By Jeff and Virginia Orenstein
Note: We recommended that Simply Smart Travelers continue to follow current CDC guidelines and smart health practices. Check with each mode of transportation and specific venue of interest for current information before traveling. Check denvergov.org/Government/COVID-19-Information.
Known as the Mile High City because it sits at 5,280 feet, Denver lies where the Great Plains end and the Rocky Mountains begin. Modern Denver is a lively and cosmopolitan city that offers something for almost everybody from the casual tourist to the serious outdoorsman.
For those reasons and more, Denver qualifies as a simply smart destination to explore.
The metropolitan area boasts a population of 2.8 million and is home to many retail establishments, a chef-driven food scene, museums, arts venues and abundant nature. It also boasts a lively music culture.
Beyond the lively downtown, there are many trendy neighborhoods that offer antique shops, street fairs and ethnic restaurants in addition to the usual urban attractions.
Denver is a beer-lover’s paradise. Nearby Golden is the home of Coors Beer, and the bustling craft brewery scene combine to make it the No. 1 metro area in the U.S. for brewing.
A large mountain park system (14,000 acres) and the nearby Rocky Mountains make the region a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts, including hikers, bicyclists and photo enthusiasts.
The city was originally built because it was on the railroad, and the railroad influence is still present with its beautifully remodeled and busy Union Station that houses restaurants, shops and a hotel. The rail influence is also represented by a nice restaurant that used to be the regional headquarters of the Union Pacific Railroad. Downtown has many converted railroad warehouses housing shops, bars and restaurants.
Before You Go: Check out:
Denver can be easily reached by highway, air or train.
- By car, Denver is at the junction of Interstate 70 and Interstate 25.
- By air, the nearest airport is Denver International Airport (DEN), 23.2 miles from Denver Union Station. There is a direct train between the two.
- By train, newly-remodeled Denver Union Station (served by Amtrak, seasonal ski trains and commuter trains) is downtown.
- San Diego is the nearest cruise port,834 miles away.
Must-Sees and Dos for a Short Trip:
- McGergor Square (near Union Station) has a food hall, restaurants and Coors Field.
- Visit 16th Street Mall downtown with free shuttle service to Union Station.
- Enjoy a local craft brew at one of the city’s myriad craft breweries.
- Visit the Denver Botanical Garden.
- Spend a few hours at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
If You Have Several Days, Some of Your Best Options Are:
- Catching a Colorado Rockies game at Coors Field.
- Attending an event or hike at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre.
- Renting a bike or take a hike.
- Touring the U.S. Mint
Ginny O’s Tips for Dressing the Simply Smart Travel Way For Denver: Layers are the thing because temperatures can vary widely. Fashionably casual work well for most touring.
This Destination at a Glance
Over 50 Advantage: Nice hotels, laid-back restaurants and good museums.
Mobility Level: Moderate. There are some rolling hills.
Getting Around: Light rail, buses, Uber and Lyft are available.
When to Go: Summer is the most popular, but April-May and September-October are less crowded with mild temperatures and cheaper hotels. The climate is dry, relatively mild and boasts 300 days of sunshine, although sudden summer storms and winter cold snaps are possible.
Where to Stay: The Rally Hotel is nice and a short walk to Union Station (with its fast and cheap rail service to the airport) and Coors Field. Many other national chain hotels and boutique hotels in several price ranges are in the vicinity.
Special Travel Interests: Rocky Mountains, great foodie culture.
There has been a significant Jewish presence in the Greater Denver region dating back more than a century and a half. According to the 2018-2019 Greater Denver Jewish Community Study, there are about 90,800 Jewish individuals residing in 51,100 Denver-area households.
Those Jewish households contain 134,900 individuals in all and include both Jewish and non-Jewish adults and children. This comes out to about 3% of the area’s total population, (rcfdenver.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Full-Report.pdf) and is the 16th-largest Jewish community in the United States.
Jews were first attracted to Denver by the 1858 discovery of gold. Early Jews were mostly German and heavily involved in community affairs. By the 1880s, Denver also attracted Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Because of the climate, Denver attracted many tuberculosis patients, and many of them were Jewish, further enhancing the area’s Jewish vitality buoyed by many Jewish intellectuals who came to Denver for health reasons.
By the 20th century, Denver’s mostly West Side Orthodox Jewish community was active and growing, Beginning in the 1950s and continuing through the 1970s, the community expanded out of the West Side to the East Side and then the suburbs in the seven-county region. It is flourishing today and spawned a plethora of educational, recreational, and religious organizations and institutions that serve the Jewish population.
Among its prominent Jewish citizens was a young Golda Meir who lived on the West Side with her sister in 1913 and 1914. She wrote in “My Life,” her autobiography, “to the extent that my own future convictions were shaped and given form … while I was growing up, those talk-filled nights in Denver played a considerable role.’ Her Denver home is now the Golda Meir House Museum.
Like most Jewish communities, Denver Jewry has had to cope with its share of antisemitism, both violent and nonviolent. The community has grown despite this, of course.
Today, Denver supports 25 synagogues of varying sizes, including Orthodox congregations East Denver Orthodox Synagogue and BMH-BJ DAT Minyan, Inc.; Conservative congregation Rodef Shalom; and Reform congregations Temple Emanuel and Temple Micah Denver. It has an active Jewish Community Center and supports a weekly Jewish newspaper, the Intermountain Jewish News.
Jeffrey Orenstein are husband-and-wife travel writers from Sarasota, Florida. They publish travel ideas, article, photos and a blog at SimplySmartTravel.com.