This pro­gres­sive and dy­namic city at the foot of the Rocky Moun­tains is on a rapid rise. Adele Thur­low looks at what makes the Colorado cap­i­tal such an ap­peal­ing des­ti­na­tion.

Herald on Sunday - - UNITED STATES -

1 Great out­doors

Den­ver’s lo­ca­tion at the foot of the Rocky Moun­tains is the rea­son much of life there takes place out­doors. Hik­ing, ski­ing, rock climb­ing, camp­ing, and fish­ing are all read­ily avail­able — even kayaking within min­utes of down­town Den­ver at the man-made chutes in Con­flu­ence Park.

The out­door am­phithe­atre cre­ated by enor­mous an­gu­lar boul­ders at Red Rocks Park is a con­cert venue like no other and has hosted acts in­clud­ing The Bea­tles, U2 and Jimi Hen­drix. It is also home to Den­ver Film So­ci­ety’s Film on the Rocks each sum­mer, as well as Fit­ness on the Rocks — an al­fresco group ex­er­cise fes­ti­val.

2 Cli­mate

Den­ver en­joys about 300 days of sun­shine a year and only 30-40 days in which the sky is to­tally over­cast. The MileHigh City’s semi-arid cli­mate fea­tures low humidity and just a quar­ter of the an­nual rain­fall that Auck­land re­ceives. Nearby moun­tain re­sorts re­ceive more than 7.5m of snow each win­ter, more than three times that of Mt Ruapehu.


The peo­ple

Colorado has one of the low­est obe­sity rates in the US and Den­ver res­i­dents are rated to be more phys­i­cally ac­tive than the na­tional av­er­age. Den­ver is also con­sis­tently ranked among the coun­try’s smartest cities. The Den­ver Pub­lic Li­brary even of­fers a lan­guage en­rich­ment pro­gramme fo run der-2s.


Pub­lic spaces

Den­ver Union Sta­tion is a se­ri­ously swoon-wor­thy pub­lic space re­ferred to as “Den­ver’s liv­ing room”. With its leather fur­ni­ture, el­e­gant pe­riod-style wired work sta­tions, Art Deco chan­de­liers and re­tail­ers sur­round­ing the cen­tral seat­ing space, it looks more like the lobby of a high-end ho­tel.

Just 13km from down­town Den­ver is the Rocky Moun­tain Arse­nal wildlife refuge. The 6500ha site is home to more than 330 species of wildlife, in­clud­ing deer, prairie dogs, coy­otes, hawks, rac­coons, pel­i­cans and bi­son. Vis­it­ing the refuge is free and can be ex­plored via a va­ri­ety of shorter trails on foot or cross coun­try skis, and a 18km ve­hic­u­lar Wildlife Drive through mes­meris­ing prairie grass­lands framed by the city sky­line and Rocky Moun­tains.


Hot neigh­bour­hoods

It’s no sur­prise such a pro­gres­sive city

has gen­er­ated hip nick­names for its city sub­urbs, in a sim­i­lar vein to New York’s SoHo and TriBeCa. The mem­o­rable monikers in­clude LoDo (Lower Down­town), LoHi (Lower High­land), and RiNo (River North Arts District). How­ever, the sug­ges­tion that the area west and south of Highlands be re­ferred to as WeSoHi hasn’t been as read­ily wel­comed, par­tic­u­larly by those less keen on the city’s cannabis law re­form.

6 Bike-friendly

More than 200km of bike trails link the down­town area to some of the city’s hottest neigh­bour­hoods that are dot­ted with cafes and cock­tail bars. Make use of B-cy­cle, the city’s bike-share sys­tem with 700 bikes and 88 park­ing sta­tions, to pedal your way around an in­ter­ac­tive “Den­ver Story Trek” — a self-guided tour of some of the city’s his­toric land­scapes and land­marks.


Craft beer

Ex­plore some of the 100 brew­pubs, mi­cro­brew­eries and tap rooms on the Den­ver Beer Trail — many of which can be vis­ited on foot, or by B-cy­cle. Given the abun­dance of beer pro­duc­ers in Den­ver, it makes sense that the city hosts the Great Amer­i­can Beer Fes­ti­val each au­tumn. It’s the largest craft beer fest in the world, fea­tur­ing 2000 beers from more than 450 brew­eries.


Ar­ti­san life­style

In a re­pur­posed old brick foundry build­ing in the RiNo district, you’ll find The Source, an ar­ti­san food mar­ket with a fo­cus on the slow-food move­ment. This new hot spot, with its in­dus­trial steel and brick in­te­rior, has 13 ven­dors, in­clud­ing two restau­rants, a baker, cof­fee roaster, cheese mer­chant, butcher, brew­ery, florist, and cock­tail bar. Down­town, in a for­mer park­ing lot, is Tiri’s Gar­den. It’s a pocket Eden, with raised beds and per­go­las drip­ping with vines, all in­spired by Michelle Obama’s or­ganic veg­etable gar­den at the White House, with the herbs, flow­ers and pro­duce sold on-site at a sea­sonal open-air mar­ket.

9 Fu­tur­is­tic

Ex­plor­ing down­town Den­ver is made easy with the help of in­ter­ac­tive kiosks which can text di­rec­tions to your phone, pro­vide pub­lic trans­port info, rec­om­mend lo­cal re­tail­ers and take and send self­ies.

Out near Den­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port, “smart” is be­ing taken to new lev­els in a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Den­ver and Pana­sonic with the cre­ation of the fu­tur­is­tic neigh­bour­hood of Pena Sta­tion Next. Fea­tures in­clude smart LED street lights, au­ton­o­mous trans­port shut­tles, a park­ing area cov­ered with so­lar pan­els and a stor­age mi­cro-grid.

And in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent rev­o­lu­tion­ary move, Den­ver was the first city in the United States to le­galise recre­ational use of mar­i­juana, giv­ing new mean­ing to “Mile High City” and “Rocky Moun­tain High”. How­ever, there are strict guide­lines pre­vent­ing con­sump­tion openly and pub­licly, and you won’t find Am­s­ter­damstyle cof­fee shops lin­ing the streets.

10 Events

Den­ver Arts Week each Novem­ber sees cul­ture-lovers flock to more than 300 events at gal­leries, mu­se­ums, the­atres and con­cert halls through­out the city. Al­ways an in­te­gral part of the event is Den­ver Art Mu­seum, which show­cases more than 68,000 works by famed artists such as Vin­cent van Gogh, Sal­vador Dali, and Ge­or­gia O’Ke­effe.

Another an­nual event which draws the crowds is Den­ver Restau­rant Week, held in late-Fe­bru­ary. Din­ers have 10 days to eat their way through multi-course menus at more than 250 restau­rants.

11 Sport

Den­ver is the small­est city in the coun­try with so many ma­jor pro­fes­sional sports teams. Catch a home game of the Den­ver Bron­cos (foot­ball), the Den­ver Nuggets (bas­ket­ball), the Colorado Rock­ies (base­ball), and the Colorado Avalanche (ice hockey), or take a tour of their sta­di­ums. The city also boasts pro­fes­sional soc­cer, lacrosse and rugby teams.


Scenic drives

Den­ver is an ex­cel­lent base from which to ex­pe­ri­ence the Rocky Moun­tains. Take a day trip up the Mt Evans Scenic By­way — a 24km route known as the “road into the sky” be­cause of the mas­sive al­ti­tude change it ex­pe­ri­ences. The drive to Mt Evans’ sum­mit climbs through nearly 2700m of el­e­va­tion gain, from the high plains of Den­ver through five cli­mate zones and three dif­fer­ent types of ecosys­tem. (Note, the road is only open to ve­hi­cles from May to Septem­ber.)

Den­ver’s al­ti­tude of 1609m above sea level — or 5280 feet; ex­actly a mile — is why it’s dubbed the Mile High City.

Den­ver, Colorado. Pic­ture / 123RF

Fa­mous Red Rocks Am­phithe­atre in Mor­ri­son. Pic­ture / 123RF

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