FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Denver: The Good Life

Sep 1, 2009
2009 / September 2009

There’s a lot to like about Denver. When it comes to the good life in America, the Mile High City ranks No. 1 as the city most people want to move to, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. For the past five years, Denver has made Fortune Magazine’s list of “Best Cities for Business,” and each year since 2001 it’s been named one of Dun and Bradstreet’s “Top 10 Cities for Small Business.” Time Magazine even cited Mayor John Hickenlooper one of the “Top Five Mayors in the Nation.”

Hoopla aside, Denver literally lives up to its lofty Mile High reputation — and then some. The city is perched precisely 5,280 feet above sea level, a stat Denver’s denizens aren’t shy to promote. Yet the real reason behind the buzz isn’t the altitude (or the fact Denver produces more beer than any other city), but its long list of soaring accomplishments. Denver has been in high gear for over a decade, with a growing population of successful professionals lured by a diversifying economy, improving infrastructure, major civic projects and the celebrated Colorado lifestyle.

Metro Denver’s population is 2.9 million, reflecting a growth rate that has consistently outpaced the national rate. The nation’s 21st-largest city grew 30 percent throughout the 1990s, averaging 1,000 new people — many highly educated — every week for 10 years. More than 38 percent of the region’s workforce has bachelor’s degrees or higher, making Colorado the country’s third-most educated state, with a median household income of $58,875 — 16 percent higher than the national average.

Beginning in the late 1980s, the region deliberately courted industries outside of energy, in large part by touting the region’s benefits. Metro Denver is just 346 miles west of the geographic center of the country, offering a strategic advantage for companies doing business throughout North America.

Another fact with growing relevance is that Denver is the largest U.S. city to offer one-bounce satellite uplinks. Because it lies “on the grid” of the 105-degree Meridian, broadcasting and telecom providers have real-time connections to six of seven continents in a single business day. This is a major reason the gleaming Denver Tech Center became the so-called birthplace of cable television, and why Starz, Encore, Dish Network, DirecTV, Comcast and others have invested in significant infrastructure here. It’s estimated that 85 percent of all major programming is routed through the DTC.

Biosciences are another hotbed industry in the area, with a workforce of nearly 15,000 employed at over 500 companies. The $4.3 billion Fitzsimmons Life Science District and 10 higher education institutions bring together academic, research and corporate biotech entities to fuel this emerging economy. In terms of quality medicine, the University of Colorado Hospital ranks among the top hospitals in the country in 11 of 17 medical specialties. Its parent institution, the University of Colorado, or CU, is also known for its distinguished space research programs and work with NASA and its various contractors. CU’s track record in space extends even further: Outside of military academies, Colorado’s flagship university is among the top five with astronaut alums, tallying 20. The net effect is that CU is well positioned to receive research dollars that spawn continued high-technology ventures.

Business travel and tourism have been Denver’s strong suits lately. In 2008, it had a record 12.2 million overnight visitors, a figure buoyed by Denver’s hosting of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, which the city won in a battle with 26 other contenders. What trumped the competition were the 600,000-square-foot Colorado Convention Center; nearby mega venues including the 20,000-seat Pepsi Center; the city’s 8,000 walk-to downtown hotel rooms plus 300 restaurants within walking distance of the convention center. Include greater Denver, and visitors have 2,000 restaurants and 42,000 first-class hotel rooms a t their disposal.

Since the mid-1990s, Denver International Airport (DEN) has been a huge force ushering the city into the metro big league. The distinctive terminal, crowned by a series of white peaks signifying the Rocky Mountains, sees about 1,600 flights per day from 30 airlines with non-stop service to more than 150 destinations, including 19 international cities.

The Colorado lifestyle encourages people not only to visit, but to stay and play. With more than 300 days of annual sunshine, 10 ski resorts within a two-hour drive, hiking, biking and other outdoor opportunities, it’s no wonder that a third of convention attendees extend their visits. Though Denver lies at the foot of the Rockies — not in them — that outdoor lifestyle is abundantly evident in town. More than 200 city parks with 850 miles of bike trails give Denver the largest city park system in the country. Bicycling Magazine recently named Denver the secondbest bike city for its size.

Optimism, energy, the notion that things are good and only going to get better seem to characterize the Denver mindset. Perhaps Denver Mayor Hickenlooper said it best: “Denver is a city that will be far more defined by its future than its past.”

At Home With Richard Scharf
President and CEO, Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau

How is Denver unique compared to other metro areas?

Being the largest city in a 600-mile radius, Denver is the entertainment, sports, shopping and cultural capital of a huge region. It has the largest performing arts center and largest metro park and trail system in the United States, and we’re home to a record eight pro sports teams that play in six stadiums. We offer diversified shopping districts at Park Meadows and Cherry Creek, which hold about 500 shops, department stores and galleries. The icing on the cake is that Denver has the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, and visitors can easily visit breathtaking mountain parks, ski resorts, gaming towns and mountain communities offering all kinds of outdoor activities.

What significant changes have occurred in the past dozen or so years?

We’ve spent approximately $5 billion on projects during this time. We built an airport that is the fifth-busiest in the country and 10th-busiest in the world, with non-stop service to 150 cities in North America and Europe. The Denver Art Museum and Contemporary Art Museum have created a cultural renaissance with world-class exhibits in a dramatic architectural facility, and the Center for the Performing Arts hosts top-tier Broadway shows. Elitch Gardens is probably the only downtown amusement park in the nation, while Coors Field, the Pepsi Center and Invesco Field at Mile High give fans year-round professional sports. LoDo, the old warehouse district, is revitalized with about 90 bars and restaurants within easy walking distance. We’ve doubled the Colorado Convention Center to about 600,000 square feet and added 1,100 hotel rooms, mostly through the Hyatt Regency Denver. We now have 8,000 rooms within walking distance of the convention center, and thousands more accessible through our RTD Light Rail transit system.

What makes denver a hub for business and convention travelers?

Denver International Airport was a visionary project and has helped put Denver on the map. It is one of just nine among the nation’s top 50 airports to experience growth in 2009. It’s very convenient, just 30 minutes from downtown. Once you’re booked in Denver hotels, travel is easy. Light Rail goes just about anywhere, and visitors are always commenting how walkable downtown is. The 16th Street Mall is the most successful outdoor pedestrian mall in the country, seeing about 100,000 people per day. It’s adjacent to the convention center, so business travelers have lots of options for dining, shopping, entertainment and sightseeing.
What projects are on the drawing board?

We’re finishing out our Light Rail system that will travel 120 miles of tracks and will connect to the airport by 2018. Our airport will soon see a new Westin Hotel with 26,000 square feet of meeting and conference space, plus restaurants and a health club. Voters have approved funding for arts and culture projects. Symphony Hall, the new Clyfford Still Museum and new exhibits at the Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature and Science are all underway.

Info To Go

Denver International Airport (DEN), the main hub for travelers throughout the Rocky Mountain states, is a half-hour drive from downtown Denver. A variety of ground transportation into town is available, including Super Shuttle ($19 per person one way; www.supershuttle.com). The Ground Transportation Information Counter is located on Level 5 of Jeppesen Terminal. Visit www.denver.org.


The Mile High City is packed with activities and attractions for all tastes. Several pedestrian-friendly downtown districts beg exploration. Historic Larimer Square (tel 303 534 2367, www.larimersquare.com) offers specialty boutiques, trendy restaurants and sidewalk cafés along with great bars and a comedy club. Lower Downtown, or LoDo (tel 303 628 5428, www.lodo.org), is Denver’s boomtown, where renovated warehouses have morphed into 90 brewpubs, sports bars, restaurants and coffeehouses. Downtown’s centerpiece is the 16th Street Mall (tel 303 534 6161, www.downtowndenver.com), with hundreds of shops, bars, sidewalk cafés, restaurants, bookstores and theaters. A few miles away are the chic shops of Cherry Creek North (tel 303 394 2903, www.cherrycreeknorth.com), 350 boutiques, spas, salons, restaurants, bars and galleries amid tree-lined streets and sunken gardens.

It’s easy to catch a game in this sports-crazed city. The Pepsi Center (tel 303 405 1100, www.pepsicenter.com) is the home of the NBA Denver Nuggets and NHL Colorado Avalanche. Hear the crack of the bat at Coors Field (tel 800 388 7625, www.rockies.mlb.com), home to baseball’s Colorado Rockies, and catch the NFL’s Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High (tel 720 258 3000, www.invescofieldatmilehigh.com).

Denver takes the arts seriously, too. The Denver Art Museum (tel 720 865 5000, www.denverartmuseum.org), with a new wing designed by Daniel Libeskind, houses permanent and rotating world-caliber exhibits, and nearby are best-of-Broadway touring productions at The Denver Center for the Performing Arts (tel 800 641 1222, www.denvercenter.org). Peruse the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (tel 800 925 2250, www.dmns.org), whose impressive exhibits include paleontology and interactive health science and space science displays.


The Brown Palace Hotel

This historic landmark is a business traveler favorite, blending Victorian style with luxurious amenities and fine dining. 321 17th St., tel 303 297 3111, $$$–$$$$

Hotel Monaco Denver

Steps from the convention center, this luxurious hotel has the full slate of amenities and consistently earns “Best Business Hotel in Denver” accolades. 1717 Champa St., tel 800 990 1303, $$$

JW Marriott at Cherry Creek

In Denver’s chic shopping district, the JW offers modern Western elegance with commanding views of the Rocky Mountain skyline. 150 Clayton Lane, tel 866 706 7814, $$$–$$$$


Denver Chop House & Brewery

Onsite brewing of suds like Wild Turkey barrel-conditioned stout complements entrées such as pepper-crusted New York strip steak and Maine lobster. 1735 19th St., tel 303 296 0800, $$$

The Oceanaire Seafood Room

Chill out at the aqua-blue Oyster Bar reminiscent of a 1930s ocean liner, then enjoy fine dini ng with seafood flown in daily. 1400 Arapahoe St., tel 303 991 2277, $$$


Modern take on Mexican food produces creations such as chili poblano-potato gratin, tequila flambéed shrimp and seared beef tenderloin carpaccio. 1400 Larimer St., tel 720 946 1433.


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FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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