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The Mile High City is where the soaring Rocky Mountains meet the sweeping Midwestern plains. Denver is located exactly one mile (5,280 feet) above sea level and is known for sunny days, a steady stream of outdoor activities, world-class ski resorts just up the highway and a vibrant mix of neighborhoods surrounding the skyscrapers of downtown. Colorado's capital city is home to over 600,000 people, while its expansive metropolitan area has about 3 million residents. With abounding recreational activities both in the city and in the nearby mountains and towns, Denver has much to offer for visitors and Colorado residents alike year-round.
There are a number of unique neighborhoods in Denver, each with their own personality and atmosphere. Historic Lower Downtown (LoDo) is known for its bustling bar scene and trendy restaurants. The Capitol Hill neighborhood bustles with its boutique shops, eclectic personalities and historic buildings. Cheesman Park, located in the northern end of the Capitol Hill neighborhood, is a popular place to jog, walk or just relax. The Cherry Creek neighborhood is a popular place to go to shopping, as it is home to the Cherry Creek North Shopping District and the upscale Cherry Creek Shopping Center. The Highlands are an up-and-coming neighborhood that has undergone drastic changes in the past few years and is now home to cozy coffee shops, great parks, and stylish clubs and boutiques.
There are many parks and recreation areas around the Denver area, many of which are free and make for popular visitor attractions. Head to Washington Park, a definite local favorite conveniently located near downtown Denver, or head out of town to Golden Gate Canyon State Park for some great hiking and breathtaking views of the mountains. Denver's iconic mile-long 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian-friendly stretch encompassing 16 city blocks bursting with great retail and dining establishments, cannot be missed. For those who are interested in the local libations, the Coors Brewing Company (one of the largest brewing companies in the world), is located a few miles west in the town of Golden and offers free tours of the facilities. Denver makes for a great place to start any adventure including skiing and snowboarding at the many leading resorts in the mountains, backpacking and camping trips, hikes along the foothills, soaking up the sun in the many city parks, fitting in like a local by cycling through town, or strolling through one of the city's many distinct neighborhoods offering excellent cuisine and charm.
Four distinct seasons a year, with July being the warmest month with an average temperature of 74° F and December the coldest with an average temperature of 29° F
Denver, Colorado, is often associated with the Old West, but the New West has left a more visible mark. Modern Denver is the financial, business, administrative and transportation center of the Rocky Mountain region. The Denver area is a major livestock market and headquarters to mining companies. Denver's leading manufacturers produce aeronautic, telecommunication, electronic and other high-technology products.
Thanks to its wealth of nearby ski and mountain resorts, national parks and frontier historical sites, Denver is also an important tourist center. Denver attractions draw numerous visitors every year. Sports fans also flock to Denver to watch its many professional teams.
A skyline of gleaming glass graces downtown, and even the historic areas shine with fresh varnish. Nowhere is this clearer than in LoDo—Denver's Lower Downtown District—where run-down warehouses have been renovated into classy Denver attractions such as jazz clubs, bookstores, restaurants and art galleries. High-rises offer chic downtown living alongside historic buildings that have been transformed into lofts. It all takes place against the glorious backdrop of the Rocky Mountains.
Denver's rapid growth hasn't been without consequences, however. Air pollution is a serious problem, and increased traffic around the city and into the mountains is a major contributing factor. (Although the infamous "brown cloud" is not as dark as it used to be.) Still, Denverites consider the natural environment precious, and many spend their weekends skiing, biking, hiking and camping.
Balancing growth with environmental concerns has become a regional priority. Light-rail lines stretch out into Denver's suburbs to relieve traffic snarls, and open land inside and outside Denver has been set aside for parks and recreation areas, including an excellent network of cycling trails.
Sights—The gold-domed Colorado State Capitol Building and museums surrounding downtown's Civic Center Park; the shops and galleries in the Lower Downtown Historic District (LoDo); Coors Brewing Co. in Golden; a day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park; a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Museums—The Denver Art Museum; the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; the thrill of flight at Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum; the Kirkland Museum of Fine and Decorative Art; the Clyfford Still Museum; the Anschutz Collection at the American Museum of Western Art.
Memorable Meals—Most anything in Larimer Square; elk, quail or rattlesnake at The Fort; high tea at the historic Brown Palace Hotel.
Late Night—The bars, pubs and coffeehouses of LoDo; line dancing at the Grizzly Rose Saloon; indie and punk bands at Hi-Dive or Lion's Lair; a burlesque show at Lannie's Clocktower Cabaret; laughs at the Bovine Metropolis Theater or Comedy Works; a hip night in the trendy LoHi part of the greater Highland neighborhood, including a drink at LoLa and an organic meal at Duo.
Recreation—Cheering for any of the city's professional sports teams; cycling along Denver's 650 mi/1,046 km of beautiful bike paths; golfing on any of greater Denver's dozens of courses; walk or jog the Mile High Loop in City Park.
Especially for Kids—The Children's Museum of Denver; hundreds of fluttering specimens at the Butterfly Pavilion; the Denver Zoo; the paddle boats at City Park; dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur Ridge; marionettes at the Denver Puppet Theatre; the Denver Firefighters Museum; the History Colorado Center; the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Many people are surprised to learn that Denver is not actually in the mountains. It's located on a high plateau about 15 mi/24 km east of the foothills of the Rockies. The largest city in Colorado, Denver is situated in the central northern part of the state where the South Platte River meets Cherry Creek. The surrounding terrain is predominantly flatland plain, known as the Front Range. The city earned its nickname, The Mile High City, because its elevation (measured at the gold step on the state Capitol building) is one mile above sea level (5,280 ft/1,609 m).
Denver's downtown, nestled in a bend in the South Platte River, is a locus for modern office towers as well as turn-of-the-century warehouses. The majesty of the Rockies is ever-present. In fact, it's against state law to construct a building that would block the view of the mountains from the Capitol building. Capitol Hill (to the south and east of the Capitol building) is an eclectic urban neighborhood great for people-watching. Other must-see neighborhoods include Cherry Creek (about 4 mi/6 km south of downtown) and Washington Park (an urban park 7 mi/11 km south of downtown).
The Denver Tech Center (about 20 minutes southeast of downtown just off Interstate 25) is a large, upscale business and convention area housing industries related to technology and communications. The greater Highlands neighborhood just west of downtown has exploded with development, restaurants and bars. The SoBo (South Broadway, south of downtown) neighborhood is experiencing a resurgence of energy with shops, galleries, restaurants and bars on the edge of the Baker neighborhood filled with quaint Victorian-era homes.
Native Americans occupied the Denver area for centuries, but the growth of the city itself began in 1859, when flakes of gold were discovered near the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. The resulting flood of fortune-seeking Gold Rush settlers made Denver a bona fide boomtown, prompting the federal government to establish Colorado as a territory in 1861. Denver was incorporated the same year, and named the state capital 20 years later.
During World War II, many federal offices moved to the city, and today Denver has the highest concentration of federal government employees after Washington, D.C. Many oil and gas companies relocated there in the 1970s, spurring the construction of dozens of extravagant high-rise office buildings in anticipation of future growth. When oil prices plummeted in the 1980s, the city's economy was hit hard.
Prosperity returned in the 1990s, as the city attracted more diverse industries. The opening of Coors Field in 1995 made downtown Denver an urban renewal success story—limited parking forced baseball fans to walk past shops and restaurants, encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit. In the years since, Denver has gained a light-rail system, an international airport and a beautifully revitalized downtown.
Denver attracts a young, diverse and educated workforce. A robust economy and low unemployment make the city attractive to millennials, who make up the largest population group there.
Denver records 300 days of sunshine a year—more than San Diego or Miami Beach.
Katharine Lee Bates wrote "America the Beautiful" from atop nearby Pikes Peak.
At Denver International Airport, the bridge to Concourse A is serenaded with continuous Native American flute music to appease the spirits of ancestors who are buried nearby.
Numerous annual surveys find that Denver is one of the top five fittest cities in the country.
In 1976 the Winter Olympic Games were going to be held in Denver, but residents actually voted against it, citing the cost and pollution it would have caused. This makes Colorado the only state ever to turn down the Olympics.
Colfax Avenue—a 26-mi/42-km commercial road that runs through the cities of Golden, Lakewood, Denver and Aurora—is the longest continuous street in the U.S.
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