STATEWIDE • DENVER SPECIFIC
Altitude Dangers — It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, fit or flabby, when you come to Colorado, you’re a candidate for altitude sickness. If you travel to heights of more than 8,000 feet, you have a one in four chance of experiencing some degree of fatigue, headache, dizziness or insomnia. You can lessen the odds if you break up your trip by stopping for a day or two mid-way before proceeding to the higher elevations.
Even visitors to Denver, the mile-high city, which by Colorado standards isn’t particularly high, would be wise to take precautions. Guzzle water, cut back on alcohol and eat lots of carbohydrates and foods rich in potassium. (This really isn’t that much of a hardship. After all, even chocolate is rich in potassium.)
Healthy Hiking — One of the closest places to Denver for a heart-pumping hike is Boulder’s Chautauqua Park, which is only about 30 miles northwest of downtown Denver. Hikes range from an easy half-mile stroll to a challenging seven-mile climb. www.bouldercolorado.gov/osmp/chautauqua-trailhead/
Unparalleled music — Towers of red sandstone rise 300 feet in the air, forming a natural amphitheater that’s been outfitted with man-made seats. The result is a giant stage on which world-famous musicians — including the Beatles, John Denver, Sonny & Cher and Pat Boone — have performed under starry skies only fifteen miles from Denver.
What’s more, as the song goes, on a clear day you can see — and a glorious view it is. Mountains, plains, the Denver skyline and even the airport depict the natural and the man-made in visual and acoustic harmony.
Viewing Bison — No one should leave Colorado without seeing a bison, the animal that to most folks symbolizes the west. They roam in relative freedom at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge, ten minutes from downtown Denver. The best time to see the hulking beasts up close is during the cool of the morning.
The best plan: Arrive at sunrise when the grounds open, and enjoy the wildlife (330 species including eagles and coyotes as well as bison) at your leisure. When the Visitor Center opens at 9:00 a.m., talk to the knowledgeable rangers and view the small museum that explains how an arsenal became a refuge. (Note: the Visitor Center is closed Monday and Tuesday.)
Only for Omnivores — The Buckhorn Exchange has been around since 1893, and it reeks with Old West authenticity. Its walls are filled with stuffed game animals, old pistols, and photos of previous guests, including Buffalo Bill Cody and Chief Sitting Bull. The food continues the Western theme. The menu includes elk, quail, alligator and rattlesnake as well as salmon as a sop for those with timid tastes. (There’s one — repeat, one — very small salad.
Be sure to indulge in their legendary Rocky Mountain Appetizer. If you don’t know exactly what that entails, ask your waiter. You won’t forget his answer. (Warning: Dining at the Buckhorn is a pricey experience.) www.buckhorn.com/
Avoiding fines — Drivers beware. Cameras, installed at major intersections, are watching your every move. If, as you approach a red light, even a smidge of your front tire touches the crosswalk, you’ll find yourself forced to make a significant contribution to the city’s economy. In 2014 Denver collected more than $6.5 million in revenues from its automated camera systems.
Denver Parking — On-street parking is free on Sundays and city holidays, but most shops and restaurants in the downtown area are open. This makes it a perfect time to explore without worrying about feeding the meter.
Exception: If the Rockies are in town, you won’t find a parking place, free or not, for miles. If you don’t have tickets for the game, it’s a good day to go hiking!
Mastering the airport — Called DIA by locals (although the airline code is inexplicably DEN), Denver International Airport is the sixth busiest in the United States. Locals know it’s faster to eschew the main security checkpoint and walk across the bridge to the checkpoint outside Concourse A, where the lines are almost always shorter. (Note: Pre-check is only available at the main checkpoint.)