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.
Do you like food? Good, because Denver has a real vibrant culinary landscape going on and you should definitely make it your quest (we’re using that word) to discover what the cuisine here is on offer. There’s a lot of history layered in between the different dishes on offer, making it a good way to find out about who made the city what it is. Think Mexican and indigenous influences. Try shishito peppera la plancha combined with sheep’s cheese, Rocky Mountain oysters (yes, that’s a thing), Olathe Sweet Corn, to name just a few.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
If you came to Denver to experience the Rocky Mountains, you'll want to reserve a day to take a drive up to Mount Evans. In this instance, it isn't the destination that travelers rave about – it's the journey. To get to Mount Evans, you'll have to hop on the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, a two-lane road known as the "road into the sky" because of the nearly 9,000 feet of elevation change. At the Mount Evans peak, drivers will be 14,264 feet above sea level. Along the way, you'll find a number of lookout points from which you can admire the view of the Rockies.
When you’re away with kids, the top priority (basically) is to keep ’em entertained and at Denver Museum of Nature and Science, you can do just that. We mean, what pre-teen adolescent doesn’t love space? Or dinosaurs? Because there’s plenty of all that stuff going on here. The planetarium is pretty cool actually. It even makes for one of the best things to do in Colorado when it rains because there’s nothing worse than getting totally rained off indoors with bored, restless kids practically scuttling up the walls of your hotel.
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.
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To learn more about the art, history and retail space of the station, as well as the luxury hotel, consider taking a tour. The Crawford Hotel offers tours of Union Station for $20 and the proceeds benefit the hotel's Dollars For Dreams nonprofit partners. The tour culminates at the Terminal Bar for a complimentary drink, so visitors can get the full Union Station experience.
The 16th Street Mall is to Denver what Rodeo Drive is to Los Angeles. This mile-long pedestrian thoroughfare, which stretches across the southern end of the LoDo district and bypasses Larimer Square, is lined with a variety of stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, making it a popular place to visit at nearly all hours of the day (although some travelers note that the area can feel a bit dicey at night, despite a heavy police presence). Even if you're not looking to give your credit card a workout, recent visitors recommend taking a stroll along the 16th Street Mall, as it leads to some excellent people-watching.