A weekend in Denver 

Denver has more than 200 parks, making it one of the largest city park systems in America. City Park (19) is Denver’s largest, with several lakes, spectacular mountain views, flower gardens and a public golf course

          Why go now?

This gateway to hiking, camping and skiing in the Rocky Mountains is a standout travel destination in its own right. Standing one mile above sea level and with 300 days of sunshine per year, Denver has a lively arts and music scene, from the world-renowned Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre (1) to the Denver Performing Arts Complex (2) (artscomplex.com), the second-largest theatre complex in the country. Yet Denver’s Wild West roots are never far away – the city has its own buffalo herd and real-life frontiersman William “Buffalo Bill” Cody is buried on nearby Lookout Mountain (3) (303 526 0744; buffalobill.org). 

         Get your bearings

See what’s what with a walk around LoDo (lower downtown), Larimer Square (4) and the 16th Street Mall (5), a mile-long pedestrian promenade lined with shops and outdoor cafes perfect for people-watching. Free shuttles run the length of the mall, making it easy to cover a lot of ground quickly. Nearby Larimer Square (larimersquare.com) is Denver’s most historic block, now home to an eclectic mix of independent shops, high-end restaurants and lively bars. Find the Denver Tourist Information Centre (6) (303 892 1505) on California and 16th.

Day One

Take a view
The golden dome atop the Colorado State Capitol (7) (colorado.gov/capitol) offers panoramic views of the city. To get there, take a free historical tour of the capitol building (offered 10am-3pm Monday to Friday). Walk-ins are welcome.

Take a hike
Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre (1) (720 865 2494; redrocksonline.com) is the best outdoor concert venue in the world, according to Rolling Stone. Carved from towering red rock monuments, it has hosted everyone from the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen and U2. The Visitor Centre is open year-round and has a free museum and Performers’ Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave between the magnificent red rocks. Keep an eye out for deer and other wildlife.

Lunch on the run
Head to Union Station (8) (unionstationindenver.com), a renovated 1914 Beaux-Arts train station which serves as Denver’s main transport hub as well as housing restaurants, bars and boutique shops. Grab a burger or made-to-order sandwich from Acme Delicatessen (9) (720 460 3706; acmedelicatessen.com) or, during the summer, you can pick up a bite to eat at the Union Station Farmers Market (June to October, 9am-2pm).Window shopping

Window shopping

Don’t miss Rockmount Ranch Wear (10) (303 629 7777; rockmount.com), which has sold Western-style shirts, Stetson hats and bolo ties to clients including Elvis Presley and Eric Clapton since 1946. Tattered Cover (11) (303 322 7727; tatteredcover.com) is one of America’s largest independent bookstores and often hosts signings by famous authors.

An aperitif
Denver brews more beer than any other city in the US, so you’re never far from a decent brewery. In RiNo check out Ratio Beerworks (12) (303 997 8288; ratiobeerworks.com), whose six flagship beers are named after punk rock albums and where the patio is the perfect spot to spend a sunny afternoon. Closer to downtown, Wynkoop Brewing Company (13) (303 297 2700; wynkoop.com) was co-founded by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and serves up beers brewed with anything from green chilli to Rocky Mountain Oysters (otherwise known as bull testicles). Complimentary brewery tours are offered Tuesday to Saturday at 3pm and 4pm.

Dine like a local
Some of Denver’s best restaurants are in Larimer Square (4). Two of the most popular are Rioja (14) (303 820 2282; riojadenver.com), a classy Mediterranean joint, and Osteria Marco (15) (303 534 5855; osteriamarco.com), which cooks up high-end Italian cuisine. For the more budget conscious, Avanti Food and Beverage (16) (720 269 4778; avantifandb.com) is a shipping container with a variety of food truck-style eateries, including a 1950s-inspired burger restaurant, Italian street food, sushi and Venezuelan arepas. Check out the rooftop deck offering stunning views.

Day Two

Out to brunch
Snooze (17) (303 297 0700; snoozeeatery.com) is something of a Denver brunch institution and once you taste its pancakes – available in flavours such as blueberry, lemon poppy seed and peanut butter cup – you’ll understand why. Another popular option is Jelly Café (18) (303 831 6301; eatmorejelly.com), a laidback spot with a retro cereal box decor. Try the salmon eggs benedict and don’t leave without a side order of doughnut bites.

A walk in the park
Denver has more than 200 parks, making it one of the largest city park systems in America. City Park (19) is Denver’s largest, with several lakes, spectacular mountain views, flower gardens and a public golf course. It is also home to Denver Zoo and the Museum of Nature and Science.

Take a ride
Denver’s light rail service (rtd-denver.com/lightrail.shtml) makes it easy to get around the city and costs $2.60 for a single ride. Denver also has Uber and Lyft. If you prefer to travel on two wheels, look out for the bright red Trek B-cycle bikes (303 825 3325; denverbcycle.com) at stations across the city, available to rent from just $9. Simply swipe a credit card and pedal off. The Cherry Creek Bike Path (20) (traillink.com) is one of the most scenic trails in Denver, beginning at Confluence Park (21) and running 42 miles along the river to Franktown (22).

Cultural afternoon
At Denver Art Museum (23) (720 865 5000; denverartmuseum.org) you can find the world’s greatest collection of Native American art as well as works from European masters, Old West classics and travelling exhibits. Nearby is the only museum dedicated to Clyfford Still (24) (720 354 4880; clyffordstillmuseum.org), among the first generation of Abstract Expressionist artists. Also close by is the Molly Brown House Museum (25) (303 832 4092; mollybrown.org), a turn-of-the-century mansion once home to the famous Titanic survivor and lovingly restored with original furnishings and mementoes. Guided 45-minute tours are available at select times Tuesday to Sunday. 

The icing on the cake
My Brother’s Bar (26) (303 455 9991; mybrothersbar.com) is the oldest bar in Denver and a former hangout of beatnik enfants terribles Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassidy and Allen Ginsberg. Enjoy a drink at the antique bar and ask for a copy of Cassidy’s letter asking a friend to pay his bar tab after he was sent to the Colorado Reformatory for stealing cars. Located on the corner of 15th and Platte (there’s no sign), this old-school watering hole also serves the best burgers in the city.

Travel essentials

Getting there
Denver International Airport (27) (303 342 2000; flydenver.com) is 27 miles north-east of the city. The RTD (Regional Transportation District) light rail runs downtown via the University of Colorado A Line for $9 (rtd-denver.com). An Uber from the airport to downtown will cost from $29; an airport taxi is around $55.