Greater Denver sprawls across nearly 4,000 square miles, so if you only have a few days, you’ll need to focus to get the most out of your trip. The best place to get in synch with the pulse of the Mile High City is in the LoDo (Lower Downtown) Denver neighborhood and along the 16th Street Mall, the city's downtown pedestrian zone. Board a free shuttle bus (called the FREE MallRide) that carries visitors the mile-plus length of the Mall and you’ll get a good feel for the city. Hop off at Market Street and explore the popular LoDo district, home of Coors Field (the base for the MLB Colorado Rockies) and dozens of trendy pubs, restaurants and shops. Take the shuttle to the opposite end to see Civic Center Park and the Golden Triangle Museum District. The Denver Performing Arts Complex is just two blocks from the Mall. And from there, you can ride the light rail to visit the museums in the Five Points Neighborhood. If you’ve got a car, venture out to the Highlands or Old South Pearl Street, both up and coming and eclectic Denver neighborhoods. Art collectors should make the 10-minute drive to the ArtDistrict on Santa Fe or the 20-minute drive to Cherry Creek North, home to a large collection of galleries. The foothills of the Rockies are an extension of Denver’s backyard, so a trip to this city isn’t complete without a visit to the hills. The sight of mountain peaks against a bright blue Colorado sky is well worth the half-hour drive.
The ArtDistrict on Santa Fe
The ArtDistrict on Santa Fe is a good place to find local artists. Located 1.6 miles south of downtown on Santa Fe Drive, this neighborhood is home to over 50 galleries, shops and restaurants. On the first Friday of the month, galleries open their doors to visitors during the First Friday Art Walk. The event draws a lively crowd of locals and visitors. You’ll also find authentic Mexican culture in this neighborhood, from the Tortilla Factory to a store that still makes custom pachucos (zoot suits). Don't miss the Museo de las Americas, which showcases Latino art from all over the world.
LoDo (Lower Downtown)
The 26 square blocks of LoDo were once a bustling commercial district and are lined with turn-of-the-century and Victorian brick buildings. By the 1980s the area had fallen into disrepair and many businesses had moved out. That changed with the building of Coors Field and the opening of the Wynkoop Brewing Company, which launched Denver’s brewpub tradition. Today, the entire district has been revitalized and LoDo is the place to hang out in Denver. Block after block is lined with hip clubs, trendy restaurants and lively brewpubs. No matter what the weather, there’s always a crowd in LoDo. The district is most popular in summer when you can view the city lights from a rooftop bar, linger over dinner at a sidewalk café, cheer for the Rockies at Coors Field, or stroll beneath the twinkling yellow lights of tree-lined Larimer Street.
Old South Pearl
OK, so it's a bit of a drive (about 5.8 miles from downtown), but the eclectic Old South Pearl neighborhood is worth a visit. You'll trade the skyscrapers of downtown for vintage-style lampposts and yards filled with flowers. Former movie houses and stores have been converted into trendy art galleries, specialty stores and restaurants. Stella’s Coffehaus, a favorite local coffee spot, is housed in a much-loved older home. You'll find wine bars and excellent dining here, from Hungarian cuisine to sushi. Be sure to make time for some shopping, if you go. The area has a wealth of independent stores, selling everything from bicycles and clothing to chocolate and stationery. If you're a musician, don't miss the Denver Folklore Center, which specializes in mandolins, banjos, dulcimers and more.
Colfax Avenue runs a full 26 miles from Aurora to Lakewood, but East Colfax is the most colorful section of this street/neighborhood. Once known for cruisers, ladies of the night and drug use, East Colfax now has a reputation for great music venues, hip clubs and ethnic restaurants. The neighborhood still has a few edgy parts (don’t walk here alone between midnight and dawn), but that’s part of the draw. Local music lovers frequent venues like The Fillmore Auditorium, the Bluebird Theater and the Ogden, intimate spaces that offer a great listening experience and some well-known musicians. The club scene brings Colfax to life at night, and the bars and clubs are often packed. Our favorite part of Colfax is Greektown, home to dozens of small, family-run ethnic restaurants, from Ethiopian to Thai to Greek.
The Highlands actually refers to three Denver neighborhoods—Lower Highlands (LoHi), Highlands Square and Tennyson Street in northwest Denver. Locals know the up-and-coming region as simply The Highlands, and it's a popular place to spend an evening out with friends. This historic Denver neighborhood has a village feel to it, with plenty of trees and Victorian homes. The heart of Highlands is centered around 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard, but take a drive down 32nd and you'll find spas, salons, boutiques and trendy restaurants. Try Trattoria Stella, known for its outstanding Italian cuisine in a cozy, homelike setting.