15 Because exercising here makes us feel superhuman when we go to sea level.
When we travel, one of our favorite things to do is go for a run. No, it’s not our way of seeing a new place. And it’s not because we’re so into our exercise routines that we’re compelled to get in our miles even on vacation. It’s because we have superpowers at lower elevations. Yes, superpowers. We don’t have X-ray vision or Spidey-sense, but we can run forever. And fast. At least, that’s what it feels like when we breathe that oxygen-heavy air. It turns out that all those heaving, gasping workouts in Denver’s thin air pay off. Our extra red blood cells—thank you, 5,280 feet!—are able to deliver an enormous volume of oxygen to our bodies, sometimes 12 to 14 percent more than someone living at sea level gets. That’s why it feels like we can run faster than a speeding bullet, farther than Wonder Woman’s invisible plane can fly, and maybe even leap small buildings. Perhaps it’s an unfair advantage—and maybe we’re just kidding ourselves—but no one ever said superheroes weren’t allowed to flaunt what they’ve got every now and again.
16 Because Joe Vostrejs and Larimer Associates believe in the entrepreneurial spirit.
What initially began 12 years ago as a repositioning of Larimer Square (from mall retailers such as Ann Taylor and Nine West to independently operated retailers and restaurants) has led Joe Vostrejs, Jeff Hermanson, Rod Wagner, and Pat McHenry of Larimer Associates to bring thoughtful, community-minded redevelopment to more than a half-dozen other corners, strip malls, and neighborhood anchors throughout the metro area. “In the course of repositioning Larimer Square, we were surprised—and pleased—to find so many great entrepreneurs in Denver. They just needed opportunities,” says Vostrejs, who is the company’s chief operating officer.
And what opportunities Larimer Associates has wrought: The group bought the southwest corner of 32nd Avenue and Lowell Boulevard and opened Chipotle, Sushi Hai, Real Baby, and Perfect Petal; they refabbed Billy’s Inn on 44th and Lowell and bought the corner across from it, ultimately leasing it to Tocabe and an orthodontist. The group’s thumbprint is everywhere you look: Ernie’s; LoHi Steakbar; the Sixth Avenue strip that holds Satchel’s and, soon, a Novo Coffee outpost; 12th and Madison, where TAG Burger Bar opened in October; Lowry Beer Garden; and even the revitalization of Union Station. “We create opportunities for entrepreneurs in underdeveloped areas in Denver,” Vostrejs says. “There are great buildings that underserve a neighborhood. We re-engineer those buildings and look at how the neighborhood is changing.”
Up Next: In the coming months, Larimer Associates will announce the retail and dining establishments that will inhabit the new Union Station.
17 Because Patagonia trumps Prada for style any day.
Folks in other cities flock to sample sales for high-end fashion labels; Denverites converge on REI minutes after the announcement of a 60-percent-off deal on last season’s hiking apparel. We pillage the winter Patagonia sale with a ruthlessness other urbanites reserve for a half-off Neiman Marcus blowout. And we block off Labor Day weekend not for cookouts, but for the annual SNIAGRAB ski and snowboard sale at Sports Authority. For several days before SNIAGRAB, people pitch tents at 10th and Broadway because, well, there’s nothing like urban camping to ensure you’re the first person to grab that hybrid vest with insulated taffeta in powder blue. Here in Denver, people don’t care what designer’s name is inside your $1,000 pair of ankle boots; but they will compliment you on your breathable performance fleece. Gucci be damned…bring on the moisture-wicking hoodies.
18 Because we keep going to the games.
Denver is a great sports town. We have professional teams in the “four majors” (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey) as well as a few others; we have relatively new ballparks and stadiums; and we could hardly have better weather—save for the occasional early-autumn blizzard or mid-summer scorcher—for watching games in person. We go, we drink an adult beverage, we cheer, and we boo, usually when referees’ calls go against us and are thus, by definition, wrong. Win or lose, we tend to come back for more because, well, we’re a dedicated (and apparently optimistic) bunch. This isn’t Boston or Philly or New York or Chicago, where even a winning team gets an earful from ornery—and forever unsatisfied—fans. No, we’re generally happy to enjoy a plate of nachos at the Blue Sky Grill before an Avs or Nuggets game; we’re thrilled to hang out at the SandLot at Coors Field and try whatever new brew they’re serving; and, let’s be honest, we’d sell our firstborn for Broncos season tickets. We like a winning team—who doesn’t?—but we don’t have to have one to enjoy ourselves.
19 Because we have nearly 6,000 acres of park space within our city limits.
• Washington Park is the classic: The Old Boathouse, scores of exultant volleyballers playing pickup games, and frisky dogs and their owners taking the 2.5-mile loop serve as a varied and lively background. We love: sitting on the old, gnarled tree that overhangs the water on the north end of Grasmere Lake.
• James A. Bible Park ranks as one of the sportiest of Denver’s parks with its ball fields, tennis courts, and running trails. We love: the access to the High Line Canal trail, which makes this southeast Denver recreational haven a great home base for your half-marathon training.
• Confluence Park is one of the few water-oriented playgrounds in Denver. Kayakers, inner-tubers, and swimmers take to the water where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River rendezvous. We love: perching on the large flat rock that juts over the south bank of Cherry Creek and listening to the water rush by.
• Civic Center Park hosts the Taste of Colorado festival and weekly food truck gatherings in the warmer months. We love: grabbing a plate of tacos from the Pinche Tacos truck, pulling up a patch of grass, and gazing at the murals hidden in the wings of the Greek amphitheater.
20 Because we have a pro cycling event—and terrain—that rivals the classic European tours.
Say what you will about the French, but it’s difficult to deny the fact that they’ve got a pretty damn beautiful country. Well, guess what? Colorado’s no slouch in the scenery department, and the Centennial State’s natural assets have no doubt played a huge role in the success of the USA Pro Challenge, the one-week-long stage race that was founded just two years ago. Between the mountains and meadows and, of course, the signature thin air, the USAPC has quickly become one of the biggest races on the pro tour calendar, and—if the sizes of the crowds on key stages are any indication—the race has already surpassed the Amgen Tour of California as the marquee cycling event this side of the pond.
And while the steady climb up Independence Pass and the epic crowds on Flagstaff Mountain are postcard-perfect images for the cameras, the race has finished in one city for each of the first two years. That’s right, Denver has become what Paris is to the Tour de France, the big-city ending to a race that winds its way through the lovely countryside. Civic Center Park may not be the Champs-Élysées, but having the USAPC cross the finish line in the Mile High City speaks volumes about our hometown.