Sitting at the foot of the Rocky Mountains Mountains, Denver is the capital of Colorado. It is a hub for skiers and snowboarders, heading out to the mountains in winter. With a population of over 700,000 people, Denver is known for both its vibrant city life and natural beauty. But that’s just part of what the city is famous for; there are plenty more reasons why it continues to attract so many visitors each year.
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- 🚩 Top Tour Activity: Rocky Mountain National Park
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- 🚌 Top Day Trip: Pikes Peak And Garden Of Gods
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- 👍🏼 Best City Tour: Downtown Denver Food Tour
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- 📍 Top Attraction/District: Historic LoDo
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What Is Denver Known For?
Denver is known for its sunny climate, great outdoors, and being the “Mile High City.” In fact, one of the stairs at the Colorado State Capitol building is exactly one mile above sea level. Famously, Denver has an average of 300 days of sunshine every year, which makes it easier to get out and enjoy the mountains.
Most people visit Denver as a gateway to the Rocky Mountains. While that’s incredible, Denver is famous for many more things. When you are visiting this classic, Western city, make sure you save time to experience some of the things that Denver is known and famous for.
History, Culture, And Traditions
Mix Of Cultures
Before the settlers moved in, the area we know as Denver belonged to indigenous peoples, such as the Apache and Lakota. Denver is still a meeting point for indigenous people, especially during the annual Denver March Powwow.
In addition to this, Denver also has a rich, Hispanic cultural heritage. The Western territory formerly belonged to Mexico. To this day, Denver is known for its Mexican cuisine and large cultural celebrations, such as Dia de Los Muertos art installations. The Chicano Humanities and Art Council ensure that Hispanic arts and culture continue to thrive in Denver.
Denver is known for its place in the story of Western expansion in the United States. In fact, the city still boasts lots of Wild West culture, which can still be seen through the rodeos! The National Western Stock Show still hosts spectacular rodeos.
These events feature classic Western events, such as barrel racing, bull riding, and steer wrestling. There are also cultural events, which incorporate Mexican culture and others into iconic rodeo activities. This is a great way to see firsthand some of the area’s cowboy flair.
With 150 breweries, Denver is famous for its brewery culture. Denver has it all, from the staple US brewery, Blue Moon Brewing Company, to local favorites, such as Wynkoop Brewing Company and Cerebral Brewing.
Denver was at the center of the micro-brewing and craft brewing trends before they caught on in the rest of the country.
If that isn’t enough, the Great American Beer Festival calls Denver home every year, between September and October. This beer festival is the largest in the United States and is watched by beer enthusiasts around the world.
One of the best ways to explore Denver’s craft beer culture is none other than taking a Craft Beer Tour around downtown area. Enjoy some nice pints with fellow beer lovers!
Colorado has become a center of cannabis culture in the United States. After Colorado was the first US state to legalize recreational cannabis use, dispensaries quickly grew around the state, especially in Colorado.
You can recognize the dispensaries by their green plus signs, visible around the city. If you want to explore other aspects of cannabis culture, you can check out the International Church of Cannabis. With laser-light shows and guided meditation, the International Church of Cannabis offers a new way to explore Denver.
Birthplace of Chipotle
Denver is known for being the birthplace of the popular, fast-food restaurant, Chipotle. The founder and CEO, Steve Ells opened the restaurant in 1993 across from the University of Denver. Now, Chipotles have spread across the country, and Chipotle is certainly part of the food Denver is famous for.
You can still visit the original Chipotle location at 1644 E Evans Avenue. If you want to get a taste of where it all began, pop into a Chipotle!
Districts And Areas
A visit to Denver is not complete without a trip to Capitol Hill and the surrounding area. Wall up exactly 13 steps to reach Denver’s mile high point and to get a great view of the surrounding area. Capitol Hill not only contains Denver’s Capitol building (a mile high), but also beautiful green spaces, such as Cheesman Park.
Every summer, Cheesman Park is a central stop on the PrideFest parade. As one of the most populated areas of downtown, there is always something to do in and around Capitol Hill, including bars and restaurants. This is, after all, one of the things Colorado is known for.
Larimer Square is Denver’s hotspot for eating out and shopping. This popular, public square retains Denver’s historic charm, through Victorian style-buildings, lined with twinkle lights.
Larimer Square also hosts activities and events throughout the year, with comedy shows and other performances. Whether you’re looking to do some shopping or simply enjoy the architecture, Larimer Square embodies Denver’s bright, hip energy.
LoDo, or Lower Downtown, is the oldest neighborhood in Denver and one of the most popular. With almost 100 cafes, shops, clubs, restaurants, and boutiques, LoDo is a shopping destination that Denver is famous for.
LoDo began to grow in 1858, when settlers found gold at the junction of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River. The high-end atmosphere still exists in this neighborhood. If you want to get a real feel of the past, hop on the free streetcar, reminiscent of the streetcars popular in the 20th century.
Denver Botanic Gardens
While Denver is known for its beautiful, outdoor spaces, one of those is located right inside the city. Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the top five botanic gardens in the United States. It has over 20 acres of scenery, 7 distinct gardens, and a conservatory.
Throughout the year, the botanic gardens also offer special programming, from concerts to shows highlighting certain blooms. Partnerships with artists, which occur frequently, bring new material to the gardens, keeping them fresh for even the most experienced visitors.
Landmarks And Architecture
When it opened in 1881, Union Station in Denver was the largest structure in the West. It carried loads of hopeful travelers to the American West. The enormous train station is a reminder of the importance that railroads held in Western expansion.
Reimagined in 2014, Union Station transformed from just a transportation hub to a mecca with restaurants, bars, shops, and even a hotel. Now, you can visit Union Station, appreciate its history, as well as all the modern conveniences.
Home to the Colorado Rockies, Coors Field is a unique stadium in American baseball. With Denver’s high altitude and semi-arid climate, Coors Field is known as a hitter’s park. The city’s conditions make it more likely for the balls to fly high. The field has actually constructed special outfield fences to prevent balls from escaping.
Even if you can’t catch a game, Coors Field is regularly open for tours, which take visitors behind the scenes in one of MLB’s favorite parks.
Denver Art Museum
If you’re an art lover, don’t forget to check out the Denver Art Museum!
Denver is famous for its mixed cultural heritage, including indigenous peoples and Hispanic cultures. The Denver Art Museum aptly honors this history with diverse pieces, including collections of Indigenous Arts of North America and Latin American Art.
You can easily spend an afternoon in the museum and also explore the surrounding district. The museum even has a wide array of interactive elements for younger visitors, so don’t be afraid to visit as a family.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Park
It is no exaggeration to say that Musicians all around the world know of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Park. Famous artists and bands, such as U2, the Eagles, and Coldplay, have performed at the venue in the past.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a largely natural amphitheater surrounded by red rock formations, thus offering a unique and beautiful performance venue. In addition to musicians, the amphitheater regularly hosts summer movie series.
No matter what events you attend, the Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Park will give you a taste of the natural beauty Denver is known for. If you are not driving yourself, simply join a tour to the Red Rocks for a convenient and fun trip!
Rocky Mountain National Park
Just a 1.5 hour’s drive from Denver sits the famous Rocky Mountains. Stretching over 250,000 acres of preserved land, this is a spectacular nature paradise for all things adventure and outdoors.
The park also features the Continental Divide, which cuts through the middle of the reserve. This creates a natural separation between one side, which is heavily forested, and another, which is glaciated.
It’s easy to get to the park even if you don’t have a car. There are tours leaving from downtown Denver regularly. Simply find one that suits your preference and it can be a convenient day trip. You have no excuse to miss out on this famous landmark in Colorado.
If you visit the airport, make sure you pay attention as you’re pulling away from the terminal. It’s hard to miss the 32-foot-tall blue fiberglass sculpture with piercing red eyes, titled “Mustang,” by Luis Jiménez.
Locals refer to the mustang as “Blucifer,” a fierce Colorado spirit guarding the Denver International Airport. However, now everyone sees Blucifer in this positive light. This dramatic story is one of the things Denver is known for.
This sculpture famously contributed to the death of its creator. While he was working on the piece in 2006, a part of the sculpture became loose and fell on Luis Jiménez. The injuries he sustained due to this accident caused his death.
Famous Food In Denver
Rocky Mountain Oysters
Don’t let the name fool you – these “oysters” don’t come from the ocean! Rocky Mountain Oysters are a classic food Denver is known for, since it is rumored to be a cowboy delicacy.
The dish is made out of bull testicles, normally fried, and served often as an appetizer. Since the greater Denver area is still home to large ranches and cattle farms, castration of young bulls provides the main ingredient for this dish.
Originally invented by ranchers in the Denver area, it’s hard to find a food more authentically Denver than Rocky Mountain Oysters. Give them a try when you’re in the area!
For a classic Denver experience, head over to the Buckhorn Exchange Restaurant to order a Bison steak. Though bison used to roam widely across the Western United States, they’ve diminished over the years. Denver is known for this unique dish since there are still bison living and thriving outside of Denver.
Local restaurants have learned how to elevate this lean meat to a delicacy. From a classic steak to bison tartare, there are many ways to enjoy bison meat. It’s hard to find this rare meat anywhere else in the United States. Make sure you check it out when you visit Denver.
Many cities lay claim to a style of pizza, and Denver is no different. Denver is famous for Colorado-style pizza, also known as a Mountain Pie.
This thick-crust pizza, loaded with toppings and cheeses, is a hearty meal for anyone in the Rocky Mountain region. In fact, Mountain Pies are so fully loaded that they have a specialized braided crust to hold all that goodness in.
The best part? Mountain Pie is savory and sweet! The braided crust has honey in it, to give your pizza a sweet taste as well. If you want to eat like a true Colorado native, grab some extra honey to dip your crust in!
Famous People From Denver
Acclaimed actor and comedian, Tim Allen is one of the most famous people from Denver. Though he started as a comedian, Tim Allen is most known as the voice of Buzz Lightyear, Home Improvement’s Tim “The Toolman” Taylor or simply Santa Claus, from the Disney franchise.
Throughout his career, Tim Allen has played many prominent characters and collected several accolades. In 1995, he won a Golden Globe for his role in Home Improvement and was awarded the People’s Choice Award for America’s Favorite Male Television Performer from 1997 to 1999.
Although his Walk of Fame star is on Hollywood Blvd, Tim Allen is one of the most famous people from Denver.
A longtime member of the legendary band, Earth, Wind & Fire, Andrew Woolfolk is another famous person from Denver. Andrew Woolfolk joined the band in 1972, three years after its founding, as their saxophonist.
Best known for their classic song, “September,” Earth, Wind & Fire has sold over 90 million records worldwide. The band has covered genres, from R&B and funk to Latin and pop music.
In 2002, Andrew Woolfolk made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for his contributions to Earth, Wind & Fire. Closer to home, he was also inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017, located near Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
If you visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre, you can pay homage to Andrew Woolfolk at the same time.
Discovering More Things Denver Is Known And Famous For
Denver should be included on any visit to the western part of the United States. From unique mountain views and easy-ski access to breweries and the iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Denver has more than enough famous things and notable sites to keep you busy.
While it’s important to hit the highlights and see all the things Denver is known for, make sure you take time to enjoy the city and discover some things for yourself. Denver is full of fun pockets and unexpected surprises. You might even find something else to add to the list of what Denver is famous for!