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Lower Downtown Denver (LoDo) is hot. The neighborhood has been completely restored and renovated over the years, making LoDo one of the liveliest areas in the city, featuring dozens of entertainment, shopping and cultural options. Spend a day exploring this vibrant area.
Every morning, Denverites flock in droves to Snooze, a self-proclaimed "A.M. Eatery." The culinary scientists behind Snooze truly believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it shows in the restaurant's extensive menu, including such adventurous creations as "Peanut Butter & Jelly Pancakes," "Apple Dandy Pancakes" and "Salmon of All Benedicts," alongside more traditional breakfast standbys.
Grab a latté and do a little window-shopping in Larimer Square. This revitalized historic district epitomizes urban style and sophistication; if you're on the hunt for tomorrow's trends, you'll find them here - either in the shops or on the locals who hang out in the square. What began as Denver's first city block is now one of the city's most chic fashion districts, with offerings from the biggest and most cutting-edge designers.
Denver's cutting-edge arts world was given a new home recently in the form of the David Adjaye-designed Museum of Contemporary Art Denver (MCA Denver) on the corner of 15th and Delgany Streets, two blocks from Union Station. This lovely, modern building houses a constantly refreshed set of exhibits - no visit to MCA Denver is ever the same. MCA isn't as sprawling as its "big sister," the Denver Museum of Art, meaning that you can explore its every corner in an hour or two, then enjoy its rooftop cafe with panoramic cityscape views.
Union Station, located at Wynkoop and 17th St., was constructed in two periods, 1881 and 1914. Since its renovation and grand reopening in the summer of 2014, Union Station is not only a major transportation hub, but also one of the city's most happening entertainment destinations, with restaurants, bars, a hotel, shopping and much more. The imposing center section is a Classical Beaux Arts design by Denver architects Gove & Walsh and the third version of the main entry and waiting room. The first Victorian design burned in 1894 and was rebuilt with a handsome but short-lived Romanesque tower. It was removed in 1910 to make way for an enlarged concourse. The most distinctive feature may be the bright orange signage encouraging patrons to "Travel by Train," a quaint relic from the pre-interstate highway era.
The Oxford Hotel, located just one block southeast of Union Station at 1600 17th St., is Denver's oldest active hostelry, opening its doors in 1891. The Oxford is chock full of history, great Western art, and of course a resident ghost. Architect Frank Edbrooke constructed many of Denver's finest buildings including the Brown Palace Hotel, considered his masterpiece. Over the years, the Oxford acquired a couple of interesting additions such as the white porcelain Oxford Annex across the alley, by a creative architect / engineer, Montana Fallis, who also produced Denver's best known Art Deco structure on Champa St. But it was the 1935 creation of the "Cruise Room" just off the Oxford's main lobby that really epitomizes the Art Deco era in the Mile High City. The Cruise Room celebrated the end of Prohibition - a memorable and happy day for Denver's drinking classes.
The D&F Tower (an acronym for Daniels & Fisher), located at the corner of Arapahoe St., was Denver's premier department store in 1911. The Venetian-style campanile, soaring vertically for 330 feet, is all that remains of the once-famous emporium, absorbed into the May Company in 1955. The slender, 20-story structure was designed by Frederick Sterner who later re-located to New York City where he earned lucrative fees crafting elegant town-homes for wealthy New Yorkers. Meanwhile, his Denver tower, a 3/4 scale rendering of Campanile San Marco in Venice, became a popular tourist attraction and a symbol of the Queen City. Today it contains office condominiums, after a loving restoration in the 1980s.
Connecting Riverfront Park and the 16th Street Mall is the Millennium Bridge, constructed in 2002. This unique, tubular steel footbridge was designed by the structural and civil engineering firm Ove Arup & Partners in conjunction with the architectural design company ArchitectureDenver to resemble the mast of a great ship, stretching an impressive 200 feet into the sky. Climb the stairs or take the glass elevator to the top. You'll be treated to a great view of downtown, as well as the Platte River, where Denver was founded. On the other side of the bridge, Riverfront Park is a wonderful spot to spend a sunny afternoon, with winding trails running alongside the gently rolling river.
Before dinner, browse a while at Tattered Cover, one of the largest independent booksellers in the country. This longtime Mile High City institution is packed from floor to ceiling with books, magazines and gifts. Don't forget to check the Tattered Cover calendar to see what big-name authors are appearing for book signings and readings.
A Denver original, fashion pioneer Papa Jack Weil invented the western snap-button shirt and opened shop back in 1946. He sold his shirts to presidents and rock stars alike including Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. Stop by the Rockmount flagship store and museum to browse the incredible selection of western-style shirts, hats and accessories. Papa Jack passed away at the grand old age of 107 in 2008, but his Mile High City Spirit lives on at this great Denver store.
LoDo comes alive when the sun goes down. Grab cheap drinks and appetizers during hard-to-beat happy hours, then explore the neighborhood's happening cuisine scene, ranging from steakhouses like STK Denver (1550 Market St.) to Rio Grande's spicy Mexican dishes and award-winning margaritas (1745 Wazee St). Larimer Square is ground zero for some of the city's most acclaimed restaurants, including Rioja (1431 Larimer St.).
Once you've filled up on food, take in LoDo's glamorous nightlife. An opulent champagne and crudo bar in Larimer Square, Corridor 44 (1433 Larimer St.) is intimate and unabashedly sensual, juxtaposing white leather banquettes and crystal chandeliers with striped walls, oversized chairs and Zebra-print carpeting.
There are also plenty of beer hot spots, of course, including Great Divide Brewing (2201 Arapahoe St.) and Wynkoop Brewing Co. (1634 18th St.).
Not in the mood for club-hopping? If you're visiting LoDo between April and September, catch a Colorado Rockies game at the spectacular Coors Field (2001 Blake St.), one of the country's greatest downtown baseball parks.