Voted the best place to live in America in the 2016 US News and World Report, Denver is sophisticated and diverse, boasts a great climate, is packed full of cultural attractions and has a thriving restaurant scene. Our Senior Ski Specialist Karen visited Denver on an educational trip in December 2016. Here are her thoughts on her experience in the Mile High City.
A Denver City Stopover might just surprise you!
I’m not going to lie, Denver, in my head, was an industrial sprawl providing infrastructure for the Rockies, but little else. How wrong I was – downtown Denver is clean, walkable, safe and full of interesting architecture and quirky independent boutiques. Hipsters have well and truly taken over here – it’s virtually impossible to buy a drink that’s not in a jam jar. And if you’re not serving hand-ground-artisan-coffee-beans-personally-sourced-from-an-indigenous-community-in-the-woods then you’re not selling coffee in this town!
Our group stayed at the Crawford Hotel. Part of a new (2 year old) refurbishment of Denver’s Union Station, dating from 1881, it’s an awesome building and there are lots of bars, restaurants and shops on the ground floor. Every outlet is independently owned and local – no chains here. Hotel guests get given a discount card when they check in: this gives you a free coffee, a scoop of ice cream, a beer and discounts in the stores. Entry level rooms are small, but really stylish and comfortable.
Why this hotel is of particular interest, though, is its location. The tram from Denver Airport arrives right at the back door of the hotel and we got from the plane to the hotel in just over an hour! The tram goes every 15 minutes from the airport terminal, and takes just over half an hour.
It’s impossible to miss your stop, as it’s the last one, and the stops are all announced. Its $9 each way and you buy your tickets with a credit card from a machine on the platform. If you choose to stopover in Denver before or after your Colorado ski holiday, a hotel in downtown Denver makes a great alternative to an airport hotel – it’s just as easy to get to and you get a flavour of Denver too. We can offer private transfers to your ski resort from downtown, or take a quick trip back to the airport and you can get a shared van up to resort.
A block away from Union Station is 16th Street, where a free bus does loops. This gets you to the theatre district, Larimer Square, the State Capitol and Capitol Hill where there are museums and art galleries. The Capitol Building is interesting for history buffs and there’s a great view from the top. The Denver Art Museum is a very modern, architecturally interesting space, with some notable modern pieces – but not much ‘accessible’ art! Fans of abstract expressionist art will value the Clifford Still Museum, and this is a little more accessible for Joe Public (well, the early stuff is!).
Better for your average Joe is the History Colorado Center. This is an interactive museum which focuses on Colorado’s colourful past – from the time of the Gold Rush, through agriculture and drought, to winter sports and Denver’s cityscape. It’s really interesting and there’s lots of things for kids and big kids to play with; the exhibits are interactive and colourful and our group were actually engaged and interested (and we were not really museum people!). There’s also a Natural History Museum (great dinosaur section), botanical gardens and a zoo. Plenty of entertainment!
For those with a more materialistic lean, oniomaniacs will love Cherry Creek Mall – accessible by taxi or public bus. It’s a truly enormous mall with mid to high end shops, department stores and some really nice restaurants. There’s also a huge outdoor clothing store – REI, which is a 10 minute walk from the Crawford Hotel.
One of Denver’s booming industries is craft beer. The artsy, bohemian and ever so slightly edgy, neighbourhood of RiNo (River North) seems to be the epicentre. The Denver Tourist Information
Centre (on 16th St) can supply maps and itineraries for brewery tours, and many of the breweries have bars attached. Warning: these beers are strong! Some are wine strength! And these brewers
care about their products. A lot. The RiNo neighbourhood is one of those ‘Up and Coming’ areas that has a couple of blocks of cool bars and stores. It also hosts an annual street art festival and there’s some talented folk making the streets more interesting.
5 Great Things to do on a Denver city stopover:
- Explore the street art in Denver’s creative districts including RiNo and East Colfax
- Visit the Denver Museum of Nature & Science including an interactive Discovery Zone for kids and wildlife exhibits
- Eat at one of Denver’s many excellent restaurants including Snooze Eatery (Union Station; breakfast heaven with a huge menu including a huge choice of eggs Benedict dishes) and TAG (Larimer Square; offering playful cuisine with dishes such as Miso Black Cod and Taco Sushi).
- Stop in at one of the three Tattered Cover bookstore branches: a Denver institution since 1971 and so much more than just a book shop with a huge selection of books and magazines from around the world, a second hand book service, great coffee, comfortable sofas and chairs and lots of community events such as dedicated kids storytimes.
- You’re never far from the sporting action in Denver with no less than 8 professional sports teams in the city. Perhaps the most celebrated team is the Denver Broncos (NFL), but getting hold of a ticket can be tough, so you could try one of the other sports instead – choose from some great team names like The Denver Nuggets (NBA), The Colorado Mammoth (Major League lacrosse) or the Denver Barbarians (rugby union).
Denver makes an ideal stopover before or after your ski holiday in Colorado and is a great way to break up your journey on your way to or from resorts including Winter Park, Breckenridge, Vail and Beaver Creek.
To find out more about any of our featured Colorado ski resorts and making a Denver city stopover get in touch with our team of Ski Specialists. You can call them on 0131 243 8097 or request a tailor-made quotation online.