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Denver, Colorado

The Mile High City

Denver, Colorado is located on the high plains just east of the Rocky Mountains about 336 miles (540 km) north of Albuquerque, New Mexico and 98 miles (157 km) south of Cheyenne, Wyoming. Denver is often named the 'Mile High City' because it is exactly one mile (1609 m.) above sea level. The Rocky Mountains get a lot of snow every winter but Denver's climate is mild. The city sees approximately 300 days of annual sunshine; and when winter storms do occur, the snow melts fairly quickly.

The people of Denver are friendly, and their attitude and dress are usually casual. The area offers plenty of outdoor recreation, including 200 parks in the city and 20,000 acres of parklands in the local mountains, making it the largest park system in the USA. Denver has a thriving arts and cultural scene. It is passionate about sports (Denver has eight professional sports teams), and is a popular destination for visitors.

Denver is the primary gateway to the numerous Colorado ski resorts. Most travelers fly into Denver International Airport (DIA) before going on to the various ski resorts located from fifty to one hundred miles westward within the Rocky Mountains. Many airlines have commuter planes that fly directly into the resorts from Denver, and there are also shuttles and bus services that take passengers to the resorts.

DIA is one of the largest airports in the world by area. It sits on 34,000 acres or 53 square miles (85.30 square km). The airport's white tent-like exterior also makes it one of the world's most recognizable airports. Its 34 white peaks on the roof represent and reflect the nearby Rocky Mountains. The airport is located nearly twenty miles from downtown. Public transportation to downtown via buses costs $8 to $10. Shuttles cost $22 and taxis about $40.

Denver State Capitol Building Courtesy Brian Gadsbery / CTO
The State Capitol building is located in downtown Denver and is one of the most distinguishable landmarks in the area.

Denver State Capitol

Denver is the capital of Colorado and has many government-related sites and buildings. The State Capitol building is located in downtown Denver and is one of the most distinguishable landmarks in the area. With its white granite facade and large pillars at the entrances, it resembles the United States Capitol in Washington D. C. The most striking feature of the Colorado Capitol is the 24-karat gold plated dome commemorating Colorado's Gold Rush days. The 13th step on the west side of the State Capitol Building is exactly one mile above sea level. It is open to visitors and offers guided tours.

One of the most fascinating tours in Denver is of the United States Mint. The Denver Mint is located 1.5 miles (2.41 km) east of the State Capitol. Approximately 32 million United States coins are made here each day. Visitors may take a tour and see the process of coin making. The Denver Mint, Fort Knox and West Point are the only three gold depositories in the United States. During the tour, visitors are able to view six gold bars.

Beer production is a big business in Denver

Denver is the number one city in the United States for beer production per capita and is in second place for the amount of breweries in the city. Because of this, one of Denver's nicknames is "The Napa Valley of Beer." Every September, thousands of people attend the largest beerfest in the USA, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Brewmasters from hundreds of breweries compete for gold, silver and bronze medals. Visitors can taste one-ounce beer samples from the festival's breweries that are arranged by regions of the country.

The Coors Brewing Company is located in the town of Golden, about 14 miles (22.53 km) northwest of downtown Denver. Coors has been brewing beer since 1873. Today it is the third largest brewer in the U.S. Free tours are offered on a first-come-first-served basis and fill up quickly during the summer months. The tours are about 45 minutes long and offer a look into the malting, brewing and packaging processes. Limited free samples are offered along the tour and in the tasting room at the end of the tour.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre Courtesy Ron Ruhof / DMCVB
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a natural geological formation in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, at Morrison, about 15 miles west of Denver. Two 300-foot red sandstones which provide acoustic perfection bound this natural amphitheatre.

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a natural geological formation in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, at Morrison, about 15 miles (24.14 km) west of Denver. Two 300-foot red sandstones that provide acoustic perfection bound this natural amphitheatre. It is the venue for the many shows and concerts throughout the year. Red Rocks also offers a beautiful panoramic view of Denver and many hiking trails with an abundance of wildlife.

Dinosaur Ridge is located not far from the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. In 1877, some world-renown dinosaur fossils were discovered at this location. The dinosaur tracks led scientist to determine that there was life in this area 145 million years ago. Dinosaur Ridge is open to visitors year round.

Tiny Town

Located southwest of Denver, about 30 minutes from downtown, is a charming miniature village called Tiny Town. Visitors can't help but fall in love with this miniature village of one-sixth sized buildings.

Tiny Town opened to the public in 1920. By 1939, the world famous Tiny Town Railway was giving rides to its many visitors. Tiny Town encountered several floods and fires over the years and had several closures and re-openings. In 1988, volunteers brought the town back to life by adding new buildings and refurbishing the original buildings. Today there are over 100 colorful buildings, and the train is still in operation.

Watch cliff divers while dining at Casa Bonita

The Casa Bonita restaurant has been open for nearly 30 year and has been a favorite place among visitors and locals. It has a special flare that other restaurants in Denver can't match. Upon entering, customers pass though a casual cafeteria style line and then proceed either to a private room where there is entertainment by magicians, puppeteers, and other performers or to a giant waterfall that is the setting for performances by flame jugglers, cliff divers, and Chiquita the escaped Gorilla. This multi-level restaurant is full of activities and entertainment such as gold mines and caverns for exploring, an arcade, strolling Mariachis bands, and Mexican dancers. The food is served as an all-you-can-eat buffet with sapodillas and honey for dessert.

Sports attractions

Coors Field is home of the Colorado Rockies, Denver's beloved baseball team. The Coors Field Stadium is located in downtown and has been open since 1995 and offers free tours so visitors can get a "behind the scenes" look. One detail you will notice when visiting Coors Field is that all of the stadium seats in Coors Field are green except for the 20th row in the upper deck. The row is purple to mark its height of exactly one mile above sea level.

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Due to the thin air at this high altitude, Denver has had a reputation for being a homerun friendly city. Because of the thin air, all the baseballs are put in a humidor before games to make the balls a little heavier and to prevent them from drying out.

Denver also hosts the Denver Broncos, NFL football team; the Denver Nuggets, NBA basketball team; the Colorado Avalanche, NHL hockey team; and the Colorado Rapids, a Major League Soccer team.

Surrounding area

Denver is the gateway to the Rocky Mountains and to the Colorado ski country. If you drive due west on Interstate Route 70, you will soon pass Buffalo Bill's grave, then some of the old silver and gold mining towns and will arrive, within a few hours, to the famous ski resorts of Vail, Aspen and Breckenridge.

Boulder, Colorado is just an hour drive northwest of downtown Denver. It is a lovely community situated at the very feet of the grand peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Two hours northwest of Denver lays the town of Estes Park and the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, with some of the most beautiful, pristine alpine wilderness in the USA. About two hours due south of Denver, the lovely city of Colorado Springs lays at the foot of Pike's Peak, the 14,000 foot high sentinel that beaconed early migrants from far across the prairie.

Written by: Elizabeth L. Blair
Top Photo Credit: © Chris Rogers
Photo Description: Denver Skyline