Denver offers attractions ranging from historic Western landmarks to modern amusement parks. Downtown, the Colorado State Capitol features a 24-carat gold-plated dome; the 13th step of its stairway is set at the altitude of exactly one mile above sea level. A few blocks away is the United States Mint, where nearly a third of the nation's gold supply is stored. Larimer Square, Denver's first main street and a restored Victorian historical district, is an especially popular tourist site. Also downtown is Elitch Gardens, a year-round amusement park offering more than 26 thrill rides, formal gardens, restaurants, and shops. Across the river, Colorado's Ocean Journey, open and under renovation in 2005, combines the qualities of aquariums and sea life parks in an exciting interactive experience that is both fun and educational. The 80-acre Denver Zoo is a modern facility, housing more than 4,000 animals in natural environments; a highlight is a new exhibit featuring 14 African species and 50 animals in a natural and educational habitat called Predator Ridge. It has been listed as one of the 10 best zoos in the nation.
The area is filled with historic buildings, homes, and mansions that are open to the public. Many Denver neighborhoods retain a large part of their historical and architectural
The arts are well supported in Denver, both in recently constructed facilities and elegant historically preserved buildings. The Denver Performing Arts Complex (PLEX), covering a four-block area, is an $80 million, architecturally stunning complex, second largest in the country behind New York's Lincoln Center, which offers almost every facet of the cultural world from Shakespearean drama to popular music. Many small theaters, galleries, and open-air exhibits can also be found throughout the city.
Denver enjoys a thriving performance community comprised of a number of theater and dance companies, as well as music and opera groups. Germinal Stage Denver, an avant-garde theater, stages five or six productions a year, and each summer the University of Colorado at Boulder sponsors a Shakespeare Festival. Dance in all its forms, from folk to ballet to modern, is performed frequently throughout the area. The Boettcher Concert Hall, considered one of the great music halls in the country, was the first symphony hall in the round in the United States, and is the home of the renowned Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Opera is presented by Opera Colorado; in 2005 Opera Colorado will be moving into its new home, the Ellie Caulkins Opera House.
The Colorado History Museum displays exhibitions highlighting the history of Colorado and the West with changing and permanent exhibits on Native Americans, miners, and other settlers. The Museum of Outdoor Arts is a unique museum without walls that showcases a blend of architecture, fine art, and landscaping. Offering a versatile collection of activities for children of all ages, the Children's Museum of Denver includes live theater, playscapes for children of all ages, a market, assembly plant, and a fire station.
The Denver Art Museum is an impressive seven-story structure containing more than 30,000 art objects; a highlight is the world's leading collection of Native American art. The Colorado Railroad Museum, housed in a replica of an 1880s depot, is considered to be one of the best privately supported rail museums in the United States. Also of interest is a Museum of Miniatures, Dolls and Toys and the Denver Firefighters Museum.
Denver schedules an abundance of festivals and special events throughout the year. The National Livestock Show and Rodeo, which has been called the "Super Bowl of cattle shows," occurs each January. It features nearly a month of western music performances, prize-winning livestock exhibitions, and rodeo events with the country's top rodeo stars. The show culminates with the award for Livestock's Man of the Year. From May through September, outdoor shows and musical events are held at Red Rocks and Fiddlers Green amphitheaters and at LoDo.
Other special events in Denver include the nation's second largest St. Patrick's Day parade in March, followed by the Littleton River Festival in May. The Colorado Renaissance Festival, a recreation of medieval England, takes place each weekend during June and July. The Colorado Indian Market, featuring the art, dances, food, and culture of native Americans, is held in January. Larimer Square is the site of the annual Oktoberfest.
Denver fields a professional team in almost every major sport. The Denver Broncos of the National Football League won back-to-back Super Bowls in 1998 and 1999. The team moved to Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium in 2001. The National Basketball Association's Nuggets have had several playoff successes. The Colorado Rockies National League Baseball team play home games at Coors Field. The Colorado Avalanche, Denver's National Hockey League team won the Stanley Cup in 2001. Denver area colleges and universities compete in a variety of sporting events. In 2004 a Sports Business Research Network report described Denver as the most loyal and enthusiastic of America's top 41 sports cities.
Auto racing takes place at the Colorado National Speedway, and for those who enjoy parimutuel betting, the greyhound races at the Mile High Kennel Club in Commerce City provide plenty of excitement. Denver is also a major stop on the National Rodeo Circuit.
The nearby Rocky Mountains provide abundant opportunities for sports-minded individuals year round. In the winter, skiers from the world over come to try their luck on the famous slopes. Rock and mountain climbing, fly fishing in the clear mountain streams, white-water canoeing and rafting, and hiking through the splendid mountain vistas are among the most popular recreations in spring, summer, and fall.
A $45 million, 24-year project to clean up the stretch of the South Platte River that runs through Denver has resulted in bike paths and a series of 11 beautiful parks; man-made boat chutes provide kayaking and rafting opportunities, and the banks of the river are lined with picnic areas and wetlands. Denver County maintains more than 205 parks, 29 recreation centers, 14,000 acres of Denver Mountain Parks, and 2,500 acres of natural areas along with numerous baseball fields, basketball courts, and other sports venues. There are more than 75 public and private golf courses in the metropolitan area and several area lakes offering water skiing, sailing, swimming, and fishing.
Denver's newest shopping venue, Colorado Mills, opened in 2004 and offers 200 new stores. In downtown, Denver Pavilions retail and entertainment center covers two square blocks in the heart of downtown Denver and features 34 stores, 6 restaurants, a nightclub, and 15 movie theaters. Flatiron Crossing opened in 2000 and offers indoor/outdoor shopping in 200 stores and a 14-theater movie complex. A variety of other shopping experiences can be found in Denver, ranging from small, specialized shops to large national outlet malls. The Sixteenth Street Mall, a sculptured pedestrian walkway stretching for over a mile in the downtown district, is lined with shops and restaurants. The recently revitalized Cherry Creek Shopping Center features upscale department stores and more than 160 specialty shops in an enclosed mall. The adjacent Cherry Creek Shopping District is known for its aesthetically appealing shops and galleries. With the success of Larimer Square, a renovated historical area of specialty stores, the entire lower downtown area is rapidly attracting unique shops, galleries, and restaurants. Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store has been hailed by The New York Times as "one of the truly great independent book stores in America."
Other interesting areas include Sakura Square, a group of Asian markets and art galleries; and Tivoli, a converted brewery that houses many shops, movie theaters, and some of Denver's finest restaurants. Park Meadows is a 1.5 million square foot shopping center located 12 miles south of the city; it is designed to resemble a mountain ski resort and is anchored by Nordstrom, Foley's, and Dillard's.
Denver is well known for its fine beefsteak and traditional Western fare, but a much wider range of dining experiences is also available at more than 2,000 restaurants, from fast food to haute cuisine. Area specialties include spicy Mexican dishes, local fish and game delicacies such as buffalo, elk, venison, and Rocky Mountain trout, and native Southwestern food. A large number of international and ethnic restaurants complete the dining choices. A favorite nighttime gathering spot is LoDo, or Lower Downtown, which has been transformed since the opening of nearby Coors Field from an industrial warehouse district into a thriving area of elegant restaurants and sports bars.
Visitor Information: Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1555 California, Suite 300, Denver, CO 80202; telephone (303)892-1112