Denver has a colourful history / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Colorado’s Old West city has plenty to offer the modern traveller, from art and culture to the obligatory cowboy boots

With a colourful Wild West history, a lively art and music scene and 300 days of sunshine per year, Denver is more than just a gateway to hiking, camping and skiing in the Rocky Mountains. And since Norwegian Air launched direct flights from London Gatwick from just $199 one way, it’s never been cheaper to visit the Mile High City.

Here are the top 10 things to do in Denver:

People-watch on the 16th Street Mall

Denver has the 10th largest downtown area in the United States and, unlike some cities, it’s easily walkable. At its heart is the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian promenade that is lined with street performers, shops, bars and outdoor cafés, which is perfect for people-watching. Free shuttle buses run up and down the mall, stopping on every corner, and after 6pm the street comes alive with horse-drawn carriages and pedicabs.

Burritos for breakfast

The Southwest take on this American breakfast staple adds green chilli to the more usual mix of eggs, potato and cheese. Asada Rico (asadarico.com), a food cart on the 16th Street Mall where owner Manuel follows his mother’s recipe, was recently declared to have Denver’s favourite breakfast burrito by readers of The Denver Post. For a delicious vegetarian version, check out boho bar City, O’City (cityocitydenver.com). 

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16th Street Mall is a hub of entertainment (Getty Images)

Pick up some cowboy boots

If you’ve ever wondered whether you could pull off cowboy boots, a Stetson hat or even a bolo tie, head to Rockmount Ranch Wear (rockmount.com). Founded in 1946 by “Papa” Jack Weil, inventor of the snap-button Western shirt, Rockmount has since kitted out celebrities from Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain.

Take a brewery tour

Denver brews more beer than any other US city and the Coors Brewery in nearby Golden is the world’s largest. Most have scheduled brewery tours or will offer one on the spot if you ask nicely. Popular spots include Ratio Beerworks (ratiobeerworks.com), where the six flagship beers are named after punk-rock albums, and Wynkoop Brewing Company (wynkoop.com), co-founded by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Try the Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout, brewed with bull testicles, for a taste of two Colorado specialities in one. 

Check out the art 

At Denver Art Museum (denverartmuseum.org) you can find the world’s greatest collection of Native American art as well as works from European masters, Old West classics and travelling exhibits. The Clyfford Still Museum (clyffordstillmuseum.org) is the only public collection of works by the artist, who was among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists. For street art and independent galleries head to the RiNo Art District (rinoartdistrict.org), Denver’s creative hub where many galleries stay open late and host live music on the first Friday evening of every month.

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Denver City Park is the city’s largest (Getty Images)

Eat like a cowboy

If Rocky Mountain Oysters have whetted your appetite for more exotic tastes of the West, head to The Buckhorn Exchange (buckhorn.com). Opened in 1893 by Henry “Shorty Scout” Zietz, who for a time rode with Buffalo Bill, the steakhouse serves up elk, buffalo and alligator tail alongside beef steaks and baby-back pork ribs. Just don’t let the 575-piece taxidermy collection – including deer, moose, mountain goat and a two-headed calf – put you off your food.

A stroll in the park

Denver has more than 200 parks, making it one of the largest city-park systems in America. City Park is the biggest, with several lakes, spectacular mountain views, flower gardens and a public golf course. It is also home to Denver Zoo (denverzoo.org) and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science (dmns.org).

Bike for ice cream

Denver’s B-cycle scheme has more than 800 bright-red Trek bikes available to rent across the city. Simply swipe a credit card and pedal off along the Cherry Creek Bike Path for an easy ride along the river to Little Man Ice Cream (littlemanicecream.com). It’s worth the inevitable wait in line for a homemade scoop (or two) of flavours such as banana pudding, Earl Grey tea or chocolate pecan pie, served from an iconic 28-foot tall cream can. 

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Red Rocks amphitheatre is a top outdoor concert venue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Visit Buffalo Bill’s grave

William F “Buffalo Bill” Cody was a cattle herder, a gold miner and an army scout before travelling the world with his Wild West shows. When he died in 1917, he was buried atop Lookout Mountain, just a short drive from Denver. The Buffalo Bill Grave and Museum (buffalobill.org) offers a look into the life of the Old West, including the history of Native Americans, buffalo and cowboys. 

Get ready to rock

Rolling Stone named Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre (redrocksonline.com) the best outdoor concert venue and it’s easy to see why. Carved from towering red rock monuments, it has hosted everyone from The Beatles to Bruce Springsteen. During the summer, Red Rocks also hosts yoga mornings and film nights. The Visitor Centre is open year-round and has a free museum and Performers’ Hall of Fame, while the surrounding park has hiking trails that weave between the magnificent red rocks.

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