Why go? In 1983, a little-known Irish band happened to film a performance at what you might call nature’s own music hall—and the rest, as U2 fans know, is rock history. Of course, it also serves as one of the world’s most breathtaking gyms, where runners get super-sweaty attempting to tackle the seemingly endless staircases and hikers hit the trails through the surrounding 868-acre park.
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Artistic visionaries and the spirit of rogue ingenuity define this route that starts in Denver, winds through the plains of southeastern Wyoming, and finishes in Alliance, Nebraska. It takes you off the beaten path to discover quirky art installations, historic monuments, local flavors, and natural wonders. This route of 11 inspiring spots is certain to spark the autonomous flame for all who take it on.
A trip to Colorado without hiking is like sacrilege. There’s tons of places you could be getting into the great outdoors here, none quite as spectacular as the Rocky Mountains themselves. Nature trails run for miles and miles past alpine lakes and snow-capped mountains in this rugged natural wonderland. Hiking here is one of the best outdoorsy things you could do in Colorado. Don’t worry: there’s different hikes to suit different abilities. Lily Lake Loop, for example, is super easy and is great for all the views without much of the puff involved.
That’s right: the Georgetown Loop Railroad takes you out of the city on a narrow gauge railway, along and across Clear Creek, for some prime mountain views on a history-laden steam train, complete with vintage carriages to match. Any sort of person wanting to soak up the past of this area will enjoy this one, but if you’re a train fan… this day trip in Colorado is going to make your head explode. In a good way.
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.
The International Church of Cannabis is one thing, but the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is another level entirely. Conceived in the mid-19th century and finished by 1911 and costing a cool half a million dollars, this impressive cathedral is a pretty impressive place to visit. It’s the kind of thing you might expect, well, not in the USA, but here it is in all its Catholic glory.
Colorado is home to over 80 wineries spread out across the state, including the highest altitude vineyards in the US! Visits to the wine country are normally a two or three-day affair and a pleasant experience. But, if you don’t have the time to head out of town on your Denver itinerary, then you’ll be pleased to know that many of the wineries have cellar doors right in the city!
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.
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.
Still haven’t packed enough into your Colorado vacation? Make time to see some of the great Colorado mountain attractions — tour a ghost town near Aspen, sail above the mountains in a balloon over Breckenridge, rock out at a music festival in Telluride, check out the nightlife scene in Vail and try your luck at a casino in Black Hawk, Central City or Cripple Creek.
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.
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.