Sunday, 7 February 2016

Things to do in Denver (while you're still alive!)

Denver, Colorado. The 'Mile High City' nestled right alongside the Rocky Mountains, with red rocks and white water rapids, it is one of those truly American places. For me it conjures up images of the great outdoors, the infamous 'Gold Rush', Buffalo Bill and the Old West. But not all is as it seems in Denver...

For instance, it's now the busy, bustling capital city of Colorado but until as late as 1858 there wasn't a soul living in the area. 1858 marked the start of the Gold Rush, causing, well just that, a rush of people to head across the plains and settle in the area hoping to make their fortunes on a lucky gold seam. Turns out there wasn't even that much gold to be found there, but that didn't stop people settling in the area. Just the thought that there may be gold to find kept people coming in their thousands.

The Denver of today is a cool place, it manages to have the very best of both worlds; the city centre is packed full of trendy restaurants, shops and bars, home to some fantastic art galleries and museums yet it's also the go to destination for outdoorsy, adventure trips with the open plains, and Rocky Mountains on the doorstep.

You will find everything from fishing, camping and horse riding, to rafting, rock climbing and even more extreme sports, its paradise for the adventurous.

But if you are like me and don't have time to scale a rock face or two, then I've brought you some things to do in Denver that anyone can handle!

The State Fossil - Stegosaurus 

Dinosaur Ridge

Unless you are a palaeontologist, (and yes I only know that word because of 'Friends' - you got me), I doubt very much your usual trips take you to an ancient site of dinosaur remains and tracks. For me, as a child I was very much obsessed with dinosaurs so when I found out Denver was home to Dinosaur Ridge, it became a must see.

Dinosaur Ridge is one of the worlds most famous fossil and track sites, now run by a not for profit organisation to preserve and share some of the most amazing dinosaur discoveries. The scenery surrounding the site is absolutely stunning, with mountains, forests and the unmistakeable red rocks as far as the eye can see. It's easy to imagine these giant creatures living together against such a backdrop.

However the dinosaurs that were found here are a staggering 150 million years old, so things would have looked pretty different back then, and luckily there are some extremely knowledgeable people on hand to describe to you just how different the world was.

It doesn't take long to get up close and personal to some real dinosaur bones, Iguanadon footprints and Brontosaur bulges and you can take a shuttle bus to everything, meaning even the tiniest legs don't miss out on a thing. If you are up for the walk there is a 2 mile round trek that takes you past hundreds of tracks, and into the heart of the dinosaur quarry.

Dinosaur Ridge is a very unusual, fascinating day out and whether you are old or young, a family or travelling solo, it's definitely worth a stop by.

For more information visit their website here -

So after the science and history part is over, there's still plenty of nature to explore in present day! It doesn't take long to drive up the winding roads heading up into the Rockies from Denver city centre and it's definitely worth the trip.

The drive winds up the hillside and gives a fantastic view of the town of Golden below and the world famous Coors brewery. But we'll talk about that later!

Go even further up,  and it's easy to forget about the real world down below. You suddenly become surrounded by unbelievably stunning scenery.

Back down to earth again, and the town of Golden is waiting for you at the bottom, and it's well worth a visit. It's the home of the early 'Gold Rush' settlers and still has an Old  West feel to the place.

Right at the heart of the town is the Coors brewery, the  worlds largest single site brewery. It was established in 1873 by Adolf Kuhrs, (later changed to the spelling Coors), who had come to America as a stoway from Hamburg. Starting as a gardener in Denver he soon acquired a bottling factory and a year later he was producing and bottling his very own beer on the banks of Clear Creek. The history of the man and his brewery is pretty impressive and you can take a tour around the brewery for free to see for yourself. Make sure you check what times and days the tour is operating when you visit, as this can vary with the seasons.

On the streets of Golden

Another top spot to head to is Confluence Park. It's marks the spot where the first search for gold begain in May 1958, causing thousands to up sticks and move to Colorado in search of their fortune. 
It looks a little different today.

It's an urban park, situated in a redeveloped area of Denver where the Cherry Creek and South Platte River meet. It's a very, very cool place to be. 

Full of walkers, joggers, cyclists, (and other people with far more energy than me), it's a place for many to let off steam. The water rapids mean that kayak enthusiasts take advantage and there are even weekly meetings for drummers and fire performers to practice together. It's an exciting mix of people and activities and there is always something going on.

I went on a scorching afternoon and sat with the locals on the waters edge, sunbathing. There are plenty of spots to relax in the sunshine, you can take a dip in the waters to cool down, and if your feeling brave a local kid might even let you have a go on their rubber ring in the rapids! 

Local people bring down BBQs and fire up on the grass, kids bring tubes and lilos to take on the fast flowing water and their younger siblings enjoy splashing in the shallows. 

Underneath Confluence Park

Depending on the season don't forget to take in a ball game, for American football you need the Denver Broncos, baseball Colorado Rockies and the basketball team are the Denver Nuggets - as modelled by me below. American sports are always a fun way to spend a few hours, with great food and entertainment and you will be chanting along with your new favourite team in no time!

We were just passing through the city on our road trip, so only had a couple of days but if you are in Denver for a longer stay there are so many trips, trails, and adventures to be had exploring the local area. Great websites to look at when planning your trip are : 

I'd love to hear your recommendations for Things to do in Denver, and great tips to share. Let me know in the comments below, or by my social channels above.


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