Essentials of Denver

Discover the best places for everything in Denver.


Denver is a very bar-happy place. Most neighborhoods have at least one favorite bar. Find your 'hood's watering hole and spend a little time there. If bars aren't your thing, Denver also is blessed with a staggering number of parks. Bring the kids, the pooch or both.


  • Shopping downtown: Larimer Square, between 14th and 15th along Cherry Creek River. This blocklong strip of downtown has charm, hinging in part on the density of historic architecture. Amid the crush of skyscrapers and lofts, Larimer Square feels somehow cozy. Some of the restaurants are superb, and the shopping is a draw as well, including places for hip Western clothing, jewelry, art and wine.
  • Shopping elsewhere: Cherry Creek North, which is just a few miles southeast of downtown, holds the city’s toniest shopping. The Cherry Creek Shopping Center is jammed with designer shops like Hugo Boss, Burberry, Michael Kors and Coach, and Cherry Creek North, the pedestrian area flanking the mall, is just as ambitious: Hermes, Oilily, fine men’s clothiers, jewelers galore. You'll find a wealth of dining options as well.
  • Urban stroll: Highlands Square on 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard. If Larimer Square is urban and Cherry Creek North is clubby, then Highlands Square is funky. The shops (a candle studio, a chocolatier, a cheese shop and so on) are local, the restaurants are interesting, and the architecture is 19th century and charming.
  • Nearby nature stroll: Bear Creek Lake Park, 15600 West Morrison Road, Morrison, CO.
  • Denver sprawls. Part of the city sneaks down far south and west. Down here, it’s classic suburbia -- cul-de-sacs, split-level houses, strip malls, big-box-store peninsulas, wide -- and very busy -- streets. And yet amid the suburban growth is another kind of sprawl altogether -- a nature sprawl. Bear Creek is blessed with a lake, steep hills, marshland and miles of trails. It’s near the mountain foothills, so the views are great, too.


    LoDo, an area of downtown, is jammed with dance clubs. If you like dancing, your best bet is heading to LoDo and just walking around. You'll find plenty of places to get your groove on.


    Denver Zoo or Denver Nature and Science Museum. The zoo is described above. Fortunately, it’s flanked by City Park, one of Denver’s grand parks, and it’s a walk or quick drive from the Denver Nature and Science Museum, a massive edutainment complex. Dinosaurs galore, gemstones, the human body, space, the environment, and so on; it’s all displayed, explained, touch-screened and interactive. It’s fun, too.


    Wax Trax Records
    638 E. 13th
    It’s not the best record store in Denver, that honor probably goes to a place called Twist and Shout, 2508 E. Colfax Ave. But it sits within one of the funkiest areas of Denver, and it attracts plenty of funksters. Flip through the records and CDs, listen to music, and most importantly, people-watch.

    Outdoor Essentials: Best Places to...


    There are so many. One of the best -- and nearest to Denver -- outdoor attractions is Red Rocks Park, an 868-acre park filled with 300-foot sandstone formations. The views of Denver and the Great Plains are staggering, and the trails, which meander around the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater, are enchanting.


    Denver has several off-leash dog parks, and all are free and worthwhile. But Earth Dog Denver may be the coolest of them all. It does cost $5 per dog, but the off-leash park has miniature mountains with tunnels for the dogs as well as a Fido swimming pool.


    Red Rocks Park
    18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison, CO
    One of the best things about taking in the city view from Red Rocks is you can wallow in the lights if it’s night, or the citified landscape backed by a horizon of empty prairie during the day. The park itself is threaded, freckled and studded with enormous red rocks; those undulating spines of rock, isolated boulders, bunched together towers seem other-planetary. Altogether it makes for a stirring afternoon or evening.

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