Best Things to Do

Take a whirlwind tour of "Mile-High City"

Framed by the pristine Rocky Mountains that soar in the distance, Denver is a city that revels in its lofty surroundings. The city itself, located exactly one mile, or 5,280 feet, above sea level, is a burgeoning megalopolis of nearly 2.9 million people, many of them transplants who have moved here for the cobalt blue skies, abundant recreational activities and healthy lifestyle. Tight-knit, urbanized neighborhoods dotted with Sherbet-hued Victorian mansions share sidewalks with contemporary lofts occupied by trendy denizens too young to remember the oil crash of the 1980s that plunged the Mile-High City into an economic slump. Today, Denver is a thriving oasis that lays claim to more than 20,000 acres of parkland, 2,000 restaurants, more than 16 million tourists each year and one of the top busiest airports in the country.

And while you've no doubt heard about Denver's raging winter blizzards — it's true that we get our share of fresh powder — the city actually enjoys an average of 300 days of radiant sunshine a year. It's quite possible that you'll be sitting on a rooftop deck in the middle of January in shorts and a T-shirt soaking up the warming rays. Because of its high elevation, however, Denver is steeped in altitude (but not attitude), and it may take a few days to acclimate yourself. Drink plenty of water during your first day here and be forewarned that alcohol — even in small shot glasses—can send your head spiraling into a quick stupor.

By and large, downtown Denver is easily walkable and unless you're heading out of the city, a car is generally not necessary. The complimentary mall shuttle, which runs east and west along the pedestrian-only 16th Street Mall, is safe and reliable transportation for checking out the downtown sights. Denver also has a light rail system that travels to the outlying neighborhoods and suburbs, but if you plan to embark on side trips or mountain jaunts, it's best to rent a car — and in the winter, an SUV.

So, to ensure you make the most of your time here, GAYOT's Best Things to Do in Denver compiles a selection of must-see sights in and around the city, as well as suggestions for where to stay and dine.