Denver city guide
In the world of sports, Denver has a rightfully prominent place. It is home to teams in the five most prominent American sports leagues, each of which has boasted various levels of success, notoriety and superstar players.
It also is home to a passionate fan base that stretches beyond the borders of Colorado, and a beautiful collection of venues in which to watch games.
But we’re here to tell you there’s even more to the Mile High City than great sports and great stadiums. The culture and atmosphere of Denver is worth experiencing — a distinctly Western vibe combined with a hip, progressive population that embraces its Rocky Mountain locale, making Denver one of the best places to experience the great outdoors.
Read on to find just a few suggestions for making the most out of your sports-themed trip to Denver.
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We love it when all of a city’s pro sports venues are in one area, and that’s pretty much the case in Denver. Empower Field at Mile High is on the fringe of downtown, separated from the rest of it by Interstate 25, but all three of the pro venues are within about two miles of each other. The area where Empower Field is located is also where the old Mile High Stadium and McNichols Sports Arena once stood.
The opening of Coors Field in 1995 helped LoDo, or Lower Downtown, become Denver’s hottest district for residents, tourists and nightlife. Really, all three venues are accessible from anywhere in downtown Denver (more on that later).
The only exception to the downtown rule is Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, home of the Colorado Rapids of MLS. It’s in Commerce City, some 10 miles east of downtown near the site of the old Stapleton Airport.
• Coors Field: Home of the Rockies. Located at 20th and Blake streets in LoDo.
• Dick’s Sporting Goods Park: Home of the Rapids. Located at 6000 Victory Way in Commerce City.
• Empower Field at Mile High: Home of the Broncos. Located at 1701 Bryant Street, just south of Mile High Stadium Circle and west of I-25.
• Pepsi Center: Home of the Avalanche and Nuggets. Located at 1000 Chopper Circle, near the intersection of Speer Boulevard and Auraria Parkway.
Denver International Airport (DEN) is the primary entry point into the Mile High City, and it’s a beautiful and spacious facility. The problem is that they built it pretty far from the city center — talk to a few locals and they’ll let you know pretty quickly how Denverites as a whole generally feel about this — and however you choose to get from the airport to wherever you’re going, you’ll see pretty quickly how much open space there is between the two.
Taxis from the airport to downtown will set you back about $50, but there are alternatives — most conveniently, Denver’s RTD light rail system recently extended its A line to the airport. For $9, you can ride all the way to Union Station downtown. Also, shared-ride vans to downtown run about $25, and RTD operates SkyRide buses to downtown and other points — the downtown bus costs $11.
Interstates 25 and 70 intersect just northwest of downtown Denver — the interchange is known by locals as “The Mousetrap.” I-70 west of the city winds through the Rocky Mountains, offering a picturesque (some would say terrifying) drive that passes by such famous ski resort towns as Vail and Breckenridge.
Where to stay
Why, downtown, of course! It’s the center of activity in Denver and close to all three of the venues listed above — many hotels are within reasonable walking distance of them. If you’re a visitor to Denver, your best bet is to look around the 16th Street Mall, a pedestrian-only street lined with shops and restaurants.
Cheaper lodging options can be found in Denver’s suburbs such as Lakewood and Aurora, and near the airport. There’s also Boulder, 30-45 minutes away from downtown and home to the University of Colorado. You’ll definitely want a car at your disposal if you head to these spots, though.
Denver isn’t exactly known for having a strong public transportation system, but if you’re visiting as a sports fan and staying downtown, most of the things you’ll likely want to do are available to you in the immediate downtown area — so take advantage of the free shuttle that runs the length of the 16th Street Mall. Waiting longer than five minutes for a shuttle is rare. Meanwhile, RTD’s entire bus system is fairly comprehensive and can get you to other parts of the city, including Dick’s Sporting Goods Park via the No. 88 bus (get off at the intersection of 56th and Quebec streets).
Denver’s expanding light-rail system currently consists of eight lines that extend in all directions downtown. Three of those lines have stops at Empower Field, Pepsi Center and Union Station (near Coors Field), so it is a viable option if your plans take you to the outskirts of downtown.
The simple street-grid system makes it easy to get around most parts of the city, but the orientation of the grid changes from north-south to a diagonal pattern in downtown.
There’s plenty of it near Denver’s sports venues, particularly at Empower Field, Pepsi Center and Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Extra parking for Broncos games can be found on the east side of Interstate 25, and fans can access pedestrian tunnels under the highway to get to the stadium. For Rockies games at Coors Field, there are a few lots near the stadium and even more options spread out around downtown Denver for around $5.
If not for the sports, most tourists come to Colorado to experience the great outdoors, as activities such as biking, hiking and skiing are extremely popular. Even within Denver proper, biking and walking trails are easy to find. In downtown, look for the Cherry Creek bike trail, which runs right through the heart of the city, just out of the way of the hustle and bustle.
Eat like a cowboy
Denver has a decidedly Wild West feel to it, and a number of restaurants in the area embrace this in their atmospheres — most notably the Buckhorn Exchange, which touts itself as Denver’s oldest restaurant and boasts a menu that includes several wild game options. If eating elk and venison isn’t your thing, find one of the many Mexican food joints, almost all of which serve the green chile in some form.
Breweries and brewpubs are also popular in Denver. One, the Wynkoop Brewing Co. (1634 18th St.), is located in the heart of LoDo; one of its founders is current Colorado governor John Hickenlooper. If you’re into macrobrews, take a tour of the Coors Brewery in Golden, about 15 miles west of downtown.
Take in some of Denver’s best attractions, all around the Civic Center area and accessible via the 16th Street Mall free shuttle. The Denver Mint (320 W. Colfax Ave.), where most U.S. coins are made, is available for free public tours; the Denver Art Museum (100 W. 14th Ave.) boasts an impressive collection of Native American art, as well as impressive architecture in the complex’s buildings; and the Colorado State Capitol (200 E. Colfax Ave.) is popular among tourists for its “One Mile Above Sea Level” marker on its steps.
The University of Colorado competes in the Pac-12 in football and basketball, and the campus is worth a visit just as an excuse to go to picturesque Boulder. You can also find Division I sports at Colorado State (in Fort Collins, 65 miles to the north) and the Air Force Academy (in Colorado Springs, 70 miles south).