Denver is aptly dubbed the Mile High City: Its elevation is officially one mile above sea level. Being here, of course, means you're at the threshold of some of the best skiing and mountain adventure options in the world. But the city, itself, is a hotbed of tourist-friendly activity that ranges from the historic to the cosmopolitan and that offers any traveler an ever-evolving landscape of memorable experiences. Here are just a few that are well worth considering on your next Denver visit.
Skip the Concert, Hike the Hills
Music buffs know Red Rocks Amphitheater. This open-air venue that seats an audience of more than 9,000 features big names throughout the summer: this year alone, the likes of Steve Miller, Robert Plant and John Mayer took the stage. And it has served as the setting for rock 'n' roll films by U2, Stevie Nicks and Mumford & Sons. But if you're the athletic type, this is a destination for you, too. August and September feature public yoga classes early in the morning. Workout boot camps are held here. You can climb the theater's challenging stairs. And then there are the surrounding trails: the 1.5-mile Trading Post Trail leads you through breathtaking scenery -- rock formations and meadows -- and the Red Rocks Trail welcomes hikers, bikers and horseback riders onto its spectacular 6mile loop. You'll also find lovely picnic spots here, but keep in mind the elevation surpasses 6,000 feet.
Skip the Meal, Go for the Pie
Denver might be drawing the thirsty with its buzzing craft bear scene, but the hungry can satiate their sweet tooth with some pie. Specialty pie shops are quickly gaining in popularity here. Humble Pie, for example, rotates its menu weekly to ensure the freshness of its ingredients and offers savory options, too, like a shepherd's pie and an apple pie with a cheddar crust. Mermaids Bakery features a kitchen up front, so you can peek in on all the pie-making action. And the double-crust apple pie at Cake Crumbs might be hard to beat.
Skip Denver, Head to Boulder
In Denver for a few days? Consider a day trip. My colleague, Wil Richards, has lived in Denver since 1985 but enjoys taking day trips to Boulder, about 25 miles away, regularly. "It's one of the most beautiful cities you'll ever see," he tells me and admits to making the easy drive often just to enjoy some breakfast. Boulder's pedestrian-friendly Pearl Street Mall and the 26 acres dubbed Chautauqua, with its hiking and biking trails, is also a must. Other great day-trip options include Black Hawk, where the Ameristar Casino draws those who are feeling lucky, and Estes Park, at the threshold of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Skip the Beer, Sip the Spirit
There's no denying that beer fuels Denver's culinary scene in a big way; if you're a suds fan, consider a microbrewery tour of the city. But distilleries are gaining ground here as well, with Stranahan's probably leading the way. Using regional ingredients, they distill their whiskey in small batches. Tours, which include a tasting of their powerful elixir, are offered most days of the week and reservations should be made online. And if tasting this stuff isn't enough, you can help bottle it, too; volunteer crews work two five-hour shifts on bottling day, which takes place every three weeks.
Skip the Rental Car, Ride a Bike