Colorado calling: The gateway to the Rocky Mountains, Denver’s attracting arty types from across the States to the mile-high marvel
- James March finds that Denver has a ‘vibrant arts scene’ and ‘quality restaurants’
- From his 11th-floor room at the Hotel Clio, he can see the outline of the Rockies
- With 140 breweries in the metro area, the city is a ‘craft beer fan’s dream’, he says
Occasionally, delays can be beneficial. The additional 90 minutes added to my flight into Denver means the city has slipped into a golden evening glow as the sun sinks behind the distant peaks of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
Rolling by train into the fabulously restored Union Station will wow the weariest of travellers. Beaux-Arts onion dome chandeliers hang from a grand arched ceiling above an array of sofas and tables, flanked by bookshops and the opulent Crawford Hotel.
Outside, the glowing ‘Travel by train’ entrance sign radiates a turn-of-the-20th-century kitsch, harking back to a golden age of locomotives. Denver knows how to make a good first impression.
Vibrant: James March explores Denver, pictured, a city ‘with a vibrant arts scene, quality restaurants, 250 days a year of sunshine and America’s most famous mountain range (the Rocky Mountains) within a two-hour drive’
James’s visit to Denver begins at the ‘fabulously restored’ Union Station, above, where ‘the glowing “Travel by train” entrance sign radiates a turn-of-the-20th-century kitsch’
Nicknamed the Mile High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile above sea level, Denver is one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S., with a vibrant arts scene, quality restaurants, 250 days a year of sunshine and America’s most famous mountain range within a two-hour drive.
And with United Airlines adding two more daily flights from Heathrow next year to go alongside British Airways’ existing afternoon route, gettting here is painless.
On my first day, I check out local artist Vance Kirkland’s captivating ‘dot’ paintings at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, before heading into a gleaming downtown packed with colourful food halls and jaunty street art. Live blues music thumps from a street corner as I turn onto buzzy Larimer Street, memorably described in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On The Road as a place of ‘old bums and beat cowboys’.
Above are Vance Kirkland’s ‘dot’ paintings at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, which James describes as ‘captivating’
Denver is known as the Gateway to the Rockies, which makes it a perfect bookend to a skiing or hiking holiday. Rocky Mountain National Park has some of America’s most spectacular trails, while Snowmass Village in Aspen offers a wealth of downhill skiing and even has its own airport nearby. There are also luxurious dude ranches in the nearby foothills for those who want to play out their John Wayne fantasies.
Colorado is now — after decades of voting Republican — a solidly Democratic state and the number of young people moving here helps explains why there are more than 140 breweries in the metro area alone, with modern taprooms fanning out in all directions from Union Station. Denver is a craft beer fan’s dream.
There’s no shortage of places to stay. I’m billeted at Hotel Clio, a ten-minute taxi ride south of the city centre. From my 11th-floor room, I can see the jagged outline of the Rockies in the distance. A cinematic hike or a fresh IPA? In Denver, both are possible in a day.