From 14,000-foot-high peaks to arid desert landscapes, miles of sand dunes to miles of aspen trees, Colorado’s terrain is breathtakingly diverse—and filled with history. Dinosaurs roamed the area during the Late Triassic period, leaving behind tracks near Morrison and Golden; and fossils were unearthed during the construction of Denver’s Coors Field, providing the inspiration for the MLB Colorado Rockies’ team mascot: Dinger the triceratops. Historic American Indian cliff dwellings remain intact at sites like Mesa Verde National Park, located west of Durango; and Colorado’s mining-boom past can still be found in mountain towns like Leadville and Idaho Springs. Today, the capital city of Denver is home to many of the state’s major league sports teams: the Rockies, NFL’s Denver Broncos, MLB’s Denver Nuggets and MLS’ Colorado Rapids. The ever-expanding city hosts a myriad of festivals, parades and events in its downtown area and the surrounding tree-lined-street neighborhoods. The renovated transportation hub Union Station bookends the north end of downtown, with the Colorado State Capitol building, U.S. Mint building and Civic Center Park bookending the south end. A 35-minute drive north of Denver, the city of Boulder sits at the foothills of the picturesque Flatirons and is home to the University of Colorado (CU), and a community of tech start-ups and local businesses. And an hour south of Denver, Colorado Springs is a rapidly expanding area with the United States Air Force Academy, Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak as top attractions. Outside city limits, Rocky Mountain National Park’s 415 square miles offer endless opportunities for hiking, camping and outdoor exploration; more than 50 peaks rise about 14,000 feet in elevation (called 14ers) and challenge climbers for a spectacular view; and ski towns are plentiful along Interstate 70, offering winter sports enthusiasts some of the country’s best runs.
The City’s Culture
The arts, culinary endeavors and outdoor lifestyles are highly prioritized throughout the city of Denver and beyond. Artistic expression is found in the Art District on Santa Fe and River North Arts District, as well as in galleries throughout Cherry Creek North and peppered around downtown. The Denver Art Museum is a state-of-the-art destination—both in its architectural design and its interior exhibits. And arts of the performance variety are showcased within theaters at the downtown Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Culinary expression is tasted in a myriad of street-food, casual and upscale dining rooms and festivals. The annual Taste of Colorado attracts thousands of taste testers to try bites from many of the city’s vendors, and destinations like Union Station, The Source and Cherry Creek North are just a few areas that are home to a range of locally owned and innovative dining concepts. The active lifestyle in Denver and its suburbs is matched by abundant access to city parks, nearby mountains, hiking trails, ski runs, rafting waters and such. Runners, walkers, cyclists and recreational athletes convene at the many green spaces and trails throughout the city—Washington Park, City Park and the Cherry Creek Trail, to name a few.
Spend a day shopping the boutiques and browsing art galleries in the upscale, outdoor shopping and dining destination Cherry Creek North, across the street from the indoor Cherry Creek Shopping Center, where high-end designer brands are found. Downtown’s Union Station continues to operate as a transportation hub, and was recently restored and redefined as Denver’s “living room,” now home to a communal lounge and work area, local restaurant ventures and shops. In Boulder, the pedestrian-only stretch of Pearl Street is a one-stop destination for locally owned shopping and dining locales, and entertainment—from street performers to a lively nightlife scene. Essential outdoor stops include the beautifully lush and well-manicured Denver Botanic Gardens in Denver’s city center and the natural rock formations throughout Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.
Where to Explore
For further exploration, hike, drive or ride the train to the summit of Pikes Peak, one of the most famous 14ers in the state. Located just west of Denver, Mount Evans is another accessible peak to summit. It’s the highest paved road in North America—a spectacular road on which to view the changing aspen leaves during the fall season. Further west along Interstate 70, detour to the luxurious and picturesque ski village of Aspen or explore the former mining town of Leadville, situated at 10,000 feet in elevation. There are plenty of museums in Leadville for insights into former mining days, and annual mountain-biking and trail-running events that pass through the small town challenge the legs of even the most in-shape athletes. More historical insights are found at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, where visitors hike to find prehistoric tracks; and at Mesa Verde National Park, west of Durango, where visitors tour well-preserved ancient cliff dwellings. Clear blue lakes, snow-capped mountains and forests of aspen trees makeup the expansive Rocky Mountain National Park, where hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing and camping expeditions are among the adventures. And towards the southern end of the state, Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve features the tallest sand dunes in North America, with the often snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains as the backdrop.