Denver, Colorado

Denver, Colorado anaheimer Sun, 07/24/2022 - 05:10

Denver Skyline - by MattWright - WikimediaAs I was landing at Denver International Airport, I wondered why they call it the mile-high-city? I was expecting mountainous terrain and a lot of green. 

Denver, at first glance, looks like any other major city in the USA, with urban sprawl and a city center with tall buildings. 

But some points in the city are at an elevation of 5,280 feet (1,609 m) which is exactly one mile above sea level.

Interesting fact: The highest city in the US is in the state of Colorado. The city of Alma sits at an elevation of 10,578 feet. 

Plaque embedded in one of the steps of the Colorado State Capitol A brass plaque embedded in one of the steps of the Colorado State Capitol building's Western entrance marks the exact spot where Denver's altitude is precisely one mile high.

The Denver area is considered part of the High Desert Prairie, but it sits at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, offering the residents and visitors of this metro area an immense natural playground for hiking, fishing, camping, rafting, and snow sports.

Interesting Fact: Denver’s bright blue sky really is bluer than many other cities’. Because of Denver’s elevation, the air has less water vapor than it would at a lower altitude, making for a gorgeous sky!

Denver offers many opportunities for entertainment, activities, and dining. So what can you do in Denver?

Take a walk

Leave your car at home (or the hotel) and walk the bustling streets for a closer look at restaurants, shops, and museums. Here are some of the most walkable neighborhoods in Denver:

Downtown

Larimer Square on 4th of JulyWithin a one-mile radius, you can kayak on the Platte River, explore some of the city's best museums, shop at art galleries and boutiques, see a Broadway touring show, enjoy live music, ride a rollercoaster or cool off in a water park. 

If you are a sports fan, you can catch a baseball game at Coors field downtown. 

Denver is also home to chef-driven restaurants and innovative craft breweries. Take the Denver Beer Trail to sample local brews – or visit Food Halls to experience world cuisines. 

Interesting Facts: A food hall is basically a food court run by one master chef. The chef tries different high-quality dining concepts. If one idea fails, it is easy to replace it with another. 

Visit the 16th Street Mall for big-name stores, dining experiences, museums, and entertainment. Part of the street is blocked off to traffic to allow for a relaxed walk. 

Larimer Square is another shopping and dining area in Downtown Denver. Larimer street is a pedestrian-only thoroughfare with popular restaurants and street performers. 

Denver Performing Arts Complex on 14th streetEven if you are not attending a concert, try to walk to and through the Denver Performing Arts Complex on 14th street. The complex covers four blocks containing ten performance spaces with over 10,000 seats.

Walking through the Performing Arts Complex, you can enjoy the building design and the public art displays.  

The renovated Denver Union Station in the historic Lower Downtown (LoDo) is a destination on its own. 

Interesting fact: In 1902, the police at Denver Union Station started enforcing a “no kissing” rule on platforms because it slowed down the trains. 

Union StationAdmire the Victorian buildings which house restaurants, galleries, shops, bars, brewpubs, and coffee houses.

One suggested walk takes you from Union Station and 16th streel Mall over the Millenium Bridge, connecting to Confluence Park, over the Platte River, and into the Highland Neighbourhood. 

Alternatively, you can follow the Platte River Trail inside Confluence Park – which turns into Commons Park and then the City of Cuernavaca Park. If you take the trails through those parks, you can spend 20 to 30 minutes enjoying nature while gazing at the Denver Skyline. 

Highland Neighborhood

Highland - millennium bridgeHighland is on the other side of the Platte River and easily accessible by the millennium bridge. 

Walking around this neighborhood, you will find Victorian-era homes and buildings, lush gardens and parks, shops, art galleries, and restaurants.

The area is divided into three diverse districts: Highlands Square, Tennyson Street, and Lower Highland (or LoHi). 

Interesting fact: In 1858, there was not a single person living in the Denver metro area. Thirty years later, Colorado was a state with a population of almost 200,000. It was a gold rush that caused this boom.

Highlands Square is full of boutique stores, wine shops, bookstores, restaurants, and bars. Tennyson Street is a cultural district that you could spend days perusing. 

For architecture enthusiasts, a walk through lower Highland is a must. 

While in Highland, make sure to visit Sloan's Lake Park, a beautiful park with a large lake – the largest lake in Denver.

The park boasts two playgrounds, tennis courts, multiple athletic fields, boating, basketball courts, multi-use trails, and picnic areas.

Interesting Fact: Denver has the largest city park system in the nation, with 14,000 acres of mountain parks and 2,500 acres of natural areas.

It is also a great place to catch the sunset, with stunning views of the Rocky Mountains and Denver skyline. 

Denver Nature And Science Museum

Denver Nature And Science Museum - Mars RoverI am a science and nature buff and can't help visiting the science museum in every city I visit. I am glad I decided to visit this Denver museum because it was an excellent source for informal science education in the Rocky Mountain region. 

The museum has a variety of exhibitions, programs, and activities that help museum visitors learn about the natural history of Colorado, Earth, and the universe. 

Denver Nature And Science Museum - Gems and MineralsThe 716,000-square-foot building houses more than one million objects in its collections, including natural history and anthropological materials and archival and library resources.

I especially enjoyed the Space Odyssey exhibit, which has a full-scale replica of a Mars Exploration Rover, a Planetarium, and a Spaceship replica. 

Many of the displays are interactive. I especially enjoyed controlling my own Mars Rover on a simulated Mars landscape.

Other exhibits are Expedition Health, Wildlife Halls, Gems and Minerals, North American Indian Cultures, and Discovery Zone.

Denver Nature And Science Museum - Wildlife HallsAnd don't forget the IMAX theater showcasing scientific films like Dinosaurs of Antarctica 3D and Wings Over Water.

Get more information and make reservations here.

Dining

The dining scene in Denver has been growing and evolving in recent years with chef-led dining halls, high-end restaurants, breweries and wineries, and ethnic foods. 

Snooze

Denver Dining - SnoozeYou can spot Snooze as you walk by Union Station. At first glance, it looks like a tiny breakfast place, but once you go in, you will notice it extends inside the station with indoor and outdoor seating. 

The place offers delicious pancakes, french toast, benedicts, breakfast burritos, oatmeal, breakfast sandwiches, bacon & more. 

They also have selections to accommodate special dietary needs like paleo, vegetarian & vegan, or dairy free & gluten-free.

I stopped there twice during my stay and tried their OMG french toast and breakfast burrito. Both were delicious and very filling.

Corridor 44 restaurant

Denver Dining - Corridor 44This high-end eatery is in the walkable Larimer Square neighborhood and offers elegant seating and tasty creations. 

It is also the only Denver's only Champagne bar with 115 Champagne flavors, 18 Champagne cocktails,  and martinis. They even feature Champagne in their recipes. 

While listening to a great music selection, I tried the Salmon om Angel Hair Noddles. The food was delicious and satisfying, and my vanilla bean cheesecake dessert was a great finale to this dinner. 

Hapa Sushi

Denver Dining - Hapa Sushi"Hapa" is a Hawaiian term that means "a harmonious blend of Asian & American cultures". And Hapa Sushi is a place where you can find traditional Japanese cuisine with an International flare. 

Hapa offers an extensive menu with various rolls, sushi, and Sashimi, along with bowls, poke, and Curry dishes.

I went for the sushi, so I ordered the Sushi Sampler, which includes California roll, maguro, sake, hamachi, ebi, saba, and shiromi. This was a great choice as I got to try several items at once. 

The food was delicious and satisfying – I had a few leftovers.

Marcos's pizza

Denver Dining - Marcos's pizzaI first visited Marco's Pizza as part of a food tour. The one slice of wood-fired pizza offered during the tour convinced me to come back later for a whole pie.

Marco makes the pizza by hand with imported tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella, and lemon cello made with vodka in a wood-fired oven. 

The resulting pizza is different from chain pizza places and is full of flavor. 

The official name is Marco's Coal Fired Restaurant because they used coal for the fire when it first opened. 

Lazo empanada

Denver Dining - Lazo empanadaAn empanada is a baked or fried turnover consisting of pastry and filling, originating in Spain's Catalan region. 
It is a popular food in Latin America, and Lazo empanada is the Argentinian take on this savory food. 

Lazo makes their empanadas on-site using a press and a variety of fillings like ground beef, steak, chicken, and mushrooms. They even offer breakfast empanadas and dessert empanadas. 

The chimichurri sauce is a must with those delicious empanadas.

Biker Jim's Gourmet Dogs

Denver Dining - Biker Jim's Gourmet DogsIs it really possible to have a gourmet dog? After all, this quintessentially American food is available everywhere, so why should I stop at this place?

I stepped in because a friend raved about it, so I tried the Jalapeno Sausage and the Wild Boar. I shied away from items like Rattlesnake & Rabit and Ostrich. 

I didn't know it then, but I found out later that this place was featured in Bizarre foods Anthony burden. Gourmet dogs.

Kachina

Katchina offers a twist on Mexican and South American food with dishes like shrimp ceviche, green chili stew, and seven different types of tacos, including one with fried bread.

During my visit, I tried the Fried Bread Taco as a sample during a food tour. I am not a fan of fried foods, so I wasn't very impressed with it. 

Mariscos El Muchacho Alegre

This restaurant is a little outside of Denver in the suburb of Aurora but worth a visit.

You must visit this place with loud Mexican music and delicious and filling dishes if you love authentic Mexican food.

Interesting Fact: Denver was home to the very first Chipotle Mexican Grill.

I tried the Asada Y Camarones Fajita during my visit -the steak and shrimp fajita and loved it. The portion was large enough for two people, and the meats were cooked just right. 

The only thing missing in this restaurant is diet drinks – but maybe after eating all this high-calorie food, it doesn't make sense to have a diet drink. 

Things to do Nearby

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the GodsGarden of the Gods is a majestic red rock formation next to the city of Colorado Springs and designated as National Natural Landmark.

The visitor center is a good launching pad for your adventure with a large parking lot, theater, café, and souvenir shop.

From the center, you can hike to the rocks, take the shuttle, or go on one of the guided tours. 

During my visit, I hiked to the garden, circled the formation, and then took the shuttle for the return trip. 

You don't really have to visit the center to enjoy this natural wonder. You can just cruise around the rocks in your car or park right next to the rocks if you are lucky enough.

The visitor center website offers a lot of information about activities, tours, and guided hikes. You can also rent bikes or book the "Perfect Day Package," which includes a trolly tour, movie, and a boxed lunch. For even more adventure, you can replace the trolly tour with a Jeep tour. 

Colorado Springs

Colorado Springs Cheyenne Mountain ZooAfter visiting the Garden of the Gods, you might as well explore Colorado Springs's other landmarks and activities. 
Start with a trip to The Broadmoor Seven Falls, but park at the Norris Penrose Event Center and take the shuttle as there is no parking at the falls. 

Another great destination is the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, 6,714 feet above sea level, considered the highest zoo in America. 

The zoo covers 140 acres, 40 of which are in use. The zoo houses more than 750 animals, representing nearly 150 different species, with more than 30 endangered species. 

Estes park

Estes parkKnown as the base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park offers park visitors a last chance to shop for essentials or grab a meal. 

You can go hiking, cycling, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting from this small town. You can also join a guided tour into the Rockies. 

Elkhorn ave, downtown, is home to unique shops, restaurants, and coffee shops, with a mile long Riverwalk Behind the shops.

For a longer hike, You can take the trail around Lake Estes.

And for stunning views of the valley and the mountains, take the Aerial Tramway, which whisks you above the treetops to the summit of Prospect Mountain.  

Rocky Mountains National Park 

Rocky Mountains National ParkRocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado spans the Continental Divide and encompasses protected mountains, forests, and alpine tundra. 

The park's mountains, alpine lakes, forests, and wildlife offer a wide range of activities and adventures for Denver area residents and visitors alike. 

Interesting Fact: The 30-mile-long Continental Divide Trail runs right through the middle of the park, splitting it into its Eastern and Western sections. 

Visitors can enjoy hiking, camping, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hunting. 

Read about a tour through the Rocky Mountain NP here.

Rocky Mountains National ParkMany mountains in the park soar to an elevation above 11,000 ft, and the highest one, Longs Peak, reaches 14,259 feet. 

Driving from the mile-high city, Denver, to the highest point along Highway 34, you can see the terrain and weather change along the way. 

On a summer day drive, we started from the Denver high desert with temperatures reaching 98 degrees, went through glacier valleys, to Alpine Lakes, and finally to the Alpine Forest, where the temperature dropped below freezing with a sleet storm. 

Interesting Facts: The park features the country’s highest continuous paved road, Trail Ridge Road. Reaching its highest point at 12,183 ft., Trail Ridge Road is 48 miles of pristine mountain views, 11 of which sit above treeline, offering spectacular scenes of Rocky Mountain National Park.

The park contains approximately 450 miles of rivers and streams, some flow to the south and west and eventually end in the Pacific Ocean, while others eat and end up in the Atlantic. 

The park requires timed reservations so head to their website for more information and make a reservation.

Rocky Mountains NP Tour

Rocky Mountains NP Tour anaheimer Thu, 08/11/2022 - 05:10

Denver Rocky Mountains - by James St John - WikimediaWhen I decided to visit Denver, the mile-high city, I expected to see forests, rivers, and snow-covered mountains, but I was disappointed when I landed. 

Denver, at first glance, looked like any other major city in the USA, with urban sprawl, a city center with tall buildings, and a sprinkle of parks. 

But my disappointment was short-lived as I explored this beautiful city and the Majestic Rockies a short drive away.
You can read more about Denver here, but this page is dedicated to the splendor of The Rocky Mountains National Park.

The park spans the Continental Divide and encompasses protected mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and alpine tundra. 

The park's mountains, alpine lakes, forests, and wildlife offer a wide range of activities and adventures for Denver area residents and visitors alike. 

While at the park, you can enjoy hiking, fishing, rafting, a trip on the highest paved highway in the US, gazing at the snow-covered mountains, hunting, or skiing. 

Many mountains in the park soar to an elevation above 11,000 ft, and the highest one, Longs Peak, reaches 14,259 feet.

When visiting a new place, I rely on local expertise to help me discover and explore. To experience the Rocky Mountains, I went with Aspire Tours from Denver.

Right away, I could tell that I had made the right choice. The check-in process was a breeze, and the vans were high quality with large windows – with a max of 16 passengers.

The meeting point was in front of Union Station, so I arrived early to enjoy breakfast at Snooze, which was delightful. 

Downtown Lyons - by Billy Hathorn - WikimediaFrom the start, our guide Ty, kept us informed and entertained with his explanations of terrain, people, and history. 
As we approached our first stop, the town of Lyons, he explained that the Denver area's environment is high Desert Prairie or High Plains, where short grass grows, and small animals roam. 

The stop at Lyons was mainly to collect lunch and water for the tour, but we also enjoyed coffee and pastries at Moxie Bread Co.  

Lyons is famous for its sandstone quarries, a major source of sandstone bricks for many cities in the USA for a while. Nowadays, Lyons's claim to fame is as the gateway to the Rocky Mountains National Park.

As we approached our next stop, Estes Park, Ty regaled us with Rattlesnake Kate's story. Kate had ridden to a pond with her 3-year-old son, Ernie, to gather wounded ducks from hunters so they could have them for dinner. She encountered 140 Rattlesnakes and had to shoot her way through them. Read the full story here.

As we climbed through the national park on highways 36 and 35, the scenery started to change, and the temperature began to drop. 

We climbed from Denver's 5,280 feet elevation to 11700 feet at the Alpine Visitor Center, and the weather changed from a hot 93 degrees to cloudy with some rain and finally to a thunder snow storm at the top. 

Rocky Mountains Alpine Visitor Center - snow stormThe dramatic change in weather impacted our planned tour, but the tour guide and driver were flexible enough to give us alternate experiences. 

To me, the experience of a thunderstorm with snow was worth the change in plan. I would have voted to spend more time at the top to run around under the deluge if given a chance. 

After a picnic lunch, a hike at Sprauge Lake, and a visit to Estes Park, we returned to Denver. On the way back, Ty, our guide, offered recommendations on places to visit and the best restaurants in town. 

I really enjoyed my time of discovery with Aspire Tours and would recommend this tour to first-time visitors to the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Highlights of the tour 

Wildlife along the way

Rocky Mountains - ElkAfter reaching the top and turning back, we encounter a large elk feeding along a creek. Everyone stepped out of the van to take a closer look and selfies with an Elk, except we had to keep our distance.

The male Elk was alone, a rarity, as they usually graze as a herd. 

Interesting facts: Only male Elks have antlers, which grow in the spring and drop each winter. Antlers can grow up to an inch a day.

Later at a large meadow, we spotted a large herd of Elks near a watering hole.

Estes Park

Estes Park RiverwalkKnown as the base camp for Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park offers park visitors a last chance to shop for essentials or grab a meal. 

You can go hiking, cycling, rock climbing, and whitewater rafting from this small town. You can also join a guided tour into the Rockies. 

Interesting Fact: Many towns in the Rocky Mountains are named "Park." We learned that the "Park" identifier in a name indicates that it is a valley formed by glaciers. 

Stanley Hotel Estes Park - by Rominator - WikipediaOn the way back from our tour, we spent some time on Elkhorn ave downtown, home to unique shops, restaurants, and coffee shops, with a mile long Riverwalk Behind the shops. It was cold with a drizzle but much better than the storm at the top.

Interesting Fact: The Stanley Hotel on Estes Park Lake inspired Stephen King's horror novel "The Shining". 

The hike along the riverwalk was beautiful and refreshing, but for a longer hike, You can take the trail around Lake Estes.

And for stunning views of the valley and the mountains, take the Aerial Tramway, which whisks you above the treetops to the summit of Prospect Mountain.  

Sprague Lake

Sprague LakeAround lunchtime, we stopped at this scenic lake for a picnic with stunning views of the snowcapped mountains. 

The lake is located on the south side of Glacier Creek, about two miles south of the Hollowell turnoff. 

The area is named after Abner Sprague, who started a homestead there in 1874. Later, he opened a lodge for dude ranching, hunting, and fishing. To improve the fishing, he dammed the far end of the lake. 

Sprague Lake picnicWhile our guides were preparing our lunch, we went on a half-mile walk around the lake, which is wheelchair accessible.

The hike features boardwalks and bridges with views of Flattop Mountain and Hallet Peak. 

It is also popular for Brook Trout fishing and fly-fishing. 

Interesting fact: In 1919, at the Sprauge Hotel, guests paid $6.00 per room with a private bath and $1.00 for regular meals. The hotel, which no longer exists, stood near the present-day parking lot.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road - by DariuszKowalczyk - WikipediaThe Trail Ridge Road is the 48-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 34 that traverses Rocky Mountain National Park from Estes Park, Colorado, in the east to Grand Lake, Colorado, in the west. 

Together with the connecting 6.9-mile Beaver Meadow Road (U.S. Highway 36), Trail Ridge Road forms the 55-mile Trail Ridge Road/Beaver Meadow National Scenic Byway, an All-American Road. 

With a high point at 12,183 feet elevation, Trail Ridge Road is the highest continuous paved road in North America. 

Bear Lake

Rocky Mountain NP signBear Lake was not on our itinerary, but it is a major destination at the park and worth mentioning here. 

It is a large beautiful lake with great views of Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide and a trailhead for seven hikes of varying degrees of difficulty.

The lake was formed during the ice age by a glacier. Several moraines can be found downhill from Bear Lake.

Hiking Trails

The National Park is a hiker's paradise with plenty of trails to choose from. Some of the most popular trails are Emerald Lake, Sky Pond, and Chasm Lake. You can find more trails here.

Park Information

Rocky Mountain National Park is spread over 415 square miles (265,807 acres)  and encompasses a spectacular range of mountain environments with lakes, rivers, meadows,  and high peaks. 

To experience this massive park, you need to plan ahead. Visitors have to have a timed entry reservation or a camp/lodge reservation to enter.

Go here to make a reservation. While here, you can also purchase annual passes.

During peak season, parking may become difficult at the most popular spots, so consider leaving your car behind and riding the shuttle. The park shuttle starts at Estes Park, and visit your favorite places. Go here for more details.

For a list of fees and passes visit this site.

Rocky Mountains Zipline adventure

Rocky Mountains Zipline adventure anaheimer Sat, 08/13/2022 - 13:31

Rocky Mountains Zipline - Bill ZainI love the feeling of flying over a forest canopy while admiring the nature around me.

Well, I wasn’t exactly flying, but sitting in a harness and sliding on a long zipline is close enough.

And I wasn’t admiring nature too much as it was zipping under me way too fast, but I still loved every minute. 

While visiting Denver, I decided to go on this zipline adventure with Denver Adventure and chose the 6-zipline adventure with a media package.

This tour company offers Colorado’s longest and fastest ziplines ranging from 850ft to over 1,900ft long, with speeds up to 60mph and up to 250ft above the ground! 

The ziplines are located in a beautiful nature park nestled in the Rocky Mountains, only 30 minutes from Denver. 

Rocky Mountains ZiplineTheir office is in the town of Conifer, where we check in, get weighed, outfitted, then shuttled to the park. Weighing in is required because the weight limit is 245 lbs. 

Before the short 5-minute trip to the starting point, we get our equipment, instructions, and GoPro camera for those who ordered the media package.

This zipline adventure happens at high altitudes and requires some hiking, so make sure you are ready for the exercise. One of the hikes between lines was steep and long; I was out of breath by the time I reached the next base.

Rocky Mountains ZiplineOur guides were professional and very helpful. Before each zip line, they inspect your equipment, ensure you are secured to the line, turn on your GoPro, and let you have fun. 

Each zip line of the six has its own character. Some are very long and leisurely, and others are short and very fast.

After 3 hours of exhilarating fun, we returned to the office to drop off the gear and pick up our GoPro digital record. 

I recommend this fun tour to anyone with an adventurous spirit.