Mention Denver and visions of the Rocky Mountains, snowbunnies and the Broncos come to mind. Those whom have never been to the Mile High City are under the impression there’s not much else. The city of Denver, however, is working to update the image and add outlets like the LoDo District, Denver Performing Arts Complex and the Denver Art Museum to the list.
LoDo, local lingo for Lower Downtown, is one of the most successful downtown revitalizations in the nation. The effort, started in 1989,continues to this day. What started in Lower Downtown has been spreading and Denver now boasts the tenth largest downtown in the country.
The downtown revitalization is anchored by the city’s four major sports teams playing within a couple of miles of one another. Pepsi Arena, Invesco Mile High Stadium and Coors Field are a vital part of LoDo, surrounded by obligatory sports bars. But downtown Denver goes way beyond the sports bars with a tremendous selection of delicious dining, exciting nightlife and great shopping.
For travelers who wish to be in the center of the action, The Jet Hotel is located in the heart of LoDo. Part nightclub, part boutique hotel, the Jet Hotel is a swanky urban headquarters for exploring the dining and nightlife of LoDo. The hotel offers 19 rooms decorated in an urban contemporary style that can be very convenient if you’ve had too much to drink and want to sleep it off in style or if you’re just not ready for the night to end after last call. The Jet, one of the hottest nightlife spots in Denver, features Twenty, a private lower lounge club with its own premium bar and exclusive DJ. While Twenty is members only, The Jet is open to the public and usually packed with the who’s who of the Denver scene.
Just a few blocks away from The Jet, Theorie is the latest addition to the LoDo District. The location might be familiar to some as Theorie is the recent incarnation of the house used by MTV for The Real World: Denver. The interior was completely remodeled to create an interesting mix of elegant vintage with clean modern touches. A definite Theorie highlight is the fare. For late night eats, the Theorie Trio with a smoked duck wonton, shitake spring roll and crab and asparagus dumpling is the signature dish. They also offer a full menu of contemporary American dishes with a French and Asian flair.
Just up from LoDo proper is Larimer Square, the oldest part of downtown Denver. While Larimer Square boasts plenty of nightlife, if you prefer a laid-back evening, Corridor 44 champagne bar is the perfect spot. The menu consists of small plate items with an emphasis on presentation. For the purist, Corridor 44 offers a multitude of champagne and even features champagne flights. The highlight of the drink menu is the multitude of champagne cocktails. From the classic Kir Royale to the unusual mixture of Guinness and champagne in the Black Velvet, the cocktail menu has enough flavors to keep you tasting for days.
The emphasis of Larimer Square is the restaurants and fashion boutiques. A few high quality chains can be found but the gems are definitely the local independents. In the restaurant category, Rioja stands out. Rioja has a Mediterranean-inspired menu created by chef/owner Jennifer Jasinski. The décor is warm and colorful and the food is exceptional. In the boutique category, the sister stores Loft 22 and Violet set the standard with Loft 22 carrying a mixture of eclectic home accessories and cutting edge fashions. Violet offers a cosmopolitan selection mixed with a local flavor at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Just a few blocks away stands The Curtis Hotel, strategically positioned midway between lower downtown and uptown. The Curtis offers all the comforts and amenities travelers expect from a quality hotel, with a little twist. The Curtis is a whimsical mixture of contemporary design and pop-culture inspiration. Each of the pop culture-themed 13 floors is decorated with memorabilia reinforcing the theme. One Hit Wonders, Big Hair and Chick Flick are just a few of the décor schemes. It’s hard not to take the talking elevator up to the top to view every floor. Forget about a wake-up call from the operator, at The Curtis you will wake to Yoda, Forrest Gump and even Elvis on the other end of the line. Much like the hotel interior, the staff is friendly and everyone offers a personable sense of humor.
The Corner Office Restaurant and Martini Bar, located just off the lobby, serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and dinner seven days a week to hotel guests and the general public. The perfect compliment to the hotel, The Corner Office features an updated take on mid-century modern décor with bold colors and modern materials. For those wanting to start the day with a sugar rush, the cheesecake-style waffles are a sinful treat. The teak bar, highlighted with backlit blue Lucite provides the perfect spot for a more sophisticated, yet hip clientele.
As if dining, nightlife and shopping aren’t enough, Denver is home to many cultural destinations. Across from The Corner Office is the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the largest art complex in the world with ten performance spaces connected by an 80-foot-tall glass roof. Just up the street is the new Denver Convention Center with 585,000 square feet of space.
Denver also features a number of historical museums, a renowned aquarium and one of the largest science museums in the west. The Denver Museum of Nature & Science just received support from the public as voters passed funding measures to renovate and expand the 100-year old building. The 10-year plan for the museum includes a LEED-certified modern expansion.
The residents of Denver just celebrated the newest edition to the line-up with the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art | Denver. Designed by English architect, David Adjaye, the modern glass building is actively seeking LEED certification. The new facility is 25,000 square feet and is poised to attract world-class art.
Denver launched itself into the international limelight when Daniel Libeskind was commissioned to design the expansion of the Denver Art Museum whose original building was designed by Italian architect, Gio Ponti. The people of Denver, who passed a $62.5 million bond in 1999, were promised a building of international architectural stature. The promise was fulfilled in October 2006 when the Frederic C. Hamilton building was opened to worldwide acclaim.
Inspired by Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the building represents the fingertips of Adam and God reaching for one another, but not quite touching. Libeskind created a titanium-clad form that reaches toward the campus of the art museum’s original North Building and the city library. It also reached toward downtown Denver. The building features a grand entry space and an impressive spatial environment.
Much more than just a ski town, Denver has spent nearly 20 years remaking itself into a destination city. The City of Denver has challenged residents to think differently and, as a result, visitors will remember Denver for the museums, nightlife and vibrant downtown.