Denver is one of the fastest-growing cities in the West, known for its mountains, sports, craft beer, and altitude. Here’s what to do and see with just one day to explore a mile above sea level.
When you think about Denver, CO, several words and phrases might enter your mind: “Mile High City,” “mountains,” “beer,” and “Broncos” will likely top the list. This rapidly growing metropolis is known for its beautiful summers, its proximity to world-class ski resorts, its plethora of craft breweries, and, yes, the 2016 Super Bowl champs. One day isn’t long enough to delve into all that Denver has to offer, but it’s long enough to dip your toe into what makes this city attract visitors and transplants in droves. Grab your Eagle Creek Backpack and let’s take a tour.
Start your day as the locals do—with a carefully crafted cup of joe. Denver loves its coffee almost as much as it does its beer, and there is no shortage of cute and cozy shops that offer fair-trade, locally roasted beans that are ready to be transformed into a lovely latte, cortado, or Americano.
Stop into Little Owl Coffee or Common Grounds in LoDo (short for Lower Downtown) before checking out the new Union Station. This beautifully restored train station anchors the area with restaurants, bars, and a hotel, and welcomes visitors who arrive on the new light rail line from Denver International Airport.
Now that you’ve had a taste of Denver’s newest landmark, explore the city’s historic and artistic sides with a visit to the History Colorado Center and Denver Art Museum. The former houses both long-term and traveling exhibitions, educational and public programs, Colorado’s Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, the State Historical Fund, the Stephen H. Hart Research Library, and more. The latter is home to a massive art collection, with more than 70,000 pieces.
But Denver’s artistic side can be seen outside the museum’s glass walls, too. Check out the big, blue bear (a 40-foot sculpture created by Lawrence Argent, entitled “I See What You Mean”) that peers into the Colorado Convention Center, “The Yearling” outside the Denver Library, and the “The Dancers” at the Sculpture Park in the Denver Theatre District. And if you flew in, you probably saw the giant blue demon horse at Denver International Airport. If you missed it coming in, keep an eye out during departure.
Hungry? Denver loves its food trucks. Civic Center Park plays host to food trucks three days a week in the summer; during the winter, pop-up fashion pairs with tasty trucks monthly.
It’s time to experience some of Denver’s liquid culture at a craft brewery. Colorado, which is home to more than 280 craft breweries (and 100 breweries, brewpubs, and tap rooms in the Denver area alone), is a major craft beer hub. Wander up to the RiNo (River North) district to eat, drink, and be merry in the Mile High City. You’ll find no fewer than nine breweries in this area (with more in the nearby Curtis Park and LoDo neighborhoods) catering to a variety of tastes. Stop for a pint at Bierstadt Lagerhaus, Ratio Beerworks, or Epic Brewing; all are solid choices. When you’re done, check out the street art (RiNo is also known for its concentration of art galleries) and visit the new Denver Central Market, an airy space that houses a pizzeria, bakery, and confectionery, as well as meat and fish counters.
- Denver loves its neighborhood acronymic portmanteaus: LoDo is Lower Downtown; RiNo is River North; LoHi is Lower Highlands…the list goes on. When in doubt, just ask and someone will point you in the right direction.
- Speaking of directions, the mountains will be your true west in Denver. If you can see the mountains, you’ll always know where west is.
- “Mile High” means 5,280 feet (1,609 meters) above sea level, so plan accordingly. Wear sunscreen (we get 300 days of a sunshine a year), drink plenty of water, and imbibe cautiously. Most Coloradans carry a water bottle to stay hydrated; it’s a solid plan for visitors, too.
- Make sure to package your lotions, shampoos, and other toiletries in secure bottles within your suitcase, and be careful when opening them for the first time—they could explode at altitude.
Planning a winter trip to Denver and want to fit in some skiing or snowboarding? Be sure to check the weather forecast at cotrip.org. While Colorado’s interstates are well maintained, weather can close roads and cause unavoidable delays. It’s always smart to incorporate extra time in your travel plans!
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
America’s Top Snowboard Destinations
World's Best Coastal Walks and Beach Trails
World's Best Under-the-Radar Ski Destinations