Once a rugged cow town filled with gamblers and gunslingers, the Colorado capital has grown up. Today, it meets cosmopolitan halfway and learns to play nice while still kicking up a little dust.
Author Rachel Sturtz Photography Jen Judge
ONCE UPON A TIME, Denver was the ultimate Wild West town. Its very creation was almost an accident. No roads led here, no railroads or major waterways. The nearest city at the time of its establishment was 600 miles away. Then one day in 1858, a prospector hit a vein, and Denver was born—sired by a few ounces of gold shiny enough to lure men from across the continent who were looking for more. Together, they built a town where there was no other reason to have one.
But now, the capital of Colorado and the great outdoors enjoy equal footing on the high plains, surrounded by the majestic Rocky Mountains. And the people who live here—some of the healthiest and most active in the country—are more than happy to share. Today, you can finish a fresh cup of Brazilian drip coffee in the time it takes for you to drive to South Table Mountain for a prework mountain bike ride. After sampling a mixologist’s happy hour agave cocktail, you can stroll the path along the South Platte River and watch freestyle kayakers flip and twist on the slow-moving water. Or you can learn to rock climb with some of the world’s top mountaineers before making it back to enjoy a seven-course tasting menu at one of the best restaurants in the West.
After spending a long weekend in Denver, you’ll find that even though it’s no longer the Wild West, it’s as close as a big city can get.