Scratch the veneer of the new-West look of urban Denver and you’ll get a glimpse of the Old West, too. Sitting at 5,280 feet (one mile) above sea level and framed by the Rocky Mountains, the Mile High City is a study in contrasts.
Cowboy-hat-wearing ambassadors greet travelers at the city’s state-of-the-art airport. The golden dome of the state capitol overlooks downtown, where renovated historic buildings and architecturally striking modern structures stand side by side. Classic steak houses sit comfortably next to innovative eateries, with bold, young chefs creating culinary masterpieces.
Denver boasts many upscale hotels, including several hip, boutique hotels; the historic Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, where kings, presidents and the Beatles have stayed; and sleek accommodations with attention-to-detail service and luxurious amenities.
The city's arts and cultural world has thrived in the last decade. In 2006, the city celebrated the opening of a major expansion to the Denver Art Museum — the Hamilton Building, designed by renowned architect Daniel Libeskind. Two years later, the city was given a new home for The Museum of Contemporary Art, an eco-friendly building created by David Adjaye. Meanwhile, the city’s creative community has transformed several neighborhoods into vibrant art districts, with First Friday Art Walks attracting art lovers year-round.
Ground zero for the region's performing arts world is downtown’s Denver Performing Arts Complex (DPAC), the second largest such structure in the U.S. DPAC regularly hosts blockbuster Broadway musicals, classical music, dance, drama and more.
There are plenty of attractions for visitors who want to spend a few days in town. The Museum of Nature & Science is filled with treasures of the earth — dinosaurs, dioramas, space exhibits, science experiments, digital planetarium, IMAX theater and touring shows. At the Denver Zoo, visitors go underwater with polar bears, get eyeball-to-eyeball with a gorilla and see a rainforest teeming with crocodiles and gila monsters. Several museums pay tribute to larger-than-life characters, such as Buffalo Bill Cody, the Unsinkable Molly Brown and modern artist Vance Kirkland, and visitors can discover Denver's rich ethnic history at the Black American West Museum and Museo de las Americas.
The hubs of the city's business world are downtown and the Tech Center, but visitors love the city’s hidden-gem neighborhoods, each with their own dining scene, diverse shopping and stimulating cultural attractions.
Love sports? You can cheer on professional teams year-round, whether it’s football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer or lacrosse. The Colorado Rockies defend their home turf at downtown’s Coors Field, while the Broncos sell out every game at INVESCO Field at Mile High. Both the Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche play at the Pepsi Center, also downtown.
Crowd-pleasing shopping rounds out the Mile High experience. Downtown shoppers can ride the free hybrid shuttles on the pedestrian-friendly 16th Street Mall between such name brand stores as NikeTown, Banana Republic and Forever 21. Larimer Square offers the trendiest retail options, while the Cherry Creek Shopping District is home to upscale options like Tiffany’s, Saks and Neiman Marcus, along with one-of-a-kind cafes, spas, galleries and boutiques.
Carved from towering red-rock monuments, the 9,000-seat Red Rocks Amphitheatre is one of the world’s most renowned concert venues. A concert here is on the “bucket list” of every true music fan. The Visitor Center has a museum and performers hall of fame, and the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave around the colorful rocks.
If you come to Denver looking for outdoor recreation, you won’t be disappointed. The city offers more than 850 miles of paved off-road trails that connect to hundreds of miles of dirt trails and mountain-bike adventures. The nearby Rocky Mountains boast hiking excursions, ski slopes and wildlife. Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the top outdoor destinations in the world, is just a 90-minute drive from downtown. Additionally, there are more than 850 miles of bike and walking paths that connect to hundreds of miles of dirt trails and mountain-bike adventures.