Just Take Them One At A Time

Linda Burton posting from Denver, Colorado – Charles Kuralt, in his book Charles Kuralt’s America, referred to New York City as “a large city composed of tiny, personal neighborhoods.” After I read that, I stopped being intimidated by big cities and learned to enjoy them as a lot of “small towns” that happen to be sitting side by side; its residents distinct, and perhaps competitive, like the small-town football rivalries I grew up with. So I intend to explore Denver neighborhood by neighborhood, with the help of a great publication I picked up at the Colorado Welcome Center. It’s the 2012 Visitor’s Guide, and it devotes twelve pages to the various neighborhoods of Denver, with the all-important highly detailed MAPS. And nicknames! There is LoDo (Lower Downtown, I get it); and RiNo (couldn’t figure that one out, it is River North); and even LoHi, which is a commercial area on the lower side of the Highlands. The Guide even has a section on the “trendiest” neighborhoods, which I’d suppose is a subjective opinion; nevertheless I find myself eagerly reading about all of them. Take “Cool-fax.” What in the world is Cool-fax?

“Cool-fax” is Colfax Avenue; described as “the longest business street in America,” it stretches 26 miles east-west. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where Pope John Paul II conducted mass in 1993, is on Colfax in the Capitol Hill area. The neighborhood has lots of bookstores, ethnic restaurants, and music venues, such as the Ogden, Bluebird, and Fillmore. A lot of the old mansions have turned B & B. Cool.

I read about arts districts and historic districts and “the urban heart” of the city. That would be Broadway, described as eclectic, fun, and edgy. From downtown to Alameda it’s lined with taverns, galleries, gay bars, used bookstores, and antiques – 100 antique stores in an 18-block area. I see “Main Street” neighborhoods – historic downtown Littleton has a “lovely pedestrian area and quiet places to sit and watch the world go by” with bike paths connecting to the South Platte River bike path, and downtown, when you’re ready to head that way. Olde Town Arvada offers “a turn-of-the-century ambiance;” Old South Gaylord is “nestled on quaint tree-lined streets” with outdoor cafes, just a short walk from Washington Park. Edgy, or peaceful, choose your neighborhood.

The art district on Santa Fe has more than 40 galleries and studios (the largest collection in Colorado) with a First Friday Art Walk and a Collector’s Night (third Fridays); galleries are open late and lure you in with beer and wine and music too; the River North (RiNo) district, just north of downtown, has kept its industrial roots and features works in wood, metal and clay; they also do a First Friday.

Get to the Five Points Historic District easily by light rail; Welton Street is one of few predominantly African-American-owned commercial strips in the nation. Find soul food, catfish, and BBQ here; it used to be a jazz center and was mentioned by Jack Kerouac in his book On the Road. There’s a Black American West Museum; at the Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library you can look at the role Black pioneers played in settling the West.

Englewood is on South Broadway between Yale and Hampden; the 150 businesses there include classic diners, vintage shops, and the Gothic Theater, where “some of the coolest bands in the nation” stop by. And Moe’s Original BBQ combines bowling, food and live music; hunt for the giant blades of grass sculpted by artist Lawrence Argent, who also sculpted the famous Blue Bear at the Convention Center (can’t wait to see that, it’s 40 feet tall and peering in the window).

But hey, I’ve just been reading about the TRENDIEST neighborhoods, how about the basics? Like the 16th Street Mall, a mile-long pedestrian promenade in the heart of downtown. It is lined with 200 trees, 50,000 flowers, and 28 outdoor cafes; free shuttle buses run from one end to the other every 90 seconds. Wow! And LoDo, 26 blocks of Lower Downtown filled with Victorian and early 20th-century buildings; the old-brick warehouses house restaurants now. The Museum of Contemporary Art is there, and Larimer Square, and Coors Field. Double wow!

I think I’ll head for the Golden Triangle first, that’s the museum district; there’s the Clyfford Still with abstract art; and the Denver Art Museum with more than 68,000 works (including a newly revamped American Indian Gallery). There’s the US Mint, where more than 50 million coins are made every day. And there’s the Colorado State Capitol, with weekday tours; its shimmering dome is covered with 200 ounces of gold leaf. You know I’ll be spending a lot of time there.

If I had the grandkids with me, we’d go riverfront (I may anyhow!). Along the South Platte River there’s a 40-mile bike path; the downtown aquarium; the Children’s Museum; Elitch Gardens, a theme park with roller coasters and water slides; the REI Flagship store with a climbing wall; and OMG there is Confluence Park with whitewater or lazy floats. On weekends April through October, the open-air Denver “breezer” streetcar offer rides along the riverside and tales of Denver’s history.

There’s still the Highlands, City Park, Uptown, and Cherry Creek, and I’ve only got two weeks. Charles Kuralt, help!