You can't have bragging rights from a Denver vacation until you see these sights. Warning: it may take more than one visit! Here are two dozen of Denver's Mile High Must-Sees, arranged by location.
USA Today ranks Denver as the second most walkable downtown in the nation. You can save on shoe-leather by riding the free shuttle bus on the 16th Street Mall - it makes everything downtown easy to reach.
Stand exactly 5,280 feet above sea level (one mile high!) on the west steps, then climb to the rotunda for a panorama of snowcapped peaks. It is against state law for any building to block the view of the 200 named mountains visible from the dome so the view will never be impeded. Free tours on weekdays.
There are two buildings - one a fortress-like structure from Italian architect Gio Ponti, the other, a structure that resembles a titanium crystal with peaks and shards designed by Daniel Libeskind. Inside, find the world's greatest collection of Native American art and 68,000 other art objects, including works from European masters, and Old West classics.
Learn how to make money! The Mint produces 50 million coins a day, each one stamped with a little "D" for Denver. Free tours show every step in the process of turning a dull, blank, metal slug into shiny pocket change.
Lined with 200 trees and 50,000 flowers, this festive, mile-long pedestrian promenade has 28 outdoor cafes and offers Denver's best people-watching. I.M. Pei designed the gray and pink granite pathway to resemble the pattern of a diamondback rattlesnake. Hop on the bus - they're free and stop on every corner. After dark, horse-drawn carriages clatter up and down the Mall.
Denver's most historic block is also the heart of its urban shopping and dining district. Victorian buildings house specialty boutiques and unique, chef-driven restaurants.
Denver Union Station
Renovated and reopened for its 100th anniversary in 2014, Union Station is now a large part of Denver's energy. With numerous local restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as plenty of public space and one of the most hip hotels in the city - The Crawford - there's plenty to do and see.
Denver's happening historic district is filled with turn-of-the-century warehouses, now home to 90 brewpubs, sports bars, restaurants and rooftop cafes. Stop by Rockmount Ranchwear for a snap button Western shirt at the store where they were invented; browse from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Tattered Cover Bookstore; listen to jazz at El Chapultepec, one of Esquire Magazine's 50 best bars; or sip a handcrafted beer at the Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver's first brewpub opened by former Denver Mayor (now Colorado Governor), John Hickenlooper.
A true Western icon, Rockmount introduced the first western shirts with snaps and helped popularize Western wear as legitimate American fashion throughout the US and abroad. Invented by Papa Jack Weil, who at 106 was the oldest working CEO in America until he passed in 2008, the snapbutton western shirts are worn by everyone from Ronald Reagan to Elvis to Eric Clapton, the latter of whom is a frequent shopper. Visit the flagship store and museum in LoDo - the last of the early mercantile companies.
One of the nation's largest independent bookstores, Tattered Cover is unique all around and housed in a restored mercantile building on 16th St in historic LoDo. Still offering the intimacy and comfort of smaller bookshops, there is an ample supply of sofas, antique tables and overstuffed chairs along with free-wifi and a world-class newstand. Browse the extensive supply of books, magazines and gifts, explore the nooks and crannies of the historic building, or simply curl up with a book and cup of coffee from the instore café. Don't forget to check the Tattered Cover calendar to see what big-name authors are appearing for book signings and readings.
Denver was founded as a gold mining camp in 1858. Today, the river park is the heart of Denver's 850-mile bike trail network, and is surrounded by attractions. Gear up for the mountains at the REI Flagship store; ride the Platte River Trolley to the Downtown Aquarium to see stingrays and sharks; eat and drink in the nearby neighborhoods of Riverfront, LoHi and Highlands; or scream your head off on the Mind Eraser at Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park - Denver's downtown theme park.
Denver's largest park has several lakes, spectacular mountain views, flower gardens and a hiking/jogging trail that is exactly one mile high.
The fourth largest museum in the U.S. is a maze filled with treasures of the earth - dinosaurs, dioramas, space exhibits, science experiments, a digital planetarium, IMAX theatre and touring shows.
Lions and tigers and bears - and so much more, on lovely grounds make this one of the most popular zoos in America. Go eyeball-to-eyeball with a gorilla in Primate Panorama or an Amur tiger at The Edge. Predator Ridge recreates the plains of Africa with a pride of lions, while Tropical Discovery is rainforest teeming with crocodiles and Gila monsters.
This tree-shaded neighborhood is just two miles from downtown and easily accessible by bike on the Cherry Creek Bike Path.
More than 500 department stores, boutiques, galleries, spas, and one-of-a-kind shops grace this browsing paradise - the largest concentration of stores between St. Louis and San Francisco. Cherry Creek Shopping Center is an ultra-upscale mall with Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Tiffany's, while across 1st Ave., Cherry Creek North offers tree-line streets with cafes, spas and galleries amidst fountains and public art.
This 23-acre oasis in the middle of the city has 45 different gardens (some 33,000 plants), as well as one of the nation's top 10 conservatories. Relax in the Japanese Garden, climb through the Rock Alpine Garden and explore Mordecai Children's Garden.
Colorado's first capital celebrates its Old West history and mountain location with a trendy downtown filled with galleries and recreation shops. Sip a beer at an outdoor café, while kayakers float by on fast rushing Clear Creek.
Carved from towering red rock monuments, this 9,000-seat arena is one of the world's most renowned concert venues and has hosted everyone from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen. Listening to a concert here is on the "bucket list" of every true music fan. When there's no concert, the Visitor Center has a museum and Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave in, around and over the colorful red rocks.
"Taste the Rockies!" The world's largest brewing site still uses the same Rocky Mountain spring water that Adolph Coors discovered in 1873. Free tours show every step in the brewing process, and end with free samples for those over 21.
Welcome to the Wild West! Buffalo Bill Cody's exciting story as Pony Express rider, army scout, buffalo hunter and showman comes to life at this fun museum, high atop Lookout Mountain. Enjoy views of the snowcapped Rockies in one direction, the Great Plains in the other. For those with strong nerves, drive to the museum on the hairpin Lariat Loop Drive ... then continue to I-70, exit 250, to see a live herd of buffalo.
Within An Hour From Denver
Central City & Black Hawk
These two old gold mining towns (once known as the "Richest Square Mile on Earth") have come alive with casino gambling. Two dozen casinos rock 24-7 with 10,000 slot machines, poker, black jack, roulette and craps. The surrounding hills are covered with abandoned gold mines, Victorian buildings and Old West history. Located 34 miles west of Denver.
Nestled in a steep mountain valley, the "Silver Queen" is one of Colorado's most elegant mining towns with 200 Victorian buildings. Ride the Georgetown Loop Railroad over a 100-foot high trestle to neighboring Silver Plume, tour historic homes and shop on the quaint Main Street that has been used in films by Clint Eastwood and John Denver. Located 42 miles west of Denver on I-70.
The highest paved road in North America climbs 9,000 feet from Denver, passing through five life zones en route to the 14,264-foot high summit. This is one of Colorado's 54 fourteeners (peaks that climb to 14,000 feet and above), and one of only two in the nation that you can drive up. Stop at Echo Lake along the way for hiking trails, fishing, picnic tables and an unusual eight-sided log cabin restaurant. At timberline, Denver Botanic Gardens maintains a trail that winds through wildflowers. Due to snow, the Mount Evans Highway is generally open to the top only between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Home to the University of Colorado, Boulder has been described as the "the city nestled between the mountains and reality." Stroll past the shops, cafes and street performers on the Pearl Street Mall, or take a hike on the city's 200 miles of trails. Nearby attractions include the National Center for Atmospheric Research with a museum on weather and global warming, and towering Eldorado Canyon State Park, one of the most famous technical climbing centers in America. Boulder is 27 miles from Denver on Hwy. 36.
If You Have A Full Day
Colorado's No. 1 attraction is 71 miles from Denver and offers an unforgettable trip into the heart of the Rocky Mountains. More than 350 miles of trails meander to valleys of wildflowers, thundering waterfalls, high alpine lakes and craggy, snowcapped peaks. Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous highway in the world with panoramic views in all directions. See elk, moose and big horn sheep, while hawks and eagles circle overhead. At the entrance to the park, the historic resort village of Estes Park offers shopping and dining.