From Red Rocks Amphitheatre to Denver International Airport to Casa Bonita, here are seven of the local icons that make Denver a must-see city.
If I were to pick the most definitively Denver places in and around the city, I'd be tempted to make a list to publish on the Internet. So I did.
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
A portal to rock and roll heaven sits at the foot of the Rockies. The Beatles couldn't sell it out in 1964. More than a half-century later, the Stones could sell it out in 60 seconds, but chose not to book a show there on this summer's tour. But it remains one of the best music venues on Earth. Pollstar even renamed its Best Small Venue Award the Red Rocks Award in 2001.
Denver Art Museum
The original building, Gio Ponti's castle-like design that's decked out in a million tiles, is hitched to the 2006 expansion that looks like platinum offspring of a ship and a mountain, dreamed up by architect Daniel Libeskind. It's the one structure in Denver that demands you to stop and say, "Huh?"
Lakeside Amusement Park
One of the most historic amusement parks on Earth, Lakeside is a business, a municipality and a state of mind. It's the only White City
amusement park still operating of dozens that opened around the turn of the twentieth century. Lakeside opened in 1908. It's not technically in Denver -- it's its own 0.3-square-mile municipality with a population of eight and its own development-friendly agenda.
Now a Lakewood Historic Landmark, the largest restaurant in the Western Hemisphere is riding a high. But the only thing faker than Black Bart's Cave is the cheese. What about turning the food operation over to someone like Steve Ells? Cartman would hate it, but Chipotle could milk endless PR out of that culinary makeover.
Colorado State Capitol
It's literally hard to miss the state's seat of political power, a gilded reminder that mineral wealth flows downhill. How much gold clads the dome? About 200 ounces on the whole thing. This means the gold plating is much thinner than the orange-ish cheese product on your burrito at Casa Bonita.
Denver International Airport
Ground zero for conspiracies galore and the portal to the city's future, DIA is the fifth-busiest airport in the U.S. and 15th-busiest in the world. Now the 53-square-mile airport just needs transit-oriented development to catalyze the seemingly endless tracts of empty land that surround it.
After $500 million worth of restoration and transit projects, Union Station is once again the vibrant heart of the city's transportation network. Once it's connected to DIA by light rail in 2016, Denver's opportunity to become a truly international city is at hand.