A city of astonishing views, vibrant arts and unique neighborhoods. This is how to best describe Denver, home to over 600,000 people. This cosmopolitan city with a metropolitan area of 3 million people is adjacent to the alluring Rocky Mountains. The mountains are located on the west side of the Denver, and only 12 miles away. On the east side, the view of the Great Plains gives the city a feeling of immenseness.
There are two main attractions that need to be experienced when in Denver. The first one is Lookout Mountain. From up there, Denver seems like a small town in the vastness of the Great Plains. On the other side, the front line of the Rocky Mountains are visible. Lookout Mountain is perfect for outdoor fanatics because it is only 20 minutes west from the city. On top of the mountain is also the Buffalo Bill Memorial Museum and grave of William F. Cody. The museum charges an admission of $5.00 per adult.
But the most important stop to make in Denver is at the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Whether a show is playing or not, this natural rock formation provides one incredible experience. The Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre is in a geographic transition zone where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. This place is the only naturally-occurring acoustically perfect amphitheater in the world. Although the park finished constructions in 1947, bands have been playing there since the early 1900s.
Next to the Red Rock amphitheater is the Colorado Music Hall of Fame, where you can learn about the history of Red Rocks Park and see whohas performed since its opening. The Wall of Fame is filled with signed instruments, posters and objects belonging to the artists that played in the park. The best part? The entire Park and museum is free!
When arriving in the city of Denver, go straight to the LoHi (Lower Highland) and the LoDo (Lower Downtown) area. These two hip neighborhoods offer a variety of activities. Both areas (known as the Highlands) have unique local shops, small family-owned restaurants, great art galleries, museums and a Victorian-era style architecture.
Before heading back, stop at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, one of the largest urban refuges in the country. You can take the Wildlife Drive around the park, which takes approximately 45 minutes and is 11 miles long. During the drive, you can see various species of wildlife. Although there are technically more than 330 species in the refuge, the main ones you will see are prairie dogs, deer, bison, rabbits, birds, eagles and mules.
Besides watching a show at the Red Rocks Amphitheater, another great thing to do in Denver is to catch a football game. The Denver Broncos are three times Super Bowl champions, and the stadium is downtown! Other teams to watch are the Colorado Rockies, the Colorado Avalanche and the Denver Nuggets (for baseball, hockey and basketball).
In the Highlands, stop at the famous ‘Little Man Ice Cream’ a 28 foot tall ice cream shop that looks like a giant milk can. Here, they offer gigantic scoops of delicious and unique ice cream flavors. The store is located at 2620 16th Street.
The Stanley Marketplace also offers some delicious food. This community-focused marketplace features 50+ independently owned Colorado businesses. Have dinner at Comida, a Mexican restaurant that prepares authentic small plates including Mexican street food. The dishes are small, but you can get a few and share them with others. My personal recommendation: the griddled and regular tacos. After dinner, stop for ice cream at Sweet Cow. It is located right across from Comida. This place is one of my favorite ice cream shops in the United States! They have so many flavors including some crazy ones such as ‘Wynkoop Root Beer Float’, or ‘Connie’s Painkiller Sorbet’.
For breakfast, stop at Four Friends Kitchen, a Southern-inspired American comfort food restaurant. My personal recommendation: the gluten-free pancakes, the smoked brisket hash & eggs or just the regular biscuits and gravy.
Known for its extensive amount of breweries (more than a 100!), Denver is a national beer hub. More beer is brewed per day in Denver than in any other place in the country. If you happen to be in Denver beginning of October, go to the annual Denver Beer Fest. This fest features plenty of events related to beer. These include beer tastings, midnight beer breakfasts, brewery tours, brewer nights, beer quizzes, beer trucks, beer bike nights and more. Another big event that takes place the first week of October is the Great American Beer Festival. This place was voted to be the best beer festival in the entire country! A few great breweries to visit are the Miller Coors Brewery (in Golden), the Rock Bottom Brewery (on 1001 16th St.) but also the Wynkoop Brewing Company (on 1634 18th St.). The latter two are the two biggest microbreweries in the country.
When to go
In Denver, there is an activity for every season. When to visit this city therefore depends on what you personally want to do. It is considerably cold in the winter, with snow and winter storms, but if you prefer to hit up the slopes, this is the best time to go. On the other hand, if you want to do a lot of outdoors activities such as hiking, it is best to go during the spring or summer months.
If your main goal is to explore the city itself, my recommendation is to visit Denver between March and May or between August and October. Not only is the weather more comfortable, it is also a great time for river rafting and walking tours. Finally, going off-season allows for less tourists and cheaper prices!
Plane: The Denver International Airport is located 18 miles northeast of downtown Denver.
Car: There are various routes you can take to arrive in Denver:
I-25 (South/North and connects to Colorado Springs)
I-70 (West/East and to major ski areas)
S. Highway 40 (connects Denver to Salt Lake City)
S. Highway 36 (connects to Boulder and northwestern suburbs)
Train: The California Zephyr (Amtrak) goes east to Chicago and west to Emeryville, California. It stops at the Denver Union Station one time a day.
Bus: The Greyhound (located at 1055 19th St) and the Autobus Americanos (2147 N Broadway – service to/from Mexico).
The best way to get around in Denver if you don’t have a car, is by taking the RTD (public transportation system). Busses and light rail will bring you to most parts of the Denver area. There are 36 stations for 34 miles of light rail tracks that go from downtown all the way to the suburbs of Denver. From the airport, you can get to downtown by taking the airport rail (9$ each way).
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