Things to Do in Denver
An urban park and designated national landmark in Colorado Springs, the Garden of the Gods encompasses 1,367 acres (553 hectares) of unique wilderness, Great Plains grassland, and juniper woodlands. Highlights include the red rock formations Balanced Rock, Gateway Rock, and the Three Graces, as well as petroglyphs from the original Native American occupants of the area, the Ute people.
Denver’s Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a music venue unlike any other—a sandstone stadium forged by the elements and blessed with natural acoustics. Many musicians have taken to this stage, and when shows are in town, Red Rocks can host over 9,500 concertgoers, all in for a treat beyond the music: stellar views of the natural Colorado landscape.
The astounding natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains is exemplified and amplified in Rocky Mountain National Park, a hub of Colorado outdoor adventure. Hiking, biking, rock climbing, rafting, ziplining, and wildlife watching are just a few of the ways to experience the area’s magic. In the winter months, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and other snow-sport lovers frolic amongst white-washed peaks.
The Pikes Peak Highway offers an easy, scenic route to the top of iconic Pikes Peak. The 19-mile, paved toll road was originally built in 1915, and the entrance begins at 7,400 feet before climbing all the way to the top of the 14,115-foot summit. One of the best views of the peak can be found at the pullout between mile markers seven and eight. Along the way you can make a pit stop at the historic Glen Cove Inn, a cabin-turned-rest stop area featuring a gift shop, restaurant and restrooms.
At the summit, you’ll find the Summit House, which has the America the Beautiful monument and an observation deck from which you can enjoy incredible panoramic views stretching all the way to Colorado Springs. If the altitude proves overwhelming, head inside the Summit House to belly up to the oxygen bar and alleviate altitude sickness.
The final resting place of Wild West showman extraordinaire William “Buffalo Bill” Cody sits atop Lookout Mountain on the outskirts of Golden, Colorado, where grave marker itself overlooks a panoramic view of the Rock Mountains. Since Cody’s burial here in 1917, which had some 20,000 fans in attendance, the mountain attraction has also grown to include a museum devoted to his life.
The 3,000-square-foot museum is a family-friendly roadside attraction with a variety of permanent and rotating exhibits documenting his life and legend. See rare historical artifacts, including one of Cody’s Stetson hats and a peace pipe from Sitting Bull. Other exhibits include a display of Wild West guns and a Kid’s Cowboy Corral, where children can design their own brand and learn to throw a lasso.
Larimer Square is the oldest part of Denver, with Victorian-era buildings now home to many of the city’s best restaurants, bars, and boutiques. The foundation of Colorado’s capital, the 2-block district is popular with locals and tourists alike, strolling beneath strings of lights and state flags.
Reminiscent of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Colorado State Capitol Building sitting high atop Denver is not just a 24 karat gold-domed meeting place for the Colorado General Assembly, but also an homage to the American governmental process, as well as a truly beautiful archaeological wonder.
Built a mile high above sea level, as denoted by the markings inscribed upon its steps, the Colorado State Capital Building has incredible views of downtown Denver, and a history that tells of the days of the Gold Rush and the incredible use of the beautiful Colorado Rose Onyx used to build the interior of the capitol and the designs of dignitaries engraved therein. It is said that the entire known supply of this rare marble was exhausted in making of the Colorado State Capitol.
Tours will tell of early Colorado history, the Capitol construction, the origin of several stained glass windows, the Woman’s Gold Tapestry, and a stop outside the State and House Representative chambers.
Visitors may know Margaret “Molly” Brown in association with theRMS Titanic, but there was much more to her life than the ill-fated voyage for which she became famous. An activist, suffragist, and philanthropist, Brown’s spirit lives on through educational tours, exhibits, and programming inside her restored historic Denver home.
It’s just a short drive from downtown Denver, but Lookout Mountain feels like another world. Once used as a lookout for the Native American Ute tribe that called the area home, the 7,300-foot (2,225-meter) mountain has miles of hiking and mountain biking trails throughout, from easy walking paths to strenuous switchbacks. From the summit, you can see the Denver skyline 12 miles (19 kilometers) away.
A lively district of restaurants, shops, and nightlife, Lower Downtown Denver (or LoDo) is a top destination for Denver culture. In addition to its vibrant scene, though, LoDo is also home to some of the city’s best-preserved historic architecture and more Victorian–era buildings than anywhere else in the United States.
More Things to Do in Denver
The Denver 16th Street Mall in Denver, Colorado, is a tree-lined pedestrian corridor filled with outdoor cafés, restaurants, and shops. Along the popular downtown promenade, visitors can enjoy performances from local street performers or take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage while searching for the perfect craft beer or dining spot.
The Denver Mint is one of a handful of facilities that produces US currency, and one of only two (along with the Philadelphia Mint) that offers tours to the public. Visitors can tour the massive Renaissance-style 1904 mint building to glimpse the coin-making process, explore exhibits on the history of money, or purchase authentic currency and commemorative coins in the gift shop.
Denver, Colorado is home to the United States’s largest nonprofit theater organization, and the city’s Center for the Performing Arts offers an incredible variety of live shows in its ten performance venues. From their own theater company to Broadway shows, Cabaret, and “Off-Center” plays, nearly every type of theater can be found here. As such the center has everything from a concert hall to an opera house, an auditorium, a ballroom, and four major theaters. The structure stretches across four city blocks and nearly 12 acres, with over 10,000 seats in front of its stages. Its impressive 80 foot glass roof tops it all off, making it the largest performing arts center in the country as well.
It’s here that the Colorado Ballet, symphony orchestra, and opera perform, alongside original and national productions. Aside from its many performances, the center holds workshops, children’s theater classes, backstage tours, and events on a regular basis. Dedicated to the excellence in the arts, the venue is also a preferred stop for many touring shows.
One of the largest museums between Chicago and California, Denver Art Museum showcases a wide range of art in its 70,000-piece collection. From Native American art to ultramodern contemporary pieces, interactive exhibits to works sparking profound cultural reflection, DAM (as locals call it) is a destination for art lovers of all ages.
A premier education center in America’s Southwest, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science boasts a planetarium, an IMAX theater, and a wide range of exhibits that showcase the biological and geological history of Earth and the universe. Exhibits range from ancient artifacts to interactive virtual-reality zones the whole can family can explore.
Denver Civic Center Park was created more than 100 years ago as the civic heart for the city of Denver. The urban green space is the site of the Colorado State Capitol, and arching footpaths across the park offer a chance to stroll among the gardens and marvel at the surrounding architecture, including the Denver City and County Building, the Denver Art Museum and the Denver Central Library. The park is also home to the Greek Theater and the historic Carnegie Library.
Recent revitalization efforts have turned Civic Center Park into a hub for local events including outdoor movies and Civic Center EATS, an annual, summer-long tradition in which local, gourmet food trucks convene at the park every Tuesday and Thursday during lunchtime.
A major neighborhood of Denver and one of its largest urban parks, Washington Park provides a beautiful slice of nature in the middle of the city. Spread out over more than 150 acres, it’s home to beautiful flower gardens and two lakes shaded by tall trees and beside open meadows. Initially designed in the French country style, the park has kept its historic architecture and thoughtful layout. Sculptures throughout reflect the city’s history, while one of the flower gardens is an exact replica of George Washington’s garden at Mount Vernon.
Many flock to Washington Park to take part in outdoor activities, from cycling to jogging or paddle boating on the lakes. There’s also a large playground area for children, with the entirety of the park being family-friendly. Sports enthusiasts will appreciate the many recreational facilities, which include tennis courts, roller blading areas, a basketball court, and spots for horseshoe and lawn bowling. There’s also a recreation center in the park with fitness classes, volleyball, and swimming.
Washington Park is at the center of Denver life, beloved by the community and named a “Great Public Space of America.”
Denver’s 314-acre City Park is the largest park in the city, built in 1882 following the tradition of New York City’s Central Park and later used as the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Today, this beautiful urban green space boasts a number of attractions, including the Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and a pair of lakes, complete with a boathouse where visitors can rent paddleboats. Ferril Lake is the location of the iconic Prismatic Fountain, a newly renovated centerpiece that lights up the nights with brilliant, ever-changing displays of light and water.
Not only is the park itself a highlight of a trip to Denver, but the surrounding City Park neighborhood is well worth exploring as well. Nearby Colfax Avenue boasts a bevy of hip shops and restaurants. At the north end of City Park, just across East 23rd Avenue, the public City Park Golf Course offers 18 holes near the heart of the city.
The Denver Firefighters Museum offers guests a rare glimpse behind-the-scenes of the life and times of modern firefighting. The venue offers a chance for the young ones to try on some firefighter suits and pretend they’re on the job, while the adults peruse over a century’s worth of historical artifacts, all housed in the original Firehouse Number 1 built in 1909. A great look into a turn-of-the-century firehouse and all the progress made in firefighting technique and technology over the 20th century, the Denver Firefighters Museum offers something interesting for all of us.
With classic American foods served alongside some of rock and roll’s best music memorabilia, the Hard Rock Cafe Denver is part of the two-story Denver Pavilions shopping area downtown. Marked by the 20 foot neon electric guitar out front, it always draws a lively crowd and hosts a variety of music events on its stage.
The Denver outpost of the Hard Rock Cafe creates the casual and fun experience you’d find in any of their restaurants. Their menu includes appetizers such as nachos, wings, and potato skins and tasty entrees that range from burgers and sandwiches to barbecue. Vegetarian options are also available.
The cafe also has a large outdoor patio, two event rooms, a dozen large screen televisions, a full bar with premium cocktails, a fun atmosphere, store, and of course, great music playing.
Memorabilia on display rotates but includes musical instruments and stage costumes played and worn by the greatest musicians in rock and roll.
The Colorado Trail offers an outdoor experience ranging from breathtaking to “life-changing,” according to people who have hiked all or even just a portion of its 500 miles (805 kilometers). Ideal for hikers, runners, and bikers alike, it runs from outside Denver to Durango, carving through eight mountain ranges and seven national forests.
Even though Denver is the “mile high city,” the city itself is set in the plains at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Denver ski resorts are often over an hour away from the city, and Winter Park is one of the closest at only 80 minutes from downtown. It’s also the oldest and one of the largest ski resorts in the state, and one of its mountains—Mary Jane—is often considered to have the best moguls of any resort in the country. Like many other parts of Colorado, Winter Park is graced with over 300 inches of snowfall and 300 days of sunshine—thereby creating ideal conditions for an active resort in the mountains.
The resort’s elevation is notably high—with a base at 9,000 feet—and the summit trails officially top out at just over 12,000 feet. Aside from the 143 runs—some of which are five miles long—the small community of Winter Park is one of the nation’s highest. Here you’ll find dining, lodging, golfing, and a comfortable family amenities, and even when the snow stops falling in summer, the lifts keep running for mountain bikers looking to gain some speed down the trails.
Thousands of visitors travel to the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs each year, and the academy’s all-faiths Cadet Chapel is the most visited man-made attraction in Colorado. Among the best examples of modern academic architecture, the striking 150-foot-tall (46-meter-tall) chapel is designed with 17 spires created from aluminum, steel, and glass.
Just outside of Colorado Springs, the towering Pikes Peak stands as an American icon. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song “America the Beautiful” after surveying the great western lands from atop this very mountain, and today, visitors can enjoy the same view that inspired Bates, looking down across the rolling plains and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
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