We began our two week New Mexico and Colorado road trip flying into Denver. We will now end our road trip exploring Denver, nicknamed, the Mile High City. The nickname is because the city is exactly one mile above sea level.
This city is known for its world-class cultural and outdoor attractions. There are plenty of craft breweries, innovative dining, cultural performances, all within a clean city with a stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
The temperature was a comfortable 25 degrees during our visit. The urban cycling network throughout the city was occupied by many smartly dressed cyclists.
Armed with a list of top things to do in this compact city, we managed to cover the following within our short visit:
Red Rock Amphitheater
This unique and beautiful place is just outside of Denver city. I wished we could have attended a concert here. But just walking around, admiring the great rock formations is awesome. There is also a visitor’s center and a Music Hall of Fame with in-depth overview of the history of Red Rocks and the amazing hall of fame artists that have performed here. Admission is free. There is a nice restaurant for visitors with stunning views.
Coors Brewery Tour
We had a great time on this very professionally organized tour. We parked our car for free in the tour parking lot. From there, a free shuttle took us on a little tour of the city of Golden outside of Denver, then to the brewery where you take a self guided tour with a hand held recorder at your own pace. This brewery is the world’s largest, employing over 2,000 people, and producing 22 million barrels of beer (and each barrel of beer is 31 gallons). At the end of the tour, you get to sample up to three glasses of different variety of beer in a lounge environment. Admission was $10. You also get a free Coors souvenir glass to take home. It was well worth it.
Colorado State Capitol
Such a beautiful building! Construction started in 1886 with Colorado’s white granite, the building officially opened in 1901. Great care went into designing and decorating this building. The building’s gold dome actually consists of real gold leaf, commemorating the Colorado Gold Rush.We took the one-hour free guided tour which included a climb up a narrow staircase up into the dome itself. At the top, you get to go outside and walk around to enjoy spectacular 360 degree views of the city.
16th Street Mall
This “mall” is actually 16th Street where there are 42 outdoor cafes, shops, movie theaters and other entertainment venues. At the north end of the mall, it is pedestrian only with three bridges connecting downtown to a park. We walked around a bit and people watched. Then we checked out the free “mall” bus that travels the length of this “mall” street.
We took a walk in one of Denver’s most historic areas, Larimer Square. Its history extends back to the 19th century when Colorado was all about gold and the famous gold strikes that put this beautiful State firmly on the map! The square was once home to a lot of ‘firsts’; first bank, first dry goods store, first bookstore, first theater, and also the site of the city’s first post office! Some of the old buildings remain but the new ones are just as nice, and home to some great restaurants and shops selling unusual and unique gifts.
Denver Convention Center
We stopped by the Convention Center because it has supposedly be the most iconic art installation in downtown Denver, the “I See What You Mean” piece, also known as the “Big Blue Bear”. It is 40 feet high and weighs 10,000 pounds, designed like it is looking into the lobby of the convention center. It also has an interesting story.The artist wanted a work of art that represented Colorado while still avoiding the clichés, such as mountains. Knowing that the sculpture would be visible to those driving past the convention center, he felt that a curious bear embodied the curiosity that passersby might feel as they wondered what was going on inside the massive event center on any given day. The idea came from an image he saw in a newspaper, a photograph of a bear peeking inside the home of a Colorado resident. The designer knew that this experience was something Coloradans could surely relate to – the outdoors meeting everyday life right at the edge of their doorstep.
Denver Downtown Architecture
Downtown Denver is full of interesting architecture, a nice blend of brick building, well preserved churches along side modern architecture such as the Denver Art Museum. We stayed downtown on Coldfax Avenue, the street with a history.
Colfax Avenue first appeared on Denver maps in 1868 as the main vein connecting the town to the Rockies. The street facilitated trade and aided gold miners on their trips to the mountains. Colfax remains to this day the longest commercial street in America. Originally, the strip was named “Golden Road,” then “Grand Avenue” and finally Colfax Avenue in honor of Schuyler Colfax, the Speaker of the House of Representatives.