Mile High City. Queen City of the Plains. Gateway to the Rockies. Its monikers are many, but if you had to capture the essence of Denver in a title, how could you possibly choose? We decided to ask our guide team what they believe makes this Colorado capital so unique, and got some interesting responses. Read for yourself on this Only in… series featuring the Centennial’s State’s most popular city.
Weather? What Weather?
If you’re heading to Colorado during peak skiing and snowboarding season, you undoubtedly pack your goose downs and your long johns. For dinner, you make you reservations for indoor dining, naturally. And forget about any recreating besides on the slopes when temps slip into the single digits. But for Coloradans? Don’t be surprised if you see some winter al fresco dining, short sleeves, and pants that cut off at the knee (called “shorts”). Want to do it like a local? Sport your best cutoffs, clench your…teeth, and grab a local brewski or a hot toddy for a little help.
Denver offers an array of activities year-round. With 300+ days of sunshine, it’s amost impossible to stay indoors. You can catch those rays while paddleboarding in one of the many lakes in and around the city (rentals are available at several, including Bear Creek Lake Park). Just down from the confluence of the Platte River and Cherry Creek, just where downtown transitions into the neighborhood known as LoHi (Lower Highlands), you’ll find the locals enjoying easy kayaking along the trails filled with runners, walkers, roller bladers, and scooterers. Follow the trail eastward to RiNo, or River North, to find a bouldering gym, where you can get ready for the real thing out in the Rocky Mountains. A local’s tip: remember to drink plenty of water and bring high SPF sun lotion, especially for any intense outdoor recreating!
It’s difficult to explain the magnificence that is Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, but the lineup of legendary acts that have performed there speaks volumes. Set among uptilted red sandstone slabs dating back billions of years, this natural amphitheatre has seen epic shows put on by the greats, including The Beatles, U2, The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, and, of course, John Denver. Make this historic venue — first opened to the public in 1941 — a must-do on your Denver itinerary, and be sure to explore one of the trails in the park, providing spectacular views of the amphitheatre, the hogbacks curving south into the distance, and the city of Denver itself, just visible out there on the High Plains. To tap into some local nostalgia, keep an eye out for the reopening date of a beloved restaurant / entertainment venue, Casa Bonita, complete with 30-foot waterfall (as of this writing, our fingers are crossed for the new undertaking by the “South Park” creators!).
Art As Big As Mountains
Every city has an appreciable art scene, but Denver’s is larger than life. An art crawl around the city could include a stop at the iconic big blue bear — officially entitled “I See What You Mean” — standing 40 feet high and peering curiously into the Colorado Convention Center. Not far away, two soaring figures, styled after model mannequins, appear to dance as the viewer moves around them. The artist, Jonathan Borofsky, is internationally known for his neck-craning sculptures like Denver’s Denvers and Seattle’s Hammering Man. For those opting for the easy and convenient airport commute via the A Line from DIA to downtown, keep your eyes peeled for one of the city’s more notorious art works, Blue Mustang, also commonly known as “Blucifer”. This demonic-looking horse keeps watch over all who enter the city limits with its ever watchful red-glowing eyes.
Bonus: Denver is for Dog Lovers
Kennelling your pet can be tough and pretty costly. Fortunately, Denver is very dog-friendly, especially when it comes to breweries. Bring along your doggo and a water bowl (though there will likely be one provided!) and enjoy Colorado’s excellent craft beer scene.