Denver is among the twenty-five most populous cities in the United States, and one of the fastest-growing cities in the past twenty years. The city boasts the country’s largest city park system, the fourth largest nature and science museum in the nation, the fourth most popular (according to the Official Visitors Guide) zoo, and the second largest arts center in the country.
All that is nice. No offense to Denver, but after you’ve lived in New York, Denver (and almost any other city for that matter) seems like an unimpressive few blocks long. Sure it’s the Mile High City, but after the Big Apple, it’s just a cute little town. The plus side to this, on the other hand, is that it’s possible to see much of the city in just a few days-and even to walk to many of the city’s major attractions.
Last month, my wife had business in Denver, so my daughter and I decided to tag along. I’ve flown over our country, but I’ve never been to Colorado or any mountain state at all. What struck me as the plane was descending was how incredibly flat and brown the land was. In my home state of Connecticut, the land is green (where it’s not overdeveloped) and varies from sea level and river valleys to 2380 feet. What I didn’t realize was that Denver was at the end of our country’s Great Plains, and that the Rocky Mountains begin about fifteen miles west of Denver. I guess you can teach an old dog new geography lessons.
In Denver, we stayed in the heart of downtown at the Marriott City Center. From there, we could walk to the state capitol building, Coors Field (we would have gone to a game, but the Rockies were in New York), Invesco Field (Mile High Stadium), the Pepsi Center (home to the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche and the NBA’s Denver Nuggets), the Downtown Aquarium (yeah, Denver has an aquarium), the Performing Arts Complex, the Denver Art Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Colorado History Museum, the Colorado Convention Center, an amusement park, a children’s museum, and the mile-long 16th Street Pedestrian Mall. Despite being only a mile long, there’s even free bus service along the Mall (but probably only a New Yorker would suggest that it’s no big feat to walk a city mile).
Aside from its accessibility, a few other things struck me about Denver. The variety of great restaurants was impressive. We ate Asian, Italian, and, of course, in a good ol’ brewpub (because Colorado is the Napa Valley of beer). At all the restaurants, it was clear that the people of Denver are very conscious of being both healthy and green. A sign that they may be a little too healthy is that I didn’t see a single ice cream shop in all of downtown Denver. Coming from the fast-moving and overpopulated Northeast, customer service also really impressed me. At one restaurant, we were given a complimentary appetizer because we waited about three minutes for a server after we sat down. In New York or Connecticut, we could wait thirty minutes and not even get a smile when menus get dropped in front of us. The difference in lifestyle and pace of life was obvious. New York is hip with attitude; Denver is hip without attitude.
The weather struck me too. We’ve had a ridiculously cold summer in New England, but humidity has still been high. In Denver, even when it rained it wasn’t humid. I felt drier standing in the rain in Denver than I do on an average summer day in the Northeast. I could get used to that. What I couldn’t get used to though is not being near the ocean, and that’s probably what would keep me from living in Denver if the chance ever came up.
Overall, I’d give Denver a big thumbs up. It’s a very clean, very welcoming, very trendy city with dozens of easy-to-get-to attractions and activities. My whole family agreed that we’d go back to see more, and that’s a pretty good recommendation.
If you’re planning a trip, check out flights to Denver.