Start: Denver Information Center, Civic Center Park.
Finish: State Capitol, Civic Center Park.
Time: 2 to 8 hours, depending on how much time you spend shopping, eating, and sightseeing.
Best Times: Any Tuesday through Friday in late spring.
Worst Times: Monday and holidays, when the museums are closed.
Start your tour of the downtown area at Civic Center Park, on West Colfax Avenue at 14th Street.
1. Civic Center Park
This 2-square-block oasis features a Greek amphitheater, fountains, statues, flower gardens, and 30 different species of trees, 2 of which (it is said) were originally planted by Abraham Lincoln at his Illinois home.
Overlooking the park on its east side is the State Capitol. On its south side is the:
2. Colorado History Museum
The staircase-like building houses exhibits that make the state's colorful history come to life.
Also on the south side of the park are the Denver Public Library and the:
3. Denver Art Museum
Designed by Gio Ponti of Milan, Italy, the art museum is a 28-sided, 10-story structure that resembles a medieval fortress with a skin of more than a million tiny glass tiles. Inside are more than 35,000 works of art, including renowned Western and American Indian collections.
On the west side of Civic Center Park is the:
4. City and County Building
During the Christmas season, a rainbow of colored lights decorates it in spectacular fashion.
A block farther west is the:
5. U.S. Mint
Modeled in Italian Renaissance style, the building resembles the Palazzo Riccardi in Florence. More than 60,000 cubic feet of granite and 1,000 tons of steel went into its construction in 1904.
Cross over Colfax and go diagonally northwest up Court Place. Two blocks ahead is the:
6. Denver Pavilions
The city's newest retail hot spot sits at the south end of the 16th Street Mall, featuring a Hard Rock Cafe, a 15-screen movie theater, and a Barnes & Noble Superstore.
Three blocks up the 16th Street Mall, head southwest 2 blocks on California Street past the Colorado Convention Center and turn right on 14th Street. Walk 2 blocks to the:
7. Denver Center for the Performing Arts
The complex covers 4 square blocks between 14th Street and Cherry Creek, Champa Street and Arapahoe Street. The entrance is under a block-long, 80-foot-high glass archway. The center includes seven theaters, a symphony hall in the round, a voice research laboratory, and a smoking solar fountain. Free tours are offered.
Two more blocks up 14th past the arts center is:
8. Larimer Square
This is Denver's oldest commercial district. Restored late-19th-century Victorian buildings accommodate more than 30 shops and a dozen restaurants and clubs. Colorful awnings, hanging flower baskets, and quiet open courtyards accent the square, once home to such notables as Buffalo Bill Cody and Bat Masterson. Horse-drawn carriage rides originate here for trips up the 16th Street Mall or through lower downtown.
Take a Break--Stop at Lime, 1424 Larimer St., between 14th and 15th sts. (tel. 303/893-5463), for some great Mexican food.
A walkway at the east corner of Larimer and 15th leads through:
9. Writer Square
Quaint gas lamps, brick walkways, and outdoor cafes dot this shopping-and-dining complex.
At 16th Street, cross to the:
10. Tabor Center
The glass-enclosed shopping complex spreads over three levels. In effect a 2-block-long greenhouse (with the Westin Hotel within), the Tabor Center was developed by the Rouse Company, the same firm that created Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, South Street Seaport in New York, and Harborplace in Baltimore.
To the east, the Tabor Center is anchored by the:
11. D & F Tower
The city landmark was patterned after the campanile of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy, in 1910.
Here, with the State Capitol building to the southeast, begin a leisurely stroll down the:
12. 16th Street Mall
The $76-million pedestrian path affords the finest people-watching spot in the city. You'll see everyone from street entertainers to lunching office workers to travelers like yourself. Built of red and gray granite, it is lined with 200 red oak trees, a dozen fountains, and a lighting system straight out of Star Wars. You'll also see outdoor cafes, restored Victorian buildings, modern skyscrapers, and hundreds of shops -- with an emphasis on sports -- plus restaurants and department stores. Sleek European-built shuttle buses run through, offering free transportation up and down the mall as often as every 90 seconds.
You'll walk 7 blocks down 16th Street from the Tabor Center before reaching Tremont Place. Turn left, go 1 block farther, and across the street, on your right, you'll see the:
13. Brown Palace Hotel
One of the most beautiful grande-dame hotels in the United States, it was built in 1892 and features a nine-story atrium lobby topped by a Tiffany stained glass ceiling. Step into the lobby for a look, and if you're hungry . . .
Take a Break--The Brown Palace Hotel, 321 17th St. (tel. 303/297-3111), serves lunch in several restaurants and also offers afternoon tea in its elegant lobby. Reservations are recommended for the English tea, which includes sandwiches and pastries from the Brown Palace bakery.
Continue across Broadway on East 17th Avenue. Go 2 blocks to Sherman Street, turn right, and proceed 2 blocks south on Sherman to East Colfax Avenue. You're back overlooking Civic Center Park, but this time you're at the:
14. State Capitol
If you stand on the 18th step on the west side of the building, you're exactly 5,280 feet (1 mile) above sea level. Architects modeled the Colorado capitol after the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., and used the world's entire known supply of rare rose onyx in its interior wainscoting. A winding 93-step staircase leads to an open-air viewing deck beneath the capitol dome; on a clear day, the view can extend from Pikes Peak near Colorado Springs to the Wyoming border.
For more on what to see and do in Denver, visit our complete guide online at www.frommers.com/destinations/denver.
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