You can tell from its skyline alone that Denver is a major metropolis, with a Major League Baseball stadium at one end of downtown and the State Capitol building at the other. But look to the west to see where Denver distinguishes itself in the majestic Rocky Mountains, snow-peaked and breathtakingly huge, looming in the distance. This combination of urban sprawl and proximity to nature is what gives the city character and sets it apart as a destination.Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, when the city mushroomed on a huge surge of oil and energy revenues, Denver worked on the transition from Old West "cow town" to a comfortable, modern place to live. The city demolished its large downtown Skid Row area, paving the way for developments such as the Tabor Center and the Auraria multicollege campus. In the early 1990s mayors Federico Peña and Wellington Webb championed a massive new airport to replace the rickety Stapleton. Then the city lured major-league baseball, in the form of the purple-and-black Colorado Rockies, and built Coors Field in the heart of downtown. Around the stadium, planners developed LoDo, a business-and-shopping area including hip nightclubs, Larimer Square boutiques, and bike and walking paths.Since the mid-1990s Denver has caught the attention of several major national corporations looking to move their operations to a thriving city that enjoys a relatively stable economy and a healthy business climate. And win or lose, the sports teams continue to imbue the city with a sense of pride.Many Denverites are unabashed nature lovers who can also enjoy the outdoors within the city limits by walking along the park-lined river paths downtown. (Perhaps as a result of their active lifestyle, Denverites are among the "thinnest" city residents in the United States, and the city is named annually as one of the healthiest in the nation.) For Denverites, preserving the environment and the city's rich mining and ranching heritage are of equally vital importance to the quality of life.LoDo, a business-and-shopping area, buzzes with jazz clubs, restaurants, and art galleries housed in carefully restored century-old buildings. The culturally diverse populace avidly supports the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, the Museo de las Americas, and the new History Colorado Center (formerly the Colorado History Museum). The Denver Performing Arts Complex is the nation's second-largest theatrical venue, bested in capacity only by New York's Lincoln Center. An excellent public transportation system, including a popular, growing light-rail system and 850 miles of bike paths, makes getting around easy.
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Things You Can't Miss
Shopping, dining and nightlife abound in Denver’s hip Lower Downtown district, full of Victorian architecture. Stroll through nearby Larimer Square.
The Denver Museum of Nature and Science entertains with dazzling displays of dinosaurs, gems, Egyptian mummies, Indian cultures and space journeys.
The Denver Botanic Gardens displays 33,000 plants on 23 acres. This urban oasis includes a Japanese Garden, a children’s area and a Rock Alpine Garden.
Visuals Unlimited, Inc. / David Cobb / Getty Images
Upscale shops and cafes make this neighborhood a city highlight. Put on running shoes or rent a bike and enjoy pretty (and popular) Cherry Creek Trail.
Futuristic is the word for the Denver Art Museum, with American Indian and Spanish Colonial art, plus paintings and sculpture from around the globe.
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Make reservations well ahead to tour the U.S. Mint, which produces up to 50 million coins a day in its 1904 Italian Renaissance-style building.
Jean Brooks / Robert Harding World Imagery / Corbis
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