Rocky Mountain High - 10 things to do in Denver if you're not a skier (Pt. 1)

denver skyline  

We do tend to flit around a bit while we're in the States. It seems the family is all spread out and getting to see them requires a long road trip (our favorite) or a number of plane rides (much quicker, but less fun). This time we headed back to Colorado. We were in need of a little Rocky Mountain High … available without any chemical additives at all. I know I owe you New Zealand's South Island, but since we're here in Colorado, this takes precedence for the moment.

The Mile High City (elevation: 5,280' /1609m above sea level) definitely has us winded when we first arrive. A “mile high in the sky” accounts for shortness of breath, nosebleeds, ear aches and headaches on occasion. And then, of course, there are those Rocky Mountain barking spiders to worry about. Acclimation is quick though.

Since Denver is our old stomping ground, we thought we'd let you in on inexpensive, fun things to do in and around Denver if you're visiting and it's not ski season or, heaven forbid, you're not a skier. Don't forget to take a look at the end for our restaurant picks.

1. US Mint

Watch pennies being minted. The Denver Mint produces all denomination of circulating coins which bear the mint mark “D” under the date. Reservations are required in advance, but are easy to do on-line and the tour is free.


denver mint


2. Lookout Mountain & Buffalo Bill's grave

In Golden, not far from Denver, you can drive to the top of Lookout Mountain. The ride up and the circuitous, steep ride back down again are worth the trip. The views are stupendous with the whole city of Denver laid out before you. Look for the buffalo herd. Stopping at Buffalo Bill's grave (William F. Cody) and looking through the Buffalo Bill Museum are simply frosting on the cake. Small admission fee for the museum


buffalo bill cody museum


3. Tour the Denver Capitol building

The ornate, gold-domed neoclassic style Capitol building is a jewel of architecture. Tours are free and there's lots to see. From the rare rose onyx walls mined in Beulah, Colorado to tapestries, stained glass windows, inside views of the dome and Mr. Brown's Attic, a museum highlighting the building and early Colorado history. At the west entrance, the 13th step has been marked at exactly one mile high (it was measured three times before they got it right).


a mile high


4. 16th Street Mall

This tree-lined pedestrian mall is a mile long and chock-a-block full of boutiques, shops, restaurants, pubs and buskers. There's always something going on. Hop on a free mall bus and travel from one end to the other if your dogs get tired.


16th street mall


5. Celestial Seasonings Tea Company

In Boulder, Celestial Seasonings offers a fun, free tour. Watch a short video, visit the intense Peppermint Room, learn about how tea is made, walk through the factory, then sample all sorts of teas in the Tea Room. There's a restaurant and an interesting gift shop.


celestial seasonings


6. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

Its name might sound a bit off-putting, but nestled in the Flatirons of Boulder, this place is great. Whip up your own tornado or create lightning. Learn about atmospheric changes affecting climate, weather and, well, our lives. Free and fascinating.


making lightning


Check tomorrow for the rest of our top picks of things to do in Denver if you're not a skier plus some restaurant tips.