Denver is the world's largest après ski town. It's also a great place to gear up, find deals, and acclimatize before you hit the higher Rocky Mountain slopes of Colorado.
Located two hours or less from most Front Range ski areas, Denver has always been the gateway to Colorado skiing and boarding. But more and more snow sports enthusiasts are scheduling a stop in The Mile High City before or after their mountain excursions to try out one of the city's new chef-owned restaurants, shop in one of the trendy new neighborhoods like LoHi, RiNo, Uptown or South Broadway, or take in a show like the world exclusive exhibition of Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century, now on display at the Denver Art Museum.
Add in a slew of live music venues, nightclubs and breweries, and it's no wonder Denver has become the sixth fastest growing city in America - and a popular urban vacation destination for Millennials.
Spending the first night or two of a Colorado trip at 5,280 feet above sea level in Denver can also help acclimatize people to the higher 8-10,000 foot altitudes in the mountains. And if you are staying over, Denver has some wonderful new downtown boutique hotels.
Here are some of the more popular stops for skiers in Denver.
New - and Notable - Hotels:
• The Crawford Hotel
This historic 112-room property opened in August 2014 as the centerpiece of the newly restored 1914 Union Station and offers three styles of rooms. The "Pullman" rooms on the second floor are modeled after the luxury private sleeping cars of old. The "Classic" rooms on the third floor come with tall ceilings and large windows. The former attic area is now the "Loft," featuring exposed wood timbers, vaulted ceilings and a more contemporary design. To make the most of the architectural features, most of the rooms in the hotel are one-of-a-kind designs and shapes. The hotel shares The Oxford Club Spa with the award-winning Oxford Hotel across the street.
• Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center
This full-service, four-star, 221-room hotel opened in May 2014 in the restored Colorado National Bank Building, which was originally built in 1915 from the same white marble used in the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The hotel incorporates many historic details from the old bank, including three vaults with 33-inch thick doors that now serve as meeting rooms. The elegant ground floor restaurant, Range, specializes in foods of the American West with many Colorado specialties, while the lobby bar is surrounded by huge, wall-size murals painted by local artist Allen Tupper True. Considered one of Colorado's premier native-born artists, True focused his work on Western subjects. The murals in the hotel depict the lives of American Indians on the Plains before white people arrived.
• The Art Hotel
Coming in 2015, The Art Hotel, will be a 165-room boutique hotel next to the Denver Art Museum. The look and feel of the hotel will be unique with guests arriving through a portico-like entrance past open spaces that will be a showcase of modern art. The hotel has its own curator, Dianne Vanderlip, former curator of modern and contemporary art at the Denver Art Museum. Each suite will feature a vibrant wall covering. The rooms along 12th Avenue and Broadway will have seats in "pop-out" windows where guests can enjoy views of the city or the Rocky Mountains. The architect is Guadalupe Cantu of Davis Partnership Architects, the same firm that worked with Daniel Libeskind when he designed the spectacular Frederic C. Hamilton Building addition to the Denver Art Museum.
• Denver Union Station
Denver's historic, Beaux Arts 1914 train terminal reopened with ten new restaurants and bars in July 2014, as well as a selection of fine retailers including a branch of the popular Tattered Cover Bookstore. Local powerhouse chef Jen Jasinski (winner of the 2013 James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest) has opened Stoic & Genuine, a seafood-centric restaurant in the grand tradition of Grand Central Station's Oyster Bar, while Alex Seidel (Food & Wine's Top New Chef of the Year 2010) has opened Mercantile, featuring food items from his sheep farm located in nearby Larkspur. Step up to the Terminal Bar, situated in the station's old ticket windows, to order one of 30 Colorado beers on tap, or relax in the Cooper Lounge overlooking the station's grand hall. Union Station is also fulfilling its original role as Denver major ground transportation hub, serving as an AMTRAK, Light Rail and shuttle bus station, with direct rail service to Denver International Airport starting in 2016.
• Lower Highlands (LoHi)
Connected to downtown by three pedestrian bridges, Lower Highlands (LoHi) has become Denver's "go to" dining neighborhood with an excellent selection of popular eateries and breweries. Linger is housed in an old mortuary and was selected by Travel + Leisure for having one of "America's coolest rooftop bars." Sister restaurant Root Down has a menu dedicated to locally sourced foods, while Amato's Ale House has 45 local beers on tap, outdoor fireplaces and a great city view. The walls of Denver Beer Company literally "roll up" (it was once an auto repair shop) and the outdoor beer garden has picnic tables and food trucks. Nearby, Prost Brewing has copper kettles from Germany and a delicious selection of sausages. Colt & Gray, Old Major and Duo are local neighborhood favorites, while My Brother's Bar is a Denver institution, once frequented by beat generation legends Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassidy.
• River North (RiNo)
Short for River North, RiNo is a former industrial neighborhood that is exploding with art galleries, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and even a winery (with the grapes supplied from the Western Slope of Colorado, four hours away). Swing by The Source, an old brick manufacturing plant that now houses a bakery, butcher, florist, the acclaimed Acorn restaurant, street tacos at Comida, Crooked Stave brewery known for their wide variety of sour beers and several shops. Work & Class, Populist, the Butcher Block, and Amerigo Delicatus are just some of the new restaurants gaining national attention. Down the block, Infinite Monkey Theorem Winery is building a name for their canned sparkling wines, while Epic, River North, Black Shirt and Our Mutual Friend are just some of Denver's breweries located in this area.
• South Broadway and Baker
Yet another hip neighborhood booming with new eateries, bars and nightspots is just one mile south of downtown along South Broadway. Check out the rooftop decks of the Historian Ale House or the Irish Rover, stop by for palm trees and umbrella drinks at Adrift Tiki Bar, or play a game of bowling, darts or shuffleboard at the massive 20,000 square foot Punch Bowl. From fine dining at Beatrice & Woolsey to homemade Sweet Action Ice Cream, Baker has a Brooklynesqe feel with pizza shops next to bookstores, on a street lined with one-of-kind clothing shops, galleries, original home furnishings, and music clubs.
Winter Exhibitions, Shows and Special Events:
• Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia at Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA), through April 14, 2015
Organized by MCA Denver, this retrospective exhibition brings together the first comprehensive presentation of Mark Mothersbaugh's art and music to date, from the beginning of his career in the early 1970s through the present. Though well known around the globe as a founding member of the popular band DEVO, Mark Mothersbaugh has been a prolific artist since before the band's inception, and continues to produce work that makes the case for his position as an important figure in contemporary culture. From his popular music to his personal artwork, Mothersbaugh's unique artistic view constantly foregrounds the relationship between technology and individuality. A creative polymath moving seamlessly between art and music, he explores the interconnection between humans and machines both in his work with DEVO and throughout his career in a wide range of mediums.
• Brilliant: Cartier in the 20th Century at the Denver Art Museum, through February 15, 2015
This worldwide-exclusive exhibition at the Denver Art Museum includes an astonishing assortment of jewelry, timepieces and precious objects from the Cartier collection. Many of the pieces in the exhibition were owned by aristocrats, celebrities and royalty, including Princess Grace, Elizabeth Taylor, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, J.P. Morgan and the Aga Khan, among other luminaries.
• Traveling the Silk Road at Denver Museum of Nature & Science, through May 31, 2015
This exhibition is an engaging journey along the greatest trading route in history-the legendary Silk Road. Explore the ancient cities of Asia and the Middle East between AD 600 and 1200, where spectacular sights, exquisite silks, and rousing stories were in abundance.
• National Western Stock Show & Rodeo, January 10-25, 2015
Wear your cowboy boots and head to the world's premier stock show and rodeo. Some 26 rodeo performances turn Denver into an urban cowboy town with a wide variety of horse shows, cattle auctions and exhibitors selling everything from barbed wire to Native American jewelry. Don't miss the parade of longhorn steers down 17th Street during the annual Stock Show Parade.
• Denver Restaurant Week, February 20-March 1, 2015
Treat your taste buds with hundreds of top Denver restaurants offering multi-course meals for the tasty price of just $30. This has become one of the largest culinary celebrations in the nation. Get your reservations in early at: denverrestaurantweek.com
• Denver March Powwow, March 20-22, 2015
One of the nation's largest annual American Indian gatherings, features 1,600 dancers from 100 tribes with drumming competitions, Native American foods, artwork, pottery and jewelry.
• Collaboration Festival, March 21, 2015
The 2nd Annual Collaboration Festival kicks off Colorado Craft Beer Week with a beer celebration unlike any other. Each Colorado brewery who participates will craft a brew with another Colorado or out-of-state brewery to create a beer that will only be tasted by festival-goers at the event. Tickets will go on sale on December 13.
Outfitting in Denver:
Denver is a great place to outfit before you head up into the hills. One of the local supermarket chains, King Soopers, sells lift tickets at a small discount. REI is one of the largest sporting goods stores in the nation, offering a full range of ski, snowboard, cross country ski, snowshoeing and winter clothing. Denver boasts more winter sports stores per capita (and has the highest number of skiers per capita) of any city in America, and big city competition makes the prices much cheaper than the mountains.
For nearly 50 years, skiers heading up into the hills have made a slight detour off of I-70 in Wheat Ridge to stop at Applejack, which modestly declares itself to be "the most comprehensive retailer of wines and specialty liquors on the continent."
See great hotel deals and other inspiration for your Denver excursion at VISITDENVER.com.