Known as the Mile High City, Denver offers a lot to experience in its many neighborhoods.
The western state of Colorado comes with its reputation of an outdoorsy lifestyle no matter the season, given its unique landscape of desert, canyons, mountains, rivers, lakes and more. The many cities here offer a variety of reasons to visit but let’s start with the capital, Denver, with its spectacular views of the Rocky Mountains and plenty of urban adventures for all ages.
The Mile High City is known for its chef-driven cuisine, local breweries serving craft beer, musical events and more. And as you explore the area, you’ll notice the architecture—Denver combines historic Victorian brick buildings in Larimer Square and LoDo (Lower Downtown) with bold and contemporary architecture within a walkable city center.
All the Attractions
On the topic of walking, for a fun and local educational experience, look no further than the Denver Graffiti Tour. Denver street artists have been busy the last few years changing the urban landscape with their art and expression. Several public art initiatives around the city have ensured that Denver has a thriving street art and public art scene.
This is a guided walking tour of some of the RiNo (River North) neighborhood’s top murals; and your guide is a local who is very familiar with the area. Many Black artists have added their art to the walls and other structures here, some in common spots while others might need some extra digging to find the exact location. Each piece is unique, almost always has a message, and you can follow the artist online from the signature on their works.
For a self-guided tour to explore the African American experience in Denver on your own, download the History Colorado interactive app, available for free on Android and iOS devices, which serves as a state-wide mobile guide.
Four regional tours feature important locations, artifacts, and photographs, with oral histories from History Colorado’s collections. Trace the history and contributions of Black communities across the state of Colorado from pioneer days to modern times, including hearing about the legacy of entrepreneur Barney L. Ford to accessing information about the vibrant Denver neighborhood of Five Points.
For more of an on-site experience, the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center is a small but unique space with many important highlights of the Black experience in the city. The mission of the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center is to promote an understanding of the role that African Americans played in the settlement and growth of the western United States through its collections, programs, and exhibits.
Learn more about Paul Stewart, founder of the museum, who dedicated his life to finding history on African American cowboys after he was told at a young age that there was no such thing as a Black cowboy. And there is an exhibit on Dr. Justina Ford, the first licensed female Black doctor in Colorado, and her life and contributions to the community and area.
Taste of Denver
For the culinarily inclined, the city has several options. If you’re looking for a brunch spot that feels like home, Mimosas is a great Black-owned business to start at, located in Denver’s Five Points neighborhood. The colorful, retro vibe is a pleasant surprise and the beignets here are some of the best you can find.
Their signature mimosa flights only make the visit sweeter but be sure to arrive earlier as the spot is a clear crowd favorite even on weekdays. If you are traveling via Union Station or simply visiting the venue, then just one block away and adjacent to the historic Oxford Hotel is Urban Farmer—a seasonal steakhouse committed to locally sourced ingredients, sustainable practices and ethically raised meats.
Denver is known to have some impressive views, so consider breakfast at The Woods, which is located inside The Source Hotel in the RiNo Art District, or dinner at El Five, nestled high above LoHi (Lower Highland), offering Mediterranean-style tapas with Spanish, North African and Middle Eastern influences.
For a spot to call home for a few days, the Ramble Hotel, with its 50-room boutique rooms, is a great choice. It houses the marquee lobby bar Death & Co.—yes, the famed New York spot with a speakeasy vibe has an outpost here, the only other one being in Los Angeles. Just a 5-minute walk away, you can enjoy dinner and a jazz performance at Nocturne Jazz & Supper Club. Hidden in an artfully restored warehouse, Nocturne marries the culinary, cocktail and musical arts to create an unforgettable experience.
Another spot to grab a bite at is Snooze, serving seasonal, from-scratch menu items with creative and fresh twists. If you prefer more of a food hall, then the Denver Central Market, a gourmet marketplace featuring local vendors, could be more to your taste. The space includes a bakery, coffee shop, rotisserie, chocolate shop, and all the action you can expect from such a multichoice concept.
Head to Black-owned Rising Sun Distillery, where you can tour the production facilities and learn how their award-winning organic spirits are made. This is one of only two certified organic distilleries in the state. Founded in 2013 by Sol Richardson, the products here are vodka, gin, liqueurs and bourbon and rye whiskey.
All the Distractions
There’s plenty to choose from if you’re visiting Denver for the first time. The newest and largest permanent Meow Wolf installation calls Denver home. Convergence Station takes you to other imagined worlds via interactive and innovative art installations.
More than 300 artists, many of them local, collaborated on this venture. Other top attractions in Denver include the botanic gardens, zoo, art museum, science museum and the Larimer Square neighborhood, which has historic buildings, independently owned shops, and plenty of dining options.
The historic Five Points neighborhood is one of the city’s oldest and most diverse areas with many points of interest. Frequented by many jazz greats in the past, it was known as the Harlem of the West. Now the Five Points Jazz Festival and Juneteenth Music Festival here are big draws.
The Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, also located in this neighborhood, is dedicated to African Americans’ contributions to the West. There is also a self-guided Welton Street walking tour and phone-based Denver Story Trek to experience here, sharing about the historic landscapes and landmarks.
Combine your travel plans with the annual Colorado Black Arts Festival held in Denver and you’ve got an itinerary that covers much ground and the many different facets that The Mile High city offers.