Denver, CO

Destination Location

  • 39.739236, -104.990251:primary
  • 42.212444, -83.353388:secondary

Overview

Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Denver, known for its laid-back lifestyle and unparalleled beauty, is a city with mass appeal. Mix a little cowboy heritage with cosmopolitan chic and you too will find yourself humming John Denver's classic Rocky Mountain High as you take in all that this Western city has to offer.

Aptly named the Mile-High City, Denver's official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level. This altitude won't be the only thing that takes your breath away – Denver has the largest city park system in the U.S. with 205 parks in the city limits and 20,000 acres of mountain parkland nearby.

Want to mix business with pleasure? Denver's 17th street has been called the Wall Street of the Rockies with its numerous financial institutions, and Forbes magazine has named the city one of the best places for business. With its central location, Denver is a distribution hub for the American west and also supports growing industries in technology and communications. The mineral-rich Rocky Mountains nearby have also encouraged mining and energy companies to call Denver home.

All work and no play makes for a dull visit and by no means is Denver dull. Denver is one of only 12 U.S. cities with four major sports teams and has the most microbreweries per capita in the U.S.

Is the putting green more your thing? With a moderate climate, some of Denver's golf courses are open year-round and the elevation of the city will actually make golf balls fly farther.

If the arts are more your scene, Denver is home to the tenth largest downtown in the U.S., a dynamic mix of mile-long pedestrian walkways lined with outdoor cafes, upscale restaurants, shops and cultural sights. The Denver Performing Arts Complex is the second largest performing arts centre in the world after New York City's Lincoln Center and is home to Broadway touring productions, dance and ballet, a symphony orchestra, opera and more.

No visit to Denver is complete without taking in a concert at the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. The only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world, Red Rocks has played host to The Beatles, U2, opera stars and everyone in between. Red Rocks also offers a variety of recreation – from guided tours, hiking and biking to shopping and dining.

Denver: With an omelet named after it and dinosaurs in its backyard, you know it must be amazing.

Destination basics

One of the sunniest places in the U.S., Denver averages 300 days of blue skies and sunshine each year through four distinct seasons with only a modest amount of precipitation.

Winters are mild with an average daily temperature of 7 C (45 F) and summers enjoy low humidity with an average daily temperature of 30 C (86 F). July is the warmest month of the year and December is the coldest.

Like all cities tucked into the Rocky Mountains, Denver can be subject to sudden changes in weather, but will swiftly return to average temperatures.

Average monthly temperature and average monthly rainfall diagrams for Denver, CO

Blend a deep Hispanic tradition with an Asian migration, mix it up with a big dash of sports frenzy and the Wild West, and Denver's dining scene begins to take shape. And do not forget the beer. Known for its casual atmosphere, brewpubs, and sports bars, the Mile High City has always been famous for good grub, but recently arrived culinary masters, attracted by the panoramic mountain setting, have vaulted Denver to the fine dining forefront. Although Denverites now enjoy fancier fare, they still love their beer.

Downtown/Auraria
Downtown has satisfied the appetites of Denver's business class for decades with an array of casual establishments providing comfortable atmospheres for relaxation and work. Still, if formal dining is on the agenda, there are plenty of options. The Palm takes care of the surf and turf crowd. Marlowe's huge neon martini sign overlooks the 16th Street Mall and attracts visitors for its continental cuisine. Relax at Domo's authentic country house for a remarkable Japanese dining experience, or head down the street to the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver's first restaurant and a true meat-lover's paradise. Under the watchful eyes of big game trophies you can try all sorts of wild game including alligator, elk and rattlesnake. Dine with Denver's elite in the Napoleonic setting of Palace Arms, located in the historic Brown Palace.

Historic Lower Downtown (LoDo)
More restaurants, bars, bakeries, and coffeehouses inhabit these 20 blocks than any other district in Denver. There are so many, in fact, it is hard to choose just one. LoDo plays host to a multitude of brewpubs pouring homemade concoctions and cooking creative alternatives to traditional bar food. The Wynkoop, named after Denver's first sheriff, holds the honor as the city's oldest brewery, and fries a mean fish and chips. Its Railyard Ale is one of the area's tastiest brews. Or, for the closest thing to fine dining that a brewpub can get, see if you can get a table at the Denver Chophouse, which features steaks galore. If you want to enjoy a wide variety of ales, the Falling Rock Tap House has 69 beers on tap, including a wide selection from local breweries. Steak and potatoes are the thing at Morton's. Jax Fish House is one of the well known seafood stops in the area. P.F. Chang's is the place for a Chinese fix. After major sporting events, the streets of LoDo flood with hungry fans, and the restaurants fill at an alarming rate. Reservations are necessary everywhere.

Uptown/City Park
Restaurant Row is a sanctuary for culinary artists. Chefs display their magic nightly at such exquisite haunts as the Avenue Grill, a favorite destination for couples, that features a varied menu with western favorites. For a quiet getaway, stop in at Dario's Restaurant, a quaint, family owned bistro full of knickknacks and heirlooms just west of City Park. Here you will experience Old World decadence as it serves heaps of Swiss-Italian fare. If pizza and crowds are on the menu, Pasquini's, located in an old house on 17th Avenue, is the place to be. After enjoying the restaurant's hip ambiance and vogue cuisine, wander next door to the Rhino Room for a Colorado microbrew and a game of pool in an environment straight out of the 1970s. As the night begins to wind down, relax at St. Mark's for a late night cup of coffee and a fresh baked muffin.

Capitol Hill
Cozy, family owned restaurants, friendly local pubs, and coffeehouses populate the streets of Capitol Hill. Most have been around forever and have developed a faithful following. Stop by Benny's Cantina for a fiesta of sloppy Mexican grub. Dazzle, a newcomer to the scene, specializes in unique American cuisine. Sing bygone favorites at Charlie Brown's piano bar while deciphering the neighborhood's most complex menu, or head over to Watson's Pharmacy for some tasty ice cream.

Chessman Park/Congress Park
From quaint street-side cafes to elegant food extravaganzas, this district is sure to please. The Barolo Grill treats the palate to expensive but superb Italian cuisine and boasts the most extensive wine selection in Denver. The Satire Lounge serves a dash of dark ambiance with big dishes of Mexican standards, and the Grand China is the stop for authentic Chinese fare.

Cherry Creek
This is the Mile High City's dining central, where food designs are the norm and a simple ceramic plate becomes a canvas beckoning art. Dramatic? Maybe, but many of Cherry Creek's fine restaurants can make a dining experience into a thing of beauty. Expect to pay a hefty price, though. Delectable Indian delights are at the Bombay Clay Oven, and Little Ollie's sculpts healthy (nothing deep-fried here) Chinese food. If you are searching for the obscure, check out the underground RooBar for inventive martinis along with classic bar grub. The Cherry Cricket, a ruffian original in the upscale district, spices things up with burning batches of homemade green chili.

Washington Park
Old South Gaylord Street feeds the neighborhood with a myriad of timeless standards. Visit the Washington Park Grille, a crowded bistro with a flair for Italian, or wander next door for some seafood at Max Gill and Grill.

University Park
University Park is full of popular dives and down home joints serving burgers and pizza. Fagan's Restaurant and Bar is the place to get authentic Shepherd's Pie and a flavor of Old World Ireland. The Jerusalem Restaurant delves into exotic textures and fine Middle Eastern cuisine. Mustard's Last Stand specializes in hot dogs and Polish sausage.

Northwest Denver/Highland
An emerging hotspot for Denver diners, the Highland neighborhood in Northwest Denver offers a great selection of Mexican restaurants and an array of inventive, family-owned bistros. Bang! offers a small, 10 item menu in a lively atmosphere and is home to the area's best burger, as well as some spicy Cajun cooking.

Golden/West Denver
For a real treat, head to the foothills and check out the historic Fort. Built atop a high slope, with picturesque views, this establishment is the ultimate in romantic mountain dining. The menu is extremely meat oriented and the chefs prepare venison and elk in wonderfully creative ways.

Denver is a geographically isolated city sitting exactly one mile above sea level and over 600 barren miles from the next closest major city. Concealed from the west by bold foothills and towering 14,000-foot peaks, and protected to the east by an expansive and unforgiving high desert terrain, it is a place where everybody seems to be from somewhere else. Today, modern-day pioneers flock to Denver for world-class skiing and biking, serene hiking and intense rock climbing. They travel here from far and wide to imbibe famous microbrews, stand in the humbling presence of massive peaks or find prosperity in the booming computer and telecommunications economy. The end result: blended but cohesive neighborhoods, brimming with a diverse collection of cultures and exuding character and charm.

Downtown/Auraria

Anchored by Civic Center Park and the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long, tree-lined pedestrian promenade, downtown is the perfect place to begin exploring the Mile High City. Downtown's vital mix of government, entertainment, business and sport make Denver's central business district the envy of the West. Take a tour of the Colorado State Capitol Building, where the 18th step places you exactly one mile above sea level, or stroll through the nation's best collection of Native American art at the Denver Art Museum. Shop away at the Denver Pavilions and Tabor Center or take in a Broadway show at one of the eight theaters comprising the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Spend a day wandering the shores of Downtown Aquarium or seek adventure at Elitch Gardens. After a long day of sightseeing, kick back in a brewpub and enjoy a microbrew, or treat yourself to a fine dining experience at one of downtown's excellent restaurants.

Historic Lower Downtown (LoDo)
The ghosts of the red light district from Denver's gold rush days may still haunt the streets of lower downtown, but they are not alone anymore. The area, termed LoDo by locals, was virtually empty 10 years ago. But since the opening of Coors Field, home to baseball's Colorado Rockies, this 20-block district of 19th-century brick buildings has come alive with energy and entertainment. The original commercial core of Denver underwent a major renovation and now sports a seemingly endless variety of trendy pubs, restaurants, nightclubs, shops and luxurious loft apartments. Larimer Square, at the southern end of LoDo, occupies a portion of Denver's oldest street. Today, it radiates Victorian charm and bustles with the 80s disco flashback, Lucky Star. The buildings, now occupied by upscale chains, including Morton's of Chicago, and Denver originals like the Wynkoop Brewing Company, have long histories as former brothels, saloons and old-time general stores.

Uptown/City Park
An eclectic residential district stretching east from downtown to City Park is home to Denver's famed Restaurant Row, a collection of elegant fine dining establishments, as well as a scattering of nightclubs and bars. It is also a great place to check out some of Denver's Victorian architecture and the impressive Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, a Romanesque masterpiece with towering, Gaudi-esque spires. A lively stretch of Colfax, Denver's longest and most eccentric avenue, wanders through Uptown. The area offers off-the-wall neighborhood bars, excellent ethnic cuisine, and the nation's best musical acts at the refurbished Ogden Theatre and Fillmore Auditorium. City Park, a beautiful legacy from the City Beautiful period, houses the Denver Zoo and the popular Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

Five Points/Curtis Park
Throughout Denver's illustrious history, Five Points and the Curtis Park district, northeast of downtown, has been a sanctuary for the African American community. Ever since Benny Hooper strolled into town in the 1920s and opened up his club/recreation center/hotel for black servicemen, the streets of Five Points have whispered jazz. Hooper's club underwent renovation a few years ago and reopened as the Casino Cabaret; it hosts some of the best jazz musicians in the country. The entire neighborhood is experiencing an urban renaissance as small businesses infiltrate the historic district and boost the economy. One of Denver's liveliest festivals, Juneteenth, fills the streets with laughter and frenzy at the dawn of each summer.

Capitol Hill
While walking the diverse streets of Capitol Hill, you might actually feel the city's pulse pounding beneath your feet. Once the neighborhood of Denver's wealthiest citizens, this area, which wears its decadent image with honor, blends the past with the present with ancient Victorian mansions and contemporary condos and apartment complexes. Although the streets are always filled with people at all hours of the night, the neighborhood is safe and friendly. Young hipsters brood along the same sidewalks that Neal Cassidy and Jack Kerouac treaded, searching for an evening fix of entertainment in one of the diverse array of clubs, coffeehouses, art houses, galleries and bars. It is a great place to observe the way Denver moves through day-to-day life. A wealth of historical sightseeing includes the Molly Brown House and tours of the Governor's Mansion, which resides in south Capitol Hill near the ultra-trendy Govn'rs Park.

Congress Park/Cheesman Park
A diverse mix of ethnic, age, and income groups populate these old neighborhoods bordering Capitol Hill, barely a mile from downtown. The area serves as a hotbed for Denver's gay community and fashionable 30-somethings. Cheesman Park, the former city graveyard, is now Denver's urban emerald. You will find the best mountain views in the city on the park's central acropolis. The Denver Botanic Gardens occupies the east side of the park and makes for a wonderful romantic stroll. The Congress Park vicinity encompasses Greek Town, a six-block section filled with eclectic festivities and animated diner-type restaurants.

Cherry Creek
This stylish district features some of Denver's best-known attractions, including the beloved Tattered Cover Bookstore, and Denver's number one tourist attraction, the Cherry Creek Mall. The open air-shopping plaza across from the mall, Cherry Creek North, is a menagerie of upscale boutiques, art galleries, fine dining and unique bars. It is a great local gathering place on the weekend.  

Washington Park
Residents of Denver are the leanest in the land which can be attested by the the active, healthy crowds that are always running or pedaling around the verdant landscape of Washington Park. Volleyball and soccer games fill the park lawns, and the bike path is always glutted with in-line thrill-seekers and fierce-pedaling road bikers. Numerous park benches and giant shade trees make for great places to chat with locals and relax on a weekday afternoon. The surrounding neighborhood is one of Denver's most affluent, yet is unpretentious and loaded with rare gems such as the hearty Italian restaurant, Carmine's On Penn.

University Park
Washington Park's wild southern neighbor is University Park, home of the University of Denver. The area is a hot spot of cultural activity, and displays some of south Denver's finest architecture, including the Ritchie Center, a mammoth copper and sandstone structure with a bell tower bedecked in gold. From booming concerts at Magness Arena to mellow, folk gatherings at Swallow Hill, to pizza and pool at Anthony's Pizza and Pasta, this neighborhood offers a little of something for everybody. South Pearl Street is a cozy little shopping spot and is home to the popular Japanese joint, Sushi Den.

Golden
Located on the western fringe of Denver, surrounded by a jagged hogback and a plethora of wide buttes, Golden is a charming small town (do not ever say it is a suburb) that echoes Colorado's gold rush heritage. Home of the Coors Brewing Company and the Buffalo Bill Museum, Golden is an excellent spot to experience a part of Western Americana. The locals have traded in their horses for mountain bikes, and the town boasts some of the best trail riding in the country at famed Apex Park and White Ranch Park.

Denverites love the outdoors. The sun shines over 300 days a year, and the dry climate and unpredictable weather patterns allow for intense mountain biking one day and perfect powder skiing the next. A good portion of the city heads to the mountains come the weekend, leaving the rest of the populace to enjoy Denver's immense assortment of cultural delights. Even though much of the city's entertainment involves sweat, residents easily maneuver from an exhilarating day on the slopes to an afternoon hockey game or a night at the symphony. Most places, whether restaurants, nightclubs or theaters, are brimming with activity every night of the week.

Sports
When it comes right down to it, Denver is widely regarded as a sports and recreational haven. The Broncos, Rockies, Avalanche and Nuggets draw all sorts of admirers throughout the region, and tourists come from all over to see baseball at Coors Field. Skiers and snowboarders jam the slopes from November to early July, and people from all corners converge on Colorado during summer for its wealth of camping, fishing and backpacking options in the serene Rocky Mountains. Warm weather evenings are packed with mountain bikers and hikers when the after-work crowd escapes to the Front Range trails. Weekends lure thousands to the area's greenbelts for relaxation and exercise.

Museums
Denver Museum of Nature and Science, located in City Park, is the city's largest cultural attraction drawing almost 2-million visitors annually. Built in 1900, it is the home to the IMAX Theater and Prehistoric Journey, an interactive time warp into the dinosaur age. The museum has also played host to such famous exhibits as The Aztecs and The Imperial Tombs of China. The Denver Art Museum displays two floors of Native American artifacts, and also offers a smart mixture of Asian art and contemporary design. The building itself, a modern interpretation of a fortified castle, is a stunning piece of architecture. Recent renovations added a restaurant and viewing space for larger installations. History buffs will enjoy the History Colorado Center, as it recounts the lost days when cowboys and Indians ruled the plains and the gold rush inspired a nation to dream of riches.

Denver also contains a wealth of fascinating special interest museums. The Molly Brown House chronicles the legendary exploits of the "unsinkable Molly Brown," a RMS Titanic survivor and prominent Denver citizen. In the Five Points neighborhood, stop by the Black American West Museum for an intriguing account of the African-American effort on the frontier. Appropriately, the museum is located in the old home of Colorado's first African-American female physician. Golden offers the Colorado Rail Museum, a 12-acre outdoor venue with over 50 antique locomotives on display, and the Buffalo Bill Museum, atop Lookout Mountain, honors the riotous life and legend of William Cody while offering astonishing views of the city.

Film
The Denver International Film Festival comes to town each October with a fresh bunch of shorts, documentaries and feature length flicks. A variety of quaint art houses along with sprawling mega-movie complexes are scattered across the metro area. For the latest in obscure, avant-garde releases, stop by the Mayan Theater on Broadway, or the Esquire which spins the more popular independent features on a wide screen. If you are in the mood for the latest commercial movies, the United Artists Theaters at the Denver Pavilions are comfortable and include stadium seating.

Music
Denver's homegrown music has produced a creative blend of commercial acts ranging from the roots rockers Big Head Todd and the Monsters, to the fevered 16 Horsepower and the Apples in Stereo. A multitude of intimate venues attract the hippest national and independent bands. Established acts fill the exquisitely renovated Fillmore Auditorium and blast away on the best sound system in Denver. Or drop into the Ogden Theatre on Colfax. In summer, fans congregate at Red Rocks Amphitheater for live music in an awesome mountain setting. The Bluebird Theatre, a restored movie hall and former porn house, hosts the hottest emerging acts. Local bands take the stage at Herman's Hideaway and Brendan's Pub. The Soiled Dove in LoDo is the perfect place to hear Hazel Miller sing the blues or Sally Taylor conjure the ghosts of folk legends. The Mile High City also steams with salsa; after a few free lessons hit the dance floor at La Rumba. If a more refined musical structure appeals to you, attend a performance by the Colorado Symphony. Under the direction of Maestra Marin Alsop, the classical virtuosos have attained national acclaim and consistently perform with such notable figures as Yo Yo Ma and the Anonymous 4.

Dance
The Colorado Ballet has been gracing Denver stages since 1961 with quality international dance and classic ballet. The Colorado Academy of Ballet trains aspiring dancers in advanced Russian techniques. The David Taylor Theater brings a distinguished contemporary ballet to Denver and produces the ever-popular Nutcracker during the holiday season. If you prefer modern dance, check out the celebrated Cleo Parker Robinson Dance troupe for beautifully choreographed interpretive pieces. If you would rather do the dancing, head over to The Church, the city's most popular nightclub, for a night of crazed techno madness. Bash is the "see and be seen" place to dance in Lodo. Vinyl packs in the ladies on Tuesday nights for the city's hottest Ladies Night. Lucky Star keeps the bobbing 80s alive. If big band sounds rattle your feet, saunter into the Mercury Café for rip roaring old style swing dancing.

Theater
The Denver Performing Arts Complex is the second largest theatrical venue in the nation behind the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, and stages the latest Broadway musicals and plays. Resting beneath an inventive arched glass ceiling, the complex holds eight distinctive spaces, including the 2,800-seat Temple Buell Theater. Recent crowd favorites such as Rent, Chicago and Phantom of the Opera have drawn huge crowds. The Auditorium Theater, adorned in neo-classical design, presents the latest contemporary off-Broadway dramas and comedies and just finished a remarkable run of performances that featured the critically hailed Last Night At Ballyhoo. The Denver Center Theater Group, housed at the complex, recently brought home a Tony Award for the best regional theater.

For local offerings, check out the Avenue Theater for the hottest comedies and the long-running audience participation favorite, Murder Most Foul. The Theater on Broadway presents black box thinking theater that often focuses on gay themes, and performance art and the spoken word rule the Bug Theater. Opera Colorado, feeding the artistic spirit since 1983, performs three booming epics a year at Boettcher Concert Hall and the Buell Theater.

Other Cultural Odds & Ends
Colorado's Ocean Journey is the city's underwater take on the cultural scene. It previously earned rave reviews and offers visitors a chance to explore exotic tropical environments and discover what lies beneath the rivers running through Colorado. The Denver Zoo is the city's most beloved attraction, drawing well over a million visitors each year with such popular exhibits as the Primate Panorama and Tropical Discovery. In beautiful Cheesman Park, the Denver Botanic Gardens display a scenic expanse of varying foliage from around the world and a special new exhibit on water plants. Finally, if you want to see the workings of a brewery first hand, Coors Brewing Company gives daily tours and best of all, free samples.

Denver

State: Colorado

Country: United States

Denver By The Numbers
Population: 682,545 (city); 2,814,330 (metropolitan area)
Elevation: 5,280 feet / 1,609 meters
Average Annual Rainfall: 15.5 inches/ 38 centimeters
Average Annual Snowfall: 55.4 inches / 104 centimeters
Average January Temperature: 30.5°F / -0.83°C
Average July Temperature: 73.5°F / 23°C

Quick Facts
Electricity: 110-120 volts AC, 60Hz; flat two-pin plugs are standard.

Time zone: Mountain Time Zone, GMT - 7

Country dialing code: +1

Area Codes: 303, 720

Did You Know?
Because of Denver’s high altitude and the resulting thin air, golf balls go 10% farther than they would at sea level.

Denver’s Colfax Avenue is the longest continuous street in the country, measuring in at over 26 miles (42 kilometers) in length.

Orientation
Denver is centrally located in Colorade, being situated in the South Platte River Valley, just miles from the Rocky Mountain foothills. The city is located about 95 miles (153 kilometers) south of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Denver's history as a boom and bust town began with the desire for a simple precious metal: gold. In 1858, a group of prospectors were exploring the Kansas Territory, which then encompassed what is now Colorado, and discovered piles of the almighty metal at the confluence of the Platte River and Cherry Creek. One of the prospectors, William Larimer, established Denver City in an area then populated by the Arapaho tribe, who camped along the banks of Cherry Creek while hunting and gathering. Over the next two years, a new gold fever penetrated the pulse of the eastern states. 100,000 hopefuls pioneered across the harsh landscape to the territory, seeking instant prosperity. The influx uprooted the Native Americans and forced them to move on, while the settler population soared, causing the federal government to create the Colorado Territory. So began Denver's first boom, inspiring its mythical image as a Wild West town ruled by material obsession.

In 1859, at the peak of the rush, Denver's first notable figure strolled into town with a vision well beyond the price of gold. William N. Byers moved to Denver from Ohio, via Omaha, and founded the Rocky Mountain News. Through the newspaper, he tried to calm the hysteria and instability associated with the gold rush, by promoting settlement on the high desert frontier. Byers proceeded to create an illusion of Denver, proclaiming the city to be the "Queen City of the Plains" and the new steamboat capitol of the West, ready for a river full of industry. Unfortunately, the small, shallow Platte River could not live up to Byers' grand words. The ports of wealth never materialized, and the even smaller Cherry Creek soon declined into a cesspool of mining pollution. Despite this failure, Byers, who also founded the city's Chamber of Commerce, was streamlining himself for a great career in politics. His chances dissipated, however, during an adulterous scandal which culminated in a typical Wild West shootout scene in the middle of a downtown street.

In 1865, Denver City was deemed capital of the new Territory. In 1881, five years after Colorado gained statehood, it was chosen over Golden, Colorado Springs, and Boulder as the official state capital. During this period, Denver blossomed rapidly. Railroad-borne business transformed this one-dimensional mining Mecca into a more balanced industrial and agricultural "cow town." Even so, the city experienced its first bust in 1893, after the Silver Crash crippled Colorado's silver-producing economy. A tough 10-year depression followed. Despite the hardships of the times, city leaders managed to construct the beautiful neo-classical Colorado State Capitol Building and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. From 1904 until 1918, when the entire nation was in the process of revitalizing itself, energetic civic leader Robert Speer took Denver's mayoral reigns and vowed to create an "American Paris." During this era, known nationally as the City Beautiful period, Denver curbed its unchecked growth with a solid urban plan. Some of the city's most recognizable landmarks date from this time, including the City and County Building and Washington and City Parks. Speer conjured a four-part plan for city improvements, beginning with Civic Center Park. He wanted Denver to boast a beautiful city center with lush walkways and focal points of extravagant architecture. Thus, Civic Center Park, between the Colorado State Capitol Building and the entrance to downtown, is embellished with impressive gardens, a serene thoroughfare, and a Greek-style outdoor amphitheater. Speer also sought to bring shade to the desert. He initiated the planting of over 100,000 trees, creating numerous boulevards lined with oaks and elms. Through a prolonged effort, even the polluted Cherry Creek was transformed into a verdant greenway, and new mountain and city parks further enhanced the beauty of the area.

Speer faced harsh criticism for some of these projects, especially for the boulevard that bore his name and meandered from downtown to the country club district. But it was nothing compared to the wrath his successor, Benjamin F. Stapleton, faced for building Denver's first airport. Stapleton, notorious for his membership in the Ku Klux Klan, was captivated by flight. He strove to end the city's isolation on the plains by laying the foundation for Denver Municipal Airport in 1929. Critics went wild, calling the plan downright stupid, and saying the location was so far out east of the city that it might as well be in Kansas. Ultimately, the airport was a success. After the Great Depression of the 1930s, the city and Stapleton focused on the mountain parks, calling for the creation of a "rock garden" in the nearby hills. Years of diligent planning and painstaking construction carved the jagged red rocks into an intimate, natural stadium known as Red Rocks Amphitheatre which even today is still universally recognized as one of the greatest outdoor concert venues in the world.

The 1930s and 1940s also brought a military and federal government presence to Denver, with the opening of Lowry Air Force Base and the Denver Federal Center. This initiated a trend continuing over the next 40 years as Denver and the Front Range became home to Fitzsimmon's Army Hospital, the Air Force Academy, and Buckley Air Field. Now, Denver supports the largest Federal employee population outside of Washington DC. As the Cold War progressed, Denver gained a high-tech military installation in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, as well as the infamous plutonium-producing Rocky Mountain Flats. Although these sites boosted Denver's economy and population, they also caused an enormous amount of controversy. Since the end of the Cold War, the majority of Colorado's major military sites have closed down due to subsequent defense cuts.

During the 1950s, "black gold" struck the hearts of Denverites, sending the economy into another boom, and creating millionaires overnight. Oil companies from around the globe set up shop in Denver, inspiring Mayor Quigg Newton to reevaluate the city's "cow town" persona. The city rode the oil boom long enough to use the steady flow of tax revenue to revitalize schools, institute cultural amenities, and reinvent the central business district. In 1969, the revitalization campaign led to the controversial decision to bulldoze Auraria, Denver's oldest and poorest neighborhood. Originally a separate township, Auraria was a rival to Denver City back in the gold rush days. The two entities eventually settled differences and merged into one, under the name of Denver. From the dust of the wrecking crews, a beautiful urban educational center arose, known as the Auraria Campus. The area now holds three city colleges along with a collection of original neighborhood landmarks, including the Tivoli Brewing Company, St. Elizabeth's Church and St. Cajetan's Church.

The city then turned toward cleaning up rundown areas of downtown. This time, however, the money ran short. Consequently dismantled lots sat vacant and overgrown until the early 1980s.

Another boom followed, this time bringing the towering icons of corporate wealth: skyscrapers. The new oil boom at last transformed the city into a modern metropolis, with immense highrises sprawling along the Front Range and a mobile population almost completely dependent upon the automobile. Unfortunately, like everything else associated with the Mile High City's bipolar history, this boom was also bound to bust.

In the mid-1980s, the price of oil plummeted from USD39 a barrel to USD9, sending the city into a devastating recession. The downtown skyscrapers stood empty, and the central streets of the city soon resembled a ghost town. Much of the populace fled to better opportunities elsewhere.

Federico Pena, Denver's first Hispanic leader, fought tooth and nail to change the city's identity in the late 1980s. Pena reinstated the Chamber of Commerce and directed new funding into Denver's cultural institutions, including the Denver Zoo and the Denver Art Museum. Tourists were already passing though Denver en route to the world-class skiing in the mountains, so Pena decided to initiate a plan to give out-of-towners a reason to stop. Thus, the Mile High City began the slow process of washing away an unsightly industrial past in favor of the glitz associated with a tourist and service oriented town.

Perhaps Pena's greatest feat was paving the way for the construction of the Denver International Airport. Pena's successor, Wellington Webb, Denver's first African American mayor, faced intense scrutiny over the airport site. Located in what is often termed "the middle of nowhere" by locals and tourists alike, the airport is one of the world's largest and is consistently one of the busiest.

Denver's shiny new look fueled yet another economic boom that ignited an urban renaissance under Mayor Webb's watchful eye. The spark that flamed this boom came when the city was awarded a major league baseball franchise in the early 1990s. Planners opted to build a new stadium in the heart of an old warehouse district, by banking on the "If you build it, they will come" philosophy. New businesses, restaurants and shops recognized the brilliance of this theory and quickly moved into the area's surrounding historical structures that had somehow survived the wrecking balls and years of vacancy. The end result: an upscale entertainment district called LoDo, jammed with old, revitalized brick buildings and anchored by Coors Field, a beautifully designed, old-fashioned ballpark. The people, of course, came too. So many, in fact, that developers infiltrated the area and transformed the old buildings into elegant lofts. The success of LoDo spilled into downtown and the surrounding areas, creating an infusion of inner growth. The promotion of luxurious urban living served as an antidote to some of the area's aggressive suburban sprawl. Denver's population now soared at a rate comparable to that of its suburban rivals.

Denver quickly emerged as a lively sports town and entertainment-filled metropolis, attracting gaggles of tourists who instead of leaving, fell in love with the city's energy and mountain setting, and became permanent residents. In 1993, over 30,000 inhabitants of California flooded the Front Range, rocketing the population to over two-million and creating major growth issues as rapid development gobbled up former open spaces to house the new arrivals. New high-tech computer and telecommunication businesses also sought refuge in Denver's endless sunshine.

As the 1990s pushed on, the city continued to focus inward, moving the beloved historical amusement park, Elitch Gardens, to the central Platte Valley just south of LoDo. In 1999, Colorado's Ocean Journey, an interactive aquarium, opened in the central Platte Valley. The same year saw the opening of the Pepsi Center, a new brick and glass structure that plays home to the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche.

Denver's boom and bust cycle has allowed the city to continually reinvent itself, fluctuating from a gold town to a cow town, from an oil town to a tourist town. With each change the city history becomes more complex and vibrant. No one can predict when the next bust will come, but Denver will most likely continue to find new and unique ways to propel itself forward.

Points of interest in Denver, CO

See all points of interest Denver, CO

Departing from:

^Total price one-way per guest. See terms and conditions.

*Prices are per guest, based on double occupancy and are limited; may not reflect real-time pricing or availability. See terms and conditions.

Explore our world.

or find your dream vacation with our Vacation Finder