Winter makes The Mile High City sparkle. There's plenty of snowy fun this year, from a Winter Brew Fest to a rare winter concert at Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre. Denver is also the world's largest après ski town. It's a great place to gear up, find deals and acclimatize before you hit the higher Rocky Mountain ski slopes of Colorado. You can even ride a ski train from the city to the slopes via the new Winter Park Express.
WINTER DAY TRIPS
RED ROCKS & GOLDEN
The concert season at Red Rocks Amphitheatre (18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison) may be over, but you can still enjoy this natural wonder year-round. The Red Rocks Visitor Center's winter hours are 9 a.m.–4 p.m., seven days a week. Check out the Red Rocks Performers Hall of Fame, featuring photos and memorabilia from more than 40 years of incredible concerts. Learn about the massive rock formations in the Geologic Niche and explore the Trading Post Loop Hiking Trail, a 1.4-mile adventure through spectacular rock formations, valleys and a natural meadow. After you've enjoyed Red Rocks, spend some time in nearby Golden's Old West-themed downtown, with a charming selection of shops, restaurants and attractions.
DENVER BOTANIC GARDENS
Things are still blooming at Denver Botanic Gardens (1007 York St.)! From November through March, escape the cold and enjoy an hour in a tropical paradise with a tour through the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory at the Gardens' York Street location. From banyan tree roots to cloud forest orchids, you'll discover one of the most compelling tropical plant displays in the country. Over at the Chatfield location (8500 W. Deer Creek Canyon Rd., Littleton), you and your family will find nature trails, a wildlife observation area, display gardens, educational exhibits, a historical farm, a 19th century one-room schoolhouse, working beehives and picnic areas. Check out the new Deer Creek Discovery children's area, which includes a whimsical tree house.
CENTRAL CITY AND BLACK HAWK
I-70 West and Exit 243 onto Central City Pkwy.
Head for the hills and check out all the fun Central City and Black Hawk have to offer. Located 34 miles (55km) west of Denver, the two towns offer more than 30 casinos with blackjack tables, craps, roulette, poker games and more than 10,000 slot machines. In 2009, gambling stakes were raised to $100, to the delight of high rollers. The two cities are also known for having some of the best-preserved Victorian architecture in the West. Other attractions include the Teller House Hotel, where President Grant once stayed and the Central City Opera House, which still features an outstanding summer season of opera after more than 100 years. There are mine tours, mining museums and several places offering instruction in the fine art of in-stream gold panning where a half billion dollars of the coveted, shiny metal was once found.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK
I-25 North to Exit 217, US Hwy. 36 west to Estes Park
The legendary Rocky Mountain National Park, located just an hour from The Mile High City, offers spectacular snowshoeing and cross country skiing options that will take you to some of the most scenic and serene spots in all of Colorado. Rent cross country skis and/or snowshoes in Denver and take the short drive up to Rocky Mountain National Park - you won't regret it. Check with rangers at visitor centers for info on the right trail for you.
WINTER FUN AND NEARBY SKI SLOPES
Located two hours or less from most Front Range ski areas, Denver has always been the gateway to Colorado skiing and boarding.
Winter Park Resort is nestled at the base of the Continental Divide at the east end of the Fraser Valley. As the closest major destination resort to Denver, Winter Park offers easy access to skiers arriving at Denver International Airport from hundreds of domestic and international points. Just two hours from the airport, the surrounding mountain expanses and breathtaking scenery at Winter Park give visitors the impression that they are far away from the hustle and hassle of city life. If you don't want to drive, hop on the Winter Park Express ski train for a memorable ride through a stunning landscape.
One of the largest ski resorts in the world with more than 5,200 acres of open terrain, Back Bowls spanning seven miles and the most groomed terrain on the planet, Vail has been the ideal winter destination for skiers and snowboarders for more than 50 years. Besides being one of the favorite ski destinations in the world, Vail features everything from Ski & Snowboard School to on-mountain events, shops and spas, numerous dining options and luxurious accommodations. Vail is a mountain resort like nothing on earth.
Just 53 miles west of Denver on I-70, Loveland Ski Area is super close to Denver and averages 400 inches of snow annually. Loveland's location offers unique skiing possibilities you simply cannot find at other ski areas. There's no glitz here. Loveland has been long known for some of the best skiing and snowboarding conditions in Colorado. At Loveland you get 1,365 diverse acres of terrain and breathtaking views from the second-highest chairlift in the world, high atop the Continental Divide. When you need to escape from the city for a day of riding and a night of good food, Loveland won't disappoint. Daytripper packages are available, including lift ticket, equipment and clothing rental. Ski school lessons are available for all abilities and schedules.
Seventy miles west of Denver, in Summit County, Colorado, you'll find Keystone Resort. With 131 trails, 235 inches of snow, more than 3,000 skiable acres and 20 lifts, Keystone delivers a truly world-class mountain experience, all within a short drive from Denver and the Front Range. At 11,640 feet, Dercum Mountain is home to long, open runs and perfect groomers to keep you cruising all day — a great place to start for beginners and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. For those who crave big air, Keystone's A51 Terrain Park will not disappoint. Named a top-ranked park by Freeskier and Transworld Magazines, this is the place to be for shredders and jibbers. Looking to explore Denver by day and Keystone at night? The mountain offers not only the largest night skiing operation in Colorado, but the longest ski day as well, operating from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Known for its excellent snow and extended ski season (the longest in Colorado), Arapahoe Basin Ski Area (or "A-Basin" to locals) is 68 miles from Denver, with killer views. A-Basin's acclaimed terrain and laid-back vibe make it a favorite for experts to beginners. Half of the mountain is above timberline, with open-bowl skiing and snowboarding through spring and into early summer. One of its signature runs, Pallavicini, is one of Colorado's longest and steepest trails. Family-friendly features include two learning areas, a full-service Snowsports School, on-site rentals and three dining locations. On sunny days, you might want to lounge on "The Beach," a stretch near the Early Riser parking lot that backs up to three lower-mountain chairlifts.