Things to Do in Denver
Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods is not an average city park with duck ponds and walking paths. Instead, this urban park—which is also a designated National Landmark—boasts 1,367 acres of unique wilderness, Great Plains grassland and juniper woodlands.
The most iconic section of the park is the towering ridge of sandstone formations that reveal 300 million years of geological history. Famous red rock formations include the Balanced Rock, the Gateway Rock and the Three Graces, and among the crags and overhangs, visitors can spot petroglyphs from the Native American Ute tribe that once roamed these lands. The park came to be in 1909 after landowner Charles Perkins requested that his property be donated to the city upon his death. In line with his final wishes, the park remains free and open to the public.
Reminiscent of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C., the Colorado State Capitol Building sitting high atop Denver is not just a 24 karat gold-domed meeting place for the Colorado General Assembly, but also an homage to the American governmental process, as well as a truly beautiful archeological wonder.
Built a mile high above sea level, as denoted by the markings inscribed upon its steps, the Colorado State Capital Building has incredible views of downtown Denver, and a history that tells of the days of the Gold Rush and the incredible use of the beautiful Colorado Rose Onyx used to build the interior of the capitol and the designs of dignitaries engraved therein. It is said that the entire known supply of this rare marble was exhausted in making of the Colorado State Capitol.
Tours will tell of early Colorado history, the Capitol construction, the origin of several stained glass windows, the Woman’s Gold Tapestry.
Denver’s 16th Street Mall is a beautiful tree-lined, pedestrian area at the heart of the city. This downtown promenade of red and gray granite is a bustling center, popular with locals and visitors alike thanks to an abundance of outdoor cafes, shops and restaurants among renovated historic buildings and modern glass skyscrapers.
The mall boasts more than 300 shops and more than 50 restaurants in a 16-block stretch of 16th Street. Some of the most popular spots include Niketown and Virgin Records’ Megastore, as well as the Hard Rock Cafe and Rock Bottom Brewery, where you can enjoy a hearty selection of draft craft beer. Along with great shopping and dining, the mall is also a hub for local street performers, with a delightful range folk and country singers performing amid dancers.
Reach into your pocket or change drawer and pull out a handful of U.S. pennies. Look carefully at their fronts—chances are most will have a small letter “D” just below the date. This is the mint mark for the Denver Mint, one of only a handful of facilities that produces U.S. currency. This particular location is a byproduct of the days when Denver was a gold-mining hub. When gold was found in Colorado in 1858, hundreds of merchants, miners and settlers moved in to claim their stake. A year later, Denver was founded, and several years after that, in 1863, the government decided to develop a mint facility here. In addition to producing money people use every day, the Denver Mint also stamps out a variety of not-in-circulation commemorative coins.
The grand architecture of the massive Renaissance-style 1904 mint building itself is worth checking out. To go inside, visitors must sign up for one of the free tours, which includes historical exhibits, vaults and gold bars.
More Things to Do in Denver
The Denver Art Museum is recognized for its prized Native American collection, the country’s largest. Spanning the US and Canada, from prehistoric times to the present, the hugely varied collection ranges from basketry and beadwork to paintings and sculpture.
The art museum also has enviable Asian, European and US collections, and a comprehensive African gallery of paintings, sculptures and artifacts.
Iconic works by artists from the American west underscore Denver’s Rocky Mountains location and history, and the museum’s photography collection includes more than 7,000 images.
Along with the permanent collection, the museum hosts a varied calendar of temporary traveling exhibitions.
Just outside of Colorado Springs, the towering Pikes Peak mountain stands as an American icon. Katharine Lee Bates wrote the song “America the Beautiful” after surveying the great western lands from atop this very mountain, and today, visitors can enjoy the same view that Bates did, looking down across the rolling plains and jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains. While 1850s gold miners once trekked to this area via covered wagon and made the climb by mule, modern visitors can enjoy the views while driving the scenic Pikes Peak Highway, which offers incredible views along the way to the 14,115-foot summit. On the mountain you’ll find interpretive programs along with great picnic spots and a handful of lakes that are ideal for fishing and hiking.
The Georgetown Loop Railroad is a narrow-gauge heritage railroad that runs between the Rocky Mountain communities of Georgetown and Silver Plume. Completed in 1884, the Georgetown Loop was one of Colorado’s first tourist attractions, and it has been sold, removed and restored over its long history.
Today visitors can take a ride on the Georgetown Loop Railroad during the summer months. Even though the straight-line distance between the start and end is only two miles, the track runs for 4.5 miles along a corkscrew route thanks to the rugged mountainous terrain. The thrilling train ride traverses the canyon over picturesque trestles, steep grades and bridges, including the towering Devil’s Gate High Bridge. Visitors can pair the train ride experience with the opportunity to spot veins of silver in the rocks at the Lebanon Silver Mine, which descends 500 feet into a 1970 mine shaft tunnel. Tours of the mine also include a visit to the manager’s office and tool shed.
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