Dating back to well to almost 1,000 years ago, the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park represents some of the best-preserved of their kind. In fact, they’re the best preserved in all of North America. Who built them? The Puebloans did, indigenous people of this region of the Americas who constructed the stunning cliff-based buildings back in the 1190s AD. These have been given names like Balcony House, and Cliff Palace, which has 150 rooms. For one of the most interesting things to do in Colorado, ranger-led tours can (and should – trust us) be arranged before your visit.
Why not start your trip to Colorado by understanding the history of its capital, Denver? This city is pretty famous for its Old West feel and is full of old architecture and known for tales of gunfighters, crime families and conmen. Go and admire the frontier town atmosphere, take in views of Union Station and other landmark buildings, see what’s going on.
No, we’re not suggesting you hop on a train and leave town, Denver’s Union Station is a popular tourist attraction in itself. The station building first opened in 1881 and has since undergone major renovations to become the beautiful structure it is today. Along with a historic terminal building, the station also features a grand hotel and several restaurants and retailers.
After your afternoon of devouring basically everything in sight, chances are you’ll be thirsty. So why not balance out all that food with a beer or two? Denver boasts some of Colorado’s top breweries and is famous for its craft (and historic) beers. Check out Novel Stand Brewing Company in the Baker area for a tasting session, or head north for Belgian-style brews at hip taproom Bruz Beers.
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.
Denver's Union Station is a two for one: it's a working public transit station and a highly praised dining and shopping center. The station was a huge success when it first opened to the public in 1881, providing railroad service until the center of the building caught fire in 1894. The architecture from the 1917 redevelopment remains and today, it's home to an Amtrak hub and a bus concourse. Located in the hip Lower Downtown neighborhood (aka LoDo), with multiple dining options and boutiques, and The Crawford Hotel, Union Station is a newfound entertainment center.
Another big draw is the expansive amphitheater, which has hosted such headliners as the Beatles, Tom Petty and John Denver. You'll soon find (and hear) that the theater – geologically formed by the red rocks – boasts amazing acoustics and an enjoyable atmosphere. But many recent visitors said that no matter the show, the majestic atmosphere makes it a good time. Even if you can't fit a concert into your schedule, many travelers agreed that the theater is worth a stop for the photos alone, while the park's visitor center features displays dedicated to past acts.
Football fans won't want to pass up the chance to spend some time on the Denver Broncos' home turf. The stadium can hold more than 76,000 NFL junkies across different levels and it boasts something you don't normally associate with football games: several public art displays. Surprisingly, the stadium was built in 1948 as a minor league baseball stadium, but it became home to Denver's football team shortly after, nurturing "Broncomania" since the team was formed in 1960.
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.
Start your day the right way at Denver Diner. This is a classic, classic place that’s open 24 hours a day and offers up a huge speciality breakfast (one is called “Stoner’s Delight” FYI). Suitably stuffed, roll yourself for 6 minutes to Denver Mint. Opening at 8am, this place is literally the only place that still produces American coinage. Pretty cool to see it all happening. Tip: it’s closed Fridays and the weekend.
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