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Colorado calling: How Denver is attracting arty types from across the States

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Colorado calling: The gateway to the Rocky Mountains, Denver’s attracting arty types from across the States to the mile-high marvel

  • James March finds that Denver has a ‘vibrant arts scene’ and ‘quality restaurants’ 
  • From his Eleventh-floor room on the Hotel Clio, he can see the outline of the Rockies
  • With 140 breweries within the metro area, the town is a ‘craft beer fan’s dream’, he says

Occasionally, delays will be useful. The extra 90 minutes added to my flight into Denver means the town has slipped right into a golden evening glow because the sun sinks behind the distant peaks of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.

Rolling by train into the fabulously restored Union Station will wow the weariest of travellers. Beaux-Arts onion dome chandeliers hang from a grand arched ceiling above an array of sofas and tables, flanked by bookshops and the opulent Crawford Hotel.

Outside, the glowing ‘Travel by train’ entrance sign radiates a turn-of-the-Twentieth-century kitsch, paying homage to a golden age of locomotives. Denver knows how one can make first impression.

Vibrant: James March explores Denver, pictured, a city ‘with a vibrant arts scene, quality restaurants, 250 days a 12 months of sunshine and America’s most famous mountain range (the Rocky Mountains) inside a two-hour drive’

James's visit to Denver begins at the 'fabulously restored' Union Station, above, where 'the glowing

James’s visit to Denver begins on the ‘fabulously restored’ Union Station, above, where ‘the glowing “Travel by train” entrance sign radiates a turn-of-the-Twentieth-century kitsch’ 

Nicknamed the Mile High City because its official elevation is precisely one mile above sea level, Denver is one among the fastest growing cities within the U.S., with a vibrant arts scene, quality restaurants, 250 days a 12 months of sunshine and America’s most famous mountain range inside a two-hour drive.

And with United Airlines adding two more every day flights from Heathrow next 12 months to go alongside British Airways’ existing afternoon route, gettting here is painless.

On my first day, I try local artist Vance Kirkland’s fascinating ‘dot’ paintings on the Kirkland Museum of High-quality & Decorative Art, before heading right into a gleaming downtown full of vibrant food halls and jaunty street art. Live blues music thumps from a street corner as I turn onto buzzy Larimer Street, memorably described in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On The Road as a spot of ‘old bums and beat cowboys’.

Above are Vance Kirkland’s ‘dot’ paintings at the Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, which James describes as 'captivating'

Above are Vance Kirkland’s ‘dot’ paintings on the Kirkland Museum of High-quality & Decorative Art, which James describes as ‘fascinating’

TRAVEL FACTS

British Airways flies direct from London to Denver from £508 return, ba.com. Double rooms at Hotel Clio start from around £270 (breakfast at on-site restaurant Toro not included). For more information, visit colorado.com and denver.org.

Denver is often called the Gateway to the Rockies, which makes it an ideal bookend to a skiing or climbing holiday. Rocky Mountain National Park has a few of America’s most spectacular trails, while Snowmass Village in Aspen offers a wealth of downhill skiing and even has its own airport nearby. There are also luxurious dude ranches within the nearby foothills for individuals who wish to play out their John Wayne fantasies.

Colorado is now — after many years of voting Republican — a solidly Democratic state and the variety of young people moving here helps explains why there are greater than 140 breweries within the metro area alone, with modern taprooms fanning out in all directions from Union Station. Denver is a craft beer fan’s dream.

There’s no shortage of places to remain. I’m billeted at Hotel Clio, a ten-minute taxi ride south of the town centre. From my Eleventh-floor room, I can see the jagged outline of the Rockies in the space. A cinematic hike or a fresh IPA? In Denver, each are possible in a day.

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