Denver traces its heritage back to the early 1830s, when fur trader Louis Vasquez opened a trading post named Fort Convenience near the confluence of Clear Creek and the South Platte River (in North Denver).
Forty years ago, famed restaurateur and cookbook author Sam Arnold followed the fur trade tradition by opening The Fort, an award-winning restaurant and Western cultural center located in Morrison, 20 minutes from downtown Denver. Arnold loved the architecture of Bent’s Old Fort—a National Historic Site replica in La Junta, Colorado—and built a scale model as his home. The Fort’s menu boasts delectable foods of the frontier. Fine art, a great gift shop, a courtyard bonfire and a beautiful view of Denver await your visit (303-697-4771).
While you’re in Denver, don’t miss the National Western Stock Show (Jan. 11-26), now in its 97th year. Equestrian and PRCA events, livestock judging and the Great American Wild West Show (Sat. and Sun., Jan. 18 &19). Festivities kick off with the 11th Annual Coors Western Art Exhibition, one of the best Western art displays anywhere. The cocktail/dinner/auction (Tues., Jan. 7), is a music-filled gala and open to the public (303-297-1166).
Night owls flock to the Recliner Lounge where Denver diva Lannie Garrett wows Country-Western fans in the hilarious “Patsy DeCline Show,” a rollicking mix of satire and memorable music (1120 Lincoln, Jan.-Mar., Fri. & Sat. nights).
Real cowboy crooners and poets abound at the 14th Annual Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering (Jan. 9-12) at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities (6901 Wadsworth; box office 720-898-7200).
Dress Western! That means boots, jeans and a shirt from Rockmount Ranch Wear, the West’s premier Western shirt manufacturer since 1946, located in the heart of lower downtown. Check out their new on-site retail showroom and indulge. You’ll love the vintage building plus those snazzy shirts with smile pockets, snaps and fine fabrics (1626 Wazee).
History adorns the walls of the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant. Buffalo Bill actually imbibed here. Dig into great food and mellow to the strains of Roz Brown and his saddle pal, Bill Barwick, (on Sat. nights) in the intimate, second-story Victorian bar (1101 Osage).
No visit to the Mile-Hi City is complete without a nightcap at the Ship’s Tavern or the opulent lobby of Denver’s famed Brown Palace Hotel. Built in 1891, the Brown has been home to cattle barons and presidents alike (321 17th St.).
Just down the road in Golden, the Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave pays tribute to the West’s greatest showman. The view from Lookout Mountain is definitely worth the drive (9871/2 Lookout Mountain; 303-526-0747).
Along Denver’s front range are some real Western treasures. Exceptional Western art is yours at the Leanin’ Tree Museum in Boulder. Folks love the retail store with over 3,000 greeting cards (303-530-1442, Ext. 299).
Fight the weather at Overland Sheepskin, the place for rugged leather or suede coats, vests and hats. One of 10 sumptuous stores, Overland is Western mystique (1512 Larimer).
No matter if you have one day or 10, Denver offers enough activities to fill every minute.
Corinne J. Brown is a hardcore Westerner who loves Denver and men in kilts. She is the author of MacGregor’s Lantern, a story of Scots in the American West; published by Thorndike 5 Star.