse.

3 days: Today, test your luck on the slot machines in the picturesque mountain town of Central City, home of the world-renowned Central City Opera House (400 S. Colorado Blvd) and its neighboring casinos.

Spin the reels at Fortune Valley Casino (321 Gregory St), the town's newest gaming facility featuring blackjack and poker tables, video poker, and more than 900 slot machines. There's live music in the casino bar and for a bite to eat, try Cedar Grille, the on-site steakhouse restaurant with appetizers, seafood, and desserts to please everyone in the family.

1-, 2-, and 3-Day Suggested Itineraries for Relaxing & Unwinding in Denver

If packing your days with sightseeing is not your bag, take a low-key approach by using the following itineraries that include some of Denver's most tranquil outings.

1 day: Begin your day over beignets, buttermilk biscuits, and a Bloody Mary at Lucile's Creole Cafe (2124 14th St), a cozy New Orleans-style food temple that's always littered with both local and national newspapers.

Take a look at Denver's weather forecast (sunny, no doubt), put on your shades and make the short 30-minute drive to Evergreen, a tranquil mountain town just west of Denver that touts the virtues of the TallGrass Spa (997 Upper Bear Creek Rd). Framed by mesmerizing mountain views and flower-studded meadows, this forested oasis offers hot stone massages, rejuvenating body scrubs and wraps, relaxing manicures and pedicures, and all-day pampering packages. A last-minute appointment can often result in 20 percent off selected services.

Browse the shops in downtown Evergreen and enjoy dinner at SoHo (28215 Hwy 274), where the live jazz is a perfect foil for the contemporary American menu.

©2006 National Park Service The beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park is just about an hour's drive from downtown Denver.

2 days: Lounge in bed at the Mobil Three-Star Hotel Teatro (1100 14th St), a sanctuary for weary travelers who find it difficult to part with the Fritte linens, gorgeous Art Deco decor, and luxurious bath amenities, including terrific rain showers.

Take a relaxing afternoon drive to Colorado Springs, an hour south of Denver, to tour the Garden of the Gods, a distinctly unique 1,300-acre rock garden and geological site. The wind and rain sculpted red sandstone formations, 300 million years in the making, are simply beautiful, and you can hike and horseback ride, sans crowds, along the myriad trails. Save time to stop in at the site's Visitor's Center.

3 days: Denver struts a plethora of public golf courses, but Arrowhead Golf Club, a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course that resides in Roxborough Park, boasts a

magnificent setting with rolling terrain, towering, ancient red sandstone rocks, and dramatic panoramic views.

If you haven't quite perfected your swing, practice makes perfect at Harvard Gulch Golf Course (660 E. Iliff Ave), a nine-hole, par-3 course in South Denver that only takes about an hour to play. Fees are $6.50.

Canterberry Golf Course (11400 Canterberry Pkwy) is also a good bet for pros, with the added benefit of Beckett's Table, a spectacular club restaurant featuring Sunday brunch, an excellent wine list, and innovative New American cuisine with global twists. The parmesan-dusted truffled fries and Thai curried mussels are delicious.

While the Rocky Mountains may be the first thing you think of when hear the word "Denver," they are just one beautiful part of the Mile High City. Visitors can also enjoy arts and culture, interesting architecture, and a wide variety of restaurants, shopping, and nightlife venues. Visit Denver today to enjoy miles of fun in this incredible city.

©Publications International, Ltd.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lori Midson has lived here, there, and everywhere. She currently resides in her native city of Denver, where she writes full time. Lori is a frequent contributor to Sunset and CITY magazines, the restaurant critic and dining editor at Colorado AvidGolfer magazine, and the Colorado-based editor for multiple Zagat Surveys. She has also written for Life & Style Weekly, Executive Travel, AAA's EnCompass, Acura Style, Midwest Express, and 5280 magazine.

Astor House Museum

Buffalo Museum and Grave

Butterfly Pavilion and Insect Center

Byers-Evans House

Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Cherry Creek Arts Festival

Colorado History Museum

Colorado State Capitol

Denver Art Museum

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Chamber of Commerce

Denver City and County 

Denver International Film Festival

Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Denver Performing Arts Complex 

Denver Restaurant Week

Denver U.S. Mint

Denver Zoo

Dragon Boat Festival

Harvard Gulch Golf Course

Lower Downtown Denver

Molly Brown House

Mount Evans Scenic Byway

Museum of Science and Nature

Platte Valley Trolley

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge

Rocky Mountain National Park

Union Station