A party is always going on at Larimer Square.
Maybe that’s why somebody just handed me a shot of tequila. Oh, well, when in Denver….
When I first visited Denver, Colorado, in the 1980s, I found it an ugly, dirty, rough city with a dying downtown, which had me thinking: Why does Denver even exist? When it was founded, the town had no road, no railroad, no lake, nothing anyone could legitimately call a river. Nothing here but some gold.
That was enough to start Denver. Actually, this area was home to three separate towns with three names when things started hopping. But in 1859, Denver won out. Seems the other two names were dropped for a barrel of whiskey.
That spirit hasn’t changed, but my opinion of Denver has—and not because of that tequila I just downed. This city is vibrant and entertaining, and, most important, Denver has not forgotten its history. So when in Denver make sure you:
10. Shed No Tears at Cry Baby Ranch: This Western boutique might not anchor Larimer Square, but it is the place for cool gifts for cowgirls, cowboys and little buckaroos. The staff is super friendly.
9. Day Trip to the Rockies: Pine beetles have devastated much of the timber, but few places in Colorado can match Rocky Mountain National Park’s spectacular vistas. From Estes Park, wind down toward Grand Lake, then take U.S. 40 back to Interstate 70 for a return to Denver.
8. Pay Respects to Buffalo Bill: Before you get back to Denver, head up to Lookout Mountain near Golden. Often overshadowed by the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyoming, Lookout Mountain boasts its own wonderful museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave. The latter, of course, is something Wyoming can’t claim: the final resting place of Wild West showman William F. Cody.
7. Golden Time: Since we’re in Golden, head over to . . . the Colorado Railroad Museum. (Admit it: You thought I’d say the Coors—make that MillerCoors—brewery.) Train buffs of all ages will enjoy the 15-acre facility showcasing more than 100 engines and rolling stock.
6. Chow Down at the Buckhorn: Bill Cody hung out here too. Founded in 1893, the Buckhorn Exchange has the state’s liquor license No. 1. Known for steaks and Rocky Mountain oysters, it’s the place for lunch Monday-Friday, and it’s not a bad place for supper seven nights a week.
5. Celebrate Molly Brown: Yep, this Titanic survivor remains unsinkable. Thanks to Historic Denver Inc., her home is too. The organization saved this 1889 house, now a museum, from demolition in 1970.
4. Learn About Black History: Few cities showcase minority history as well as Denver. Check out the Black American West Museum, which highlights cowboys (like Bill Pickett) to doctors (the museum is in the former home of Justina Ford, Denver’s first black woman doctor).
3. Viewing Pleasure: Since the Colorado Historical Museum is closed until the new History Colorado Center opens at 12th and Broadway, you can get your Western fix and more at the American Indian Art exhibit, which runs through December 31, at the Denver Art Museum.
2. Eat Back in Time at The Fort: Head southwest to Morrison to The Fort, an “adobe castle” designed to look like Bent’s Fort. Located near La Junta, The Fort serves up historic dishes (buffalo, elk, etc.), and you can even sample some “Trade Whiskey.” History never tasted so good.
1. Sleep in at the Brown Palace: Having worn yourself out, you’ll find no better place in Denver to hang your hat than the historic Brown Palace Hotel. Rooms cost between $3 and $5 a night when the hotel opened in 1892. They are a bit more today, but well worth the rates.