In this special feature from The Print ‘n Fly Guide to SC13 in Denver, Robert Murphy looks at the history and attractions that make the Mile-High City such a terrific destination.
Denver is the capitol of Colorado, and with a population of 619,968, it is the 23rd most populous city in the US as of 2011. The western state of Colorado is about 1,800 miles from New York on the east coast and just over 1,000 miles from Los Angeles on the west coast.
Nicknamed the “Mile High City” due to the fact that its official elevation is exactly one mile (5,280 feet) above sea level, it has one of the highest elevations of all the major cities in the US. Denver is situated in the South Platte River Valley, just east of the Rocky Mountains. Home to seven professional sports teams, including the Denver Broncos, the Colorado Rockies, the Colorado Rapids and the Denver Nuggets, it’s an ideal place for the sports fanatic no matter what time of the year it is. For this reason, www.denver.org rightly refers to the city as a “pro sports paradise”.
The weather in Denver is very inviting. Winters are remarkably mild with an average high of 45 degrees. It does get cold enough to snow at times, but it rarely stays on the ground for very long. If you’re a golfer, you’ll be happy to know that Denver has plenty of courses, and they are typically open all year round.
In 1858 during the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, Denver was founded by General William Larimer Jr. on the St. Charles Town Claim as a mining town. Under threat of being hanged, a representative of St. Charles Town Co. agreed to give up his claim in exchange for a barrel of whiskey, which may not seem like much, but considering the alternative, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse. This land was an unlikely place for a city to be founded. Throughout its early history, many attempts to build cities in Colorado resulted in failure, which is why there are about 500 “ghost towns” in Colorado today. A ghost town is a town, city or village that has been completely abandoned usually due to either natural disaster or economic failure.
Denver could have very easily gone the way of these ghost towns due to a number of factors. It was not built on an existing road or railroad, neither was it built on a lake or river or near a body of water. By all accounts, this was an unfavorable location for a city. In the words of travel writer Rose Kingsley, “It was as if the angels were carrying a city to a proper place and accidentally dropped it here.” In fact, in its early history, Denver was destroyed and rebuilt twice, once as a result of fire, and once as a result of floods. Yet despite the odds, Denver ultimately survived and thrived. To a large extent, Denver owes its survival to ambitious people like William Byers who helped bring the railroad to the city and who in 1859 founded the Rocky Mountain News which was used to promote this new city and give it some credibility in the eyes of the rest of the nation. Or John Evans who not only built railroads and churches, but also built the University of Denver which was founded in 1864. Those are just a couple examples of the entrepreneurial spirit of the early citizens of Denver that ensured that this city did not become just another ghost town.
Over the years, Denver has managed to evolve while still retaining its historic, old west roots. To this day, snapshots of its early history have been preserved and are proudly displayed throughout the city. For example, it is home of the renowned Buffalo Bill Museum and Grave, which was named best museum of the year by True West Magazine in 2010. William Frederick Cody, AKA Buffalo Bill, was an American soldier, bison hunter and showman who lived from 1856 to 1917. Before Buffalo Bill died, he requested that he be buried on Lookout Mountain which overlooks the Great Plains and the Rockies and is located about half an hour from downtown Denver. In 1921, the Buffalo Bill Museum was constructed at the site of his grave by Johnny Baker, and since then, it has attracted millions of visitors and is one of the top tourist sites in Colorado. The museum is a great spot for history buffs and offers an informative and entertaining experience, featuring an observation deck, a gift shop, a café, hiking trails and more. Admission is very affordable at $5.00 per person, $4.00 for seniors, $1.00 for children between the ages of 6-15 and free for kids 5 and under. During the winter months, the museum is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 9AM – 4PM.
Another one of the top tourist sites in Denver is the Denver Performing Arts Complex, also known as the “Denver Center”, located on 13th street in downtown Denver. This is one of the largest performing arts centers in the country, second only to the Lincoln Center in New York City. The four block, twelve acre site holds ten performance spaces with a combined seating capacity of over 10,000 people. The performance spaces include the Ellie Caulkins Opera House, the Buell Theatre and the Boettcher Concert Hall. Here you can be treated to a wide variety of performances, including Broadway touring productions, opera, dance and ballet, a major symphony orchestra, a Tony Award winning theatre company and more. For information about tickets and upcoming events, check out www.denvercenter.org.
Denver also has a great zoo, which in 2005 was named the most popular paid attraction in the Denver metropolitan area. The 80-acre zoo is accredited by the association of zoos and aquariums (AZA) and is a member of the world association of zoos and aquariums (WAZA). Alexander J. Graham began the zoo in 1896 with an orphaned American black bear cub. It has come a long way since then and today is home to 3,500 animals from over 650 different species. The zoo is known for its authentic, naturalistic habitats which not only serve to enhance the experience for zoo patrons, but makes life happier for the animals as well. The Denver zoo is also committed to environmental sustainability by means of water and energy conservation, alternative transportation and local food and is currently working towards becoming a zero waste facility by 2025. From November through February, admission is $12 for visitors ages 12-64, $10 for ages 65+, $8 for children ages 3-11 and free for kids 2 and under. Group discounts are also offered. During the winter, admissions are open from 10am – 4pm with grounds staying open until 5pm.
On the corner of West Colfax Ave and Delaware St you can find the Denver Mint, a branch of the United States Mint. You might want to consider taking advantage of the opportunity to take a free tour, as the Denver Mint is one of only two US mint locations (along with Philadelphia) that offers tours to the public. In 1860, during the Pikes Peak gold rush, Clark, Gruber and Company began to produce coins using gold dust. In 1863, the facilities of Clark, Gruber and Company were acquired by the US Treasury for $25,000 and the United States Mint of Denver officially opened as a United States Assay Office. In 1906, the Denver Mint was moved to its current location on West Colfax and Delaware and for the first time began to mint silver coins in addition to gold ones. The Denver Mint has been an important part of Denver’s history and of the history of the United States. Its founding goes back almost to the founding of Denver itself and to this day it is the largest producer of coins in the entire world.
The 16th Street Mall is yet another extremely popular tourist spot in Denver. The pedestrian/transit mall opened in 1982 and originally went from Market Street to Broadway. In 2001, the mall was extended and it now stretches for over a mile along 16th street in downtown Denver from Wewatta Street to the intersection of 16th Ave and Broadway. A free shuttle bus service known as “MallRide” runs the entire length of the mall, stopping at every intersection along the way and also connects to the Denver Light Rail. MallRide operates 7 days a week. The mall is home to the Performing Arts Center, the Colorado Convention Center, a comedy club, hundreds of stores and shops, not to mention over 200 restaurants including everything from fast food to fine dining to coffee shops. VISIT DENVER’s Visitor Information Center is also located in the mall on the corner of 16th and California. In addition to all of this, on any given day at the 16th Street Mall, you will encounter a colorful conglomeration of street performers and vendors.
The Denver DIA airport is quite a distance from downtown–some would say it’s half-way to Nebraska. The good news is that there are many transportation options available to help move you from the airport to your hotel. We recommend the commercial shuttles, with price ranging between $22 one way/$40 round trip.
Public transportation in Denver is affordable and convenient. You can get almost anywhere in the city via bus and/or light rail. Beginning on April 26th of this year, Regional Transportation District (RTD) will be adding the West Rail Line, an extra 12.1 miles of light rail running between Denver, Lakewood and Golden on the W line, making public transportation in the Mile High City that much more efficient. For information about fares, bus lines and schedules log on to http://www.rtd-denver.com. Another available option for transportation is Yellow Cab of Denver, which is not only convenient, but can also be an environmentally friendly way of commuting now that they have added hybrid and propane cars to their fleet.
As you can see, Denver has quite a bit to offer in the way of culture and entertainment. This combined with the pleasant weather and reasonably priced hotels and variety of dining options should make for a very enjoyable visit to Denver.
One thing you should note when visiting Denver – the crime rate in Denver is significantly higher than the national average.
Be aware of this and use common sense. As a general rule, it is probably not the best idea to walk around the city at night if you are not in a group. Keep that advice in mind and have a safe and wonderful time exploring the Mile High City.
This story appears in The Print ‘n Fly Guide to SC13 in Denver. We designed this 24-page Guide to be an in-flight magazine custom tailored for your journey to the Mile-High city at SC13. Contents
- The Fast Data Imperative - an interview with Mellanox CTO Michael Kagan
- Interview: Conference Chair Bill Gropp on the 25th Anniversary of SC
- Technical Marketing in the Age of HPC
- Local’s Guide to Restaurants in Denver
- Move Over, HPCers: Another Wave of Immigrants is Hitting Your Shores by IDC’s Steve Conway
- SC 25th Anniversary – The Complete History of Keynotes
- Local’s Guide to Bars and Entertainment in Denver
- Brian Sparks and Scot Schultz on the Secrets of Technical Marketing
- An Update to the Exascale Progress Meter
- City Guide: SC13 Comes to Denver, Colorado
- Sci-Fi Original: The Observer Effect by Rich Brueckner