Photos: Denver's top twelve tourist attractions

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According to Visit Denver, the Mile High City set a tourism record in 2012, with the number of visitors and spending at an all-time high.

The organization also drills down to reveal the top twelve tourist attractions in the city — and the most popular ones, as well as the order in which they appear, are apt to surprise plenty of folks. Count them down below — and see a graphic and more information about the tourism record courtesy of Visit Denver.

Number 12: Red Rocks Park Number 11: Flatirons Crossing Mall Number 10: Denver Downtown Aquarium
Number 9: Colorado State Capitol Number 8: Denver Art Museum Number 7: Buffalo Bill's Museum/Grave Continue to keep counting down Denver's top twelve tourist attractions. Number 6: Outlets at Castle Rock Number 5: Denver Pavilions Number 4: Denver Zoo
Number 3: Lower Downtown Historic District Number 2: Cherry Creek Shopping Number 1: 16th Street Mall
Visit Denver release:

Denver Tourism Breaks Records in 2012

Visitor Numbers and Spending at All Time High

DENVER, CO — June 19, 2013 — Denver had a banner tourism year in 2012, setting new records for visitor volume and spending, according to the Longwoods International annual visitor profile study. The report, commissioned by VISIT DENVER, found that Denver welcomed 13.6 million overnight visitors in 2012, 3 percent more than in 2011 and an all-time high. This increase was reflected in both leisure and business travel sectors:

• In the leisure sector, the greatest improvement was evident in "marketable" trips, i.e., trips by people who could travel to any destination but who specifically chose to visit Denver, which rose by 9 percent to a new record of 5.0 million visitors. This continues an unbroken trend of increases in "marketable visitors" that started in 2003.

• Overnight business travel to Denver continued to rebound after reaching a multi-year low in 2010, with 2.3 million business trips in 2012, up 6 percent over 2011 and 24 percent over 2010.

• Within the business segment, the number of people coming to Denver for conventions/conferences rose 5 percent to 880,000, and general business trips increased 7 percent to 1,440,000 in 2012 from 1,340,000 the year earlier.

"We are very pleased to see that our marketing efforts are working and that we continue to see an increase in the amount of lucrative 'marketable' visitors that come to Denver," said Richard Scharf, president & CEO of VISIT DENVER, the city's official tourism marketing arm. "Tourism and conventions don't just happen. The Longwoods study allows us to see that since 2005 when voters approved more marketing dollars for Denver, we have seen a 43 percent increase in the number of leisure visitors coming to our city," Scharf said.

Denver overnight visitors also set a new spending record in 2012, generating $3.6 billion of spending in the city, 9 percent more than in 2011. Both tourists and business travelers contributed to the increase:

• Leisure visitors spent $2.77 billion, up 9 percent from $2.53 billion in 2011.

• Business travelers' expenditures rose 7 percent to approximately $807 million in 2012, versus $751 million the previous year.

• All five of the major business sectors connected to travel and tourism benefited by the overall growth in overnight visitor spending:

• Visitors spent $1.0 billion in Denver's hotels and other lodging establishments, and their expenditures on food and beverage amounted to $705 million.

• Expenditures by visitors on gas, car rentals and other local transportation purchases reached $992 million in 2012, and purchases at retail stores totaled approximately $499 million.

• Vacationers and business visitors spent $353 million at the city's paid attractions and on other recreational and sightseeing activities.

The average daily expenditures of the various segments provide a relative measure of each one's "value." Marketable leisure visitors spent an average of $104 daily, while business visitors spent even more on a daily basis at $112 per capita. In comparison, the typical visitor coming to vacation with friends and relatives in 2012 spent only $49 a day.

Because these different segments have shorter and longer stays, another way of looking at value is overall spending per trip to Denver. The biggest spenders by far are business and marketable leisure visitors, who spent $349 and $324 per person in Denver respectively in 2012. In comparison, people visiting friends and relatives each spent just $211 while in the city.

Denver's image (what visitors thought of the city) improved across the board. Visitors appeared to have had a great experience in Denver in 2012 and ratings were higher than they have been in three years. Just over 7 in 10 visitors agreed strongly that Denver is a place they would "really enjoy visiting again."

Denver's image in 2012 scored higher than in 2011 for: service; a city that offers historic aspects; a city that has a unique culture, a city with interesting people; a city with great cuisine; a city with a sense of excitement; and a city offering great shopping.

The top states sending vacationers to Denver in 2012, apart from Colorado itself, were:

• California

• Texas

• Arizona

• Illinois

• Kansas

• Florida

• Utah

• New York

• Missouri

• New Mexico

The top cities from outside of Colorado sending visitors to Denver in 2012 were:

• Los Angeles

• Phoenix

• New York City

• Chicago

• Salt Lake City

• Dallas/Ft. Worth

• San Francisco/Oakland

• Albuquerque/Santa Fe

• Kansas City

• Minneapolis/St. Paul

In 2012, vacationers spent an average of 3.4 nights in Denver, nearly the same as in 2011 (3.3 nights). Among business travelers, the overall length of the trip to Denver remained about the same as in 2011 at 3.7 nights. Nationally the average trip length was 3.6 nights in 2012, its third year at approximately that level.

The top attractions in 2012 were:

Overall Attractions:

• 16th Street Mall

• Cherry Creek Shopping District

• LoDo Historic District

• Denver Zoo

• Denver Pavilions

• Outlets at Castle Rock

• Buffalo Bill Museum & Grave

• Denver Art Museum

• Colorado State Capitol

• Downtown Aquarium

Paid Admission Attractions:

• Denver Zoo

• Buffalo Bills Museum & Grave

• Denver Art Museum

• Downtown Aquarium

• Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

• Denver Botanic Gardens

• Colorado Railroad Museum

• Denver Museum of Nature & Science

• Colorado Rockies

• Denver Broncos

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