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.
From Denver Mint hop on the number 5 bus (or get a taxi) and you’ll arrive at Seed & Smith in a matter of 20 minutes or so. Here’s where you can learn all about the world of recently legalised marijuana. It’s a squeaky clean dispensary and much more than just a bunch of stoners selling weed. If you’ve partaken, never fear: there’s a McDonald’s a stone’s throw from here.
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.
If a Jeep or other 4×4 just won’t cut it for you, and you’re actually more of an outdoors person who likes to be in it rather than just drive through it, how about climbing? Garden of the Gods also has some absolutely awesome climbing routes (Montezuma’s Tower is ah-mazing) and makes for one of the best adventurous things to do in Colorado. We mean, how could you not get better views of this stunning location without climbing up high? It’s not just for veteran climbers: people with different experience levels can get on board with this one.
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Begin your Colorado trip in Denver – that’s the best base, we’d say – by learning about the history in the capital of Colorado itself. The sights here date back to the Old West era and a good place to start is Union Station: it’s not just a transit hub, it’s a vibrant landmark in itself with loads going on. Feels (looks) like Europe. From here walk 10 minutes to the oldest part of the city, Larimer Square.
Why go? Absorb the Beaux Arts aura of the majestic, barrel-vaulted Great Hall while sipping local craft beers in the retro-toned Terminal Bar or cocktails on the mezzanine of the glamorous Cooper Lounge. Score a seat at Stoic & Genuine’s chef’s counter to indulge in sharp twists on seafood classics or treat yourself to a feast at Mercantile Dining & Provision, where farmhouse substance meets cosmopolitan style.
It might not be the cheapest thing to do in Colorado, but heading up to the Peaks Lounge at the top of the Hyatt Regency is definitely one of the best things to do in Denver at night. The view from up here on the 27th floor of the Hyatt building offers up an immense vista of the city skyline. Have cocktails as the sunsets and watch the buildings of Denver begin to glitter in an urban light show that you really should capture to show off just where you are and what you’re doing. To top it all off, Peaks Lounge has great service (as it should) and an awesome ambience. Definitely one of the best things to do in Colorado for couples, actually.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ok, so maybe you’ve partaken in some of Colorado’s cannabis culture, maybe you haven’t, but trust us: you do not need to be high to experience this modern marvel. Fifty-Two 80’s is a shop that’s dedicated wholeheartedly to 1980s Saturday morning cartoon culture, amongst other things. It’s a place to come and relive childhood memories in a cave of ’80s memorabilia.
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