All posts by milehighcity

Colorado State Capitol Building

At first glance, you might think that Washington had gone beyond all bounds when they painted the bell shaped dome gold. But those of you familiar with our capitol know better. It is the home of the Colorado Legislature. Our capitol building is a one of the key features in the memorable Denver skyline. It is a memorable sight to remember on your first visit to Denver. It can also be seen from one of Denver’s famous horse carriage rides in downtown. A round brass cap embedded in the west entrance stairway reads as follows: Elevation: 5280 feet, One Mile High, 5-12-69.

Colorado State Capitol Building in Denver
When visiting the capitol, you may see a resemblance to our nation’s capitol, including famous street names such as Pennsylvania and Lincoln Avenue. That’s because it was designed and built with the our nation’s capitol in mind. The building is composed of Colorado white granite, with large pillars at each entrance supporting a ceramic style roof. Pillars along the west entrance are topped with carved stone statues. Mostly depicting early life in Denver. The tall entrance doors are embedded with copper and glass. Each entrance landing has early 19th century light posts, which also surround the grounds.

The capitol building was built in the 1890’s and in 1908 they used 24 karat gold to plate the dome. The gold plated dome commemorates Colorado’s Gold Rush days, and the early pioneers and miners who helped build our great state. The Colorado Gold Rush was begun In 1859 when John Gregory discovered “The Gregory Lode” in a gulch near Central City. Within two weeks, the gold rush was on and within two months the population grew to 10,000 people in search of their fortune.

As you stroll the grounds, you will find the surrounding area has ample memorials dedicated to the Civil War Veterans, the men who served aboard the U.S.S. Colorado & Gettysburg, and other Coloradoans who have died on foreign soil.

Inside is a cacophony of brilliant brass and stained glass. The dome towers 180 feet above, and contains stained glass dedicated to the 16 initial founders of the city of Denver. The interior of the capitol was built with the rare and priceless Colorado Rose Onyx or what is commonly called Beulah Red Marble, named after the city in which it was found. The rose marble was quarried at Yule Creek in Gunnison County at the foothills of the Greenhorn Mountains. The mauve marble is so rare that its known supply was completely used up in the process of beautifying the capitol. The Cutting, polishing, and installing of the marble took six years, from 1894 to 1900.

Also inside you’ll find hand painted originals of each of the U.S. presidents, from George Washington to Bill Clinton.

There are three main rooms where the actual legislating takes place, the House Gallery, the Senate Gallery, and the House of Representatives. All three rooms are magnificently decorated, with stained glass and the by now familiar, embedded brass. You’ll find comfortable theater seating there as well.

The best time to visit is in the morning before the larger tour groups arrive.

The Colorado State Capitol is open to the public Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Denver At A Glance

Best Time to Go:
When you think of Denver, you more than likely think skiing. Ski season runs from mid-November to mid-April. The city sees a rush of visitors this time of year. However, when spring appears, skiers swap their skis for mountain bikes. Outdoor summer sports activities are a big draw as well. Since there is so much to see and do year-round in Denver, there is no season that is more busy than another. Anytime is a good time to visit this Colorado gem.

Average Weather
Colorado weather is famous for its wild fluctuations–during any given season and any given day. Average high and low temperatures for a month can differ by as much as 30 degrees. But such rapid changes also mean that most weather conditions are only temporary–snow melts as rapidly as it appears. And thanks to two constants, a low relative humidity and more than 300 days of sunshine per year (more than Miami Beach or San Diego), the Denver climate is rendered quite pleasant.

Average Jan High 43F, Average Jan Low 16F
Average July High 88F, Average July Low 59F

Distance from Denver International Airport to downtown Denver: 24 Miles Average from DIA to downtown (one way):

  • Public Bus
  • Airport Shuttle Van
  • Taxi
  • Luxury Sedan

In downtown Denver, free shuttle-bus service operates about every 10 minutes until 11 pm, running the length of the 16th Street Mall and stopping at two-block intervals. If you plan to spend much time outside downtown, a car is advised, although Denver has one of the best city bus systems in the country and taxis are available. Even downtown, parking spots are usually easy to find; try to avoid driving in the area during rush hour, when traffic gets heavy.

In-Season Costs
If you’re hitting Denver during ski season, be prepared to pay a little extra – especially at the area resorts. Denver is not a high-priced city though. Travelers visiting on a budget will be able to do so without sacrificing comfort.

Day Trips
Boulder: Less than an hour from just about anywhere in Denver, this vibrant college town is set against the striking backdrop of the Flatiron Mountain range. Visitors can take in an athletic event on the University of Colorado campus, stroll outdoors along the popular Pearl Street Mall, or mountain bike on one of the many paths surrounding the town.

Central City/Back Hawk: At the beginning of the 1990s, these two old mining towns were sleepy historical monuments to an earlier time of prosperity. But when limited stakes casino gambling was legalized for the area in 1991, the towns experiences a second boom–this time of slot machines and card tables. Located approximately 35 miles west of Denver, this modern marvel can be reached by car or by one of the many casino shuttles that make the trip from Denver each day.

Mount Evans: Boasting the highest paved auto road in North America, this 14,260 foot mountain offers a breathtaking view of the entire Front Range. The road is covered with snow for much of the year, and can be scaled only from June through Labor Day. The peak is 60 miles from Denver.

Pikes Peak/Colorado Springs: Approximately 60 miles south of Denver, this area is home to several attractions, including the Air Force Academy, a US Olympic Training Center, 14,000 foot high Pikes Peak and the spectacular Garden of the Gods.

Rocky Mountain National Park: With over 260,000 acres of land encompassing 355 miles of trails, 150 lakes, five campgrounds and enough unspoiled beauty to last a lifetime, Rocky Mountain National Park is a nature lover’s favorite. Located 70 miles northwest of Denver, this trip can be done in a day or made to last a week.

Vail: Just under a hundred miles west of Denver, this famous resort town has year-round appeal. Winter offers the expected array of alpine activities–skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. But golfers, mountain-bikers, and nature enthusiasts will also enjoy Vail’s abundance of summertime recreation.

Breckenridge: One hour and thirty-one minutes from Denver is the is a 146-year-old quaint Victorian town in the heart of the Colorado Rockies. In summer, enjoy mountain biking, hiking, rafting or shopping historic Main Street. In the winter, enjoy skiing at the world class Breckenridge Ski Resort.

Colorado Department of Transportation – Road conditions, weight limits, construction, advisories, maps, I-70 Estimated travel times etc.

Great Sand Dunes

Colorado’s Unmatched and Diverse Beauty  Embodied at Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

by Nicole Cormier

When people think of the Great Sand Dunes, most only think of the sand formed dunes and scorching temperatures, but Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Southern Colorado offers that and so much more. From Wetlands, to grassy meadows, to waterfalls to a variety of wildlife, there is so much to see and experience while visiting this natural wonder.

When planning a visit to the Great Sand Dunes, first decide whether you want to stay within the park, or travel in. There are three campgrounds in the National Park, two of which accommodate recreation vehicles. Ranging from $20 to $80, sleeping under the stars is quite affordable. If outdoor living is not quite your style, there are several motels just outside of the park, in the nearest city, Alamosa.

Once you enter the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve be sure to stop in at the Visitor Center. Here you’ll find a plethora of information about the park to guide your journey. Catch an informative video, explore the interactive exhibits, engage a park ranger in a lively conversation or maybe borrow the dunes-accessible wheelchair so everyone can participate. Keep in mind that the park’s elevation ranges from 8,000 to over 13,000 feet, which allows for some great hiking, and also potential altitude sickness, so drink plenty of water and take periodic breaks as you explore.

The dunefield, as they call it, is 30 square miles and boasts peaks as high as 700 feet. Hiking up and through the dunes is unlike trekking through any other terrain, but is rewarding in both views and excitement. Rather than simply descending on foot, many dunes visitors opt to sand board or sled down the sandy slides. Consider renting a sled or board at one of the nearby retailers just outside the park.

sand dunes hikersIt is advised, especially in the summer months to only hike the dunes in the morning or evening, as sand temperatures can reach up to150 degrees. There are several ways to cool down after exploring the sandy peaks that will allow you to explore Southern Colorado’s natural beauty. Medano Creek, at the base of the dunes is a seasonal creek and an ideal way to bring your temperature down while playing in the cool water. Take notice of the unusual waves, or surge flow which is a unique hydraulic phenomenon.

When you’re looking to keep the adventure going, there are many hiking trails in the area that explore some of the areas other unique terrain. The nicely shaded Montville Nature Trail winds through the forest through an old 19th century settlement. Enjoy a picnic near the summit to enjoy views of the dunes and surrounding area. For a more intense hike, there are several trails within the park in varying difficulty to satisfy any kind of adventurer. Other recreation options allowed in the park include horseback riding, seasonal hunting, and ATVs in designated areas.

The unmatched beauty of the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve cannot be found anywhere else in the world and any Colorado visitor or resident should experience it at least once in their lifetime.

Cheat Sheet:
Fees: $3 per adult (16 +) or $15 for annual family pass
Visitor Center Hours: Winter 9-4:30; Summer 8:30-6
Wildlife: amphibians (salamanders, frogs), birds, fish, insects, spiders, mammals (pica, bison, big horned sheep, bears and more), lizards and snakes.
Beware: high temperatures, high elevations, thunderstorms and wildlife.
Leashed pets welcome

Three Day Trips from Denver

When visiting Denver, Colorado, it is wonderful to get out of the city for an outing. Here is a quick cheat sheet to help arrange easy and memorable day trips, no matter your interests.

olympic swimmer
Olympic Training Center

SPORTS ENTHUSIAST TRIP – For anyone who has ever dreamed of being an Olympic athlete, a tour of the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs is inspiring. Tours are free and open to the public, begin with a 10 minute video and feature indoor summer sports facilities (swimming, gymnastics, martial arts, fencing and more) but tour schedules change seasonally, so be sure to plan ahead. It is best not to visit during lunchtime as the athletes are also eating (not training).

After you learn that the Olympic Training Center serves 15,000 gallons of milk annually, you might also be thirsty. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of the breweries in downtown Colorado Springs to practice some 12 oz. curls.

Central City & Blackhawk
Central City & Blackhawk

GAMBLING TRIP and HISTORY TRIP – A trip to Blackhawk and Central City will help fuel your historical curiosity and hopefully start a lucky streak. In 1859, a surprise gold strike in Blackhawk by John H. Gregory ignited the area’s gold fever. Wandering among the historic buildings, restored Victorian homes and imposing rock walls, you’ll find historical museums and casinos with character. Some are in restored buildings while others feature new architecture in western façade.

After gambling, if you have enough gold dust left over for a meal, there are plenty of restaurant options offering everything from fresh prime rib to seafood buffets.

Colorado Elk
Colorado Elk

GET IN TOUCH WITH NATURE TRIP – A trip to Rocky Mountain National Park is a must. The views, the elk, the photography opportunities, the “I’m not sure I can drive these curves,” kind of road is an experience not to miss. Just an hour and a half from Denver, there are two hikes that are slightly off the beaten path (so you don’t run into thousands of other outdoorsy folks on the same trail). Gem Lake and Calypso Cascades both leave from trailheads far from the Bear Lake congestion. If you’re visiting in the winter, rent snowshoes and hike to Bierstadt Lake – the scenery and stillness are inspiring.

After your hike or snowshoe, relax in the town of Estes Park to find food of every style to satisfy hungry appetites.

As always, to avoid dehydration and high-altitude headaches, be sure to drink extra water throughout your stay in Colorado.

Ski Colorado

by Richard MacPhie

When the Ski Gods slammed tectonic plates together and formed the Rocky Mountains 55 million years ago, they had in mind the goal of creating lavish runs, where their worshipers could enjoy more than a 10-second swoosh as in most areas of the rest of the continent-to-be. They envisioned beautiful peaks, intoxicating views, and numerous venues to be enjoyed. Mission accomplished.

Colorado is known worldwide for its spectacular skiing destinations, and for good reason. Boasting Twenty-Six different ski resorts and over 300 days or sunshine per year, the State cannot be beat for its combination of blue skies and fresh dry powder. And, depending on where you are and the time of year, the Rockies in Colorado offer the opportunity to ski and golf—in the same day and a short car drive away. If one is so inclined, there are casinos nestled in the hills in historic towns like Central City and Blackhawk. Talk about a vacation!

Don’t let your amateur status or inexperience stop you either—there are scores of skill level opportunities from the bunniest of slopes to the steepest of downhills. On the eastern side, Breckenridge is 90 minutes from Denver. You can enjoy all the big city has to offer and then hop onto I-70 and head west—you’re there in no time. Or you can opt for the Western Slopes where the sun shines a little bit later and you stand a better chance of rubbing shoulders with the Rich & Famous in elite ski venues like Vail and Aspen.

Colorado ski resorts offer package deals with other resorts, so you can try out the runs on different hills without busting out the credit card again. The locals love these packages and they are a great deal for the visiting skier or snowboarder as well. And when the skiing is done for the day, the hot tubs, bars and nightclubs are open for business. If you’re not a big ski bum, hanging around the Chalet and drinking hot toddies is an acceptable way to pass the time (You can lean on the bar, drink in hand, and weave tales of how you “got a bum knee” and would otherwise be out there on the runs).

Most resorts have a big season, often stretching from early October all the way to late April. The altitude makes for awesome powder and smooth & fun runs. In addition to the most thrilling runs in North America, Colorado also offers a host of Cross Country Ski loops and terrain. If you’ve never been, X-country is exhilarating, you will get your fill of awesome cardio and fresh air—and you will sleep like a hibernating bear. Whether downhill skiing, snowboarding, or cross country, Colorado is the skiing Mecca of the continent and you are guaranteed to have a great visit.

Ski Resort & Distances from Denver