How to Explore “The Mile-High City” & its Culture

Colorado Convention Center

Your guide to touring the United States city of Denver, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park

Denver is near the mountains, not in them. The Mile High City is located on high rolling plains, 12 miles east of the foothills — a series of gentle mountains that climb to 11,000 feet. Just beyond is the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains, picturesque snowcapped peaks that rise to 14,000 feet (fourteeners as described by locals). Denver might not be in the mountains, but the mountains still dominate the city. The ever-present panoramic mountainscape from Denver is 140 miles long with 200 visible named peaks, including 32 that soar to 13,000 feet and above.

According to its Convention and Visitors Bureau, Denver has a population of 682,545 and about three million people in the metro area. The region’s population grew 13.8 percent between 2010 and 2015. According to the 2015 census, 31 percent of the city is made up of Latinos, while African Americans comprise another 10 percent.

The 16th Street Mall is a mile-long, tree-lined, pedestrian promenade that cuts through the center of downtown. In the evening, the mall comes alive with horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs.

Top L, 16th Street Mall; Top M, Denver Art Museum; Top R, Denver Botanic Gardens; Bottom L, Denver Performing Arts Complex; Bottom R, Elitch Gardens and Theme Park

300 Days of Annual Sunshine

Located east of a major mountain range, Denver is one of the sunniest cities in the country with a mild, dry and bright climate and more annual hours of sun than San Diego or Miami Beach. In winter, Denver is dryer than Phoenix with an average daily high of 45 degrees in February. Golf courses remain open all year and have been played as many as 30 days in January. The city receives about the same amount of precipitation as Los Angeles (only 14 inches each year).

By an amazing stroke of good luck, the 13th step on the west side of the Colorado State Capitol Building is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level — one mile high. In Denver’s rarified air, golf balls go 10 percent farther. So do cocktails. Alcoholic drinks pack more of a punch than they do at sea level. The Mile High City is also extremely dry, so it is a good idea to drink more water than usual. With less water vapor in the air at this altitude, the sky really is bluer here, too.

The city has a definitive, exciting and walkable downtown — 10th largest in the United States. Within a one mile radius, you’ll find three major league sports stadiums, the country’s second-largest performing arts complex, an assortment of art and history museums, a mint producing 10 billion coins a year, a river offering whitewater rafting, the country’s only downtown amusement park, a world-class aquarium, more than 9,500 hotel rooms and 300+ restaurants, brewpubs, rooftop cafes and music venues.

There are also more than 200 parks within city limits and 14,000 acres of parks in the nearby mountains, including the spectacular Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre. Red Rocks is a 9,000-seat ampitheatre that hosts world-class concerts, including The Beatles and top symphony orchestras, as well as special events including Yoga on the Rocks, a summer family movie series called Film on the Rocks and special events, such as blockbuster movie premiers, speakers and international festivals. “Rolling Stone” even named Red Rocks the number one Best Ampitheater in America.

Top L, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey; Top M, Bluebird Theater; Top R, the State Capitol Building; Bottom L, Red Rocks Ampitheatre; Bottom R, Platte River Fest

A History of Brewing

The first building in Denver was a saloon, so it makes sense that this capital city brews more beer than any other. Coors Brewery in nearby Golden is the world’s largest. The Great American Beer Festival hosted here is the largest in the nation, offering more than 6,700 different beers for tasting. The Wynkoop Brewing Company, founded by former Colorado Governor and former city Mayor John Hickenlooper, is one of the largest brewpubs in the country. On an average day in the Denver Metro area, more than 200 different beers are brewed and can be enjoyed in more than 150 breweries, pubs and tap rooms.

A mix of art, culture and outdoors, the city’s cultural renaissance is found in places like the Denver Performing Arts Complex, which covers four square blocks and is the second-largest in the country. It includes 10 theaters that seat more than 10,000 people for opera, symphony, ballet, Tony Award-winning theater and touring Broadway shows. The $92 million Ellie Caulkins Opera House is recognized as one of the finest acoustical venues in the world. Transpose this high-society culture with the nearby mountains — which span an area six times the size of Switzerland and contain 9,600 miles of fishing streams; 2,850 lakes and more than 1,000 peaks two miles high — and the art, kayak and stock parade in the middle of the city start to make more sense.

Now, do you really need any more reason to check out this bustling destination?

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  1. I lived in Austin, TX for a few years when I started undergrad. Denver is a lot like Austin in that there’s a plethora of different cultures and people that congregate and exchange ideas. If you haven’t been to the Red Rocks Amphitheater, you’re missing out!

  2. Denver sounds like the place to be! It’s unpredictable weather makes it the perfect place for people who appreciate a cold winter, warm summer, and anything in between. I had no clue golf balls travel 10 percent farther in Denver. Maybe it’s time for me to grab some clubs and start playing year round.

  3. I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life and didn’t know many of the different highlights of Denver! It is truly a remarkable and stunning city, especially the fact that there are over 200 parks and 14,000 acres in parks nearby. It’s great for people that enjoy living an outdoors lifestyle mixed with a big city lifestyle.

  4. As an international student this article was great to read as I knew little about Denver – the facts and places to see. It gave me great insight on the history of it, what kind of weather to expect, and pictures to show the beauty of denver! perfect for anyone wanting to know and explore denver!

  5. This article highlights all of the reasons I love living in Denver! Denver is such a unique city and it truly has something for everyone. My absolute favorite part about living here is the abundance of music venues and the diversity of genres played throughout the city.

  6. Of the 4 years I have lived in Colorado, I realize I do not know much about Denver at all and I need to get out a lot more. Denver has so much to offer and it needs to be explored. It’s a very interesting city and all the times I have visited it I have always had a good time. There’s also something out there for everybody and their interests.

  7. I’ve been to Denver a lot and live quite close so I thought I knew a lot about it, apparently not! It is very interesting the facts in this article and the pictures truly capture its beauty.

  8. I really enjoyed the depth of information that you shared here on this “tour” You really pointed out the landscape and places in the city but you even went further to discuss the cultural values of music and brewing. I’ve been going to Denver for years and this is the most accurate and objective account of the city that I’ve read.

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