Colorado’s “Mile High City” Denver might be best known as a gateway to the Rockies, but there’s good reason to linger here. Its formerly rough-edged downtown has turned itself around completely in recent decades, its renovated warehouses, galleries and microbreweries making it a poster child for urban renewal.
Colorado’s state capital also has some good museums, notably the Denver Art Museum, with its collection of 16,000 Native American artworks and eye-catching, beak-shaped new wing designed by Daniel Libeskind. This former gold mining centre’s core is still surrounded by some unremarkable sprawl. But with the bars and independent shops of LoDo (lower downtown) and the Victorian mansions and live music venues of the hip Capitol Hill neighbourhood attracting a young, creative crowd to the city, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the city before you explore its mountain backyard.
Things to do in Denver
There is a lot to do in Denver, from the bars and restaurants of the inner city to the epic adventures in the surrounding mountains. Make sure you find something perfect for your holiday.
On arrival at Denver Airport, you’ll be greeted by cowboys in Stetsons with healthy, happy faces and you’ll notice the clean air. Colorado is an outdoorsy type of place, high in the Rockies and perfect for an adventurous holiday. Ride horses at a dude ranch and feel like a true cowboy, try white water rafting along the Colorado River or go hiking in the extraordinary Great Sand Dunes National Park. While this is all on the doorstep, but there are bike trails in Denver too, with 85 miles of paved trails and the Ruby Hill Mountain Bike Park within the city limits.
In the winter months, make sure to head over to Aspen, Breckenridge or Vail for some epic ski and snowboarding. Classed as some of the best resorts in the world, with much the same atmosphere and pistes (trails) to the European resorts, only with that all American service-with-a-smile. Aspen has four separate resorts, all with their own trails for you to explore, ranging from beginner to expert. Breckenridge is a cool former gold-mining town, complete with saloons and clapboard shopfronts. It has fantastic skiing for all levels, including the ‘Psychopath’ run for those willing. And Vail brings Alpine-luxury to the US, with superb skiing on offer too.
While Denver may be the ‘Gateway to the West’, it is also a major urban centre with lots of great food spots and brew pubs galore. In fact, Colorado makes more beer than any other US state, so you are in for a treat of craft ales and Belgian-style beers. Head to LoDo (Lower Downtown) for chic eateries and cocktail bars with a modern feel, or venture to the stylish RiNo (River North) Art District for innovative art, superb food – make sure to head to The Source which houses many different foodie stalls - and a craft beer pub! Or explore the self-guided Denver Beer Trail to sample 20+ craft breweries, many in the walkable city center. Be warned though, the high altitude makes the beer much stronger, so go easy.
In recent years, the arts and cultural sphere in Denver has blossomed and thrived, and has seen many major hubs created. The impressive Denver Art Museum and the MCA - Museum of Contemporary Art are in the heart of downtown. The MCA was designed by British architect David Adjaye, and is an eco-friendly space for worldwide artists. Denver's creative scene is huge, with several neighbourhoods dedicated to art and creativity. See a lot of Latino influence (colourful murals and Mexican culture) in the Art District On Santa Fe, while the RiNo Art District is more aligned with contemporary galleries and street art. Don’t miss Colfax Avenue for live music and hipster culture, arthouse cinema and eclectic record and book stores.
Denver is home to some huge sports teams across all the major leagues. First off, the mighty Denver Broncos, the 2015 Super Bowl 50 winners. The city goes football crazy during the summer season, and although tickets may be difficult to get, there are lots of atmospheric bars and BBQs showing the game. Denver’s baseball team, the Colorado Rockies, play at the Coors Field stadium in LoDo, which honours the famous beer brewery from Colorado. But not to missed is the annual National Western Stock Show which takes place every January. Since 1906, the cowboys and rodeo riders have come to town to show off their skills, now with more than 15,000 animals in tow.
Explore the Denver area's winter wonderland - the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains - on a snowshoeing tour. Just 30 minutes outside Denver, Colorado's Front Range has hundreds of trails that allow you to enjoy the wintertime wilderness (Nov to March). Choose either a 4- or 6-hour adventure to suit your schedule; lunch is included on the 6-hour tour. Surround yourself with pine forests, spectacular rock formations and other natural features.
Escape Denver for the day and take a trip to scenic Rocky Mountain National Park. After hotel pickup, enjoy a relaxing 2-hour drive to Estes Park, where you will spend the day exploring the area's natural wonders on a sightseeing tour with an option to hike. During the winter months, enjoy an exciting snowshoeing adventure. Those who would rather not snowshoe or hike can choose to extend their sightseeing tour. Encompassing 265,761 acres (107,549 hectares), this amazing park offers plenty to see and do.