It was the summer of 1858 when a group of prospectors founded a mining town at the base of the Rocky Mountains in hope of finding gold and striking it rich. Although little gold was discovered, the region eventually grew into the city of Denver—now a gold mine for convention-goers and tourists. The area has a surprisingly mild climate—only 8 to 15 inches of rain and more than 300 days of sunshine annually—so there’s hardly a bad time of the year to visit. Combine that with a wealth of activities for visitors, and it’s easy to see why Trip Advisor named the Mile-High City one of its 2012 destinations on the rise.
As robust as Denver has become, you first notice its natural beauty. At the top of the list is Mount Evans, one of 54 mountains in the United States higher than 14,000 feet. A 14-mile scenic byway leads to the top. From there, it’s a short walk to the summit at 14,264 feet. In addition to enjoying the breathtaking view, you also may spot a mountain goat or two.
Denver is home to a thriving restaurant scene. Although Colorado is a landlocked state, few sushi restaurants in the country can match the freshness of the fish at Sushi Den. Just 24 hours after being caught in the waters of Japan, the fish arrive in Denver, ready for the day’s service. The acclaimed Fruition Restaurant serves new American-style cuisine and was ranked by Zagat in 2011 as the state’s top restaurant. If you have an appetite for Mediterranean-inspired fare, check out Rioja, owned by Jennifer Jasinski, winner of the 2013 James Beard award for Best Chef Southwest. And D Bar Restaurant in uptown Denver offers an array of creative desserts, including a honey ricotta cheesecake and baked-to-order cookies with milk.
Denver boasts many museums and performing arts venues, collecting more revenue for the arts per capita than any other U.S. city. One of the highlights is The Denver Center for Performing Arts, which regularly features touring Broadway shows. It also showcases its own productions. The Denver Art Museum displays a collection of more than 70,000 works of art in a 350,000-square-foot complex. One of Denver’s most interesting historical museums is the Black American West Museum, with exhibits exploring African American cowboys, wranglers, and ranchers in the West.
If you want to explore Denver’s nightlife, Gatsby’s in lower downtown is a good place to start. Take advantage of happy hour and enjoy the upscale lounge’s wines, martinis, and gourmet bites. For a spectacular view of the city, try Peaks Lounge atop the Hyatt Regency Denver. It has full-length windows and serves an array of cocktails, appetizers, and desserts. There’s not a bad seat in the house.
With so much to discover, each day can be a unique experience. DW
1487 S. Pearl St., 303-777-0826
Fruition Restaurant, 1313 E. 6th Ave., 303-831-1962
Rioja, 1431 Larimer St., 303-820-2282
D Bar Restaurant, 1475 E. 17th Ave., 303-861-4710
Mount Evans; Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building