Say “Colorado“ and you probably think of Champagne Powder, the Rocky Mountains, craft beers, and goggle tan lines. In 2016, more than 58 million passengers flew into Denver International Airport (DIA), as the city is known to be the gateway to skiing in Colorado. It is located so close to the Rockies' Front Range, many international guests head up to the mountains on the same day of their arrival. Well, be sure not to make that mistake!
Though the region is front row to a mecca for skiers and snowboarders, Denver itself boasts metropolitan variety and Western charm making for a great starting place for travelers venturing into the Rockies. However, the easygoing and laid-back Mile High City has much more to offer apart from being the Gateway to the Rockies. Warning: It may take more than one visit!
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre
For starters, you will want to visit the Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Located just outside of Denver near Morrison, Red Rocks is the world's greatest natural amphitheatre, which is literally built on rock, making it one of the most spectacular venues in Colorado. Besides, Red Rocks Park, occupying nearly 800 acres, offers miles and miles of hiking trails. The Visitor Center features information on the park's history, a Performers' Hall of Fame, and some examples of fossils found in the area. You are a true music fan? Well, you should listen to a concert there and watch the skyline of Denver come to life as the sun sets each night. The Park opens daily one hour before sunrise and closes one hour after sunset.
Due to its unique natural beauty, TouriSpo awarded the Red Rocks Amphitheatre as one of the "Top Tourist Attractions" in the USA.
Tivoli Brewing Company
In the land of beer being Colorado, Denver has emerged more and more as a craft beer scene and holds its own as an ever-growing market for craft breweries. Located in Downtown Denver, the Tivoli Brewing Company is the oldest operating brewery in Colorado, selling beer since 1859. With its welcoming atmosphere, it definitely adds to Denver's laid-back attitude. Apart from its beer-time-travel with flavors of past and present, brewery tours are offered and highly recommended, as it is not only informative, but also great fun and tasty.
Denver Botanic Gardens
You are into roses, irises, and daylilies? The 23-acre oasis in the middle of the city, the Denver Botanic Gardens, features an orangerie, an amphitheatre, and one of the nation's best conservatories. It consists of two diverse locations at Denver's York Street and Chatfield Farms in Littleton. While the latter is a 700-acre working farm and refuge for native plants, home to numerous wildflower gardens and nature trails, York Street comprises over 40 individual gardens and some 33,000 plants treating visitors to a variety of different environments. Relax in a traditional Japanese Garden surrounded by bonsai trees, or explore the South African area blooming with exotic plants.
If you're into sports why not plan a visit to Coors Field baseball park, which is home to Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies? The stadium has the capacity to seat a whopping 50,300 fans. Even if you are not able to catch a game, you should tour the stadium and meet Dinger, the mascot. Guided tours provide a behind-the-scenes look and allow you to visit areas you would not get to see if you just caught a game. Moreover, there is an Interactive Area you can check out with your kids and an in-house brewery perfect to sample some local brews with your friends. The giant rooftop allows for fantastic views of the field and the city of Denver, so anyway, fans leave always happy, win or lose.
Denver Central Market
The fancy food court Denver Central market officially opened its doors in September 2016. Featuring 11 gourmet vendors, the market is open seven days a week and provides both essential grocery items and delicious food of the local culinary scene. Stop in for a cold brew coffee at Crema Bodega, soothe your sweet tooth at High Point Creamery, or get your wine fix at Curio Cocktail Bar.
16th Street Mall
The mile-long pedestrian mall, called 16th Street Mall, runs along 16th Street in downtown Denver. Lined with 200 trees and thousands of flowers, it is home to more than 300 stores and entertainment venues. Over 50 restaurants, cafés, and bars abound in this shopping mecca. Being compared to what Rodeo Drive is to Los Angeles, the 16th Street Mall is a popular place to visit - and if your credit card does not feel like working out, you can take a stroll along the mall and enjoy some people-watching. If you'd like to save on shoe-leather, hop aboard the free MallRide shuttle bus, which stops on every corner making dozens of places downtown easy to reach. After sunset, opt for pedicabs and horse-drawn carriages instead.
Located in South Central Denver, Washington Park spreads over 165 acres and is thus one of the city's largest parks. Due to its welcoming, unique character and atmosphere encouraging community involvement, the Park is popular among tourists and locals alike. Boasting a 2.6-mile jogging path, flower gardens, two massive lakes with boat rentals, sports fields, a lawn bowling green, and a Recreation Center, the park is often compared to the Central Park in NYC. The majority of travelers and "Denverites" highly recommend spending some time there.
Denver Zoo, located in Denver's City Park, provides amazing photo opportunities with its lions, black rhinos, tigers, bears, kangaroos, gorillas, and models of dinosaurs around every corner. Open every day, it is home to more than 4,000 animals representing 650 species from all over the world. Tropical Discovery opened in 1993 and takes its visitors into the land of rainforests, crocodiles, jungles, and coral reefs. Everyone who is into participating in up-close animal encounters and is thrilled to bits about getting the insider's scoop on rhinos and elephants should book one of the zoo's guided tours.
Art Museums and Exhibitions
Located in the historic Navarre Building, the American Museum of Western Art represents a cross section of paintings from the early 19th century through the age of industrialization, surveying the art of the American West. Permanent home of the Anschutz Collection, over 300 paintings are displayed making for a better understanding of the beauty and history of the American West. The Museum offers both guided and self-guided tours. Art lovers should also pay a visit or two to the Denver Art Museum, displaying the world's greatest collection of Native American art, or the Clyfford Still Museum, which opened in 2011 in honor of Clyfford Still, one of the first Abstract Expressionists artists, who used to talk at the University of Colorado in Boulder in the 1960s.
Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park
Do you ever wonder what it would be like to travel at a speed of 70 mph sitting in a roller coaster with the skyline of Denver in the background? Well, we can help you out with that. Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park is really two parks in one: Experience thrill rides in looping roller coasters or cool off in the water park with half pipe water attractions and a large tube slide tower. The only downtown theme park in the United States is open from early May to early November.
Downtown Aquarium Denver
Last but not least there is the Downtown Aquarium Denver, which houses over 500 species of sea life. There is also an Aquarium Restaurant to enjoy some upscale-casual dining, a bar called Dive Lounge and a Stingray Reef touch tank, where it is possible to pet stingrays. Once you got in there, you will be impressed by the million gallons of exhibits and ecosystems representing America and the rainforests of the world. Guaranteeing family fun at its best, the Downtown Aquarium Denver doesn’t disappoint.