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.
Denverites don't hesitate to praise their beloved Washington Park, comparing it to Boston Common or New York City's Central Park. You can get to Washington Park from the downtown area by hopping on the E light rail line. You are welcome to visit Washington Park at any time of day or night, and there's no entry fee; however, different facilities within the park adhere to their own hours of operation and may charge admission. For more information, visit the Washington Park website.
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.
Why go? Peep iconic modernist furnishings (see: Irving Harper’s marshmallow sofa and Pierre Paulin’s ribbon chair) and exquisite Art Nouveau and Art Deco housewares. Located in the studio of its late namesake, Vance Kirkland, the collection is displayed salon-style—which means that you’re surrounded on all sides by irreplaceable objet d'art as you wander through the galleries. (For better or worse, children under 13 are not admitted.)
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With exhibits featuring everything from dinosaur bones to Egyptian mummies, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science inspires learning in the young and young at heart. This impressive facility houses artifacts pertaining to a variety of scientific areas, including anthropology, zoology, geology, health sciences, paleontology and space science. Some of the more popular displays include the wildlife exhibit, which includes more than 90 habitat scenes containing information on animals from around the world, from Alaska to Australia. Meanwhile, the hands-on Space Odyssey area introduces travelers to the outer reaches of the galaxy and beyond.
The Mile High City has been drawing outdoor enthusiasts for years, thanks to the ample powder and abundance of ski trails in winter. When it comes to staying active, hiking, biking, and snowmobiling are just some of the other ways to spend your time in Denver. When temperatures warm in Colorado’s capital, you can enjoy a scenic aerial trip through the mountains on the longest zipline track in the state. Indeed, adventures in Denver are certainly easy to come by. When you’re finding things to do in Denver, however, don’t forget that the City of Plains is also rife with art and culture, including along the Golden Triangle Museum District.
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.
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.
One of the most unmissable things to do in Colorado is to hit up the Rocky Mountains for a spot of hiking. It’s a no-brainer. An hour and a half drive outside of Denver, join one of the many, many trails. We’d recommend Twin Sisters Peak (which is even more reachable if you’re staying in Boulder). It’s quite challenging though and will take pretty much all day.
The Source epitomizes the soul of the surrounding RiNo district. Recently wrought by industrial blight, entrepreneurs have ingeniously repurposed abandoned buildings and scrap materials to ressurect the neighborhood as the city's new artistic hub. Not only a one-stop shop for all things gourmet, the Source is also a captivating architectural space.
A lot of people come to this state for its mountains. Granted, there are a lot of those. But the Pawnee National Grassland is a vast area of flat, seemingly unending grasslands where you can hike along 20,000 kilometres of trails taking in the vast steppes-like, prarie style environment with a few freak stacks dotting the alien landscape for good measure.
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.
Located south of central Denver, Washington Park is consistently praised by Denverites and visitors alike for its ample facilities and enjoyable atmosphere. Occupying 165 acres, this immense park boasts miles jogging paths, swaths of gardens and, most notably, two massive lakes. Washington Park is a popular weekend hangout spot thanks to the variety of things to do here. You can spend your time simply relaxing on the grass, or you can take advantage of the park's eight tennis courts, boat rentals and Recreation Center, which houses a pool and offers scheduled fitness classes and swim lessons.