"You're going to Denver in the winter?" This question, asked with eyebrows raised, was a phrase I heard several times while planning a trip to Denver in February. I soon learned that anyone lobbing this inquiry my way had never been to Denver and was operating under that assumption that the city, set high in the Rockies where snow swirls and mountain goats hoof beneath thick wooly coats, is pretty darn cold in the winter.
It's not. Compared to my native land, New Jersey, Denver was a temperate sun-soaked paradise in February. The city, in fact, has 300 days of sunshine per year -- more than Miami or San Diego. Winter temperatures of 50 or even 60 degrees are not unusual. Denver summers, with low humidity and comfortable temperatures, are even better. (That said, you could also be surprised by the occasional spring snowstorm. We advise packing layers no matter the time of year.)
The local weather feels delightful, but Denver's lofty elevation can have a noticeable effect on a traveler. Due to the thinner and drier air, one might feel light-headed, or experience headaches or nausea. To remedy these troubles, the Denver Tourism Board recommends that visitors drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in potassium. My advice? Put away a few locally brewed cold ones and your body will forget that it's a mile above sea level.
Denver brews more beer than any other American city, with more than 100 breweries in the area. Denver's largest beer producer is the famous Coors Brewery (it's technically located in nearby Golden, Colorado), which offers free tours and beer samples. But the best brews can be found at locally owned pubs, which whip up flavorful batches that are unique to the Mile-High City.
Beyond fantastic beer and an abundance of sunshine, Denver offers a youthful local culture, an array of innovative restaurants and proximity to the Rockies, where untold outdoor adventures await. Denver's an ideal hub for a hybrid kind of vacation -- a trip centered on city attractions as well as the great outdoors. Dine on gourmet locally sourced foods in electric neighborhoods by night, and ski the powdery slopes of Breckenridge or hike Rocky Mountain National Park by day.
You'll definitely need a car if you're interested in planning day trips outside of Denver. Travelers staying within the city can get from A to B by train or bus -- or use their feet. It's almost impossible to get lost walking in Denver, which is laid out in a boxy grid.
--written by Caroline Costello