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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.
Even if you hate the sound of excess change rattling around your pockets, you'll find a tour of the Denver branch of the United States Mint to be an interesting way to spend an hour or so. Having opened in 1863, its purpose was to transform the Gold Rush's findings into coinage. Today, the U.S. Mint in Denver can produce up to 50 million coins a day.

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.

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? Possibly nerve-wracking and definitely slow-going yet breathtaking in every sense of the word, Mount Evans Scenic Byway takes you past alpine lakes and meadows, through bristlecone-pine stands and the habitats of elk and bighorn sheep; along the way, you can hike, fish, picnic and even snowshoe. The summit itself is accessible only in summer—and even then the weather can turn nasty without warning.
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.
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