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Denver Travel Guide

Denver is known as the “Mile High City” because it sits on an elevation close to 5,300 feet high. But perhaps it should be known instead as a city of contrast; while its metropolis of nearly three million people[1] beams with skyscrapers and its bustling streets are lined with street malls, trendy cafes, and world-class museums,[2] Denver is also set amidst the beautiful Rocky Mountains, steps away from 20,000 acres of parklands[3] and a drive away from wilderness areas, hiking and bike trails, and camping sites along creeks, rivers and lakes. This makes Denver perhaps the quintessential city in the U.S. where nature truly meets man. The most surprising thing about Denver, however, is its climate. With its high altitude, proximity to world-famous ski resorts, and oft winter reports of blizzards and snowed-in flights, one would imagine it to be predominantly harsh and cold throughout the year. On the contrary, Denver is actually the sunshine leader of the U.S., enjoying more days of sunshine than San Diego or Miami. All this adds up to a destination that is both perfect year-round for outdoor lovers and adventurers – offering skiing, hiking, backpacking, and mountain biking[4] – and amenable to those looking for a more cultured vacation.

Denver remains the largest city west of the Mississippi and east of California, located at the western tip of the Colorado Plains and at the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, which summit as high as 14,000 feet.[5] Colorado’s peak elevation is at 5,280 feet, which often induces altitude sickness in visitors. Be prepared to drink lots of water, which should mitigate against the altitudinal effects. Fortunately, the weather in Denver is temperate and the humidity low.[6] And almost every day, or at least 300 days out of the year, you’ll see the sun come out.[7]

The heart of Denver is its downtown, which is the 10th largest in the U.S. Downtown Denver runs north-south along Broadway, which divides the city into the east and west whereas Ellsworth Avenue runs east-west, dividing the city into the north and south.[8] Most of the liveliness of the city is found along the mile-long promenade in downtown, an enclave of fine restaurants, outdoor eateries, upscale shops, and cultural sights like museums and galleries.[9]

The city of Denver itself encompasses more than 150 square miles, sprawled by the suburbs of Boulder, Englewood, Central City, Evergreen, Idaho Springs, Golden, and Lakewood.[10]

Attractions – Downtown
Denver is a city of Victorian mansions, brick homes, and tree-lined streets that together create a comfortable setting for residents and visitors alike. Most of the historic structures have been spared destruction.[11]

State Capitol Building
The State Capitol Building was completed in 1894 and features a gold dome and opulent appointments. The interior is impressive, constructed with rose onyx and quarries. If you climb the 93-step staircase, you’ll get a stunning view of Denver and the Rocky Mountains beyond.[12]

Molly Brown House
The Molly Brown House is about two blocks from the State Capitol, located at the top of Pennsylvania Street where many mansions were built by the people who struck it rich during Colorado’s gold and silver rush. The highlight of the street is the Molly Brown House with its two sculpted lions and opulent exterior. It is more famous, however, for being the home of the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, who was immortalized for her bravery during the sinking of the Titanic. The mansion has been restored with period furniture, extravagant flourishes, and gilt-edge wallpaper. On display are Molly Brown’s memorabilia and a tour of the house is provided by guides in era costumes.[13]

Colorado History Museum
The Colorado History Museum showcases the finest examples of Anasazi pottery and contains dioramas depicting buffalo hunts, frontier forts, and mining techniques. You’ll also find mining equipments, wagons, and sod houses on display and artifacts and memorabilia that retrace the state’s history, events, and people.[14]

Denver History Museum
The Denver History Museum occupies the Byers-Evans House built by William Byers in 1883. He was the founder of the Rocky Mountain News. It later became the residence of Colorado’s second governor, John Evans. Today, the home provides a glimpse of what life in Colorado was like in the post WWI era.[15]

Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum features the world’s finest examples of Native-American art with over 55,000 works in this category. There is also an Asian art and modern and contemporary collection.[16] Perhaps more striking is the architecture of the museum building – a modern 10-story structure with windows located randomly into the building’s 28 sides.[17]

Museum of Western Art
The Museum of Western Art has an impressive collection of Western Art that includes 125 paintings and bronze sculptures from the Western frontier era, to the fur-trapping era, through to WWII. The museum occupies a building that once was used as a gambling hall and bordello. The wealthy and elite used to travel covertly underground via a tunnel that connected the museum with the Brown Palace Hotel from across the street.[18]

Denver Public Library
The Denver Public Library is a must-see attraction, as it was designed by the postmodern architect Michael Graves. It opened its doors in 1995. The library is world renowned for its Western History[19] and fine arts collection with more than 600,000 photographs, 200,000 books, 3,500 manuscripts, and other artifacts.[20]

United States Mint
The United States Mint is an extremely popular tourist attraction, set in an Italian Renaissance building with 5-feet thick walls.[21] More U.S. money is made here than anywhere else[22] and it also has the second largest stash of gold bullion after the mint in Fort Knox, Tennessee.[23]

Brown Palace Hotel
The Brown Palace Hotel is a stubby sandstone rectangular building completed in 1892 that reminds everyone of the gold and silver glory days of Denver’s past. It is a Victorian structure with art deco delights. The atrium is nine stories high with Tiffany stained glass.[24]

LoDo (or Lower Downtown) is a neighborhood bounded by Larimer Square, Coors Field, Union Station, and Cherry Creek and is one of the hot spots of Denver. It is lined with dozens of art galleries, restaurants, shops, and all the night clubs and sports bars.[25]

Attractions – Outside Downtown

Denver Museum of Nature and Science
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science is a popular museum that features old Colorado dinosaur skeletons as well as dioramas displaying various plants and animals of North America. You’ll also find mineral displays, including the largest gold nugget in Colorado – “Tom’s Baby”. The museum also has an IMAX Theatre and a planetarium with laser shows that present the solar system.[26]

Denver Zoo
The Denver Zoo is one of the top 10 zoos in the U.S. It has innovative natural habitats and exhibits,[27] which house various animals like grizzly bears, polar bears, Asiatic black bears, apes, lions, hyenas, African wild dogs, Asian elephants, and even Komodo dragons.[28]

Denver Botanic Gardens
This garden features hundreds of trees and plants with a significant collection of alpine plants and shrubs. You’ll find everything from carob to banana trees. There is also a Japanese garden.[29]

Denver started out as a mining camp in 1858, set up by gold prospectors during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush. At the time, the settlement was nothing more than dozens of cabins and a saloon. However, the silver rush in the 1870s helped Denver establish itself as a city.[30] In the following decades, mining in Denver itself fizzled[31] but the population still grew as its milder climate made it an ideal shipping and trade center for the rich mining taking place in the nearby mountains. This role as a hub, coupled with the U.S. Mint headquartering itself in Denver, enabled the city to become a financial and cultural center of the region.[32]

After WWII, Denver expanded even more through a series of booms. The city was especially aided by the energy crises of the 1970s and 80s. Since the region was overflowed with natural gas, oil, coal, and uranium, the high prices during those periods allowed Denver to prosper. Skyscrapers were erected everywhere and the city solidified its position as the regional financial, transportation, and supply hub.[33] When oil prices plummeted in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Denver diversified its economy. Its half-empty and cheap office spaces attracted new companies. Today, it is no longer dependent on the market forces dictating the demand and supply of natural resources. The city boasts a diverse economy and is entrenched firmly as a headquarters for many cable and telecom companies. [34]

“Denver.” < http://wikitravel.org/en/Denver>

“Denver.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denver>

“Denver Art Museum.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denver_Art_Museum>

“Denver City Guide – Overview.” < http://www.cityguide.travel-guides.com/city/41/city_guide/North-America/Denver.html>

“Denver Public Library.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denver_Public_Library>

“Introduction to Denver.” < http://www.frommers.com/destinations/denver/0007010001.html>

“Denver Zoo.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denver_Zoo>

“History of Denver, Colorado.” < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Denver%2C_Colorado>

Klusmire, Jon, and Paul Chesley. Compass American Guides: Colorado, 6th Edition. New York: Fodors LLC, 2003. ISBN: 140001204X.

[1] Introduction
[2] Denver City
[3] Introduction
[4] Denver City
[5] Id.
[6] Denver (wikitravel)
[7] Denver City
[8] Denver (wikipedia)
[9] Denver City
[10] Klusmire, 41
[11] Id. at 47
[12] Id.
[13] Id. at 49
[14] Id.
[15] Id.
[16] Denver Art
[17] Klusmire, 51
[18] Id.
[19] Id. at 49
[20] Denver Public
[21] Klusmire, 51
[22] Denver (wikitravel)
[23] Klusmire, 51
[24] Id.
[25] Id. at 52
[26] Id. at 54
[27] Id.
[28] Denver Zoo
[29] Klusmire, 55
[30] Introduction
[31] History
[32] Introduction
[33] Klusmire, 55
[34] Denver (wikipedia)

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