10 Things to Know About the Mile High City
1. Denver has 300 days of annual sunshine.
Located east of a major mountain range, Denver has a mild, dry and sunny climate with more annual hours of sun than San Diego or Miami Beach. In winter, Denver is dryer than Phoenix with an average daily high of 45 degrees in February. Golf courses remain open all year and have been played as many as 30 days in January. Denver receives only 14 inches of precipitation a year - about the same as Los Angeles.
2. Denver's arts and cultural scene is thriving.
In its Old West days, Denver had a performance of Macbeth before it had a school or a hospital. That performance took place in a saloon. Today, Metro Denver collects more for the arts on a per capita basis than any other city. The seven county Denver metro area has a self-imposed tenth of a cent sales tax for the arts that raises more than $40 million a year, which is distributed to 300 arts organizations and facilities.
The city's cultural renaissance can be found in places like the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Covering four square blocks, the complex is the second largest in the country, with 10 theatres seating more than 10,000 people for opera, symphony, ballet, Tony Award-winning theatre and touring Broadway shows. The $92-million Ellie Caulkins Opera House is recognized as one of the finest acoustical venues in the world and Denver voters recently approved a $90 million refurbishing of Boettcher Concert Hall.
Denver has recently added several new art museums including the Clyfford Still Museum, dedicated solely to the works of Clyfford Still, one of the most influential abstract American painters. The Brad Cloepfil designed building is an artistic marvel unto itself, and created specifically to display the artist's multi-dimensional work.
The American Museum of Western Art features more than 650 paintings and drawings spanning 200 years of American history and is located in a historic building that was once a bordello and gambling hall.
The Denver Art Museum's astonishing Hamilton Building, designed by world famous architect Daniel Libeskind, has been called "mesmerizing," by the New York Times. The space is used to accommodate a variety of original and touring art shows including exhibitions devoted to the works of Van Gogh, French Masters, Yves Saint Laurent, Cartier and others.
Denver's LEED-certified Museum of Contemporary Art was designed by David Adjaye and was his first building in the United States.
3. Denver is near the mountains, not in them.
Denver is located on high rolling plains, 12 miles east of the "foothills," a series of gentle mountains that climb to 11,000 feet. Just beyond is the "Front Range of the Rocky Mountains," a series of formidable snowcapped peaks that rise to 14,000 feet. Denver might not be in the mountains, but the mountains still dominate the city. The picturesque mountain panorama from Denver is 140 miles long. There are 200 visible named peaks including 32 that soar to 13,000 feet and above. State law prohibits building any structure that would block the view from the Colorado State Capitol. Penetrating the mountains west of Denver required building the highest auto tunnel in the world (Eisenhower Tunnel) and the sixth longest railroad tunnel in the country (Moffat Tunnel).
4. Denver is a city of many colors and cultures.
Denver grew by 30 percent in the 1990s - an average of 1,000 new residents a week, every week for 10 years. In this period, the Hispanic population in Colorado increased by 73 percent. Today, over 30 percent of the City of Denver is of Hispanic and Latino descent and 11 percent are African American. Denver's diversity is celebrated at numerous festivals and events including the nation's largest Cinco de Mayo celebration and the largest Martin Luther King Jr. march and rally, referred to the locals as a "marade." Denver's population in 2014 was 648,937, making it the 23rd largest city in the U.S. The seven county metro area has nearly 3.0 million people.
5. Denver's history is short, but colorful.
In 1858, there was not a single person living in the Denver metro area except for some migrating camps of Arapaho and Cheyenne Native Americans. Just 30 years later, Colorado was a state with a population of almost 200,000. It was a Gold Rush that caused this boom and in a 30 to 40 year period Denver saw some of the wildest events in the "Wild West." This fascinating period is brought to life at museums, old gold mining towns and in hundreds of elegant Victorian buildings. LoDo, a 26 square block historic district, has the largest concentration of Victorian and turn-of-the-century buildings in the country. Today, LoDo is home to 90 brewpubs, rooftop cafes, restaurants, sports bars and nightclubs. The History Colorado Center is a $120 million interactive museum where it is possible to descend into a coal mine, jump off a ski jump and visit other exciting moments from Denver and Colorado history.
6. Denver loves its sports.
Denver is one of only two cities (Philadelphia is the other) to have seven professional sports teams: NFL Denver Broncos; NBA Denver Nuggets; NHL Colorado Avalanche; MLB Colorado Rockies; MLS Colorado Rapids; MLL Colorado Outlaws; and NLL Colorado Mammoth. The Colorado Rockies have 11 Major League Baseball attendance records, while the Denver Broncos have sold out every game for more than 20 years. Denver also hosts one of the world's largest rodeos - the National Western Stock Show & Rodeo. Denver was the only city to build three new sports stadiums in the 1990s: 50,000-seat Coors Field; 75,000-seat Sports Authority Field at Mile High and 20,000-seat Pepsi Center.
7. Denver brews more beer than any other city.
The first building in Denver was a saloon, so it's natural that Denver would become a great beer town. Coors Brewery is the world's largest. Denver's Great American Beer Festival is the largest in the nation, offering more than 6,700 different beers for tasting. The Wynkoop Brewing Company is one of the largest brewpubs in the country. On an average day in the Denver Metro area, more than 200 different beers are brewed and can be enjoyed in 100 breweries, brew pubs and tap rooms.
8. Denver - The Mile High City, really is exactly one mile high.
By an amazing stroke of good luck, the 13th step on the west side of the State Capitol Building is exactly 5,280 feet above sea level - one mile high. In Denver's rarified air, golf balls go 10 percent farther. So do cocktails. Alcoholic drinks pack more of a punch than at sea level. The sun feels warmer, because you are closer to it and there is 25 percent less protection from the sun.
The Mile High City is also extremely dry, so it is a good idea to drink more water than usual. With less water vapor in the air at this altitude, the sky really is bluer in Colorado.
9. Denver has the 10th largest downtown in the United States.
Unlike some Western cities, Denver has a definitive, exciting and walkable downtown - the 10th largest in the nation. Within just a one mile radius, there are three sports stadiums, the country's second largest performing arts complex, an assortment of art and history museums, a mint producing 10 billion coins a year, a river offering whitewater rafting, the country's only downtown amusement park, a world-class aquarium, more than 8,500 hotel rooms and more than 300 restaurants, brewpubs, rooftop cafes and music venues. The 16th Street Mall is a mile-long pedestrian promenade that cuts through the center of downtown lined with 200 trees and 42 outdoor cafes. Free electric shuttle buses travel up and down the Mall, stopping on every corner. After 6 p.m., the Mall comes alive with horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs.
10. Denver has one of the largest city park systems in the country.
Denver has more than 200 parks within the city and 14,000 acres of parks in the nearby mountains, including the spectacular Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre, a 9,000 seat amphitheatre that has hosted everyone from the Beatles to top symphony orchestras. Rolling Stone has called Red Rocks the best outdoor concert venue in the world.
The city has its own buffalo herd located in the mountains with a panoramic view. Other mountain parks include Echo Lake, at the base of the Mount Evans highway - the highest paved road in North America climbing to a 14,260-foot summit, and Buffalo Bill's Grave on top of Lookout Mountain, the final resting spot of the famous frontier scout and showman.
Denver plants more than 200,000 flowers in 26 formal flower gardens every spring. Metro Denver is home to more than 85 miles of off-street bike paths, one of the largest urban bike trail systems in the nation. Denver B-cycle has more than 800 bright red Trek bikes available for rental at 84 stations across the city. Simply swipe a credit card and pedal off.
There are 90 golf courses in the metro area that stay open all year long due to Denver's mild winters. With all of these recreational opportunities, a federal study recently found that Denver has the thinnest residents of any major U.S. city.
Photo by Stan Obert