The Denver skyline

Denver is the capital and largest city of Colorado, USA. Known as "The Mile-High City", Denver sits at an altitude of 5,280 feet/1,600 meters above sea level and lies where the Great Plains give way to the Rocky Mountains. Denver is a large city and one of the fastest growing in the United States.


Denver is a bustling city of more than 600,000 people supporting a fast-growing metropolitan area of nearly 3 million people. The city embraces its cowboy and mining past but also looks toward the future with a vibrant arts and performing arts scene, dozens of great outdoor festivals, and distinct neighborhoods each offering a unique experience. You'll find everything a cosmopolitan city has to offer including a spectacular view of and easy access to the beautiful Rocky Mountains, which are only 12 miles west of town.

Denver does have its growing pains. Urban sprawl is becoming a problem, with the metropolitan area sometimes growing faster than the infrastructure can really handle, especially with public transportation. Denver is generally a driving city, and some problems with pollution and traffic are a part of everyday life. Large mass transportation and freeway expansion projects have recently been completed, including the popular light rail system.


 Climate Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Daily highs (°F) 44 46 52 61 70 81 88 85 76 66 52 44
Nightly lows (°F) 16 20 25 34 44 52 58 56 47 36 25 17
Precipitation (in) 0.5 0.6 1.3 1.7 2.4 1.8 1.9 1.5 1.3 1 0.9 0.6

Denver residents enjoy a mild climate and the third most sunshine of any US state, with four pronounced seasons.

Heavy snowfalls can occur between October and March, often alternating with days of high temperatures and sunshine. About once a year, a snowfall of over a few feet occurs. Winter is also when the Denver area gets pounded by a phenomenon known as the "Chinook". That's when air flows over the mountains to the west and sinks on the leeward (eastern) slopes of the foothills and warms up. This raises air temperatures dramatically, which can last for several days. If you're planning to visit Denver during the winter, be prepared with full winter gear just in case, but also pack a light sweater and T-shirt; the weather is usually very sunny and mild.

Evening thunderstorms are common in late spring and fall

Spring in Denver is pleasant, though generally rather brief. Trees begin budding by late March and are in full leaf by mid April to mid May. March, on average, is Denver's snowiest month.

By June, Denver enters its summer season. Temperatures typically rise in earnest at this time, with most heat waves beginning in mid-June and continuing through July, usually Denver's hottest month with temperatures in the high 80s to mid-90s. By late July, the southwest monsoon kicks in. In August, short spells of thunderstorms occur about three to four days per week. By late August, temperatures begin to drop with a noticeable difference between day time and night time temperatures. As the days get shorter through September and October, daytime temperatures drop to the high 50s to mid-60s. Slather on that sunscreen all summer long; the rays are strong and the air is dry, with temperatures often reaching the upper 90s in July and August.

Autumn is a peaceful time to visit, with mild temperatures, little severe weather and lots of that famous clear blue sky. You'll get to see the trees display their fall colors, which usually peak around mid-September in the mountains and October in the city itself. October usually brings the first snowfall of the season to Denver, although it's very light. By November, it's clear that winter is on its way, with plenty of clouds, some snow and much cooler temperatures.

Get in

By plane

The Denver International Airport main terminal

  Denver International Airport (IATA: DEN). Commonly referred to as DIA, the airport is about 18 miles northeast of Downtown Denver and is one of the busiest airports in the nation, due to it being a hub for Frontier Airlines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines, which maintain hubs in Concourses A, B, and C respectively, with most other major domestic carriers also offering service to DIA.

For such a busy airport, the layout of DIA is quite intuitive, with a single centralized terminal with its distinctive "peaked" roof, where all ticketing, baggage claim, security, and ground transportation facilities are, connected to the three concourses by an underground train line. The airport can be crowded due to a post-9/11 security redesign that created a single central screening station, followed by the train that passengers must take to the concourses (Concourse A is also connected to the terminal by a pedestrian bridge). It can take up to an hour to get from the ticket line to the gate, so travelers should get to the airport at least 1.5 hours before their scheduled departure time. Many connecting flights are made in DIA, and this airport is more pleasant than most to kill time, with plenty of public art displays, battery charging stations, and free Wi-Fi, as well as a decent selection of restaurants for an airport.

The airport is set amidst rolling plains with the towering Rocky Mountains and Denver to the west, somewhat far from any conceivable local destination. There are a number of airport shuttles you can take from DIA to the city and destinations in the mountains. The public transportation service SkyRide offers five bus routes from the Level 5 of the airport terminal to locations throughout the metro area, including Union Station in Downtown and many "Park and Ride" lots. Purchase tickets at the RTD desk in the main terminal; fare is $9 one-way, although the "Regional/Airport Day Pass" costs the same and covers unlimited trips on the RTD system for the remainder of the day.

Private pilots mostly fly into Centennial Airport (IATA: APA), south of town (not far from the Denver Technological Center), and Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (IATA: BJC), northwest of town (near Interlocken Business Park, Broomfield and Boulder and the closest airport to Downtown Denver). On warm days the density altitude may make takeoffs difficult; Centennial and Rocky Mountain Airports thus have relatively long runways, to accommodate volumes of private jet traffic. Flight visibility in the Denver area is often in excess of 100 miles; weather fronts tend to travel quickly N-S along the Front Range. For small planes, any direction but west is a good choice.

By car

Since 1914, the City of Denver has maintained a bison herd on the outskirts of town at Genessee Park. The herd is still easily viewed along Interstate 70.
NOTE: Interstate Freeway I-70 is closed indefinitely from Glenwood Springs to Gypsum (between the Utah border and Denver) due to a massive rock slide. A 140 mile/225 km detour to the north is available. This is the main route into Denver from Las Vegas and Southern California. Allow for several additional hours of travel time.

By train

By bus

Get around

Map of Downtown Denver

By car


If you plan to go outside of downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods car rentals are the most convenient form of transportation. Local companies tend to offer better prices, but national chains might be more convenient as far as return policies and hours.

Rental companies include most major car rental chains.


Meters are free on Sunday and run until 10PM on weekdays. After 10PM at many of the meters where it was formerly free, it now is $1.00 per hour from 10PM until 8AM at the new "smart meters." The meters say "overnight parking allowed" but you are still required to pay during this time, or you will get a $25 parking ticket. In the downtown area near Coors Field, The Pepsi Center, and LoDo, there is pretty much no free parking on weekdays. In some areas a few blocks from the city center there are a few non-metered spots within reasonable walking distance of downtown. However, just because you don't see a meter doesn't mean that parking is free. Denver is increasingly using "European-style" meters, where you purchase a paper ticket from a machine somewhere on the block and place it on your dashboard. Also, many neighborhoods around downtown allow only permitted residents to park, so be sure to check the signs first.

It is worth noting that the city government has been cracking down on parking violations recently, so if you park at a meter with a flashing red light and don't pay, even for a few minutes, EXPECT TO GET A TICKET. Meter violations will cost you a cool $25 ($50 if you don't pay up within two weeks). Lack of change is no longer a problem, as all the meters in the downtown area are now equipped with credit card readers that accept Visa and MasterCard. $1 will get you around an hour, depending on the location of the meter.

Areas outside of the downtown core (20th St, Speer, Wynkoop St, Colfax and Broadway) usually have meters that end at 6PM and are free on weekends, so parking is much easier during those times. The area just northwest of downtown, across the train tracks from Union Station, has free 2-hour parking spots (on Wewatta Street just before the Park Avenue bridge).

By public transit

RTD light rail

The RTD (Regional Transportation District) is the region's primary public transit provider, operating buses and light rail throughout the Denver area.

Denver has a fairly extensive and rapidly growing light rail system that can efficiently get you from Downtown to some western and southern suburbs. There are currently six rail lines that branch out of Downtown along three corridors: the C and D lines south to Englewood and Littleton, the E, F and H lines south along I-25 past the Tech Center, and the W line west to Lakewood and the Denver Federal Center. A seventh line, the A line east to Aurora and Denver International Airport, is scheduled to open in April 2016. In Downtown, all rail lines either terminate at Union Station or travel through central Downtown via the Convention Center. Rail tickets must be purchased (cash or credit card) from vending machines at the stations before boarding the trains and cost between $2.60 and $4.50 one-way, depending on how far you travel. Day passes are also available and include bus fare.

Colorado Convention Center and central transportation hub

The backbone of Denver's transportation system is the buses. RTD buses are $2.60 (cash only; exact change required) for a one-way local trip, and with payment you receive a transfer that's valid for three hours from when you board the bus. Day passes are also available and include light rail fare. There is also a free shuttle, the MallRide, which runs along the 16th Street pedestrian mall through Downtown and is a handy way of traveling between Downtown attractions. More information about RTD can be found at the Union Station and Civic Center bus stations at either end of 16th Street in Downtown, or on the RTD website. Local routes crisscross the city, supplemented by 'Limited' buses that stop less frequently on major arteries like Colfax and Colorado Boulevard; these buses are denoted by an 'L' after the route number, and cost the same as a Local route.

RTD also operates limited intercity coach service, mostly to the north suburbs and the more distant communities of Longmont and Boulder. These services are denoted by letters and tend to leave from Union Station or Civic Center Station at either end of the 16th Street Mall. Fares are $4.50 one-way, with a day pass costing $9. The Flatiron Flyer offers a fast service along express highway lanes between Denver and Boulder. If you're in Colorado to ski or board on a budget, Eldora Mountain Resort in Nederland can be reached via the N bus from Boulder. RTD also operates SkyRide service to the airport; see the "By plane" section above for further details.

By bike

Denver has a large network of bike trails leading all over the city. The city has a fiercely loyal cycling culture, and it's reflected in the abundance of bike lanes and trails in and around downtown. Main trails run along both Cherry Creek and the Platte, and bike lanes run down many downtown streets. The lanes are sometimes dedicated and sometimes run with traffic, and are marked by a stencil of a bike in the street. The city's designated routes are signed, and you can pick up a bike map at the info centers downtown and at many bike shops.

Denver was one of the first US cities with a modern bike share program; you can purchase a membership online or at any of the 81 stations throughout the city, choose a bike, and start exploring. After the purchase of a membership rides of less than 30 minutes incur no additional fee, while there is a small fee for longer rides.

Don't be afraid to assert yourself in traffic when there is no bike lane - the drivers are, while impatient sometimes, for the most part respectful. Bikes are treated legally like traffic in Denver, and (while admittedly rare), you can get tickets for running red lights and stop signs. Bikes are also expected to ride as far to the right as practicable, unless you're riding in a group of 3 or more - in which case you are considered (and can behave like) a car. Neat, huh?

Bikes are required to have front lights at night, and a good lock is recommended in areas around downtown. Bike theft happens frequently.


Colorado State Capitol Building

Denver is a vibrant city with plenty of attractions for visitors, plus a diverse collection of neighborhoods that can be attractions in themselves. Many of Denver's older areas are the perfect density for exploration; you'll find an interesting mix of apartments and homes with flowery front gardens, wide flagstone sidewalks, bright green lawns and big, shady trees. Capitol Hill, Highlands, Baker, Berkeley, Uptown, Sloan's Lake, Cheesman, Washington, City and Congress Parks are just some of the neighborhoods bustling with people and places to see.

Denver has many beautiful parks that are full of colorful gardens, meandering paths, crystal clear lakes, abundant wildlife and recreation opportunities. The city has a rich pioneer history, and there are plenty of museums where you can learn all about it. It's also a very environmentally conscious city, with one of the nation’s first municipal “Green Fleets”, public transit vehicles using hybrid and alternative fuel and a city tree-planting initiative. Hop on a green bus, grab a bike or just walk around to discover Denver.

Museums and architecture

Denver Art Museum

Parks and gardens


Late spring and early autumn are excellent seasons to do things outdoors in Denver. Besides the city's various lush green parks, there are plenty of outdoor festivals, sports, and gondola rides. (Yes, gondola rides.) In winter, the snow-peaked mountains in the distance and the crisp air on your cheeks make it the perfect time to tour Denver's famous breweries or check out the downtown arts scene.

Amusement parks

In addition to the two listed below, the Denver area is also home to Water World, a huge water park in Thornton.


Festivals & events

Performing arts

Major performing arts performances are held at the Denver Performing Arts Complex at N Speer Blvd and Arapahoe St in downtown Denver, including:

Besides this complex, you can find smaller venues, restaurants, and cafes for a unique and exciting experience.



Among the most popular tours in Denver are those of the many local breweries. Note that the most famous brewery in the area, the Coors Brewery, is located in Golden, about 15 miles west in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.


16th Street and the State Capitol during the holiday season.


There are a number of shopping areas in Denver.

Specific retailers


Mexican food is abundant and satisfying and takes a local Denver flavor. Green chili is the order of the day: a brown, chunky and spicy sauce made from pork and Pueblo or Hatch green chilies that works well on everything from chorizo and eggs to tamales. Denver is also known for "western" food using ingredients such as angus beef, buffalo, rattlesnake, cutthroat trout and Rocky Mountain oysters. The city also embraces its cultural diversity with a wide range of ethnic restaurants. Southeast Asian restaurants are especially abundant with a multitude of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants in every style and price range. Denver has most types of cuisine as other large cities and has several restaurants recently noted in top food publications. A recently passed bill had outlawed smoking in bars and restaurants statewide. However, some places with outdoor patios still allow smoking there.

The restaurant section of the weekly independent newspaper Westword (available for free every Thursday at newsstands and locations across the city) is a good place to find the food you are interested in for your price-range and location. Below is a sampling of some consistently good choices.





Colorado produces more beer by volume than any other state and Denver ranks first for US cities. In fact, Colorado Governor (and former Denver mayor) John Hickenlooper was a microbrewer before running for office. Notable breweries in Denver and environs include:

One should keep in mind that the effects of alcohol are magnified at higher elevations, so people may find themselves inebriated more quickly and with greater effect than they would at lower altitudes. Moderation is probably a good idea until you understand your body's reaction to alcohol and can acclimatize to its effects at higher elevations.

That said, the following are some of the best bar-hopping locales in the city:

Bars in Lower Downtown (LoDo)

LoDo is the name Colorado locals have given the Lower Downtown district of Denver. It's a great place for meals, entertainment, and nightlife, where restored Victorian buildings now house more than 90 sports bars, brew pubs, jazz clubs, and restaurants.

Bars in Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is the neighborhood directly east and south of the Colorado State Capitol, located on Colfax Avenue and Grant Street. It has long held as place for young people, sub-cultures and the gay and lesbian community. Currently, it rivals LoDo as the place to party, no matter what your scene is.

Bars on Colfax

Colfax Avenue, described by Playboy Magazine as the "longest, wickedest, street in America," stretches 26 miles through Denver and its suburbs. Colfax has long had a "gritty" reputation for being home to prostitution and drug peddlers. However, through much urban development work, Colfax has shed its past and emerged hipper, cleaner and more popular than ever. The many bars, restaurants and nightspots along the street give it a 24/7 ambience.

Bars elsewhere in Denver


Music venues


Denver is the heart of Colorado's nightlife. For a city its size, Denver does not disappoint.





Stay safe

Denver is quite safe for a city its size. Use common sense when traveling, particularly in downtown and some of the other inner-city neighborhoods. Denver does have a visible population of people experiencing homelessness, but the city has strict laws about accosting for money. In general, panhandlers don't harm anyone. Downtown has a fairly active 24/7 population, especially in LoDo, so it's generally safe.

Still, it may be a good idea not to travel alone at night in some of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown. Although the inner-city neighborhoods are not as bad as those in some other cities, they have higher rates of crime than the rest of the city. The rest of Denver is safe, though.


Like the rest of the United States, the emergency number in Denver is 911. This will connect you to the local emergency services (police, medical, and fire). If you need to report a crime to the police, such as a burglary (not in progress), minor assault (no injuries and not in progress), car theft, etc. Dial +1 720 913-2000 and request for police assistance.

The Denver Police is the main police force for the Denver Metro area. Most police officers are polite and trustworthy individuals, so if you need assistance, approaching a police officer is a good idea.

Altitude sickness

Mile High Marker on the State Capitol building

Altitude sickness or Acute Mountain Sickness is an ailment that potentially anyone can have when they visit areas with higher altitudes than they are used to, due to decreases in barometric pressure (though not oxygen content). Denver is called the Mile High City for a reason—at an altitude of a mile above sea level, one can start to experience some of the effects of altitude sickness though generally this condition becomes more pronounced at elevations around 8000 ft (2500 m) and above. Some normal changes may occur when people travel to higher altitudes that are not altitude sickness. These include the following:

The above are generally nothing to worry about, though problems with breathing may be helped by a drug called acetazolamide. If you think you may have problems, get advice from your doctor before traveling to Denver.

Some people get Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), which can be serious, at the higher elevations you will experience if you are touring through the Rocky Mountains. A diagnosis of AMS is usually given if a person has a headache accompanied by one of more of the following symptoms:

Some people liken AMS to a bad hangover or worse. It occurs because your brain tissue swells at higher elevations than it is used to. If you are feeling unwell at high altitudes, assume that you are suffering from AMS unless there is another logical explanation that would be accompanied by other symptoms (food poisoning or a viral infection).

To avoid AMS, try to get to a lower elevation until your symptoms subside, drink lots of fluid to avoid dehydration, and avoid traveling at high rates of ascent. If the symptoms continue or worsen, travel to a lower altitude. AMS can turn into High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE), a potentially fatal condition where the brain swells so much that it ceases to function properly. Symptoms of HACE include confusion, inability to think clearly, lethargy, ataxia (walking staggerdly, as if one was drunk), and changes in behavior. The person may not recognize having HACE, but if you any of you experiences any of these symptoms (especially ataxia), immediately make sure the person is taken to lower elevations for medical treatment.

Another very serious condition, called High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE) causes fluid in the lungs. If someone suffers chest tightness, congestion, gurgling breaths, blue or gray fingers or lips, cough producing frothy or pink liquid, and difficulty breathing even at rest, they should be taken to a lower elevation and receive medical treatment immediately.

Although not particularly common, keep in mind that these illnesses are possible and that anyone is susceptible to them, even if you have traveled to high elevations before.

Another medical concern at higher elevations, particularly those in Colorado and Denver, is sunburn and skin cancer. The higher elevation means that there is less atmosphere protecting the skin from harmful solar radiation. This is especially true in Colorado, with both dry air that saps the skin of protective moisture and with the beautifully sunny days we have in the state.

Colorado actually has the highest rate of skin cancer in the country, so it is always a good idea to wear a lot of high SPF sun-screen, hats, long sleeve shirts and pants. Don't think that you are protected from the sun in the winter either. The sun's rays can actually be reflected by the snow on the ground, still causing skin damage, so when in Colorado, do as the locals do, and wear sunscreen on any exposed skin surface at any time of the year.


Wireless internet


Go next

Winter sports

For skiiers and snowboarders, winter is the best time to visit Denver. Hordes of people fly into Denver International Airport each season on their way up to the ski capitals of Summit and Eagle counties, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Copper Mountain, Keystone, Loveland Basin, Arapahoe Basin, and Breckenridge, Winter Park; a little further away are Steamboat, and Aspen. You can find information on resort shuttles at the desks in DIA's main terminal.

There are many ski resorts about 1 1/2–2 hours west of Denver along I-70, but weekend traffic to them can be very slow, especially in inclement weather. Steer clear of the crowds by skiing during the week or planning your trip outside the busy season (Thanksgiving to New Year's). There are also plenty of mountain trails for snowshoers and cross-country skiers, which are generally free. You can also take the RTD Ski-n-Ride service from Boulder to Eldora Ski Resort west of Boulder, which is the only resort with scheduled bus service.

Year-round destinations

Routes through Denver

Salt Lake City Granby  W  E  Fort Morgan Omaha
Fort Collins Thornton  N  S  Centennial Colorado Springs
Grand Junction Arvada  W  E  Aurora Hays
END  W  E  Brighton Big Springs
Grand Junction Lakewood  W  E  Brighton Sterling
Rocky Mountain N.P. Westminster  W  E  Aurora St. Joseph
Steamboat Springs Lakewood  W  E  Aurora Limon
Greeley Brighton  N  S  Englewood Colorado Springs
Fort Collins Longmont  N  E  Aurora Limon

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.