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If you opted for a shorter hike (like the flat but still beautiful Lily Lake Trail), then you’ll have time for some afternoon fun. Let off some steam on the way back into Denver at Lakeside Amusement Park. It isn’t any amusement park though: it’s over a century old. Ride the rides, get some lunch at one of the easy eateries here, and then head back into the city.
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.
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 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.
At Seed & Smith, Denver’s premier cannabis facility, you will be able to view the production process from seed to end product. Every stage of cannabis production is seen through glass windows, which mimics the company’s philosophy of transparency. See the grow room, extraction lab and packaging center, and learn everything there is to know about the health benefits of the cannabis plant.
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.
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.
Yes, it sounds like something from Parks and Recreation, but disappointingly it actually isn’t. That said it’s only disappointing if you thought you were getting a tour of the office from Leslie. What the Pawnee National Grassland is, well, it’s a chance to hike in some pretty breathtaking, majestic scenery – but it’s not the sort of scenery you’d associate with Colorado.
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.