Denver Neighborhoods & Towns
Unless you're making your way to the mountains, you'll likely spend most of your time hanging around the city center — specifically downtown, LoDo and Uptown. Finding your way to and around these central neighborhoods won't be too difficult thanks to multiple forms of transportation, though you'll probably want to keep a street map on hand. Denver's streets are mostly laid out on a grid, though some major thoroughfares cut across diagonally.
Denver's core is a vibrant place bursting with restaurants, shops and museums. Anchoring the downtown area is Civic Center Park and the Colorado State Capitol. Separating downtown Denver from other popular areas (like Uptown) is East Colfax Avenue, the city's primary east-west thoroughfare, while Broadway and Lincoln Street are the more prominent north-south routes. Around the intersection of these streets sit numerous higher-end hotels catering to business travelers looking for easy access to the Colorado Convention Center.
Downtown Denver is composed of several smaller neighborhoods. Chances are you'll be spending much of your time in the Golden Triangle (a compact corner of the downtown area bordered by Lincoln Street, North Speer Boulevard and East Colfax Avenue) and Capitol Hill on the opposite side of Broadway. This part of central Denver is home to some of the city's most popular attractions, including the Denver Art Museum. You'll also find smaller gems like the Molly Brown House Museum, the United States Mint and the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art. If you'd prefer to spend your time outside, continue east of Capitol Hill to Cheesman Park or Congress Park — both offer plenty of walking paths and ample space for picnics. Sitting between the two parks is the Denver Botanic Gardens.
LoDo & Larimer Square
Despite its name (which is short for Lower Downtown), the hip LoDo district can be found a few blocks northwest of the State Capitol — its epicenter occupying the area around the intersection of 20th and Blake streets. Despite its historic appearance (complete with many a Victorian building), LoDo is one of Denver's trendiest areas. A walk through LoDo will lead you past a variety of restaurants, cafes and sports bars — after all, this is where you'll find Coors Field, where Major League Baseball's Colorado Rockies play. To get a feel for LoDo, take a few hours to stroll down the 16th Street Mall; this popular pedestrian street is lined with shops, restaurants and bars.
Southeast of central LoDo — on the northeast fringes of the University of Colorado Denver campus — is Larimer Square. This historic neighborhood bustles with activity day and night. When the sun's up, people flock to Larimer Square to shop in its designer fashion stores, while come nightfall, the area comes alive as nightlife venues open their doors. Though staying in LoDo or Larimer Square would mean easy access to Denver's entertainment, expect hotels in these areas to be pricey.
Continue northeast along North Speer Boulevard from downtown or Larimer Square and you'll find yourself along the banks of the South Platte River in an area aptly named the Riverfront. In addition to plenty of green space, this part of town is home to Sports Authority Field at Mile High (where the NFL's Denver Broncos play), as well as some of Denver's most family-friendly attractions, including the Elitch Gardens Theme Park, the Children's Museum of Denver and the Downtown Aquarium. Adults will also find plenty to do along the Riverfront: The Museum of Contemporary Art is located here, while My Brother's Bar (once a hangout for Beat Generation icons Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady) is a nice spot to take a load off. The Riverfront is an easy walk from many of the hotels in downtown and LoDo.
Sitting on the opposite side of the South Platte River from LoDo, Highlands is Denver's latest "it" spot. This expansive neighborhood — bordered by Interstate 25 to the east, Federal Boulevard to the West, West 38th Avenue to the north and West 29th Avenue to the south — has experienced impressive growth over the past several years. Today, this neighborhood bursts with up-and-coming businesses, including shops and restaurants, but Denverites come here for eclectic eats. This part of the city has long been a gathering spot for Italian and Hispanic immigrants, and restaurants here serve up plates of Italian, Mexican, Peruvian and Argentinean fare. If you're interested in art, make your way to Tennyson Street, which boasts numerous art galleries and live music venues. Another hot spot is the Navajo Street Art District (south of 38th Avenue), where galleries, performance art space and restaurants abound. But if you're looking to hang your hat in Highlands, you won't find the same caliber hotels that you would downtown, though some budget-friendly properties do reside around West 29th Avenue.
Facing downtown's Capitol Hill area from the north side of West Colfax Avenue, Denver's Uptown district is the city's oldest residential district; Victorian and Queen Anne architecture dominates this part of town, and historic hotels like The Brown Palace and the Warwick Denver make elegant home bases. But like Highlands, Uptown is experiencing a surge in popularity thanks to the rising number of new bars and eateries. A big reason why Uptown beckons to locals and visitors alike is Restaurant Row: This stretch of East 17th Avenue (between Broadway and City Park) is lined with all kinds of dining venues serving everything from tacos to Colorado's famous green chili. Uptown's other major draw is City Park; flanking the eastern edge of the neighborhood, City Park is Denver's largest green space, boasting plenty of picnic areas, playgrounds and sports facilities, not to mention the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
North of Uptown is the Five Points district, another neighborhood known for its Victorian houses and historic significance. Once referred to as the "Harlem of the West," Five Points was Denver's principal black neighborhood and a hot spot for jazz music — Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday are just some of the legends who passed through Five Points' clubs. To hear some of today's jazz greats, plan your Denver trip around the Five Points Jazz Festival, which the district hosts every May. This is also a great spot for dining, especially if you're craving barbecue, soul food or Caribbean cuisine. If you're interested in learning more about the history of Five Points, you can use the free audio guide provided by Denver Story Trek. Simply dial the phone number listed and enter the story number for the site you want to learn about. Although you won't find many hotels in this area, Five Points is easy to reach on foot from Uptown and LoDo.
Cherry Creek and Old South Gaylord
Although the Highlands and Uptown districts are gaining ground, Cherry Creek remains Denver's primary shopping and dining district. Sitting southwest of Cheesman Park (with the focal point being East First, East Second and East Third avenues between University Boulevard and Steele Street), Cherry Creek features some of Denver's best restaurants and a bevy of high-end stores. Milwaukee Street — referred to as Cherry Creek North — boasts a wide array of art galleries and boutique stores, while the Cherry Creek Shopping Center houses such high-end designers as Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton. (The area also boasts some of the city's luxury lodging options, including the JW Marriott Denver Cherry Creek.) Meanwhile, the 22-mile-long Cherry Creek Bike Path draws active travelers in droves, providing a scenic way to get from central Denver all the way to Cherry Creek Reservoir on the southeast fringes of town.
For a quainter shopping and dining experience, head southwest of Cherry Creek to the Old South Gaylord neighborhood. The area's main drag, South Gaylord Street, is lined with colorful awnings that shelter boutique stores, cafes and restaurants. When you're not exercising your credit card or your taste buds, head a few blocks west to Washington Park. One of the most popular green spaces in the city, this park features two big lakes (and a small pond), several walking trails and quiet respite from the bustling downtown area.
South Broadway and Old South Pearl
South Broadway ("SoBo" for short) is Denver's go-to antiquing spot. Fondly known as Antique Row, this 18-block stretch of Broadway starting at the intersection of West Alameda Avenue is known for its shops selling everything from collectable coins to historic artwork. But if you're in the mood for something a little more contemporary, the street also features a variety of bookshops, clothing stores and galleries, not to mention a mix of international cuisine. If you're a night owl, you'll find plenty to do here after dark — SoBo's nightlife scene comprises live music joints, salsa dancing venues, techno clubs and everything in between.
Meanwhile, Old South Pearl is a little more laid back than vibrant SoBo. Once the launch point of Denver's first trolleys, South Pearl Street is now lined with specialty shops, cafes and wine bars. You also find a variety of cuisines served in this part of town — from sushi to pizza. Just note that lodging options are scarce in this part of town (both SoBo and Old South Pearl), so plan on bunking elsewhere.
Stapleton and Northfield
These two neighborhoods in northeast Denver usually don't attract much tourist attention — neither Stapleton nor Northfield offers the cornucopia of shopping, dining or entertainment venues of more central areas. However, these two residential districts do attract nature lovers thanks to their proximity to the 17,000-acre Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. This is the place to go if you're interested in seeing Colorado creatures like eagles and elk. Northfield offers the easiest access to the reserve, as well as to Dick's Sporting Goods Park, where Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids Play. Meanwhile, Stapleton (which sits directly south of Northfield) is a popular weekend spot among locals thanks to its numerous parks and its dog-friendly atmosphere. As far as shopping and dining is concerned, The Shops at Northfield Stapleton, an outdoor shopping plaza, comprises pedestrian-only streets lined with cafes and stores.
The main reason to visit Golden is to take a tour of the Coors Brewery, which was constructed in 1873 and is now one of the largest breweries in the world. But there's more to this neighborhood than beer. Located on the western edge of the city, Golden holds fast to its Wild West heritage. Several of the attractions here — such as the Buffalo Bill Museum and the Colorado Railroad Museum — spotlight the area's cowboy culture. This area is also a great spot to enjoy views of the Rockies the way the pioneers did: on horseback. Golden boasts some of the best riding trails in the country, including those at Apex Park and White Ranch Park. Another reason to make the trek out this way is to spend the day hiking (or the evening enjoying a show) at Red Rocks Park.
True to its name, the Mile High City sits 5,282 feet above sea level, and visitors should take precautions against altitude sickness, the symptoms of which include headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Drink plenty of water and avoid strenuous activities (and too much alcohol) for a day or so upon arrival. You also shouldn't underestimate the sun; even during the winter, the city's thin atmosphere makes it easier to get sunburned, so apply sunscreen regularly, even when the weather's cold.
Speaking of the cold, winter travelers may encounter "black ice" while walking or driving around the Denver area; black ice occurs when water on the road freezes and becomes invisible after sundown. Take extra precautions to avoid an accident when moving around after dark.