Somehow, Denver feels urban and untamed all at once. The city’s neighborhoods are packed with trendy brewpubs, shopping districts, and art museums that are on par with some of the world’s best. And yet a rugged frontier spirit shines through. You’d be hard-pressed, for instance, to find a Denver dweller who doesn’t love being outside.
The proximity of the Rocky Mountains probably has a lot to do with it. The great outdoors are bound to stay near the forefront of your mind with such a spectacular reminder crowding the horizon.
Bring Your Hiking Shoes
- South Platte River: In and around this waterway you’ll find rafting chutes, an 850-mile network of bike trails, and dozens of riverfront parks and natural areas.
- City Park: The Denver Zoo, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, and a mile-high jogging trail are all part of the city’s largest public park, located just east of downtown.
- Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge: Spend the day with American bison, which were reintroduced to the 15,000-acre refuge in 2007.
- LoDo: Short for Lower Downtown, this trendy historic district features more than 90 brewpubs and the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
- 16th Street Mall: No cars are allowed on a mile-long stretch of downtown dedicated to shopping and entertainment venues. A free bus makes frequent stops along the strip.
- Colorado State Capitol: Stand on the western steps and you’re exactly one mile high. Free tours of the building are offered on weekdays.
Where to Stay
- The Brown Palace Hotel: Since Theodore Roosevelt, every president but one has stayed here. The lone holdout: Calvin Coolidge.
- Oxford Hotel: Situated in the heart of LoDo, this historic hotel features European antiques in each room and a complimentary black-car service to stops within a 2-mile radius.
- Hyatt Regency Denver at Colorado Convention Center: A convenient option if you want to be close to downtown. The hotel is within walking distance of the 16th Street Mall and boasts an indoor heated pool with mountain views.
Day Trips in the Rockies
- Skiing: Both Breckenridge (80 miles away) and Vail (100 miles away) boast world-class skiing and snowboarding runs. Come summer, the resorts transform into family fun parks with scenic chairlift rides, mountain biking, and rock climbing walls.
- Hiking: There are more than 300 miles of scenic trails to be found in Rocky Mountain National Park. A couple of hikes worth checking out include Emerald Lake, a 3.5-mile loop that goes past three alpine lakes, and Deer Mountain, a 3-mile climb leading to a nice lookout point.
- Charming mountain towns: The town of Golden (15 miles away) looks like it was pulled straight out of the wild west; one of the most popular attractions here is the Coors Brewery, which offers free tastings and tours. A little further out, Estes Park (70 miles away) is also worth a visit for its quaint, mom-and-pop shops and the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration behind Stephen King’s The Shining.
- Scenic drive: In the summer, take a drive along Trail Ridge Road for amazing mountain vistas. Keep your eyes peeled for elk and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.