In 1858, a group of American Indians and settlers struck gold at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Their discovery soon spread back to the East Coast, prompting people to pick up and move west. The site of the original pioneer camp (known back then as Auraria) soon grew into the charming area now known as Larimer Square. Although the city has since expanded, this historic neighborhood remains the heart and soul of the Mile High City, and according to some, it's the place to start your Denver experience. It's also a featured stop on many of the best Denver tours. Recent visitors attest that Larimer Square is always buzzing with life, thanks to the area's numerous restaurants, shops and nightlife venues.
Just a few hours’ drive from Denver lies the historic settlement of Georgetown. Besides its heritage buildings and districts steeped in silver mining history, Georgetown (established in 1859) is a chilled out mountain town to explore for a day. But here it isn’t just about pavement pounding and ducking into a few cute cafes and eateries along the way. It’s also about the train.
Why go? You can either shop for vintage wares, weed or both: These days, SoBo is also called the Green Mile, reflecting the influx of marijuana dispensaries. The quirky shopping experience only gets funkier as you head north into the Baker District, where boutiques like Decade, a source for up-and-coming designer labels, skew as hip as the nearby eateries.
The International Church of Cannabis is one thing, but the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is another level entirely. Conceived in the mid-19th century and finished by 1911 and costing a cool half a million dollars, this impressive cathedral is a pretty impressive place to visit. It’s the kind of thing you might expect, well, not in the USA, but here it is in all its Catholic glory.
Why go? Botanical treasure hunting sound like your new thing? Well, here you can peruse thousands of plant species from across the globe, from cacti to rainforest orchids. It’s also a cultural and educational center, regularly hosting art exhibits, plant shows, gardening classes and more. As you explore, be sure to take a breather in view of glass wizard Dale Chihuly’s Colorado, which graces the pond in the Ellipse Garden.
The Denver Botanic Gardens' 24 acres feature a whopping 50 gardens for visitors to explore. This expansive facility in downtown Denver's Cheesman Park treats travelers to a variety of different environments, from a traditional Japanese garden (complete with bonsai trees) to the South African Plaza blooming with exotic plants like asparagus fern and torch lilies. Meanwhile, art aficionados will also appreciate the gardens thanks to the numerous sculptures that grace the grounds; the facility also plays host to touring exhibits that have included works by such artists as Stephen Talasnik and Dale Chihuly.
Speaking of couples, here’s an awesome thing for couples to do in Colorado: a sunrise hot air balloon ride. Yeah, yeah, we know, you have to get up super early to actually experience this, but honestly, it’s worth it. On a clear day, you’ll be able to see 100 miles in all directions as you watch the Rocky Mountains gradually light up as the sun rises. You’ll even be able to spot wildlife like deer and coyotes from the basket as you float on by. Awesome.
It’s not just any old amusement park – but it is old. Lakeside Amusement Park was opened back in 1908 on the shores of Lake Rhoda and is still a family-run affair to this day. Take a picnic along and visit the park for one of the most fun things to do in Colorado with kids. Complete with views of the mountains from the tops of the rides, you can try out bumper cars or hit the roller coaster. If you’re travelling with young children, no sweat – there’s even rides for smaller children here too. Then again, visiting this slice of history is a pretty cool experience, no matter what age you are.
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Yes, it sounds like something from Parks and Recreation, but disappointingly it actually isn’t. That said it’s only disappointing if you thought you were getting a tour of the office from Leslie. What the Pawnee National Grassland is, well, it’s a chance to hike in some pretty breathtaking, majestic scenery – but it’s not the sort of scenery you’d associate with Colorado.
Those who have driven to Mount Evans recommend taking it slow and admiring the scenery, especially around Echo Lake Park. Located about halfway between Idaho Springs and the top of Mount Evans, Echo Lake boasts excellent fishing conditions, as well as picnic facilities and hiking trails. You can also stop by the Denver Botanic Gardens' Mount Goliath location, just beyond Echo Lake. But the views aren't the only reason to take your time along the Mount Evans Scenic Byway. Recent visitors cautioned others to drive carefully and slowly since there are steep drop-offs; they also recommend dressing in layers as the temperatures fluctuate depending on the elevation.
Modeled after a Kenyan nature preserve, the Denver Zoo is home to more than 4,000 animals, including tigers, black rhinos, kangaroos and orangutans. Sprawling across 80 acres of City Park, this impressive facility boasts a number of ways to view our furry, feathered and reptilian friends. Head to Predator Ridge, the recreated African savanna, to see hyenas, lions and African dogs roam, watch monkeys swing from tree branches at Primate Panorama or catch a glimpse of colorful critters like Panamanian golden frogs and green tree pythons at the Tropical Discovery center. You can also overload on cute during a visit to the nursery and take on a ride on the zoo's train and carousel.
If the idea of floating in the air doesn’t exactly, um, float your boat, then we’ve got another awesome thing for couples to do in Colorado: hit up one of their many hot springs. One of the best is Desert Reef Hot Springs. This geothermically heated water flows from 1000 feet below ground and makes for a mineral-rich, relaxing soak with your partner.
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