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Mile High City visitor's guide with text and photos about orientation, getting around town, where to stay, weather and more,
Mile High City Guide!
Get a Mile High in Denver.
A fun, clean and modern city with historic Western roots, Denver is a dynamic destination. And yes, it really is a mile high. There is even a spot on the west steps of the State Capitol building that is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level. The 2008 Democratic National Convention is Aug. 25-28.
Originally founded as a stop along the railroad, Denver became a Gold Rush town complete with wild saloons, gamblers, thieves and people like Wild Bill Cody. He hung out in what is currently Larimer Square, now one of the nicest places in the city. If that's not enough history, Denver claims to be the birthplace of the cheeseburger. (Might have to consult Jimmy Buffett on that one.)
Sports nuts love the place. The NFL's Broncos are king and when they are riding high, they dominate bar conversations year-round. The NHL's Avalanche is a new franchise but has become a Stanley Cup Finals regular. The Rockies have been on a rocky road lately but the thin air makes for lots of home runs and players use Coors Field as a launching pad to pad their stats.
Colorado produces more beer than any other state in the U.S. Coors has the largest single brewing site in the world, Denver's Great American Beer Festival (October) is the largest in the nation and the Wynkoop Brewing Company is the nation's largest brew pub. Denver is often called the "Napa Valley of Beer."
Yet despite all these potentially fattening suds, Denver is the thinnest city in America and Colorado is the thinnest state, according to a 2002 survey by the American Cancer Society. Credit the active lifestyle. The Rocky Mountains are just an hour away and the outdoors-minded people love to ski, snowboard, hike, bike, run and rollerblade. And yes, you can clearly see those fabulous Rockies from downtown Denver.
Arrival and Orientation
Denver is located in north central Colorado, serviced by Interstate 25 from the North/South and 70 to the East/West. It is a central meeting point for people headed to ski resorts in Aspen, Steamboat Springs, Telluride, Vail and others. It's less than a half-hour from the University of Colorado in Boulder and not much farther to the United States Air Force central command station at Cheyenne Mountain.
But Denver has a lot to offer on its own without leaving the city.
Most people arrive thru Denver International Airport, a $4.3 billion project that opened in 1995.
It is the world's fifth-busiest airport, has a United Airlines hub, utilizes architectural "peaks" as the roof of the main terminal building which is supposed to resemble the Rocky Mountains and has enough shops to keep passengers occupied on layovers. And we hate it.
First, there is often quite a bit of turbulence on approach so flights can be extremely bumpy. Don't freak out this is normal. Things aren't much better on the ground. Getting in and out requires a lot of walking, weaving and riding. The airport is also located more than 30 miles from downtown. The distance is ridiculous, so far in the countryside and away from any potential urban sprawl that its location choice begs to be questioned. Taxi fare is $50, practically forcing visitors to rent a car, even though one is not at all needed in town. Multi-stop shuttles do run for about $20 each way. Count on it taking at least an hour-and-a-half from the gate to the hotel.
Once in the city, the modern and revitalized downtown area is the Denver's heartbeat. This is the central place to stay and play. The 16th Street Mall is a mile-long row of restaurants and shops along 16h Street in the heart of downtown (most of the bars are in the LoDo area). It's really a promenade, with street kiosks, restaurants and prime people watching.
Lo Do is the northern part of downtown, basically 16th and Larimer, bordered by Larimer Square near Speer Blvd. (at the Pepsi Center), Union Station at Wewatta and 17th, and and Coors Field at Blake and 20th Street. Avoid 15th Street in the prime downtown area, basically South of Larimer, parts of which can be a bit dicey after dark.
Denver is the capitol city of Colorado and the State Capitol Building is located at Broadway and Colfax, a comfortable 10-minute walk from the heart of downtown. It's across the street from Civic Center Park with benches, a flower garden and buildings that look as if they were pilfered from Greece. On Labor Day weekend, the place is filled with people and tents for The Taste of Colorado.
Keep going down Broadway past the Capitol and around 7th Street is a collection of cool bars, a couple of hot clubs and restaurants. This is mainly the locals' hangouts. At night, take a taxi, mainly due to the distance.
Where to Stay
Most of the restaurants, bars and shopping areas are in the downtown area. Centered around the 16th Street Mall, its the best area in which to say. Downtown has only a few chain hotels; most are upscale bed and breakfasts. For budget travelers, there are a few medium-priced chains. Book here with our on-line reservations system.
Lower Downtown more popularly referred to as "LoDo " is a short ride and/or walk from these hotels.
Getting Around Town
The best way to get around Denver is by foot or the 16th Street Mall shuttle. Or both walk one way and ride the other. The shuttle is free and stops at every block along 16th Street. It is so popular many locals use it to commute to work, to get them in the vicinity of the Pepsi Center for basketball and hockey games or to the train station to take them eventually to Invesco Field at Mile High for Broncos games.
For the most part particularly in and around LoDo walking is extremely safe. There is a large police presence and, frankly, the people here are largely of the nonviolent nature.
Only for trips outside the downtown area is a rental car necessary (for instance, drives to and through the surrounding mountains can be captivating). From downtown hotels to LoDo and adjacent Larimer Square is a pleasant 15- to 20-minute walk. If the weather is nice, it's pleasant to stroll down 16th or adjacent streets, peering in at cool shops along the way.
Taxis are plentiful and since the travel distances are so short, fares are generally only a few dollars.
There is a light rail system that runs from downtown to outlying suburbs but it's mostly for daily commuters.
By far,the most popular place in Denver is its lower downtown area, or LoDo. In fact, National Hockey League players voted it the best downtown in the league.
LoDo is packed with pubs, bars, restaurants and upscale
galleries. Many are located in renovated brick buildings and warehouses,
giving them a classic look and a cozy feel. For a complete look at LoDo,
go to our bars
The People and the Party Scene
Before we ever went to Denver, we were told by more than one source that the city has no good-looking girls. The few in the state, it was said, are either wearing thousand dollar coats in the expensive restaurants in Aspen and Vail or are shacking up with guys working in the ski shops.
We're happy to report this is not the case at all. In fact, we were quite impressed with the quality of the babes in Denver (keep in mind the University of Colorado is nearby, there's a campus extension right in the city and there are a good number of people from all over America who now call the city home).
And what about the men? Just fine. The going-out ratio is around 55/45 guys-to-gals.
Regardless of their gender, the people are extremely approachable and friendly.
In LoDo, people are casual. Jeans and t-shirts rule the bars in the vicinity of Coors Field. This is where the college-age crowd hangs. Closer to Larimer Square basically anywhere across 16th Street it's more of a young professionals' playground.
When to Go
While Denver can be pleasant year-round, there are times it peaks.
For football fans, the fall is the hottest time, because that's when the beloved Broncos play. Even if you don't get to a game, the LoDo bars are full of fans. Away games on TV are especially enticing.
Now that Denver has a major automobile race, the Grand Prix of Denver, brings fast-paced action to its city streets. Labor Day Weekend is the busiest and most social time of the year with the Taste of Colorado.
In October, Denver hosts the Great American Beer Festival, the largest such event in the nation.
From November thru December, a series of Winterfest events dominates LoDo.
This is straight from the Chamber of Commerce: Denver has more hours of sunshine than either San Diego or Miami. May is statistically the wettest month with about 2 1/2 average inches of rain. Snow in the winter is more flurries than deluge; nature seems to save that for the mountains. It can get hot and fairly humid in July and August.
Denver's month-by-month temperature averages are:
December-February: 30 degrees F