Former mining town Denver, Colorado, seems to be jumping to the top of several “best” lists as of late, including claiming the number one spot on the Pew Research Center’s list of “America’s Most Popular Big Cities.” No doubt propelled by the attention it received last summer when it played host to the Democratic National Convention, the Mile High City beat out such cities as San Diego, Seattle, Orlando, and Tampa for the distinction.
Colorado has always retained a storied reputation as an fresh-air enclave, an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, a nature lover’s Eden. In more recent years, it has also gained notice for its cultural offerings such as the expanded Denver Art Museum and the burgeoning theater scene and its winning sports teams the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, and the Colorado Avalanche. Straddling both the plains to the east and the mountains to the west, Denver is positioned so that it captures a melange of forces that drive the economy and spirit of Colorado. Proximity to the Front Range gives Denver residents and visitors easy access to the state’s major ski resorts in the summer and unparalleled hiking, fishing, and mountain biking in the summer. The city’s location, about halfway between large Midwest cities such as Chicago and St. Louis and West Coast urban areas has also made it a key trade point. Finance and government also flourish in Denver, which has earned the sobriquet “The Wall Street of the West” and the distinction as being home to the highest concentration of federal workers outside Washington, D.C.
Denver is also at the apex of varying political and religious perspectives found throughout the state. On one hand, Denver is next door to Boulder, perhaps the most liberal city in Colorado, and Democrats hold considerable sway over the Denver political scene. On the other hand, however, Denver is only 60 miles north of far more conservative Colorado Springs, home to a number of military facilities and evangelical non-profit organization Focus on the Family.
To capture the essence of Denver, one must experience both the area’s natural gifts and its shifting political and cultural landscapes. Here are a few suggestions:
- Tour the Denver Art Museum
- Visit the 117-year-old Brown Palace Hotel
- Take in a concert at the world-famous Red Rocks Amphitheatre
- Gape at the gold-domed state capitol building
- Sample the beers at the Coors Brewery
- Stroll among 23 acres of indoor and outdoor gardens at the Denver Botanic Gardens
- Take a carriage ride along the 16th Street Mall
- Witness moneymaking (literally) at the Denver Mint
- Ride a roller coaster or two at the Six Flags Elitch Gardens Theme Park
- Cheer on the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High
- Root, root, root for the Rockies at Coors Field
- Take in a show at the Denver Performing Arts Complex
- Browse through books at the Tattered Cover, one of the country’s largest bookstores
- Thrift for treasures at the Mile High Flea Market
- Watch cliff divers and puppet shows at the theme-park-cum-Mexican-restaurant Casa Bonita
- Shed through fresh powder at any of the many ski resorts accessible via the I-70 corridor, including Copper Mountain, Keystone, Winter Park, Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek, and Vail.
For more Denver information, the city’s official tourist and visitor information website is www.denver.org.