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For decades, Denver was just a fly-in city, a springboard for outdoorsy adventures in postcard-ready ski towns like Breckenridge and Aspen. But thanks to a spate of new hotels and restaurants, Denver is now definitely worth at least a few days of exploring. Make the most of your trip by imbibing in the amazing scenery, culture and vast, wide-open spaces surrounding the Mile High City.

RELATED: These are Colorado’s 7 most amazing natural wonders

Catch a concert where the venue’s as much a draw as the headliner

red rocks amphiteatre

Red Rocks Amphiteatre

If you’ve never seen a show at Red Rocks, add this to your bucket list. Now. The dramatic cliffs in the area form a natural amphitheater so the acoustics are outstanding; so good in fact that Dave Matthews, U2, Blues Traveler and others have all recorded live albums here. If there’s a concert happening at Red Rocks while you’re in town, we recommend going—even if it’s just for the incredible geological marvel’s atmosphere and incredible natural acoustics.

Sleep in a glorious former train station

Crawford Hotel, Denver

Crawford Hotel, Denver

One of Denver’s coolest new attractions is its revitalized Union Station building, which has become one of the best places to stay—and dine—in town. The former train hub is home to the Crawford Hotel, where you can pick from loft suites, Pullman-style rooms that look like sleeper cars or classic rooms. The hotel also boasts a few unexpected amenities like Tesla courtesy car service within a two-mile radius. If you’re hungry, you won’t have to go far for a great meal: Union Station’s also a great place to dine, with high-end options like the James Beard award-winning Stoic & Genuine, or Mercantile for a delicious of sampling of locally sourced ingredients. Sidewalk cafes, a coffee shop perfect for lingering and an ice cream shop offering sweet treats are also in the mix.

Tour a historic brewery set in the middle of nature

Coors Brewery Tour

Coors Brewery Tour | Flickr CC: daveynin

This tour is an enjoyable one even if your taste in beer is more craft than Coors. For $10 ($5 for Colorado residents), you can explore the Coors Brewery, set right on the river at the foot of the Rockies. On this 30-minute tour, you’ll get a look at the malting, brewing and packaging processes of Coors, which has been operating here since 1873. Of course, no beer tour is complete without a visit to the tasting room, where you’ll get to sample a few different styles.

Get that Rocky Mountain high on a scenic byway

Goat near Summit Lake

Mt. Evans Scenic Byway is the GOAT

Sure, there is plenty to do in Denver but you are in the heart of the Rockies—you need to get out and stare in awe at the colossal scenery! The Mount Evans Scenic Byway is great way to get that Rocky Mountain high in one easy but gorgeous day trip: With Denver as your starting point, you’ll drive 60 miles west on North America’s highest paved road, winding about 9,000 feet up the mountain to a 14,264-foot summit. Now, be prepared to stop often and have your camera ready: The views along this byway’s peaks and valleys are stunning, and you might even spot a mountain goat or bighorn sheep! Be sure to stop in the town of Idaho Springs for a relaxing soak at Indian Hot Springs’ natural hot mineral pools.

See where it all started

Larimer Square, Denver

Historic Larimer Square in Denver, Colorado

They call it the block where Denver began. You can call it the block where your evening began. In summer, dine al fresco under fairy lights at some of the city’s top restaurants, including contemporary Italian (Osteria Marco), tucked away barbecue (Russell’s Smokehouse), Prohibition-style cocktails (Green Russell) and many more. Historic buildings that once housed theaters and saloons now house interesting boutiques, spas and plenty of nightlife, including a comedy club (the excellent Denver Comedy Works) and a champagne bar.

See some DAM fine masterpieces

denver art museum

The Denver Art Museum | Flickr CC: Ray Tstang

Hardly a museum mecca, the Mile High City boasts at least one cultural institution you should check out and that’s the Denver Art Museum (DAM). It houses more than 70,000 works (including numerous works of Native American art) and features two structures—the original castle-like North Building, designed by Italian architect Gio Ponti, and the soaring Frederic C. Hamilton, a modern wing designed by Daniel Libeskind and home to modern and contemporary art plus African and Oceanic art.

Be amused, be very amused

Elitch Gardens-Denver

Elitch Gardens | Flickr CC: RLEVANS

Not all mile high thrills happen out on the slopes. Elitch Gardens Theme & Water Park is an amusement park located right in the heart of downtown Denver. Looking for a loop de loop roller coaster? Try the inverted Mind Eraser. Want to feel your stomach drop? Ride the Tower of Doom, a massive, vertical-drop ride. Wanna get soaking wet? For that there’s the six-story Slidezilla. After all, where else can you ride a coaster with a city skyline as your backdrop?

Go straight to the Source

Source Hotel + Market Hall

Denver only got its first food hall seven years ago, but oh boy it’s a good one. The Source Hotel + Market Hall opened in 2013 in the city’s River North Arts District as a combination food hall and marketplace boasting two breweries and a smorgasbord of independent retailers and restaurants. Today, it boasts 100 hotel rooms stacked right on top. But it also started a trend and these days Mile High residents can pick and choose their food hall thanks to a list that now includes Denver Central Market, Zeppelin Station and Denver Milk Market among others.

Have a cow

The Maven Hotel at the Dairy Block

Mooo-ve over Denver attractions, there’s a trendy new destination in town (it likes to call itself a micro district) in town and it’s called the Dairy Block. Formerly the headquarters of Windsor Dairy, this combination hotel, co-working and events space and hangout featuring 15 shops, 19 restaurants, seven bars and a rad alleyway linking it all together. In fact, you technically never have to leave it thanks to the Maven Hotel, a stylish hotel boasting loft-like rooms featuring handsome, minimalist furnishings and cool artwork.

 

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