FX Excursions

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

Denver: Unsinkable City

Jun 1, 2015
2015 / May 2015

The Unsinkable Molly Brown of Titanic fame embodied the lively character of new money, Denver-style. With all her assets, Molly didn’t always get respect. Similarly, Denver made the transition from cow town to a sophisticated, multicultural urban metro area befitting the nation’s 10th-largest downtown. Cow town no more, Denver has come of age with a distinctive brand of mountain sophistication brought to town via high-tech and energy businesses.

Denver, like Molly, wears its success well. A commitment to the mountain lifestyle shows in its more than 800 miles of biking, hiking and jogging trails and 200 parks for residents and visitors to enjoy. There are lots of days to play, too. With 300 days of sunshine per year, Denver boasts more bright days than many cities in California and Florida. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s city — youthful, optimistic, full of energy, open and gregarious to visitors. To taste the spirit of Denver, be prepared to get outside and experience your brand of a Rocky Mountain high.

In 2014, Mayor Michael B. Hancock described the state of his city as “vibrant, thriving” to the Denver Metro Chamber, noting that 27,000 jobs had been created in the last three years. But with strong growth come challenges. “Housing remains a problem. … We are hamstrung by this [development] state law, and I stand with my fellow mayors as we move to address these limiting laws,” Hancock stated, referring to Colorado’s construction defects legislation that is hampering building new condominiums and townhouses.

With more than 1,000 restaurants and bars within two miles of downtown, Denver offers an in-town nightlife that exceeds that of cities twice its size. Called by some the “Napa Valley of Beer,” Denver is enjoying a craft beer craze. You can drink your way through the Denver Beer Trail, boasting no fewer than 20 active breweries and 100-plus brew pubs, more than any other urban region in America.

Before you hit the trail, some other popular spots downtown include shopping at the 16th Street Mall and the open-air Denver Pavilions. Check out the restoration of the city’s classic Union Station, which has been reinvented to handle public transit as the city struggles with its own success. Browse the LoDo neighborhood, home to historic Larimer Square, the center for shopping, restaurants and entertainment near Wynkoop Street and 14th Avenue. The shops are mostly locally owned and unique. The light rail system makes a trip to the Old South Pearl Street neighborhood near Buchtel and East Iowa streets quick and easy. If you enjoy browsing bookstores, galleries and clothing stores with plenty of access to restaurants and coffee shops, you can spend the better part of a day here.

Yet another hip Denver neighborhood is SoBo, South Broadway and Ellsworth Street. SoBo gets its name from the main street, which is on the rebound thanks to the energy of the young and hip who hang out here. Cruise the shops to find the unusual clothing you won’t see in the big malls. If size matters, with more than 500 shops, the classic Cherry Creek shopping district is the largest between Chicago and San Francisco.

Denver Art Museum

Denver Art Museum © Benkrut | Dreamstime.com

Some of Denver’s most popular destinations are indoors, perfect to fill a rainy day, even if there aren’t many in this dry climate. If you fly into the city, you’ll get your first taste of the Denver arts scene in the spectacular airport itself, mostly displayed in the main terminal. Civic leaders have chosen to invest in art throughout the city. It’s impressive, even if you never pass through a museum’s doors. Find the city’s most popular and largest collections at the Denver Art Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. But some of the smaller venues show more eclectic art, such as the Dikeou Collection of international pop art and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. If you’re into trains, the Forney Museum of Transportation shows the world’s largest steam locomotive. The American Museum of Western Art, housed in a landmark historic building, is not to be missed by fans of this type of work.

As one of America’s fittest cities, Denver residents’ commitment to exercise at this mile-high altitude extends to professional sports. Depending on the time of year, visitors can catch a Colorado Rockies baseball game at Coors Field, NBA’s Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center, the NFL’s Denver Broncos at Invesco Field or the Colorado Avalanche hockey team. If you visit in January, the mother of Western rodeos, the National Western Stock Show, takes over the city for two weeks. In major league sports as well as planned development, the Mile High City keeps on climbing.

Scenic Drives

About 60 miles south on I-25, Colorado Springs offers a lot for an hour’s drive that features spectacular mountain vistas. Tourists fly here from around the world to see the Garden of the Gods alone, and other sites include the Will Rogers Shrine, Pikes Peak, the U.S. Air Force Academy and the famous Broadmoor resort.

Boasting its own identity, the university town of Boulder sheds any idea it’s a ‘burb of Denver. Just 30 miles west of the city, the mountains are up close and personal and offer every kind of outdoor recreation. In downtown Boulder, head to the Pearl Street Mall, an outdoor shopping area with ethnic food, music and more. From here, a short walk takes you to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art or the Fiske Planetarium. End your visit with dinner in the mountains at the famous Flagstaff House — worth the drive, and the views are complimentary.

Few Colorado towns exemplify the largess of the 1860s gold rush as much as the towns of Central City and Blackhawk. Once called the “Richest Square Mile on Earth,” the two towns built the Central City Opera House in 1878 and Teller House in 1872. It’s less than an hour up I-70 west of downtown. The modern casinos provide stark contrast to these beautiful Victorian structures. Try your luck between sightseeing or catch a live performance during the season at the opera house.

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