Best Of :: People & Places
Parker was once a small, rural town — but after the last few building booms, it's been completely subsumed by suburban sprawl that's spread developer housing, strip malls and gas stations across the area. But there's still a remnant of an old downtown on Main Street, and on a nearby ridge that rises above Sulphur Gulch, the town council, using a little over $20 million in existing funds, decided to build the Parker Arts, Culture and Events center, known as PACE. The facility, which opened last fall, includes a theater, an auditorium, a media lab, an art gallery and a dance studio. Done by Denver's Semple Brown Design, the smart-looking structure is made up of interlocking horizontal forms in concrete and brick that have been beautifully detailed. The pierced-metal wall is out of this world — and definitely outside the bland box that holds most of the rest of Parker's architecture.
Number 18, you're not in Indiana anymore. You may be Denver's most famous newcomer, but you're a newcomer, nonetheless — and there are certain things that every newcomer needs to know about this city if they're going to not just survive, but thrive. If they're going to come to see Denver as the very best possible place to live, as we do. Over the previous 28 editions of the Best of Denver, we've celebrated just about everything that makes this city special for newcomers and natives alike. So for veterans, the following list of eighteen things every Denverite should know will be a refresher course — but for you, Peyton Manning, it's the playbook.
1. This city really is a Mile High. Remember to breathe — and hydrate. Also, be careful when you're out drinking — but any NFL quarterback already knows that, right? And just in case, the Broncos appear to have defense attorney Harvey Steinberg on speed-dial.
2. Want proof that this city is really a Mile High? There's a plaque outside the State Capitol that marks the exact step that's 5,280 feet above sea level (more or less; like you, Peyton, it's settled some). A line around the top of the mayor's office in City Hall does the same; John Hickenlooper put it there when he ran the city (as governor, his desk is naturally higher). At City Park, you can work out along the Mile High Loop, which follows the city's contour lines and points out the spots where you're a mile high. And it's surprisingly easy to join the Mile High Club.
3. The mountains — with 54 (by the Colorado Mountain Club count) peaks over 14,000 feet — are to the west. Dove Valley is to the south. Indianapolis is to the east.
4. The City of Denver has not just one, but two bison herds. Buffalo Bill, who is buried on Lookout Mountain, was once the most famous man in the world — but you could beat him if you bring Denver a Super Bowl.
5. Since you have year-old twins, you'll want to go to Casa Bonita at least once. And, yes, it's even weirder than it seems on South Park.
6. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, are from here. If they can make a blockbuster hit out of The Book of Mormon (coming to Denver in August), you can survive the fallout from the virgin sacrifice of Tim Tebow.
7. The Denver Mint, a top tourist attraction, is right downtown. And, yes, it prints money — though perhaps not enough to cover your contract.
8. Although the Barnes Dance — the engineering marvel that allowed pedestrians to cross streets on the diagonal — disappeared last year, Denver's other infamous traffic-control invention, the Denver Boot, is still going strong. Two unpaid parking tickets in town and you could get sacked.
9. That yellow thing in the sky is the sun. And although those much-touted 300 days of sunshine a year in Denver actually translate to 300 days with at least one hour of sunshine, according to the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, that's still a big improvement over Indiana.
10. Medical marijuana is one of the city's biggest growth industries, which is why Thanksgiving is affectionately dubbed "Danksgiving" here. But at least you'll have no problem getting "medication" for your bad neck.
11. The other big growth industry on the Front Range is beer production, and we frequently clock in at number one for craft beer. And Colorado is certainly the only state whose governor got his start in the public eye as a bar owner.
12. The Tattered Cover. Any city is lucky to have an independent bookstore that cares about the intellectual health of the community: Denver has three Tattered Covers alone.
13. Green chile might have originated in New Mexico, but it reached its apotheosis in Denver, where breakfast-burrito vendors peddle their wares at office buildings each weekday morning, and you can enjoy a green-chile-smothered Mexican hamburger, a definite Denver creation (unlike the much-celebrated cheeseburger).
14. Speaking of cheeseburgers, last fall the metro area got its first Steak 'n Shake, the only thing you might miss about Indiana.
15. Denver offers every kind of free public-park option: dog parks, skate parks, bike parks, walking parks, grassy parks, gay parks, terrain parks at Winter Park..and, above all, Red Rocks.
16. Jack Kerouac got the inspiration for On the Road during a trip to Denver; a plaque at My Brother's Bar commemorates the tab that Neal Cassady rang up there when it was known as Paul's Place. And the beat still goes on for the arts in this town, which sell more tickets than sporting events.
17. Our football stadium is not indoors. And Broncos purists will always refer to it as Mile High.
18. Broncos are a lot more rambunctious than Colts — and so are their fans.
A part of the Breckenridge/Wynkoop restaurant empire that opened last spring, Ale House at Amato's has a rooftop patio with one of the best views in all of Denver. But the patio isn't the only place at Amato's that offers a scenic panorama of downtown, the Platte Valley and the mountains. The men's room upstairs has a small window above the urinal that also offers some, uh, relief from the boring blank walls, giving you a very private opportunity to ponder life in this great city.
Need to see a man about a horse? How about seeing that man about some artwork? You can find paintings by Tracy Weil, co-creator of the River North Arts District, on cultured walls around town. But you'll never find a better reason to linger in a privy than at Fuel, where a pair of pieces by Weil — whose own gallery/studio Weilworks is just a few blocks away — grace the walls. "Makes for a captive and contemplative audience," the artist says.
The LoDo and Ballpark neighborhoods have been fertile soil for breweries, so much so that at Great Divide Brewing, an entire tank farm has sprouted out of the ground, bringing with it the strong and heady aroma of steeping grain and boiling hops. But like bagels, burgers, coffee and cookies, beer smells almost as good as it tastes, making the air around the corner of 22nd and Arapahoe streets a living, breathing advertisement for delicious homemade brews.
In the very first Best of Denver, published in 1984, John Elway was a rookie quarterback who looked like he might, just might, have a promising career in Denver. But no one could have predicted that Elway's career — and his status as the state's number-one celebrity — would get new life once Number 7 had left the field. After dabbling in car dealerships, vodka deals, arena football and restaurants, last year Elway returned to the Broncos as an executive, hiring a new coach and dealing with a quarterback controversy. But he really came into his own when he acquired Peyton Manning for the team...and jettisoned Tim Tebow. But then, Elway has always been known for last-second saves.
Readers' Choice: Tim Tebow