Things to do in Denver

Gateway to the Great Outdoors

One of America's youngest cities, Denver was born during the great "Pike's Peak or Bust" gold rush of 1859. Today, gleaming skyscrapers and stately residential homes stand where gunslingers and gold miners once strutted.

Because Denver boasts great skiing in the nearby Rockies, people assume the city gets a lot of snow—not so. Actually, Denver is located on the plains, and receives no more precipitation than Los Angeles, averaging 300-some days of sunshine a year. Spring and summer temperatures are mild, but may require a light jacket for cool evenings.

Downtown, on the west steps of the Capitol Building, a plaque marks a spot exactly 5,280 feet above sea level—a mile high. Despite the elevation, Denver is relatively flat, making it easy to park in and explore on foot. At the heart of the city is the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian promenade accessible via free shuttle buses. Historic Larimer Square, Denver's oldest street, and LoDo, or Lower Downtown, have been meticulously restored and feature authentically renovated courtyards, gas lamps, and horse-carriage rides past Victorian buildings.

Yet the real attractions for outdoor enthusiasts lie slightly further afield. Less than an hour from downtown you can fly-fish the famed South Platte River, hot air balloon over the Front Range, hike the Red Rocks near Morrison, or mountain bike on singletrack through rolling forests. There is no limit to recreational opportunities near the city—what follows are four of my favorites:

Carolyn Z. Shelton is a freelance writer based in Sultan, Washington.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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