Rocky Mountain National Park is arguably the most accessible park in the Western USA, being only a few hours away from Denver. It is also one of the most impressive national parks in the entire nation and receives a boatload of visitors. Spend a day exploring this park, either renting a car to drive the superlative Trail Ridge Road (summer only) or via one of the many trails.
I’m sure you’re already aware of some of the things to do in Denver. As you can imagine, Denver’s proximity to nature and mountains means it offers plenty of opportunities to ski, climb, hike and enjoy many other outdoor pursuits. But for those who prefer to exert less energy while on holiday there is also a fantastic array of art galleries, museums and interesting architecture to enjoy too.
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A trip to Colorado without hiking is like sacrilege. There’s tons of places you could be getting into the great outdoors here, none quite as spectacular as the Rocky Mountains themselves. Nature trails run for miles and miles past alpine lakes and snow-capped mountains in this rugged natural wonderland. Hiking here is one of the best outdoorsy things you could do in Colorado. Don’t worry: there’s different hikes to suit different abilities. Lily Lake Loop, for example, is super easy and is great for all the views without much of the puff involved.
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.
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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.
With galleries showcasing more than 70,000 works by famed artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Winslow Homer, the Denver Art Museum houses one of the most impressive collections of art between Chicago and the West Coast. Spread across two buildings, the museum's holdings range from pre-Columbian artifacts to contemporary displays with such mediums as painting and sculpture represented. One of the highlights of a visit to the Denver Art Museum is its extensive assembly of western American art, which includes paintings, sculptures and works on paper related to the West going back two centuries.
Why go? Cucci has a knack for designing restaurants that owe some of their success to a quirky backstory. Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox is an eye-poppingly risqué tribute to its building’s history, while what was once a mid-century garage now informs the vintage cool of Root Down. Take it all in over a meal that showcases the Edible Beats restaurant group’s focus on earth- and lifestyle-conscious food and drinks. Oh – and if you want to be entertained by more than just delicious edibles, it's worth sneaking a peek at Ophelia’s events calendar, where you'll find everything from singer/songwriter evenings and pizza disco parties to comedy showcases and open mics.
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.