Make time for Colorado’s ‘Mile-High City'
Denver’s elevated position as Gateway to the Rockies occasionally draws away from the fact that Colorado’s capital remains one of the most vibrant, culturally rich and friendly cities in the United States. The fact that the most awe-inspiring natural wonders and national parks sit right on its doorstep is merely an added bonus.
Denver’s backstory is straight out of the old west, a dusty frontier town founded in 1858 during the legendary Pike’s Peak gold rush. This rough and tumble period saw uneasy alliances built up between the indigenous tribes namely the Cheyenne and the Arapaho, as news of gold and silver spread fast and not unlike California a decade earlier, there was soon a rush on land.
During this period more than 100.000 people descended on the town in the hope of fortune and glory in the Mile High City, so called because its official elevation is exactly one mile (5280ft) above sea level. For fans of trigonometry, a marker on the steps of the State Capitol building marks the precise spot. You’ll have no trouble finding the building itself just look for the domed roof clad in sparkling 24kt gold.
Famous for an, almost, guaranteed 300 days of sunshine a year, the summers are balmy and for Denverites, a time to head out into one of the city’s many parks. The most famous of which is Confluence Park, here at the intersection of Cherry Creek and South Platte River that early prospectors first discovered gold and set in motion the events that would establish this great city. The Park is also a wonderful vantage point to enjoy the incredible vistas that act as backdrop to Denver.
Perhaps the city’s most famous resident, not forgetting of course, Colorado Governor John Denver for whom the city was named, was Margaret ‘Molly’ Brown more popularly known as The Unsinkable Molly Brown having dramatically survived the sinking of the Titanic. Her former home is now the Molly Brown House Museum and a rich insight into this incredible woman’s life as a philanthropist, traveller and political doner.
Art and culture
One of the first things you’ll notice on arrival in Denver, is that art is everywhere. As soon as you get out of the airport you’ll be greeted by the unmissable sight of ‘Mustang’ a colossal statue of a blue stallion with red glowing eyes. It may not be to everyone’s taste but there’s no denying you’re unlikely to forget the drive from the airport.
The beating heart of Denver’s nascent art scene is the Art District on Santa Fe, home to the city’s artists, designers and creative businesses and is a hotbed of studios and galleries. The first Friday of each month sees a surge of activity as galleries open their doors for a street festival celebrating the city’s creative talents and incredible diversity.
Further uptown you’ll find the Golden Triangle Creative District, this is home to the Denver Art Museum, itself an architecturally significant sight, and the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art and the award-winning Clifford Still Museum. There are also guided graffiti tours around the city and by graffiti we mean large scale murals, graffiti and street art showcasing the urban talent, mostly based in the very hip RiNo district the tour ends at the Denver Central Market where you can refresh yourself at one of the fantastic array of craft breweries, bars and restaurants.
Food and drink
Wherever there is great culture there is usually great restaurants and nightlife; Denver does not disappoint. The city’s status as a major foodie destination has grown over the years as more and more award-winning restaurants opened across the city. Denver is now home to the prestigious Great American Beer Festival and a Taste of Colorado Festival.
It’s little surprise that outdoor and patio dining experiences are numerous. Look no further than a sundowner at The Woods on the eight floor of the Source Hotel in the trendy RiNo district or a Mai Tai at El Five with it’s sweeping views of the skyline and exquisite Mediterranean tapas.
It would be remiss of us not to mention Denver’s almost religious devotion to tacos and green chilli; Mexican food here is quite simply sublime. For a deep dive into Denver’s obsession with Mexican-inspired cuisine a trip to Tamayo on Larimer Square where multi-award winning chef and restauranteur Richard Sandoval serves up crab and shrimp enchiladas, corn husk-wrapped stripped sea bass and tuna tartare guacamole. You’ll barely have room left to squeeze in one of the 200 tequilas on offer from the drinks menu.
Denver’s sweeping skyline is perfectly framed by the city’s back drop of the Rocky Mountains. The snow-peaked, sawtooth ridges sparkle in the distance a constant reminder that the wild west is still out there. Arguably the best way to tour this incredible landscape is by train. For many, these great peaks and plains would have first been seen from the vantage point of a steam locomotive as it slowly chugged westward. Nowadays you can hop aboard the Rocky Mountaineer and slowly but luxuriously meander the railroads that take in north America’s greatest attractions including the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, Arches National Park, Bryce Canyon and the wonderful Yellowstone National Park.
To find out more about our USA escorted tours see our holidays here or contact one of our expert travel advisors.
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