Living in Denver: Things to Do and See in Denver, Colorado
In the Thick of a Renaissance, Denver Reinvents Itself as the Capital of Cool
These up-and-coming Denver neighborhoods are as hip as their names: LoDo, RiNo and LoHi (translations below.) Driven by craft brew pubs, foodie cuisine and distinctive architecture, not to mention a robust economy, Denver is attracting droves of newcomers, smitten with the city’s cultural sophistication and active lifestyle.
This former frontier outpost now offers world-class culture including an opera, art museum, botanical gardens, and even a downtown shopping promenade designed by I.M. Pei. Greater Denver also has some 650 miles of mostly flat biking, running and walking trails.
Living in Denver
Besides the areas of Cherry Creek and Cherry Hills, Denver’s Washington Park is a perennially preferred place to live. Wash Park, as it is better known by locals, is a 165-acre bucolic oasis with two lakes and several flower gardens, one of which is a replica of our first president’s at Mount Vernon. It’s 2.75 shaded track is a mecca for the city’s multitude of fitness buffs. The Uptown area is full of Victorian architecture while Capitol Hill is where to find turn-of-the-century mansions, including that of Titanic survivor, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” which is now a museum.
Here is a decoding of the hot neighborhoods mentioned above:
- LoDo or Lower Downtown pulses with energy from the hip new bars and restaurants that keep popping up. The neighborhood is also home to Larimer Square, a happening dining and retail walking destination under a canopy of lights. Union Station, the century-old train hub, has likewise been renovated. Coors Field, where the Rockies host opposing baseball teams, is also located here.
- RiNo or the River North Arts District fully embraces its industrial vibe, transforming historic warehouses and factories into music venues, breweries, restaurants, art galleries and studio space. The street art is not to be missed.
- LoHi or Lower Highlands is slightly removed from the heart of downtown which means great views of the Denver skyline and some really interesting dining, including urban street food in a former mortuary.
Things to do in Denver
It is nearly impossible to be bored in Denver. There are four professional sports teams that play right downtown. Its neighborhoods are enviably walkable with eateries, galleries, vintage clothes boutiques, antique stores and designer shops. There are so many parks that festivals and concerts are pretty much a weekly event as are activities such as running, fishing, volleyball, and even jet skiing. Red Rocks is known best for it magical mountain setting, natural acoustics and headliners such as U2, Bruce Springsteen, the Grateful Dead and The Beatles (who were said to required require oxygen because of the city’s high altitude). Between concerts the surrounding trails are open to hikers and mountain bikers while fitness runners spring up and down the amphitheater’s 69 rows.
Denver is famous for beer, thanks first to Mr. Coors, and now for the explosion of craft concoctions. No wonder that it hosts what is billed as the country’s largest brew extravaganza. On a more highbrow note, besides the Denver Art Museum and the Performing Arts Complex, don’t miss the botanical gardens with more than 17,000 plant species and the Monet Pool, a stunning water garden. The 16th Street Mall in HiLo is a pedestrian promenade, designed in part by I.M.Pei, and paved in red, white and gray granite to replicate the pattern of a diamondback rattlesnake.
Weekend Trips from Denver
Colorado is silly with national parks, wilderness areas and national monuments. Oh, and A-List ski areas such as Aspen, Snowmass and Telluride. Name your outdoor adrenaline rush: rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, horse packing, mountaineering, hiking, trail running, snowshoeing, fly fishing, bird watching, need we go on? Food-to-table dining is big in the Centennial State as are wellness retreats and upscale spas.
What is the History of Denver
Denver sprang to life when gold was discovered in 1858 in the waters of Cherry Creek where it meets the South Platte River. It wasn’t long before tents, tepees, wagons, lean-tos and roughly constructed cabins lined the banks as fortune hunters panned the water. This is now the site of Confluence Park, now a natural water playground with fishing, tubing, paddle boarding, kayaking and river surfing.
While the gold rush was a bust, Denver boomed again with the discovery of silver in nearby Leadville some 20 years later. This is also about the time the Union Pacific Railroad bypassed Denver so local leaders raised $300,000 to build their own feeder line to converge at Cheyenne, Wyoming, so securing Denver’s place as a commercial hub.
Denver has been a phoenix rising from the ashes throughout its history. In 1863, the rag tag outpost, cobbled together with rickety structures of pine, burned to the ground, ushering in new legislation requiring that buildings be made of stone or brick. A vast improvement with fine architecture still preserved today. Of course, the silver standard crashed in 1933 and leveled a serious blow. Next came the discovery of “black gold” followed by yet another serious downturn, the oil bust of the 1980’s, when the price of a barrel of crude plummeted from $40 to $9 and Denver’s downtown vacancy rates hovered at 40%. Denver roared back again first by attracting global tech companies and ultimately, now, a more diverse economy.
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