Going to Denver for Christmas & New Year - what's it like?
I was in Denver in April of '05.
It was the first time (except for layovers at the Airport) I had ever been there.
First,Denver has a freakin' skyline! It's a 5-course meal for people who like to feast on architecture.It looks incredible as you emerge from the mountains and wind down into the city proper,and the DT has a huge swath of big-town canyon streets,like in the E 50s in NYC...
I was on the return phase of a month-long,9,000 mile circumnavigation of the Western USA,a place I had always vowed that I'd someday see up close,and Denver--and the whole Rocky Mountain experience--was one city I had been anticipating as I made my way back to Florida.
It's a city of legends,of gold rushes and land rushes,of America's westward expansion,and rich with stories told by Jack Kerouac,stories it seems I have always known,beat-generation tales of Larimer Square and Colfax Street.I had to experience Denver.
It's 4 PM,mountain time.At 14,000 feet,driving East on I-70,I encountered what would turn out to be the second-worst blizzard of the trip.As I sped towards Denver the road crews were closing the freeway behind me.It hung on to me from Vail (where you MUST visit if you are in Denver.The ride alone is worth going there.It's about 100 miles East on 70.You get to go through the Eisenhower Tunnel--twice.) and the snow chased me on down the winding freeway until I had the white face of the Front Range in my mirrors and the snow-dusted skyline of the City in front.
I parked downtown,amid skyscrapers and gravitated immediately to the Central shopping district.Despite the snow,the streets were packed,the restaurants were full,shoppers were shopping and street people were panhandling.The 16th St Mall,which stretches about a mile from the Capitol Building to Larimer Sq is a former main street,now closed to traffic and it's all bricks and kiosks and plantings with a trolley going down the center.The trolley is free,a hop-on/hop-off that makes getting around the busy downtown core a breeze.Every kind of store and shop are on 16th,and there is an amazing variety of restaurants and clubs along it's length or just off of it.It's like a vertical Mall.You could spend days there,exploring.
I stayed at a high-rise Holiday Inn,three blocks from the Capitol,and I hung out Downtown for hours.At Midnight when I finally packed it in,16th was still busy and the trolley was still running.
Despite the large population of skyscrapers,the city has managed to retain many of it's historic old buildings and they pop up everywhere,cozying up to the dozens of steel and glass office buildings packed into the DT.They have done a nice job of holding on to the Old Denver as they built the New one.
I went to the Brown's Palace Hotel and had a whiskey at the bar.The building is a monolith,a big,imposing red sandstone hulk surrounded by high-rises,and it's been on it's corner for 110 years.Inside,it's a Western movie set,all mirrors and gaslamps and velvet nudes on the wall,big potted palms and plush,1800's furniture clustered around a classic carved wood bar.There are 3-4 busy restaurants on site,and rooms start at $159/night.
Very upscale,but worth a visit just to see it.It was once owned by ("The Unsinkable") Molly Brown,a Titanic survivor,and legend has it that she was a hell of a character,a Denver Original.
If Downtown is not your thing,I discovered that Broadway,which bisects DT Denver,is where all the clubs and bars and funky shops are.After dark,even on a snowy Wednesday,the place was jumping along much of it's length.There's a really good brick oven Pizza place on Broadway--sorry,I forgot the name--and there's even a used car lot that sells nothing but classics.The gentlemen's bars are along Broadway;so are rock and country bars,late-night clubs and fancy pubs.And a million restaurants...
I know that a passthrough and an overnight doesn't make for a learned discussion of Denver,and what is ACTUALLY there to do for an extended stay eludes me,but what I did see of Denver was enough to make me want go back.Even if it were snowing.
Enjoy your visit.
Denver is lovely. It isn't a great metroplis. It has the Rockies as a gorgeous backdrop. The Denver Art Museum is interesting on the outside, but be forewarned: it sucks inside - both as a museum and its collection.
Denver is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. There is little to no traffic. However, if you have free time, drive the 45 minutes to Boulder, which is beautiful.
Altitude is not an issue. If you are staying in Denver proper, the public transit system is very good (and uses clean fuel.)