Feature

Reasons to Love Denver

December 2012

Because the views from—and of—our city are unparalleled. Check out...

• The Denver Millennium Bridge for an immersed view of the city. Watch as the setting sun, glimmering off the skyscrapers, fades, and the lights of the city flicker on. 

Coors Field for a stunning mountain view that’ll cheer you up even when the Rox are down. Grab seats on the upper concourse, from sections 307 to 319, for the best perspective.  

• Green Mountain Trail for a way to see the city rise up from the plains. At the trail’s summit, turn around for an equally spectacular mountainscape.

• The Colorado State Capitol for a guaranteed view. State law prohibits the construction of any structure that would block the view—of nearly 200 mountain peaks—from the golden dome. 

• City Park for a sweeping panorama. From this vantage point, take in the greenery of City Park, the entire Denver skyline, and the soaring Rockies. 

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Because we have a museum full of Stills.

The paintings could have ended up anywhere, really. New York would have made sense. San Francisco would have been a good fit. Heck, Baltimore—not terribly far from the house American painter Clyfford Still lived in during his last 20 years—would have been logical. But Denver? Really?

Yes, the Mile High City—through a bit of luck, and lot of foresight by then-Mayor John Hickenlooper—was awarded Clyfford Still’s estate, which consists of some 2,600 paintings by the abstract expressionist. What we got in the 2005 deal is remarkable: With the Clyfford Still Museum, which opened a little more than a year ago in the Golden Triangle neighborhood, we have been given one of the finest museum buildings in the Western United States.

But, as wonderful as the building is itself, it’s the up-close access to Still’s massive, moody paintings that should make Denverites feel fortunate. Indeed, the collection provides a rare look into the mind of one of the 20th century’s true artistic geniuses. We like to sit on the benches and simply stare, or wander right up to the works to examine the splashes of color, the splotches of naked canvas, and the thick impasto. In these reflective moments the museum takes on an almost religious quality, as if it were a shrine. Clyfford Still, ever self-assured and cognizant of his place in the painterly pantheon, wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

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9 Because we socialize on Wednesday evenings while wearing costumes and riding cruisers.  

Wednesday night, an otherwise lackluster evening in most cities, rouses an almost religious reverence in the Mile High City, when thousands of costume-clad cyclists take to the streets on two wheels. They come wearing moose antlers, they come dressed as zombies, they come in nothing more than bubble wrap, duct tape, and some strategically placed cardboard. Most important, they come in droves, making the Denver Cruiser Ride (DCR) the largest social bike ride in the country. • Founder Brad Evans, a 45-year-old Colorado native, never envisioned the DCR catapulting to cultlike popularity. When he started the ride in the summer of 2005, it was an informal pub crawl with about a dozen friends. Today, several thousand festooned cyclists attend each outing, whooping and hollering and ringing their bells through the streets of downtown Denver. Evans estimates at least 40,000 participants pedaled in the 20 Wednesday-night rides during the 2012 season from May to September. • Since 2005, Evans has become a force in the growing social ride movement across America (there are more than two dozen in the state of Colorado alone). He bucks the critical mass concept that has arisen in some places, though, where anarchist throngs of riders blow off traffic laws. “Our number one rule is to have fun, but not at any cost,” Evans says. “We advocate critical manners—we stop at red lights, we share the road. And in that way, we’re getting more people out on social rides and taking back the streets one rider at a time.”

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10 Because we live 25 minutes from Red Rocks. 

Between Ship Rock and Creation Rock, at an elevation of 6,450 feet, we can revel in the world’s only naturally occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheater. That’s right, we said perfect. We dare you to disagree.

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11 Because we seriously dig our four-legged friends.

Over the years, our exceptionally cozy kinship with man’s best friend has been well documented. Forbes ranked us in the top 10 U.S. pet-loving cities in 2007. And just this past August, Men’s Health ranked us number five for the country’s most dog-friendly cities. But what exactly is it that makes us so obviously into our canine companions that others are taking notice? We asked around. Here, an entirely incomplete (but completely true!) roundup of ways we routinely indulge our dogs.

"Burley eats what you could call dog food, but the ingredients—bison, barley, pheasant, kale—and the price seem to suggest otherwise."

"To ensure Bodhi doesn’t fall out of our open-air Jeep Wrangler as we’re four-wheelin’, we have a special doggy seat belt for him."

"Scout has her own pair of recycled-tire-rubber hiking booties, as well as a saddlebag for packing her food in."

"Visiting one of the Denver metro area’s dozens of bark-parks with Rover is a near-daily occurrence. "

"We bought an extra green tie so that Colby could be a groomsman at our wedding."

"When we buy a new tent, we always go up a size to accommodate Murphy, who sleeps inside the tent and has her own doggie sleeping bag."

"The end of the workweek usually means we head up the hill to find an aspen-lined trail to hike. But before we decide on a destination, we always make sure that the wilderness area allows dogs and that Buddy will be able to safely tackle the route."

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12 Because for the past 32 years we’ve had an organization dedicated to keeping roots, folk, and acoustic music alive.

Harry Tuft was supposed to become an architect. But life had other plans for the East Coast kid who rolled into Colorado with his guitar in 1960. Tuft went on to found the Swallow Hill Music Association in 1979. Swallow Hill is now the country’s second-largest folk-music teaching organization and an important cultural stop-off for Americana, acoustic, and indie-folk artists. 

You could call Swallow Hill a music school, but community center is a snugger fit. All people playing all instruments at all levels have a place there. Some days that means beginners strumming out bar chords on guitars; other days it’s didgeridoo-ists practicing low tones. There are even workshops for writing songs on a Mac. It’s a place where people come together around music, and where those of us whose fingers were once smooshed onto piano keys by well-intentioned instructors can finally learn to play a sweet riff instead of stolid scales.

Swallow Hill also hosts music fests and concerts. Joan Baez, Taj Mahal, and Ry Cooder have been known to swing by, as have artists like Patty Griffin, David Lindley, and George Winston. In fact, with 5,000 students and 200 annual performances, the organization is outgrowing its digs. Swallow Hill recently announced it will expand to a new venue in the Lowry Town Center. Not to worry though: Tuft will still lead his $3-to-participate jam sessions.

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13 Because in few other big cities will you see a teenager using a hair dryer to gussy up his prize heifer.

An admission ticket to the National Western Stock Show (Jan. 12–27, 2013) offers a glimpse of American culture that even those of us who live in the West don’t often witness. Bull riding, mutton bustin’, dancing horses, and freestyle reining are on display most nights of the 16-day event. But it’s what goes on behind the scenes that illustrates that the 106-year-old stock show isn’t just blithe entertainment for the urbanites (although it certainly is a hoot). A stroll through the stables—where teenagers are grooming their livestock with round brushes and hair dryers for upcoming exhibitions—demonstrates just how integral Denver’s annual ag bash is to the farming and ranching communities in Colorado and across the country. Not only is the show about business—a ton of money and college scholarships are on the line—but it’s also a social gathering where like-minded folks can revel in an environment drawn up just for them (and more than 600,000 city-folk onlookers).

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