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—Photo by Dan Saelinger —Illustrations by Chris Philpot

Your Newcomer’s Guide to Denver

Everything you need to know about living in—and exploring!—the Mile High City.

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Ask a random person in another American city what they know for sure about Denver, and they’ll likely rattle off some version of the following: It’s at a high elevation. Weed is legal. There are ski resorts nearby. John Elway works (and played) for the local NFL team. And…that’s about it.

For years, Denver has been a hidden gem in the middle of the country, cast aside as a slightly too Midwestern Western burg—overrun with pot-smoking hippies and ne’er-do-well ski bums—that just wouldn’t grow up. Not anymore. People have discovered the Mile High City: The population in downtown Denver alone has grown by a whopping 164 percent since 2000. Colorado ranks as the second-fastest-growing state in the nation and sits securely in the top 10 for employment growth. The tech industry and finance sectors are hopping along the Front Range; the state is finding new ways to provide affordable housing to keep artists within its rectangular borders; and a U.S. News & World Report list of the country’s best places to live recently ranked Denver number one.

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So it’s little wonder millennials (and others) are flocking to our beautiful city. People are seeing opportunities here—and not just for work. You see, the buzz phrase “work-life balance” actually means something in Denver. We don’t do New York City or Silicon Valley hours; instead, you’ll notice traffic pick up early on Friday afternoons because we like to skip out of work to hit the slopes or the trails. In April, we forget about our jobs altogether as downtown Denver morphs into a street party for the Rockies’ opening day (regardless of how bad the team is—and it’s usually pretty bad). New acquaintances rarely ask what you do for a living because it’s so much more interesting to inquire about whether your weekend plans include summiting a 14,000-foot peak or trying lift-assisted downhill mountain biking—or both.

164 percent: The population growth in downtown Denver since 2000. 

But knowing that Mile High City residents like to play outside and that the metro area is a booming hub of economic activity still doesn’t mean one knows Denver or Denverites. For instance, you probably aren’t aware that Colorado’s weather often changes from sunny and mild to windy and frigid in a matter of hours. You also likely don’t know that, much like other geographical regions, we experience four seasons—but ours are fall, winter, spring, and construction, a time of year made worse by the current uptick in commercial development. And we’re pretty sure you’ve never heard of Colorado Guilt: that irrepressible shame you feel about wanting to relax inside with Netflix when one of Mother Nature’s finest playgrounds is your backyard.

So as you get comfortable in your new home, consider this get-started guide our welcome gift, an outline of what you absolutely need to know to begin discovering the magic of the Mile High City. The rest is up to you.


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Evolution of a Denverite

It takes a while, but eventually you figure out what you need to own to live smartly in this city. Here, the maturation process of a Mile High City dweller.

Three Months In…

You’ve discovered legal weed and our casual style—but your choice in beer could use some work and your gear needs a serious upgrade.

One Year In…

You’ve found better beer (microbrews!), the trendy way to toke (vape pens!), and the standard-issue Colorado outfit (yoga pants!). But you still need to learn not to carry your skis like a gaper.

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Five Years In…

You’ve more than filled out your gear closet, adopted a yellow Lab like everyone else, and added local spirits to your wet bar. Time to put the credit card away—until next season.


Mile-High Trivia

Quick facts about Denver.

Population (city/county): 664,220
Population (metro): 3,011,536
Median Age (metro): 37
Male/Female (county): 50/50
Sales Tax Rate: 7.65%
Median Wage (metro): $69,205
Average sale price for a single-family home in the Denver area (December 2015): $369,568
Mayor: Michael Hancock
Governor: John Hickenlooper

Ethnic Breakdown (Metro)
White: 65.9%
Hispanic or Latino: 22.2%
Black: 5%
Asian: 4%
American Indian or Alaska Native: .5%

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Major Industries
Aerospace, aviation, beverage production, bioscience, broadcasting and telecommunications, energy, financial services, health care, information technology software.



Talking Points

Five topics new Denverites love to discuss.

1. Elevation

People new to Denver will typically feel our higher elevation in three ways:

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1) Sleep. You may notice your slumber is less restful. That’s because your breathing control mechanism is confused by the reduced amount of oxygen available to breathe in the air. People who have this problem experience it at elevations higher than 5,000 feet, and it usually corrects itself after a couple of nights. If the problem endures, see a sleep specialist.
2) Exercise. Don’t expect to start setting PRs on your first few runs in Denver. “It takes a few months to adapt physiologically,” says Robert Roach, director of the Altitude Research Center at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora. “But your exercise capacity improves with time.”
3) Health. Acute mountain sickness is a real thing, though its effects are most commonly felt around 8,000 feet and higher. Have a headache or feel nauseated? Drink lots of water, pop some ibuprofen, and take it easy. It should resolve itself within a few days. See a doctor if symptoms persist.

Find more information at altituderesearch.org.

2. Weather

Rule number one: Be prepared for anything. The weather here can change quickly. We’ve had a 95-degree September day followed by a snowstorm. In fact, April is our second-snowiest month on average; it’s also the beginning of severe weather season. In May (our wettest month) and June, expect afternoon thunderstorms—particularly in the high country and along the Front Range. “There’s never really a calm weather day in Colorado,” says 9News chief meteorologist Kathy Sabine. “People are surprised by how extreme our weather is—like the fact that we get tornados and are one of the leading states in terms of hail-storm damages.” Other things to keep in mind? Lightning is the leading cause of weather-related death in Colorado, so always aim to finish your summer outdoor excursions and be off any mountaintops by noon. And we’ve had devastating flooding in recent years; consider flood insurance for your new home.

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Find more information at 9news.com/weather; weather.gov/bou.

3. Driving

First thing on the auto to-do list: Pick up your Colorado license (within 30 days of establishing residency; no driving test required) and plates (within 90 days)—or expect a hefty fine. In other news: You don’t need a four-wheel-drive car, but all-wheel drive is a good idea to prevent you from becoming the focus of other drivers’ ire. Also, tire tread is something we actually talk about here because traction is all-important in snow and rain. So get your wheels checked out before the storm arrives (all-season tires are another good bet). Texting while driving is illegal in Colorado, though you don’t have to be hands-free to talk on your phone in the car if you’re over age 18. And, lastly, check your owner’s manual to see if you might be able to save some money at the pump. Colorado’s higher elevations mean some vehicles can use lower-octane gas.

Find more information at colorado.aaa.com; dmv.org/co-colorado.

4. Alcohol

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Two things to remember on the booze front: Most grocery stores stock only 3.2 ABW beer because Colorado liquor laws state that only one retail location of a store can carry full-strength alcohol. And, no, being at elevation does not make you drunk faster. You may feel the effects—or the hangover—more strongly because you’re dehydrated, but science proves that “drunker at elevation” is just a tall tale.

Find more information at colorado.gov.

5. Weed

Yes, it’s legal to buy, possess (up to one ounce), and consume pot if you’re 21 or older: But you can’t toke in public, so put the pipe away. (And stop talking about it. We know weed is legal—it’s not a big deal.) Don’t forget to hit the ATM before you head to the weed shop: Most purchases are cash-only.

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Find more information at coloradopotguide.com.


In the Bag

Having these items in your car—tucked neatly away in a duffle in the trunk—can help save your life in an emergency.

– Ice scraper, snow brush, and snow shovel
– Extra washer fluid
– Flashlight with extra batteries
– Jumper cables
– First-aid kit
– Gallon jug of water
– Nonperishable snacks
– Extra cell phone charger
– Blanket
– Set of warm clothes, including a beanie and water-resistant gloves
– Snow boots
– Nonclumping kitty litter (to create traction if your vehicle gets stuck)

—Photos by iStock (2)


Moving In

Which Denver ’hood is the place to put down new roots? It’ll be hard to pick, but check out our handy map for where you and your family should start your housing search.

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Key:

The Classics 

If you want to buy an abode that’s conveniently located—and have around half a million or more to do so—check these neighborhoods (shown above in orange) out first.

The Hip ’Hoods

If you’re looking to rent in an up-and-coming neighborhood—or buy a brand-new home—with easy access to plenty of cultural venues and bars and restaurants, look to these hot spots (in blue).

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The Not-Too-Suburban Suburbs

If your priorities include a yard and a solid school district for your family, you’ll want to head a little farther from Denver.


Ready, Set, Dine

The city’s food scene has exploded over the past few years, so you’ll never want for a great meal. But where to start? We recommend visiting these 10 restaurants and bars during your first year to discover the true flavors of Denver.

Try: The Cherry Cricket
For: Juicy burgers topped with all manner of delectable toppings. This 70-year-old spot has managed to hold onto its laid-back feel even as the surrounding Cherry Creek neighborhood has become more highfalutin.

Try: Williams & Graham
For: Handcrafted cocktails—let the bartender use his or her imagination—in a speakeasy setting at the best bar in America (so named at last year’s Spirited Awards).

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Try: Work & Class
For: One of the finest examples of the city’s new generation of restaurants—a dazzling mash-up of low-key ambience and perfectly executed dishes (American and Latin, in this case)—in the very hip RiNo ’hood.

Try: Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs
For: A surprising menu of sausages, including elk jalapeño cheddar, at the Ballpark brick-and-mortar location of one of Denver’s first—and most popular—food carts.

Try: El Taco De Mexico
For: An introduction to Denver’s authentic Mexican food scene. This is where any longtime resident will point you when asked for his go-to south-of-the-border spot; he’ll also tell you to try the fried pork tacos.

Try: Acorn
For: The chance to try a creative selection of shared plates (think oak-smoked bone marrow and one of the best kale salads in town) at Denver’s most-buzzed-about restaurant, located in the Source, the city’s first artisan food market.

Try: Guard and Grace
For: A modern take on a Denver classic—the steak house—from Troy Guard, one of the Mile High City’s most celebrated chefs.

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Try: The Cooper Lounge
For: Grown-up cocktails served on silver platters and bartenders who shake your hand, all inside the beautifully renovated Union Station.

Try: Frasca Food and Wine
For: A master-sommelier-crafted wine list, a prix fixe menu devoted to the comforting foods of Friuli, Italy, and a seamless evening out in Boulder at a restaurant that consistently ranks among Colorado’s best.

Try: Casa Bonita
For: The experience of watching cliff divers (seriously) perform next to your table at a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it restaurant known more for its appearance on South Park than its food. (Speaking of, limit your order to margaritas and sopaipillas.)

—Photo by Carmel Zucker


Questions about the Menu

Denver’s culinary heritage is a bit thin, but familiarize yourself with these local dishes. these special Denver dishes.

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Mexican Hamburger
What It Is: A cheeseburger rolled into a bean burrito and smothered in green chile (another local favorite).
Where To Dig In: The Original Chubby’s, 1231 W. 38th Ave.

North Denver Cannoli
What It Is: Forget dessert. This is old-school Denver-speak for a dough-wrapped Italian sausage (think: pigs in a blanket).
Where To Dig In: Lechuga’s, 3609 Tejon St.

Rocky Mountain Oysters
What It Is: Not seafood. These are deep-fried bull, pig, or sheep testicles. And, yes, some people find them delicious.
Where To Dig In: The Fort, 19192 CO 8, Morrison, 303-697-4771


Take It Easy

Four experiences perfect for those unaccustomed to higher elevations. Plus, where to imbibe afterward—because there are few things more Coloradan than celebrating a mountain exploit with a boozy reward.

Hike: Roxborough State Park

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The beauty of Roxborough State Park, just a 50-minute drive from Denver, lies not just in the stunning red sandstone Fountain Formation or jagged Carpenter Peak, but also in the miles and miles of hiking trails appropriate for varying abilities. With the park topping out at 7,160 feet in elevation, it’s also a good introduction for those still acclimating to our thinner air. Try the 2.2-mile (round trip) Fountain Valley Loop Trail, which weaves through a variety of rock formations without too much up-and-down action. cpw.state.co.us

Drink Up: Take a detour to the 18-month-old Farmhouse at Breckenridge Brewery for a varied menu; a huge family-friendly space, including outdoor seating when the weather’s nice; and an easy-drinking entrée into Colorado’s hopping (see what we did there?) beer scene. breckbrewfarmhouse.com

Bike: Cherry Creek Trail, Lookout Mountain, and Marshall Mesa

Road riders can get a tour of the city along the 12.2-mile Cherry Creek Trail, which begins at Confluence Park and winds southeast. To find out whether your red blood cells have fully adjusted, attempt the short climb up Golden’s Lookout Mountain: It’s about nine miles round trip, starting at the stone pillars near Beverly Heights Park, and the average gradient is five percent. Mountain bikers should head outside of Boulder to a small system of connected trails known as Marshall Mesa. jeffco.us; bouldercolorado.gov

Drink Up: Pick wherever catches your eye along the Cherry Creek Trail. Reward a successful Lookout Mountain push with Golden Moon Speakeasy’s absinthe-starring Mr. George cocktail. Post-single-track, hit up the Post Brewing Co. in Lafayette. goldenmoonspeak.com; postbrewing.com

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Ski: Loveland Ski Area

Loveland’s sweet location just 56 miles west of Denver—it’s the first ski hill you’ll see from I-70—means you’ll spend significantly less time sitting in traffic. Plus, parking is free, there’s a whole separate slope for beginners, and a lift ticket will only set you back $65. skiloveland.com

Drink Up: Nothing caps off a solid ski day like an après cold one; choose whichever of the 10 taps sounds particularly refreshing at Loveland Rathskellar, located at the mountain’s base.

Camp: Guanella Pass Campground

We won’t judge you if you don’t want to rough it your first time out. Instead, take in the view along 23-mile Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic Byway before settling down for the night at one of 18 sites—replete with tent pads and picnic tables—at the campground, located near the south fork of Clear Creek. (We suggest putting this on your bucket list for mid-September to catch the aspens in their golden splendor.) If you’re up for tackling your first Colorado fourteener, the trailhead to 14,060-foot Mt. Bierstadt sits at the top of the pass. fs.usda.gov

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Drink Up: In nearby Georgetown (at the north end of the byway), grab a seat, a margarita, and any of the eight house-made salsas—including, if you’re brave, the ghost pepper option—at Lucha Cantina.

—Photo by iStock


What’s My Line?

How to sound smart about Denver’s sports scene—even if you’re new to town. —Luc Hatlestad

—Colorado Rockies
Scenario: Sipping a local IPA on the Rooftop at Coors Field on opening day (April 8)
Say This: “CarGo could hit it up here—but only if he were facing one of the Rockies’ pitchers.”
Fallback Line: “It’s kind of sad that this bar seems more full than the stands on most days.”

—University of Colorado
Boulder football Scenario: Watching Ralphie (FYI: an actual, live bison) charge across Folsom Field during the pre- game pageantry
Say This: “That’s probably the longest—and fastest—dash by a Buffalo we’ll see today.”
Fallback Line: “I hear she runs the handlers more than they run her.”

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—Denver Broncos
Scenario: Scouring the skies for signs of skydivers barrel-rolling into the stadium to start the game
Say This: “Here’s hoping Von Miller busts out a few Funky Chicken sack dances this afternoon.”
Fallback Line: “I really think they should go back to the old bucking bronco logo.”

—Colorado Avalanche
Scenario: Players are warming up on the ice in preparation for overtime
Say This: “I’d be a lot less worried if Roy were in the net instead of behind the bench.”
Fallback Line: “I just can’t get behind this season’s new goal song. It’s too electronic for hockey.”

—Colorado Rapids
Scenario: Tailgating under a bluebird sky at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park before a match
Say This: “Kroenke better not get any ideas about moving these guys to LA, too.”
Fallback Line: “Let’s wager on what facial hair style Pablo Mastroeni is rockin’ today. I’ll put $50 on the handlebar mustache.”

? University of Denver hockey
Scenario: In the stands during the annual matchup against archrival Colorado College
Say This: “When this rivalry started, Harry Truman was president and people were gifting each other Silly Putty.”
Fallback Line: “Who needs a football team when your hockey fans are this awesome?”

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? Denver Nuggets
Scenario: Time-out during a Nuggets game
Say This: “Rocky is even more antagonistic tonight than he usually is”
Fallback Line: “Who cares about our seats? This Jumptron is insane”

—University of Denver hockey
Scenario: In the stands during the annual matchup against archrival Colorado College
Say This: “When this rivalry started, Harry Truman was president and people were gifting each other Silly Putty.”
Fallback Line: “Who needs a football team when your hockey fans are this awesome?”

—Photo by Denver Broncos


Creative Outlets

It’s not just nearby natural wonders (see: Red Rocks) drawing people to Denver, the largest city within 600 miles. Our cultural offerings are also world-class, including these five must-visit venues.

Denver Zoo
Get familiar with resident Colorado wildlife—hello, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep—and those from farther-flung locales, such as penguins and kangaroos. No matter your interests, be sure to visit the 10-acre Toyota Elephant Passage, one of the largest elephant habitats in North America. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of the Asian elephants playing in the water.
Go Now: The gates open early (8:30 a.m.) during the zoo’s monthlong Spring Break: Journey to South America celebration (through April 10), which highlights the continent’s animals and culture through activities, demonstrations, and food.

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Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus
In November, the Children’s Museum unveiled a $16.1 million renovation that kids—of any age—will love. Take yours to the hydration lab, where they’ll learn about creating rainstorms and geysers; let them get a little messy in the art studio (there are sinks for easy cleanup); or allow them to play with their food in the teaching kitchen. No matter what activity your little ones choose, we guarantee they’ll be wiped out by naptime.
Go Now: Let your tykes stretch their legs in another welcome addition to the venue: Joy Park’s 30,000 square feet of outdoor exploration space.

Denver Botanic Gardens
Denver Botanic Gardens—a “living museum”—has it all, no matter the season. Stroll the walkways to view species native to Colorado (including our state flower, the delicate blue columbine) as well as hundreds of other plants. Tip: Make plans to attend an al fresco concert during DBG’s summer concert series. The schedule will be announced this month—and tickets go fast.
Go Now: View 13 human form–inspired works when Stories in Sculpture: Selections from the Walker Art Center Collection opens on April 29.

Clyfford Still Museum
This five-and-a-half-year-old venue (located adjacent to the Denver Art Museum, another must-see) houses the estate of Clyfford Still, one of the country’s first abstract expressionists. View the cantankerous painter’s masterpieces—we’re partial to the experimentation with color and scale in his 1950s works—in this striking two-story venue.
Go Now: Enjoy Still’s creations while listening to a soundtrack of live chamber music during the Music in the Galleries program on April 10 from 2 to 3 p.m.

Denver Museum of Nature & Science 
Denver’s premier space for exploring science and natural history started as a collection of taxidermy specimens housed in a log cabin in Breckenridge. More than 100 years later, DMNS hosts exhibits on subjects as varied as Sherlock Holmes, the ruined city of Pompeii, and MythBusters. Of course, there are always dinosaur fossils and Egyptian mummies to discover, too.
Go Now: Robot Revolution, a fascinating opportunity to interact with and learn about rarely seen bots, runs through August 7.

April Free Days

Many of Denver’s best cultural venues have free days every month. 

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April 2: Denver Art Museum

April 3: Denver Botanic Gardens and Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys

April 5: Chatfield Farms

April 10: Denver Museum of Nature & Science

April 14: Aurora History Museum

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April 23: Denver Museum of Nature & Science

April 24: Denver Art Museum

April 25: Hudson Gardens

April 26: Aurora History Musem

April 29: Clyfford Still Museum

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Buy Local

Discover three of the Mile High City’s shopping hot spots. —Karah Kemmerly

For An All-Day Outing: Cherry Creek North

If you’re in need of some serious retail therapy, point your car toward Cherry Creek North, where 16 blocks of shopping nirvana await. The area is home to dozens of shops, from quaint boutiques carrying smaller local brands to intimate art galleries to internationally known brands, like Kate Spade New York and Hermès. Our favorite stops include browsing the high-end racks at Max, buying yet another pair of yoga pants at Prana (we need them—swear!), finding the perfect baby shower gift at Right Start, and perusing the reclaimed, eco-friendly home goods at Revampt. Add in the offerings at Cherry Creek Shopping Center, and you’ll have no problem locating everything on your list—and probably a whole lot more.

Coffee Break: Refuel with an Intelligentsia cold brew and an apple turnover at the sleek Aviano Coffee

For Casual Browsing: Broadway (between East First and Alameda avenues)

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Pinterest comes to life along this hip Baker drag, where you’re sure to discover a quirky addition for your new home. Vintage knick-knacks and one-of-a-kind accessories abound at Decade and Sewn; Ironwood offers dozens of succulents, peculiar trinkets, and intriguing wall art; and Hazel & Dewey will help you pretty your kitchen with modern cookware and elegant table sets. While you’re here, don’t miss a trip to Fancy Tiger Crafts: The easy-to-use sewing and felting kits never fail to inspire.

Happy Hour: After an afternoon of exploring, kick back with a $2 Lost Lake Pilsner and a $3 basket of sweet potato fries at the vegetarian-friendly Sputnik

For One-Stop Shopping: Highlands Square

Not only is this adorable area home to several trendy women’s boutiques (our favorites include RusticThread, Dragonfly Apparel, and Kismet), a used bookstore (West Side Books), a lovely paperie (Wordshop), and an eco-friendly beauty shop (Vert Beauty), but it also boasts a variety of local food markets. Stop by Seafood Landing, the Denver Bread Company, and St. Kilian’s Cheese Shop and Market for all the ingredients you need to make a gourmet meal. Shopping and dinner lists done in one fell swoop? Yes, please.

Sweet Treat: Shopping counts as exercise (right?), so you don’t need to feel guilty about indulging in Happy Bakeshop’s scrumptious chocolate salted caramel cupcake.

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Posted It

We’re all aware of the 21st-century adage, “If it’s not on social media, it didn’t happen.” Make sure your Colorado escapades catch your friends’ attention and rack up likes by following Denver photographer Marc Piscotty’s (@mpiscotty) tips on where—and how!—to capture Instagram-worthy snaps.

1. Coors Field
The Shot: “The home plate entrance at 20th and Blake streets is about as iconic a view of Coors Field as there is, with the huge clock and plethora of brickwork. A low angle looking up with you, ‘The Player’ statue, and Coors Field signage lets all your Instagram followers know exactly where you’ve landed.”

2. City Park
The Shot: “The northeastern section of the walking path around Ferril Lake offers a trifecta: City Park, the downtown Denver skyline, and the Rocky Mountain foothills in the background. It might be a bit tough to capture all three with a wide-angle smartphone lens, but you’re up for the challenge.”

3. Denver Beer Co.
The Shot: “There’s a great mural on the north side of the building that says, ‘Greetings From Denver.’ It’s best photographed from the corner of 17th and Platte streets—and is just steps from a freshly poured Graham Cracker Porter.”

4. Denver Art Museum
The Shot: “I’ve always liked the view of the DAM’s ‘Scottish Angus Cow and Calf’—the enormous bronze sculptures by Dan Ostermiller—with the ultramodern Frederic C. Hamilton building in the background. It speaks to Denver’s cow-town roots and where the city is headed.”

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5. Avanti Food & Beverage
The Shot: “The upstairs bar and patio has some killer views of downtown. If the garage door is up, frame a shot of your cocktail or arepa (from Quiero Arepas) and the skyline all together.”

6. The Rocky Mountains
The Shot: “Views from atop Shrine Mountain near Vail include the Gore Range to the north, Sawatch Range and Mount of the Holy Cross to the southwest, the Flat Top Mountains to the west, and Copper Mountain to the southeast. Pick whichever direction suits your mood. You can’t go wrong.”


On The Go

Denver offers more than one way to get around town. Here are four options worth checking out.

B-cycle
Rent a bike at one of 87 stations for shorter commutes. Our advice: Combine use of a B-cycle with RTD modes (at right).
Prices vary, denver.bcycle.com

Car2Go
Smart cars for the vehicle-less are parked strategically around town. Find one nearby using the app and be on your way.
$35 sign-up fee, starts at $0.41 per minute, car2go.com/en/denver

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Regional Transportation District (RTD)
Buses, light rail, and (soon) commuter trains form a transportation network that’s finally expanding beyond metro Denver.
Prices vary, rtd-denver.com

Uber and Lyft
Denver has seen these modern versions of the taxi—no more waving your hand in vain—proliferate over the past couple of years (we have the original kind, too).
Prices vary, uber.com, lyft.com

—Photos by (clockwise from top): Sarah Boyum, iStock, Sarah Boyum, Russell Haddock, Nick Soloninka, Sarah Boyum (2)


Gaffe Guard

With Denver’s population booming, it’s pretty easy to spot mile-high rookies. Our handy guide shows you how not to be one of those people. (You’re welcome.)

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Don’t be the…Foolhardy Outdoorsman

By making this mistake: Taking selfies with wild animals you come across—or trying to pet or feed them.

Because…They’re wild animals. Seriously: Take photos from a reasonable distance and, in general, don’t disturb the natives. Also, please stay on hiking and biking trails to reduce your impact on Colorado’s sensitive ecosystems.

Don’t be the…Fancy Fellow

By making this mistake: Wearing a tie or sport coat to meet your friends at the bar on a Saturday night.

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Because…Jeans, a T-shirt, and flip-flops are acceptable attire basically anywhere in town, for any occasion.

Don’t be the…Light Dresser

By making this mistake: Checking the weather, seeing it’s a pleasant 75 degrees, and walking out the door without a sweater.

Because…The weather in Denver can—and does—change in an instant. Always be prepared with an extra layer.

Don’t be the…Mouth Breather

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By making this mistake: Saying “nah” to having a humidifier in your bedroom.

Because…It’s personal preference, but our semi-arid climate basically requires a humidifier—unless you enjoy waking up feeling like you fell asleep in a desert.

Don’t be the…Guy With Underarm Sweat Rings

By making this mistake: Listening to that real estate agent who told you it’s not necessary to have air conditioning in your home or apartment.

Because…Summers here can be scorching. Many Denver houses and apartment buildings were constructed pre-A/C, so you’ll want to find a cool-air solution by the time you move in.

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Don’t be the…Untimely Organ Donor

By making this mistake: Not wearing a helmet when you’re skiing, snowboarding, or cycling.

Because… A helmet can save your life (or at least turn what could be a critical injury into a survivable concussion). Don’t tell us it’s about looking cool. If professional athletes can wear them, so can you.

Don’t be the…Oblivious Driver

By making this mistake: Turning onto the 16th Street Mall in your SUV.

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Because…This is a pedestrian- and bus-only road. (Bicycles are permitted only on weekends.)

Don’t be the…Novice Stoner

By making this mistake: Eating the entire brownie you just bought from the pot shop.

Because…You might find yourself in the ER (whether or not you actually need medical attention). Read the label. Ask your budtender how much to start with and how long to wait before consuming a (tiny) bit more if you’re not feeling the effects.


In Your Words

We asked, you answered: The best advice for newcomers from 5280 readers.

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#CoNewcomer advice: the mountains are closer than you think. Visit often and year round.—@aliciaraeyoga

Don’t buy a house with a driveway facing north—major ice block ALL winter! —@Rsin15

Denverites love to tell you that Colorado is the best place to live. When they admit they have never lived anyplace else, don’t argue. —Sarah Peasley, Facebook

[Denver’s] lower than Santa Fe by roughly 1,750 feet. <—Guaranteed bar-bet winner in most U.S. bars. —@alexheard

They will need to use sunscreen and lip balm with sunscreen in it, and not just in the summer. —Ali Randall, Facebook

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Watch out for lightning, and tell people where you’re going hiking in case of emergency. —Robin Mendelson, Facebook

Manly men also need to use lotion to prevent cracked knuckles and splitting fingertips. —Steve Wilson, Facebook

Locals Know…

When the air smells like, uh, poop, a storm is probably moving in. “The reason you’re smelling the cow and dairy lots is because of those northeasterly winds—there’s lots of agriculture [in the Greeley area],” says 9News’ Kathy Sabine. “In the winter, an easterly wind means some type of storm event, typically snow.”

Water boils at lower temperatures as elevation increases (about 202 degrees Fahrenheit in Denver), which affects cooking times. You’ll also need to tweak baking recipes liquid ingredients will evaporate faster and dough rises quicker—if you want to achieve the same results you got in the flatlands. It’s complicated: Google it.

Referring to our highways as “the 25” or “the 70” immediately signals you’re from out of town. (Our best guess? Southern California or Phoenix.) Here, it’s simply “25” or “70.”

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Driving around Denver is pretty easy because the city is on a grid—except for downtown, which is misaligned by about 45 degrees (it was designed to line up with the South Platte River, while the surrounding streets were built years later using the conventional grid pattern set out by the federal government). Just remember: The mountains are to the west.

The free 16th Street MallRide is convenient (and free!), but don’t expect the bus drivers to wait for you to hop on. If you can hear the beeping noise (and the streetlight is yellow), those doors are closing.

Never drive in the mountains without extra washer fluid in the car. Between spring’s muddy runoff and winter’s slush, there’s rarely a day you won’t need to spray down your windshield.

Ignore the sign that says Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Yes, Denver-based Sports Authority paid a boatload so you’d use the moniker, but, for Denverites, the home of the Broncos will always be called Mile High Stadium.

There are, in fact, proper ways to pronounce Colorado’s complicated town and street names—except we can’t seem to reach an agreement on how to say the state you now call home. You’ll hear call-uh-ROD-o, but it’s more commonly referred to as call-uh-RAD-o.

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Say What?

Learn these tricky pronunciations, and you’ll really sound like a local. —Karah Kemmerly

Wynkoop: Edward Wynkoop, the first sheriff of Arapahoe County and the namesake of this LoDo street, pronounced his name Wine-koop—which means that’s also how you should say it. (If you’ve been calling it Win-koop, you’re in good company: Half of the staffers at Wynkoop Brewing Company agree with you. After all, they do make beer, not wine.)

Poudre: This Colorado river’s moniker came from trappers burying their gunpowder on its banks; its full name—Cache la Poudre—means “hide the powder” in French. However, your professeur de français would probably be upset to learn that Denverites ignore French conventions and call it the POO-der. (It’s technically pronounced POO-druh.)

Galapago: This short Denver street shares a name with those famous islands in the Pacific, but, alas, it doesn’t share a pronunciation. Denverites have Anglicized the name: Rather than saying Guh-LAW-puh-go Street, we articulate it as Gal-uh-PAY-go Street.

Arvada: Even longtime mile-high residents may get this one wrong. The northwest Denver suburb was named after—get ready for this—the founder’s wife’s brother-in-law, Hiram Arvada Haskins. He pronounced his middle name Ar-VAD-a, not the more pretentious sounding Ar-VOD-da.

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Dear Newcomers

Well-known Denverites dish on what they wish they’d known when they moved to Denver, what their best advice is for newbies, and what’s so great about living here. 

“It took me four years to appreciate how great everyone in Denver is. Coming from the East [Coast], I thought it was an act. But it’s just a really friendly town. [I wish I’d known] that a bag is called a sack, and a soda is called pop—could have avoided some awkward confusion there.” Frank Bonanno, chef and restaurateur 

“Get a big closet because you will use your summer clothes in the winter and your winter clothes in the summer. Wear sunscreen in the summer. And the winter. And every season in between. Train here and race at sea level—you’re likely bringing home a medal from that one.” Kelly Brough, president and CEO, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce

“Shop small and local. It isn’t cliché anymore to say that in Denver—a city that has seen a serious renaissance of artisans in every kind of category of goods and services. And the music scene in Denver is rocking. Local groups that have since gone national—like Nathaniel Rateliff, Tennis, and the Lumineers—cut their teeth at a handful of small rock venues around the city. Grab a beer at Hi-Dive or the Larimer Lounge and catch the city’s best.” Kyle Zeppelin, developer, Zeppelin Development

“Snow days in Denver are never a reason to stay indoors. If we aren’t headed up to the slopes, then we are seeking the nearest sledding hill. Whether you’re in the high country or downtown, Denver has to be one of the only places in the nation where you can get frostbite and a sunburn in the same day. (Always wear your sunscreen.) In the summer, we judge the end of the day by the afternoon rainstorms. Keep an umbrella with you if you plan to walk home any time after 4 p.m. As many Denverites will tell you, it truly is a privilege to live here! Never stop exploring.” Michael Hancock, mayor of Denver

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“The Rocky Mountains fill me with awe. The most important thing I have learned is to take time to look at them everyday and be reminded what a very special place this is to live and work.” Rebecca Chopp, chancellor, University of Denver

“Denver is blowing up, with new restaurants, bars, breweries, weed shops, and more opening every day. Explore. It’s great to be a regular, but make sure you get out and enjoy this beautiful city and state.” PJ Hoberman, co-owner, Two Parts

“If you don’t have one, get a bike. Better yet, get three: a road bike, a mountain bike, and a town bike. Denver has an amazing network of bike paths and bike routes, and easy access to world-class mountain biking and road cycling. There’s no better way to meet people, stay fit, and enjoy the sunshine.” Joe Vostrejs, partner, Larimer Associates

“Denver is not just a great place to live, it’s also a great place to get stuff done. Traditional barriers of social and economic status don’t have much sway here, and people with power are generally fairly accessible. So if you have a good idea and enough energy, you can often find the support you need. Denver is a place where people care about what you have to offer and not about what signs of success you present.” —Adam Lerner, director, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver

“Welcome to Denver! You now live in the highest (no pun intended), most arid metro area in the nation. So instead of trying to recreate the landscapes of wetter environments, like New England or the Pacific Northwest where you might be from, help us embrace the native plants that make good water sense here. Visit Colorado State University’s Plant Talk for specific recommendations on how to landscape in our high-desert ecosystem.” James Eklund, director, Colorado Water Conservation Board 

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“People in Denver are warm-hearted and kind, and willing to give others a chance. It’s a city where people help each other. I think that bodes well for newcomers trying to get situated here because Denverites are willing to share opportunities. And I’ve learned from experience that if you work too much, you can’t take advantage of all the great things that Colorado has to offer. Find a good work-life balance because it’s a great place to be outside.” Brian Dunn, founder and president, Great Divide Brewing Co.

“The cliché ‘drink lots of water’ is a cliché for a reason—the elevation is no joke!” Adeoye, actor, Denver Center Theatre Company

“Jeans are acceptable at almost any event, and kids pedal bikes by four years old because…Colorado. Public service in Denver means something. We are building a unique community that cares for each other.” Albus Brooksrepresentative, City Council District 9

“Hydrate. But you also have to try out all the rooftop restaurants and bars—with all the sunshine that we get in the summertime, they are great. Coming from Stockholm, Sweden, you don’t see that everywhere.” Gabriel Landeskog, captain, Colorado Avalanche

“The winters are not that bad—snow one day and sunshine the next!” Dave Genova, interim general manager and CEO, Regional Transportation District

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This article appeared in the April 2016 issue of .

Daliah Singer, 5280 Contributor

Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at daliahsinger.com.

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