In 1858, the discovery of gold in the Rockies brought a rush of eager miners to northern Colorado. After an excruciating trek through the plains the desperados set up camp before heading west into the “hills,” and Denver became a flourishing frontier town. Denver combines urban sophistication and western grit and boasts the nation’s largest park system, brews the most beer of any metropolitan area, and has the highest number of high school and college graduates per capita.
Running north-south, Broadway slices Denver in half. East of Broadway, Colorado Boulevard is also a major north-south thoroughfare. Immediately west of Downtown, I-25 winds its way north-south along the Platte River, intersecting with east-west I-70 just north of downtown, providing the quickest access to the city center. Colfax Avenue, running east-west, is the main north-south dividing line. Travel complications most often result from confusing the numbered streets and numbered avenues: both named and numbered streets run diagonally in the downtown area, at a 45 degree angle to the city’s perpendicular grid. In the rest of the city, numbered avenues run east-west and increase as you head north. Named streets run north-south. Many of the avenues on the eastern side of the city become numbered downtown. The pedestrian-only 16th Street Mall is the hub of Denver’s downtown, and the social, dining, and entertainment center of the city. At night, avoid traveling south of W. Colfax and west of Speer Blvd. Extra care should be taken after dark in LoDo (Lower Downtown), especially if alone.
Many of the best sights in Denver center on downtown. At E. Colfax Ave. and Grant St., the gold-domed Capitol Building, built of Colorado-mined granite, marble, and limestone, is a sensible place to start a visit to the Mile High City. Near the capitol is the Denver Art Museum (DAM), a “vertical” museum housing a world-class collection of Native American art and pre-Columbian artifacts and works by local artists. The New Denver Aquarium offers two spectacular underwater exhibitions: the Colorado River Journey, descending from the Continental Divide to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, and the Indonesian River Journey, emptying from the volcanic Barisan Mountains in Sumatra into the South China Sea. Located in nearby Golden, the Coors Brewery is the world’s largest one-site brewery.
Ensure that your visit to Denver is as amazing as possible by seeing the best attractions. Here is our list of favorites. Click the links to learn more about the tours and activities.
Downtown Denver offers a full range of cuisines, from Russian to traditional Southwestern. The 16th Street Mall is a great place for al fresco dining in warm weather. Gourmet eateries are located southwest of the mall on Larimer St., in Larimer Square. Sports bars and trendy restaurants occupy historic LoDo, the neighborhood extending from Wynkoop St. to Larimer Sq. between Speer Blvd. and 20th St. Outside downtown, Colorado Boulevard and 6th Avenue also have their share of posh restaurants. East Colfax Avenue offers a number of reasonably priced ethnic restaurants, including Greek and Ethiopian cuisine.
Downtown Denver, in and around 16th St. Mall, is an attraction in itself. With ample shopping, dining, and people-watching opportunities, there’s something for everyone.
Every January, Denver hosts the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo, the nation’s largest livestock show and one of the biggest rodeos. Cowboys compete for prize money while over 10,000 head of cattle, horses, sheep, and rabbits compete for “Best of Breed.” Between big events, all sorts of oddball fun takes place, including western battle recreations, monkey sheep herders, and rodeo clowns. The whole area vibrates with ancient rhythms during the Denver March Pow-Wow, at the Denver Coliseum, when over 1000 Native Americans from tribes all over North America dance simultaneously in full costume to the beat of drums. Cinco de Mayo, held at the Civic Center Park between Colfax Ave. and 14th St., attracts 250,000 visitors per year in celebration of Mexico’s victory over the French in 1862. In the same location during the first full week of June, the Capitol Hill Fair is an arts and crafts festival. Along with over 5000 exhibitors, this large outdoor free celebration includes food, dance, and local bands. The Festival of Mountain and plain: a Taste of Colorado, originally named to celebrate Denver’s dual personality as the “Queen City of the Plains” and the “Monarch Metropolis of the Mountains,” packs Civic Center Park on Labor Day weekend. Food, crafts,entertainment, and carnival rides create the family-oriented fun.
In the US, good table manners means quiet eating. Loud chewing, talking with food in your mouth, or slurping are seen as rude, and burping or flatulence is not seen as complementary to the chef. Servers at sitdown restaurants usually expect to be tipped 15-20%.
Dress in the US tends to be more modest than in Europe. Toplessness, particularly in women, should be avoided. Many establishments will require a customer to wear a shirt and shoes. The most acceptable forms of public affection are hugging and holding hands; kissing in public will usually draw some glances. Although most cities are tolerant of homosexuality, gay or lesbian couples should be aware that they may receive unwanted attention for public displays of affection, especially in rural areas. Also, note that many American will say “see you later” without really intending to make future plans.
One of the most offensive gestures in the US is extending your middle finger at someone. Known as “giving someone the finger,” this gesture is considered not only rude, but obscene. On the other hand, a “thumbs up” gesture is a sign of approval and a widely recognized signal for hitchhiking, which Let’s Go does not recommend.