8) Walk the 16th Street Mall

Sure, it's a tourist trap — but as you stroll past Niketown, the Gap and the multiple Starbucks outlets that line the 16th Street Mall, you'll dig up some true Denver nuggets. The roughly two-mile stretch will take you from near the Capitol to Union Station, ending right at the door of the fabulous, independent Tattered Cover bookstore; along the way, you can stop at local eateries like Crepes 'n Crepes and Biker Jim's, or grab a seat at an outdoor cafe. The pedestrian mall is car-free, with a free shuttle coming along every few minutes. The mall is due for a facelift soon: Maybe the city could swap out a few made-in-China souvenir shops for some Denver-centric retail operations?

9) Kayak the Platte

Courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office
Matt Inden/Weaver Media Group
Courtesy of Colorado Tourism Office

You've walked along the Greenway, you've biked the Cherry Creek Bike Path to Confluence Park. Now it's time to take the plunge into the Platte. Confluence Kayaks, at 2373 15th Street, rents kayaks (go to www.confluencekayaks.com or call 303-433-3676), and you can also recent paddling gear — as well as sign up for instruction — at REI, which occupies a historic building at 1416 Platte Street that includes a very modern climbing wall (find out more at www.rei.com or call 303-756-3100).

10) Catch a Concert at the Botanic Gardens

Denver is filled with the sound of music in the summer, with concerts taking place at a number of non-traditional venues — think the Denver Zoo, Skyline Park and patios around town. The loveliest venue of all could be the Denver Botanic Gardens, with a lineup this round that includes Natalie Cole, Nanci Griffith, Béla Fleck and Shawn Colvin. Tickets are pricey and very hard to get. But at least one night this summer, you should stop and smell the roses — while listening to some very sweet music. For more information, call 720-865-3500 or go to www.botanicgardens.org.


Top 10 Things for a Newcomer to Do in Colorado

When you tell people you're moving to Denver, this is what they hear: Colorado. Even before I'd crossed the state line, I had a long list of suggestions — many of them more like imperatives — of things I had to do outside of the city during my first summer in Colorado: hikes and bike rides and concerts and festivals. And, of course, mountains. So I plan to head to the hills whenever I can this summer, to experience my My Top 10 Things to Do Outside Denver.

1) Conquer a Fourteener

When you ask people what to do outside of Denver, everyone recommends hiking — and some will even suggest you climb a fourteener, one of Colorado's 54 peaks that top out over 14,000 feet. "I think everyone who moves here should try to summit a peak (not necessarily a fourteener, but something that will whet your appetite and maybe put a fourteener on your radar for the future)," one contact wrote. And a particularly helpful friend pointed out that if you're lazy, you can drive a fourteener: Both Pikes Peak and Mount Evans have roads to the top. For more info on fourteeners, including how to protect them, go to www.14ers.org.

2) Visit Great Sand Dunes National Park

Colorado may not have the ocean, but it has thirty square miles of sand at Great Sand Dunes National Park in the south central part of the state. Sandboarding and sledding the dunes is popular, as is camping and just hanging out — basically, everything you'd do at the beach besides swim. The park entrance fee is $3 per person; children sixteen and under get in free. For more details, go to www.nps.gov/grsa/index.htm.

3) Soak in a Hot Spring

Whether the season is winter or summer, soaking in a hot spring is apparently some kind of Colorado initiation rite. There's just something about the way people encourage you to try it, with a blend of urgency and mild admonishment. For a quick jaunt from Denver, there's Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs (www.indianhotsprings.com or 303-989-6666.) For a pleasant drive, a friend suggested Cottonwood Hot Springs nestled in the San Isabel National Forest near Buena Vista (www.cottonwood-hot-springs.com or 719-395-6434) or Strawberry Park Hot Springs near Steamboat Springs (www.strawberryhotsprings.com or 970-879-0342). And you can combine two Colorado pastimes with the challenging Conundrum Hot Springs hike between Aspen and Crested Butte, where the springs are reportedly clothing-optional.

4) Rock Out at Red Rocks

Coloradans sound like a bunch of robots when it comes to Red Rocks: must go must go must go. But in this case, the robots are right. From the pictures I've seen of Red Rocks, the world-renowned, Denver-owned amphitheatre carved into the rocks just outside of Morrison, it looks breathtaking. And it has a rocking summer concert lineup, with acts ranging from Vampire Weekend to Crosby, Stills and Nash and Widespread Panic. Although the concert tickets aren't cheap, you can visit the Visitor Center — an official state facility filled with rock-and-roll history — for free. For schedules and ticket information, go to www.redrocksonline.com.

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