Ninth Street Historic Park Review: Denver’s Outdoor Time Capsule

Ninth Street Historic Park, a hidden gem nestled in Denver, offers a unique opportunity to take a captivating step back in time. As you enter its quarters, you’ll find yourself transported to an era dating back to near the city’s formation.

This park not only allows you to immerse yourself in the past but it’s also an ideal destination to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life with its serene environment. Whether you seek a rich encounter with history or just some solace, Ninth Street Historic Park provides an idyllic setting to visit.

What is Ninth Street Historic Park?

Ninth Street Historic Park is a park that houses an old city block containing 14 homes built between 1873 to 1905. It’s known as the oldest restored residential block in the Denver community.

This area, referred to as Auraria, is located on the western banks of the historic Cherry Creek. A prehistoric meeting place for the Arapaho, it also was here that the Russell brothers from Georgia marked out a townsite in October 1858, just a month prior to the establishment of Denver City.

The name Auraria means “gold region” and was named for the gold mining settlement of Auraria, Georgia.

Initially, Auraria and Denver City were competitors vying for economic growth and dominance in the region. However, the rivalry was short-lived. Recognizing the advantages of a unified and consolidated community, leaders from both settlements agreed to merge in 1860, forming the consolidated City of Denver.

Nevertheless, over the years, Auraria thrived as its own community. Initially inhabited by German and Irish immigrants, it gradually became more diverse with the inclusion of Jewish, Hispanic, and other families.

However, the area eventually transformed into an industrial neighborhood and was severely impacted by the devastating flood of 1965 (which we learned all about while exploring the nearby Confluence Park).

During the reconstruction efforts in the late 1960s, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority planned to clear over 120 acres for campus construction, which included the demolition of the Ninth Street block.

Fortunately, Historic Denver, Inc. spearheaded preservation initiatives and successfully raised nearly $1 million required for restoration. Thanks also to the efforts of over 900 individuals corporations and foundations, the street was saved and transformed into a park, opening in 1977.

Today, this 3-acre park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a historic district by the Denver Landmark Preservation Commission.

Related: How to visit the oldest standing structure in Denver

Ninth Street Historic Park

How to get to Ninth Street Historic Park

Ninth Street Historic Park is located on the Denver Auraria Campus, which is home to three separate institutions: the University of Colorado Denver (UCD), Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU Denver), and the Community College of Denver (CCD).

The address is: 906 Curtis Street, Denver, CO 80204 and it’s open 6 AM to 10 PM.

There is no charge for admission so it is 100% free to visit. However, the nearby parking lots may require you to pay.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Visiting Ninth Street Historic Park

We visited on a nice, sun-drenched afternoon and had the entire park to ourselves for the most part.

I was really looking forward to this visit because I had never really seen a park quite like this with rows of time-honored buildings preserved in such a compact area. Adding to the uniqueness, the park is also situated within a large college campus, containing multiple institutions.

Ninth Street Historic Park

I think the best way to explore Ninth Street Historic Park is to just start on one corner and work your way down eventually making a “U” as you return along the path on the other side of the greenway. It’s a very small park so it doesn’t take very long to see everything. And you for sure will not get lost. Or if you do, you may be navigationally challenged beyond help!

Ninth Street Historic Park

The walkways are well shaded by lots of trees making it feel amazing even on a warm day as you step deeper into the annals of history. Only “authoritatively accurate” plants were used for the restored gardens surrounding the homes and the original granite curbing was left alone.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Outside of each building, you’ll find an interpretive panel to help you gain some insight into the structure and some of the unique local design qualities.

You’ll see the date of construction, the original owner, and the type of architectural style. Although some of the houses look similar, there are quite a few different types of architectural styles that you’ll see, which is a large part of the charm of this place.

Ninth Street Historic Park

From classic cottages, exuding timeless charm, to Victorian marvels adorned with exquisite embellishments, the architectural repertoire is impressive. Among them, make sure not to miss “the most perfectly proportioned and tastefully embellished Victorian house in Denver.”

Ninth Street Historic Park

You can also get some background information on the owners as well as interesting tidbits about the old pioneer days. It’s fascinating to think that some people would have started off with such an arduous trek over untamed terrain before ending up in one of these exquisite houses in a peaceful neighborhood.

The homes are very beautiful but what you’re looking at is essentially what the middle class existence looked like back in the late 1800s.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Another thing that makes this place stand out is that these old structures are still in use today.

Some are utilized by the nearby colleges such as the Colorado University Denver English department where they have their main offices.

Other buildings house headquarters for honors programs, marketing and communications, and other student related activities. Interestingly, the old Mercantile building is now a well-rated Mexican restaurant called Los Molinos.

If you want to find out more about the history of the park, you can check out these reading materials.

Ninth Street Historic Park

Final word

The experience of visiting this park offers a remarkable window into the lives of middle-class residents during the late 1800s.

A a tangible connection to the past, the park allows us to transport ourselves back in time, envisioning the daily routines and interactions of the local inhabitants. As you roam through the neighborhood, it’s easy to imagine past residents heading down these paths on the way to hopping on the Denver City Tramway to get to work or to make it to a market or show.

I’m really grateful that they were able to preserve this little nugget of history and I think it’s a great place to visit for those interested in Denver’s early history.

Dinosaur Ridge Review: A Prehistoric Trek with World-Class Tracks [2023]

Dinosaur Ridge is one of the most interesting sites to see when in the Denver area especially if you have an interest in geology or those prehistoric giants that we thankfully don’t have to co-exist with today.

There’s a lot to see at Dinosaur Ridge.

There are several museums, entry points, trails, and various ways to enjoy the experience, so it can be a bit overwhelming when you initially plan your visit to Dinosaur Ridge.

However, below, I’ll outline the different options for exploring this park and provide you with some of my personal recommendations to maximize your visit, drawing from my own experiences.

What is Dinosaur Ridge?

Dinosaur Ridge is a famous geological site located near Morrison, Colorado. It is known for its rich concentration of dinosaur fossils and remarkable dinosaur trackways.

The site gained prominence due to the numerous discoveries made in the late 19th century during the “Bone Wars” period. Many big time discoveries have been made in this area including those of dinosaurs such as Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, Diplodocus, and Allosaurus.

At Dinosaur Ridge, you can easily explore a paved trail that showcases exposed layers of rock containing dinosaur footprints, bones, and other fossils.

In addition to the fossil exhibits, Dinosaur Ridge also features interpretive signs and exhibits along the trail, providing educational information about the geological formations, the history of dinosaur discoveries in the area, and the ancient environments in which these dinosaurs once roamed.

Dinosaur Ridge dinosaur track

How do you get to Dinosaur Ridge?

Dinosaur Ridge is located in Morrison, CO, just to the west of Denver.

There are multiple ways that you can start off your experience at Dinosaur Ridge which also means you can arrive at different spots.

For the most part, you’re going to be choosing from starting at the East Ridge or West Ridge.

I recommend starting at the East Ridge (Cretaceous Gate) since this is the main visitor center and the address is: 16831 W Alameda Pkwy, Morrison, CO 80465.

However, if there is little to no parking at the East Ridge then consider making your way over to the Dinosaur Ridge Discovery Center at the West Ridge (Jurassic Gate) located at: 17681 W Alameda Pkwy, Golden, CO 80401.

Here are the hours:

Summer & fall (May 1 – October 31)

  • Main Visitor Center: Daily, 9am-5pm
  • Exhibit Hall: Daily, 9am-5pm
  • Discovery Center: Daily, 9am-5pm
  • Guided Bus Tours: Daily, 9:30am-4pm
  • Walking Tours: Saturday & Sunday

Winter–spring (November 1 – April 30)

  • Main Visitor Center: Daily, 9am-4pm
  • Exhibit Hall: Daily, 9am-4pm
  • Discovery Center: Daily, 9am-4pm
  • Guided Bus Tours: Daily, 9:30am-3pm
  • Walking Tours: Saturday & Sunday

Want to support Dinosaur Ridge? Consider donating!

Dinosaur Ridge parking

The different ways to explore Dinosaur Ridge

For the most part, on this dino adventure you will be walking along a paved road (2.5 mile round-trip) and you can start from either end. But there are multiple ways to enjoy your journey at Dinosaur Ridge and I’ll go into those below.

Free walking tour

If you just want to tour the dinosaur foot prints and other sites on your own the good news is that you can do this for free.

Free parking is available at the visitor center and there is also some free parallel parking options right by the trail head. You can then explore the sites at your own pace and rely on the interpretive panels to give you some insight.

You’ll probably be able to make some sense of everything that you’re seeing but it does help to get additional insight through one of the methods below because let’s face it, there’s a lot you’ll be curious about when it comes to the dinosaurs, discoveries, and the millions of years of geology you’ll be exploring.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

Audio guides

Another option is to purchase an audio guide.

These can be purchased at the gift shop for $7, and you will simply enter an access code to activate them. As you encounter approximately a dozen locations, you’ll listen to a brief audio clip that provides background information about the site and aids in your understanding of what you’re observing.

In addition to this, you can also purchase a field guide.

Be on the lookout for special discounts and promotions as we were able to get the $7 audio guide for free!

Shuttle bus

For $20 per adult, you can rely on the shuttle bus to transport you, and a well-informed tour guide will offer continuous commentary about Dinosaur Ridge during the entire trip. If walking is not your preference or if you have any mobility limitations, this could be a great option.

Dinosaur Ridge trail shuttle bus

Special guided tours

On the weekends, they offer special guided tours. You can do a standard guided walking tour for $18 which should take you about two hours.

But one of the coolest things available is the ability to do it guided tours with a geologist, which you can do at Dinosaur Ridge Trail or at the nearby Triceratops Trail. This is something we are seriously considering doing on our next visit because I’m sure it’s a great opportunity to learn a ton.

Taking in the exhibits

There’s a small museum with a lot of cool dinosaur related exhibits that you can check out for $4 per adult. You’ll find this at the main visitor center, next-door to the gift shop.

Dinosaur Ridge exhibit

Package deals

You can also purchase package deals that will grant you a bus ride as well as entry into the Morrison Natural History Museum, which features fascinating dinosaur exhibits and interactive paleontology displays. If you want to go visit that museum, it’s about 10 minutes south from the main visitor center.

Hiking at Dinosaur Ridge

Dinosaur Ridge Trail is also a great place to do some moderate hiking. The walk on the paved street around the ridge is a hike in and of itself although pretty easy considering the gentle inclines and declines you’re dealing with. The standard path takes you about 2.5 miles round-trip.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

But if you want to get a little bit more exercise and enjoy better views, you can head up the Dakota Ridge Trail. This trail has multiple trailheads you can start from, but a good option is to take the trailhead that you will encounter along the way on Dinosaur Ridge Trail.

Dakota Ridge Trail head Dinosaur Ridge trail

I’d highly recommend at least going to the Arthur Lakes Overlook which is not that difficult to get to. But you can continue on the Dakota Ridge Trail for more impressive and expansive views.

You’ll have to deal with the sounds of traffic so you never really get a true nature escape but it’s still a fun trail to venture on. Just be aware that this is also a mountain biking trail so be on the lookout!

Dinosaur Ridge trail overlook

If you do choose to do the Dakota Ridge Trail and you track your movement on an app like AllTrails, your path will actually resemble the footprint of a dinosaur, perfectly aligning with the prehistoric allure of the trail.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

Our experience at Dinosaur Ridge

We pulled up to the main visitor center and found a host of live like dinosaur recreations including some beautifully painted ones. The parking lot was almost full and there appeared to be a couple of children groups visiting so it was a pretty lively seen.

By the way, as you would expect this is an awesome destination for kids and they can partake in lots of different activities including the “Seaway Fossil Box,” a replica dig environment that allows kids to sift for items like shark teeth and ammonites and even go home with a fossil that they find!

Dinosaur Ridge visitor center

We first hit up the gift shop to get our audio guide and free admission into the exhibits. I was impressed with all of the items in the gift shop which includes a lot of cool looking fossils and dinosaur bone recreations along with some interesting books. Because we are digital nomads now I don’t really accumulate souvenirs but it was very tempting to do that here!

Dinosaur Ridge gift shop

Upon arriving, if you’re not sure where you want to go or what you want to do, you can stop by the bright Dinosaur Ridge shed and get some guidance there.

Dinosaur Ridge shed

After arriving at the trailhead, we then set out on the Dinosaur Ridge Trail which follows the paved W Alameda Pkwy — a uniquely marked road closed off to the public.

Because there is very little shade and you likely will be exploring it while the sun is out, it’s a really good idea to carry some sunscreen with you and bring some extra water, which we made sure to do.

If you’re just doing the walking tour, you’ll stay on the right side of the road which is marked by pedestrian signage.

The shuttle bus will be driving just to the left of you so make sure you’re always aware of whether or not the bus is coming up on you. Also there will be bike lanes on the left side of the road and you obviously want to stay out of those if you are just on foot.

Dinosaur Ridge trail

One of the initial captivating sites we encountered was Crocodile Creek. It presented us with a glimpse into the past as we observed the tracks of crocodiles that date back a staggering 100 million years.

To enhance the experience, a well-constructed staircase now grants visitors a closer view of these ancient imprints. I was instantly awestruck by the abundance of remarkably preserved tracks, and my imagination couldn’t help but envision witnessing these magnificent crocodiles in their prime.

Make sure that you don’t miss some of the other interesting fossil sites where they discovered ancient critters and plant life. Throughout the trail you’ll find a lot of tiny placards that point out interesting prehistoric features in the rock so make sure you take your time as you progress through Dinosaur Ridge.

Dinosaur Ridge trail crocodile Creek

After passing through Crocodile Creek we made our way over to the ripples, which are remnants of early beaches. These type of remnants, along with other clues like shark teeth and the remains of prehistoric squid, give us enough evidence to determine that the entire region of the country was once covered in ocean which is extremely hard to envision given what the landscape looks like today.

Dinosaur Ridge trail ripples

Then we arrived at the main attraction—the huge wall of dinosaur footprints, rated #1 in the nation by paleontologists.

You’ll know you’re there when you see the big blue exterior.

To me, this is probably one of the coolest geological sites I’ve ever seen, and I’m not sure why it’s not a bigger deal. The fact that there are so many dinosaur footprints easily visible in one location is mind-boggling to me.

You’ll see footprints of all shapes and sizes. Make sure you look through the bottom right for some of the larger and iconic footprints.

Dinosaur Ridge trail dinosaur tracks

In case you find yourself needing to use the restroom, there is a bathroom facility at the primary visitor center and an additional portable toilet situated midway along the trail.

As you approach the bend along the ridge, there’s a pleasant viewpoint you can explore on the opposite side of the road. While the Denver skyline remains hidden behind Green Mountain, you still get a lovely perspective of the open basin landscape below.

Dinosaur Ridge trail overlook

As we ventured further along the trail, we stumbled upon a captivating geological marvel known as a “concretion.”

This intriguing natural phenomenon occurs when mineralization gradually envelops objects like pebbles, shells, sticks, and even bones, resulting in the formation of striking bowling ball-like structures. It’s always such a cool site to see when nature transforms ordinary objects into extraordinary formations.

Dinosaur Ridge trail concretion

Another awe-inspiring sight that captured our attention was the remnants of an ancient volcanic eruption, manifested in the form of a compressed ash layer. This geological phenomenon harkens back to a time over 100 million years ago when a volcano unleashed its fury hundreds of miles southwest from here. One can only imagine the site of the once-raging volcano, ash billowing into the sky, blotting out the sun.

Dinosaur Ridge trail ash layer

Around the turn of the ridge, you’ll encounter the Front Range Overlook and surely be impressed by the panoramic vistas that unfold before you which include a view of the legendary Red Rocks Amphitheater.

The rock layers between you and the red rocks represent different ancient landscapes separated by millions of years. Gazing out at them, it feels as if you’re being transported through the annals of Earth’s history. It’s also just incredibly scenic.

Dinosaur Ridge trail Front Range overlook

After admiring the sweeping views, we went across the street to inspect one of the coolest tracks you’ll find which is the raptor track. This rare gem is a true treasure, as it is one of only twelve known raptor track sites in existence worldwide. It’s a relatively recent find, discovered in 2016.

Dinosaur Ridge trail raptor track

Continuing our expedition, it was now time to venture towards the “bulges.” These peculiar formations reveal themselves as sunken depressions in the earth’s surface, left behind by the weighty footfalls of colossal dinosaurs.

It is truly a captivating sight, offering a unique perspective of the hidden wonders concealed beneath the ground’s surface — truly a world frozen in time.

Dinosaur Ridge trail bulge

To conclude our tour, we proceeded towards the dinosaur bones, a segment of the ridge characterized by the presence of ancient Jurassic layers. It is within these very strata that numerous groundbreaking discoveries were initially unveiled. Notably, it was in this vicinity where the Stegosaurus first came to light in 1877, courtesy of Arthur Lakes — an esteemed scientist and historian hailing from Golden, Colorado.

Dinosaur Ridge trail bones

We then decided to turn around and head back to the Dakota Ridge Trailhead. We would end up hiking just under a mile on this trail which took us up about 300 feet in order to admire some great views.

The trail has some good incline to it so it can get your blood pumping pretty quick but it’s not overly strenuous making it a great way to incorporate a little bit of a workout into your visit. You’ll also encounter beautiful juniper and pine trees along the way.

Dakota Ridge Trail view

We then made our way back to our car and drove over to the main visitor center to check out the exhibit. It’s a pretty small museum but it contains a lot of really interesting exhibits.

You’ll witness awe-inspiring replicas of dinosaur bones and footprints, gaining extensive knowledge about the geological history of long-gone eras.

Whether it’s understanding how scientists unraveled the dietary habits of sauropods or examining ancient marine fossils, you’ll emerge from the museum captivated by these ancient creatures and the field of Ichnology.

Dinosaur Ridge  exhibit

Final word

Overall, I definitely think that Dinosaur Ridge is worth visiting.

Even if dinosaurs aren’t your main interest, it’s difficult not to be fascinated by the abundance of dinosaur tracks. As previously mentioned, this location is perhaps the best in the country to witness them.

With the help of interpretive panels, you’ll be able to piece together a lot of the information and learn a ton about the history of the changing landscape and the dinosaurs themselves.

For those really curious about these fossils and what they mean, I suggest looking into one of the guided tours with a geologist so that you can ask all the questions that you’d like.

Denver Mint Review: A Billion Reasons to Visit This Shiny Establishment [2023]

The Denver Mint is a fascinating destination where visitors can witness the production of thousands of freshly minted coins that circulate in the American economy.

As one of the few US Mint facilities offering tours, it provides an opportunity to explore the history and process of coin production firsthand.

With its rich architectural heritage and extensive collection of historic and collectible coins, the Denver Mint offers a unique and memorable experience for coin enthusiasts and curious visitors alike.

However, securing tour tickets may require some planning and patience and it’s not always so easy, so in this article I will tell you everything you need to know in order to have a memorable visit to the Denver Mint.

What is the Denver Mint?

The US Mint is a federal agency responsible for producing and circulating coins in the United States. The Denver Mint is one of several production facilities operated by the US Mint, alongside those in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and West Point. (Denver and Philadelphia are the only sites offering tours.)

The US Mint Denver primarily focuses on the production of circulating coins, including pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars. It also produces uncirculated collector sets, commemorative coins, and coin dies.

The Denver Mint has a rich history, having been around as an assay office since the Colorado Gold Rush days in the 1860s. But it wasn’t until 1906 that the Denver Mint had his first coin struck, soon minting about 2.1 million gold and silver coins in one year.

Today, it makes billions of coins per year and continues to be an essential component of the US coinage system.

Denver Mint entrance gate

How to tour the Denver Mint

When it comes to visiting the Denver Mint, it’s worth knowing that it differs from a typical museum experience where you simply walk up, enter the building, and immediately immerse yourself in the sights.

You cannot purchase tickets online for your Denver Mint visit and instead you need to snag these in person.

Tour tickets can be obtained from the Tour Information Window located on Cherokee Street, situated between Colfax Avenue and West 14th Avenue. Once you get close to the area, you’ll see a lot of signs pointing you towards the Mint so it’s really hard to miss.

Denver Mint sign

The window opens at 7 a.m. from Monday to Thursday (excluding federal holidays), and it will continue to operate until all tickets have been distributed.

As for the tour schedule, tours are offered Monday through Thursday (excluding observed federal holidays) at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m., and 3:30 p.m.

However, please take note: tour schedules and availability fluctuate daily. There may be occasions when tours are unavailable, and cancellations may occur without prior notice.

Tours will also be closed on the following days:

  • May 29, 2023
  • June 19, 2023
  • July 4, 2023
  • September 4, 2023
  • October 9, 2023
  • November 9, 2023
  • December 25, 2023

Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and are limited to 5 per person. Also, all visitors must be 7 years and older.

Because these are issued on a first come, first serve basis, you really want to arrive there early to secure your tickets.

Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, it gets very busy here and it can become more difficult to secure tickets which is why a lot of people arrive extra early. We were told stories of people essentially camping out on the street!

The busiest days of the week are Monday and Thursday because it’s the first and last day available for the tours so if you’re trying to make it easier on yourself Tuesday and Wednesday may be the best days to go.

If you arrive in the morning during the peak times, there will likely be a line forming outside of the ticket gate and because there are only 20 (sometimes 23) slots available per tour, this means that some people may be turned away.

When it gets really busy, an agent will walk down the line taking down the preferred tour times of each visitor so that they can quickly figure out when they are at capacity.

At some point, they may have to turn people away so it’s good to have a back up plan such as visiting the Colorado State Capitol and doing a tour there (which is also free), strolling around Civic Center Park, or checking out one of the many awesome museums in the area.

By the way, this being a federal building containing billions of dollars, they are pretty strict about what you can bring and not bring in. Here are the items that are prohibited and permitted during your visit to the Denver Mint:

Prohibited Items:

  • Purses, bags, backpacks
  • Food and drink
  • Lighters and matches
  • Weapons including pocket knives
  • Personal protective devices

Permitted Items:

  • Palm-sized wallet that fits in pocket
  • Powered off cameras/ cell phones
  • Umbrellas, walkers, wheelchairs
  • Empty water bottles
  • Medical necessities
Denver Mint ticket window

Where should you park and how much time do you need?

The tour is 45 minutes but you need to arrive there 30 minutes prior to your scheduled tour so you will be looking at at least one hour and 15 minutes of total time dedicated to the tour.

You also will likely want to visit the gift shop afterwards so depending on your interest, that could take you another 15 minutes or more to check out.

This means that you probably want to give yourself about 90 minutes of parking at a minimum.

But if you plan on arriving before the Mint opens as we did, you may want to give yourself two hours of parking which is the maximum amount the meters allow on the street.

Anytime we venture to Downtown Denver in this area we simply park at the Cultural Center Complex Garage. We gave ourselves four hours of parking which was plenty of time and that gave us additional time to explore some of the area near Civic Center Park.

Experiencing the Denver Mint

We arrived at 6:30 AM and were the first people in line so we knew we would be guaranteed a spot on the earliest slot beginning at 8 AM.

But this meant that we would have to be waiting around for about 30 minutes which wasn’t bad because the weather was okay but in other cases you may be standing outside in bad weather.

They do allow you to bring umbrellas so you could always bring one of those but make sure to keep an eye on the weather if you plan on arriving early.

There was an attendant outside who was chatting it up with us and other visitors while we waited for the ticket gate to open up. If you have any questions this is a good time to get some clarification but keep in mind your tour guide will have a lot of information to offer later on.

At 7 AM, the gates were opened and we were able to approach the ticket booth where we were issued two separate tickets with our tour information stamped on.

On your tickets, you’ll be reminded of the rules for visiting which are pretty strict so don’t forget about them!

Once we were given our tickets we then had 30 minutes to kill. One thing you can do to pass some time is to stroll around the block.

Be sure to check out the front of the Denver Mint building (facing Colfax) which has a really impressive entrance.

You can’t go in past the gate but if you could enter, you’d be astonished by the beauty of the Tennessee marble window surrounds and red and white marble from Vermont which is used for the walls of the interior.

It also boasts beautiful brass and stained glass chandeliers manufactured from Manhattan along with Vincent Aderente murals.

While you can’t check out the interior, you can still snap a pretty good photo of the exterior from the sidewalk or the steps. It’s hard not to be impressed by the Gothic renaissance architecture as this building was modeled after the Medici Ricciardi Palace in Florence, Italy.

Denver Mint exterior

It’s an interesting building because when viewed from the street it appears to only be two stories high but it’s actually a five story building. Take note of the beautiful stone exterior which is granite sourced from Arkins Quarry, west of Loveland, Colorado.

Denver Mint exterior

You can also just walk around the block to get a sense of how big the Denver Mint facility is.

Throughout the years, additional sections have been added to meet the growing demands for space.

However, like the ups and downs of financial markets, the expansion process hasn’t always followed a seamless trajectory.

Not all of the additions met the aesthetic preferences of the public, leading to discontent among Denver residents. Lots of outcry and debate went down. At one juncture, concerns arose regarding the capacity of the existing facilities, raising serious deliberations about relocating to Littleton, just outside Denver. Of course, this was blasphemy to some locals.

Denver Mint doors

As you walk around and try to piece together the new sections, you might encounter some delivery trucks along the way. It’s best to avoid getting in their way, naturally.

Denver Mint delivery truck

If you want to go beyond the block, you could venture a little bit downtown or just sit around by the tour entrance gate which is just down the sidewalk from where you are issued your ticket. Just don’t venture too far though because they will not admit to you if you are late.

Denver Mint

At 7:30 AM a friendly federal police officer lined us up along the railing and discussed everything we needed to know about the tour.

In essence, they reiterated the prohibited items, such as weapons, bags, food and drink, and because this is Colorado they emphasized that you should avoid bringing items inside that are allowed at the state level but not at the federal level (i.e., marijuana).

Another big thing that you have to do is to completely power off your cell phone.

You can’t have it on anywhere inside of the facility and you’re also not allowed to take photos of any kind. Kind of a bummer especially for a travel blogger like myself but obviously understandable given the potential security issues involved.

Then it was time to go through security which is your typical walk through metal detector experience.

Their metal detectors are programmed to be extra sensitive, so if you have bulky jewelry items that sometimes set off metal detectors at the airport, there is a high chance that those will go off here.

After passing through security, you’ll find a two-level museum where you can explore numerous exhibits that delve into the history of currency worldwide.

It’s pretty interesting to see how civilizations have utilized different materials to exchange goods such as spices, jewels, etc. Who knew you once could pay taxes with peppercorn?

This is also where we received our complementary souvenir — an uncirculated penny and accompanying blank! Pretty cool.

Denver mint penny blank

They also have bathrooms and a water fountain inside here (with water bottle refill station).

Once you get done exploring you can have a seat on one of the benches in the hallway on the second floor which is where the experience is going to begin.

They will play a short introduction video that gives you a good overview of the different US Mint facilities around the country. From the fortified stronghold of Fort Knox, where unimaginable treasures are safeguarded, to the prestigious grounds of West Point, learn about the different areas each location specializes in.

Once you have completed the video, it is time to proceed and enter the facility. Inside, you will have the opportunity to observe the bustling activity of the minting process through expansive windows.

Fun fact: The Denver Mint makes an appearance in the 1993 Sylvester Stallone film “Cliffhanger.”

Since this is a factory, it’s somewhat unpredictable and it’s possible that you won’t see any coins getting minted but it sounds like that would be very rare.

In our case, we saw droves of coins getting minted including jackpots of pennies and dimes.

These were coming out at an incredibly fast pace which makes sense considering that the Denver Mint has a production capacity of more than 50 million coins a day!

How do you know if your coins from the Denver Mint? Look for the “D” as seen below on the quarter.

Quarter showing letter D for Denver mint

As you watch freshly minted coins make their way through the factory conveyor belts en route to counting machines, you can learn about the entire minting process including: blanking, annealing, upsetting, striking, and waffling.

There’s actually a lot of jargon to digest but it’s a fun learning experience and really cool to makes sense of all of the rhythmic machine movements you’re witnessing below you in the factory.

In addition to watching the pressing process, you’ll be able to check out some interesting artifacts that take you through the history of minting like the Millionaire Calculating Machine used at the Denver Mint in the early 1900s to calculate deposits of gold and silver.

After getting down the basics of the minting process, we then moved along into an area focused on quarters.

I was always vaguely aware of the special quarters that were issued over the past couple of decades but our visit to the mint helped me to get a clearer picture and honestly created some interest in collecting these.

We were able to get a good overview of the State Quarters Program (1999 to 2008), America the Beautiful Quarters Program (2010 to 2021), and the new American Women Quarters which will feature five new coins every year through 2025.

This new collection will feature the lives of extraordinary woman throughout the US history like Eleanor Roosevelt and Bessie Coleman, the first African American and first Native American woman licensed pilot.

Viewing a wide range of well-preserved coins up close, their pristine condition gleaming brightly, sparked a true sense of appreciation within me. I definitely gained a deeper understanding of the immense effort and skill required to create these miniature masterpieces.

(The artists create these at the Philadelphia Mint which is just another reason why it would be worth visiting the one on the East Coast.)

Another highlight is being able to see over $2 million in gold bars with your own eyes although don’t expect to get too close. And don’t get any ideas. The Denver Mint has its own intriguing history involving an attempted gold smuggling incident, which you’ll learn all about during the tour.

What’s truly mind-boggling is that the gleaming gold you lay your eyes on is just the mere tip of the colossal gilded iceberg. Prepare to be amazed as your guide reveals the staggering amount of gold that is securely guarded by the Mint. It’s like a Rocky Mountain Gringotts down there.

Gold bars

In between checking out collections of uncirculated coins, unique exhibits, and watching thousands of dollars worth of coins prepare to enter the world’s largest economy, your tour guide will be filling you in on a lot of interesting details about the Mint’s history and will also be fielding questions from guests like a pro.

Our tour guide, Michael, was also very knowledgeable and fun and gave us a whole lot of insight!

After we wrapped up the tour, we decided to check out the gift shop which I would highly recommend.

If you are a coin collector or just getting started in coin collecting, this gift shop is going to have a lot to offer you. They had all types of novelty items and as you would expect an extensive selection of historic coins that would make for terrific gifts.

In addition to all of the collectible items, they also had a lot of the standard souvenir items you’d expect to find.

Final word

The Denver Mint is quite simply a unique experience. it’s not every day that you get to watch thousands of coins get freshly minted on the way to the American economy. While getting your ticket and admission into the Mint is not as easy as a standard tour, it’s worth the extra hassle to experience something so special.

Littleton Museum Review: An Immersive Living History Experience

The outskirts of Denver are teeming with captivating historical sites and museums that collectively weave together the rich pioneer heritage of the city.

Among these noteworthy attractions is the Littleton Museum, featuring a working farm and an array of well-preserved historic structures.

In this article, I will provide you with all the essential info for visiting this museum and offer some valuable tips to ensure an unforgettable experience during your visit.

What is the Littleton Museum?

The Littleton Museum is a museum found in Littleton, Colorado, offering visitors a remarkable journey through time where they can explore original structures from the 1800s.

The museum boasts working farms that authentically depict the lifestyles and activities of different eras, allowing visitors to interact with interpreters and gain insights into the daily lives of pioneers and settlers.

For those looking for something to do indoors, exhibits — both permanent and temporary — showcase the stories, artifacts, and traditions that have shaped Littleton through the decades.

From enlightening historical exhibitions to engaging community events like concerts on the front lawn, the Littleton Museum celebrates the past, present, and future, inviting visitors to explore, learn, and connect with the local heritage.

Littleton Museum cabin

Parking and admission for the Littleton Museum

The Littleton Museum is free to visit for all but consider making a donation whenever you visit or purchasing something from the gift shop in order to help support this free museum.

The museum provides ample parking space right in front, with a convenient and spacious lot that offers free parking.

Tip: Before concluding your visit, be sure to explore the World War II memorial located just across from the parking area.

Littleton Museum

Our experience at the Littleton Museum

We reached the museum promptly as it opened on a splendid Saturday morning. The receptionists warmly greeted us and provided a brief introduction to the museum. And we made sure to grab a map.

Opting to begin with the outdoor living history exhibits, we chose to explore the 1860s display first, as it seemed fitting to follow a chronological order and save the 1890s exhibit for later.

Here, you can find actual structures that existed during the pioneer days which is one of the major draws of the park.

Regrettably, our timing was not ideal when we visited the museum.

Not only were they preparing to launch a new exhibit in just a few weeks, but there was also a shortage of interpretive staff at the park, resulting in the closure of several structures such as the schoolhouse and the blacksmith shop.

The museum does offer a schedule for the farms, which you can obtain upon arrival to be informed about the closures. However, since it’s not available beforehand, you won’t have that information until you arrive.

So my biggest tip for visiting this museum is to call ahead before you visit and verify that everything will be open so that you can have the best experience. At the end of the day, the museum is free so it’s not like it’s that big of a burden to come back if you have the time.

The 1860s farm is the primary location to see a variety of animals. They have a diverse selection, including oxen, pigs, turkeys, lambs, and donkeys among others. With all of these animals easily viewable and hardly shy, it’s no wonder this place is such a hit with kids.

Littleton Museum sheep

It was evident that all the animals were well taken care of and in excellent health, enhancing our visit. There’s nothing more disheartening than encountering animals that appear neglected and deprived of the attention they require.

Littleton Museum pig
Littleton Museum oxen
Littleton Museum geese

Located on the expansive 1860s farm, you’ll come across a charming old log cabin that once belonged to one of the McBroom brothers. A relocated piece of history, it’s beautifully preserved and restored, allowing you to experience firsthand the essence of Colorado’s pioneering spirit.

Littleton Museum cabin

Some of the additional buildings worth exploring are the icehouse, operated by the Beers sisters, where dairy products were chilled using massive 200-pound blocks of ice harvested from a nearby frozen lake. Make sure not to overlook the 1865 School House, a significant historical landmark as Littleton’s first-ever school.

Littleton Museum schoolhouse

If you are able to catch one of the historical interpreters who would likely be wearing clothing from the era, they can provide you with a lot of insight into what life was like in a world devoid of modern conveniences like Wi-Fi.

Find out firsthand the type of chores they had like maintaining their gardens and animals or even learn about special things like how coffee was made in the 1860s.

One of the best things about a living history museum like this is that it’s a prime place to ask all of the questions you can. Many of the interpreters have dedicated years to the farm and possess a wealth of knowledge that they are enthusiastic to share. You can certainly learn a ton. So don’t be shy!

In between the farms there’s an interesting little area called “gazebo island” which is a very relaxing place to get a break from the sun and just to chill out, while enjoying the company of some pretty ducks.

It’s surrounded by beautiful greenish water and it opens up to Ketring Lake. There’s also a fishing dock so you might want to check with the museum about fishing opportunities.

After checking out the water, we made our way to the 1890s farm which houses a farmhouse, garden, windmill, blacksmith shop, and barn.

As mentioned earlier, the blacksmith shop, which is a reconstruction set in 1903, was not open for us. That wasn’t a huge problem because we had just visited the Four Mile House Park, which also has a blacksmith shop that we were able to explore.

Four Mile House is a very similar type of destination and houses the oldest standing structure in the Denver area — a house that was once used for weary pioneers coming in on the Cherokee Trail and Smoky Hill Trail.

Littleton Museum blacksmith

But back to our visit, we made our way inside the barn where an interpreter was actively engaged in the delicate art of cow milking — a captivating sight to behold and something I had never seen with my own eyes before.

The interpreter, armed with a wealth of dairy knowledge, gladly spilled the beans (or rather, milk) about all things related to milking cows and the history behind it. I was intrigued to learn about the diverse breeds of cows and the varying levels of fat content and protein composition they are capable of producing.

Littleton Museum farm house

From there, we ventured into the main building of the museum, where a history exhibit of Littleton awaited us. This exhibit delves into the city’s rich past, shedding light on its connection to the dairy industry and other noteworthy sectors.

It’s also a great place to learn about the complexities involving water rights in the area along with the catastrophic 1965 flood that we had previously learned some about when we visited Confluence Park — one of the main recreation spots in Denver.

Littleton Museum

I really enjoyed learning about the various aspects of Littleton, including the individuals who established the city and its eventual shift from agriculture to industry.

Littleton Museum

After this visit and our previous visit to the Aurora Museum, I really started to feel like I was able to piece together a lot of the the fragments of Denver’s history, spanning all the way back to the 1800s.

I think there is something to be said about checking out these smaller museums as they offer a long-tail method of delving into the history of a region, in a way that the huge museums just can’t quite pull off.

Something else interesting about the Littleton Museum is that they put on concerts on Wednesday evenings in the front lawn. You’ll have a chance to hear a little bit of everything here, spanning from the calming tunes of acoustic folk to the electrifying rhythms of Chicago blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

These concerts take place all through the summer and you can bring your own food for a picnic while other times tantalizing food trucks join the festivities.

You can check out their Facebook page for more details about the concerts but it’s a great opportunity to take part in the Littleton community.

Final word

In conclusion, the Littleton Museum offers a captivating journey through time, allowing visitors to explore original structures from the 1800s and experience the daily lives of pioneers and settlers.

Despite our timing not being ideal due to closures and staff shortage during our visit, the museum still provided a delightful experience with well-cared-for animals and a knowledgeable interpreter.

With its captivating displays, live animals, and entertaining concert evenings, the Littleton Museum delivers a unique and memorable experience.

Denver’s Civic Center Park Guide: Impressive Monuments, Art, & Architecture [2023]

Denver’s Civic Center Park offers a plethora of sites to see, making it an ideal location for a leisurely stroll or a fun afternoon of exploration.

You can easily spend a few hours admiring the captivating public art, remarkable architecture, expansive green spaces, and significant historical sites.

In this article, allow me to guide you through the prominent landmarks, providing valuable insights to enhance your appreciation of the surroundings. I’ll break down all of the major highlights so that you won’t miss anything and can just focus on soaking everything in.

What is Civic Center Park?

Civic Center Park is a prominent urban park located in the heart of Downtown Denver, Colorado, that serves as a focal point for civic and cultural activities.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the park spans approximately 12.4 acres and is surrounded by historic government buildings, including the Colorado State Capitol and the Denver City and County Building.

It’s an ideal destination for visitors to engage in sightseeing and exploration, and its close proximity to downtown Denver also serves as a convenient starting point for exploring downtown attractions.

Tip: if you’re looking for a park to get some good exercise in, consider checking out Confluence Park.

Denver's Civic Center Park

How to get to Civic Center Park

Civic Center Park sits merely one block away from RTD’s Civic Center Station, ensuring convenient access via the 16th Street FREE MallRide and Light Rail.

Moreover, the park is conveniently served by several RTD bus routes, including 0, 15, 15L, 16, and 52, which make stops in close proximity.

If you’re coming in with a vehicle, recommended parking garages include: Denver Post Building Garage and Cultural Center Complex Garage. There is some street parking available around the perimeter of the park but it is limited in availability.

Personally, we like to park at the Cultural Center Complex Garage because it’s so easy to find a spot and they also have EV parking.

Denver's Civic Center Park capitol building

Visiting Civic Center Park

One of the captivating aspects of Civic Center Park is its remarkable architecture.

The park is surrounded by a collection of historic buildings, many over a century old, that exude grandeur and elegance. These architectural gems were inspired by the City Beautiful movement, a nationwide initiative that sought to create visually stunning and harmonious urban spaces.

In Denver, Mayor Robert Speer played a pivotal role in championing this movement from the time of his election in 1904 until his passing in 1918.

Speer held the belief that the City Beautiful movement would serve as a platform to not only highlight Denver’s allure but also entice tourists, fitness enthusiasts, and potential residents. This, in turn, would cultivate a sense of civic pride and guarantee the city’s prosperity.

We entered from the side of the Denver Art Museum which took us directly through the The Greek Amphitheater. Erected in the year 1919, this architectural gem was born from the collective vision of Denver’s esteemed architects Marean & Norton, in collaboration with the renowned Chicago architect Edward H. Bennet.

As we stepped foot into the theatre’s embrace, we found ourselves mid-stage, amid the backdrop of the 210-foot-long semicircular “Colonnade of Civic Benefactors.” It’s a grand and timeless structure and on the inside it boasts intricate pioneer-themed murals, masterfully crafted by artist Allen Tupper True.

Upon completion in 1919, the Greek Theatre began to host regular vaudeville performances, concerts and other entertainment and even today concerts are still put on here.

As you stroll about the structure, you’ll surely be captivated by its commanding presence.

Denver's Civic Center Park Greek Amphitheater

After we left the amphitheater, we were immediately greeted by two additional statues, each with a tale to tell.

The first among them was the Bronco Buster Statue, a captivating tribute to Denver’s Wild West heritage. Crafted from bronze, this remarkable sculpture portrays a fearless cowboy engaged in the daring act of “bronco busting,” skillfully taming a wild horse for saddle riding.

Interestingly, the creation of this iconic piece carries a story entwined with the spirit of the Wild West itself. The model for the statue, Slim Ridings, found himself in the clutches of justice for horse theft. The artist behind the sculpture, Alexander Phimster Proctor, needed to finish the job so he was compelled to offer bail on behalf of Ridings in order to ensure the completion of the modeling job.

Denver's Civic Center Park Bronco Buster Statue

Standing near the Bronco Buster Statue, we encountered another well-done sculpture that commanded our attention: “On the War Trail.” This captivating work, also crafted by the talented hands of Alexander Phimster Proctor, serves as a tribute to the indigenous peoples of Colorado.

Denver's Civic Center Park On the War Trail statue

Within the park, we were delighted to discover the picturesque and serene flowerbeds, located at its center. These meticulously curated flowerbeds showcase 25,000 square feet of blooming flowers although some were still in the process of getting ready for the summer.

As we strolled through the park, we also couldn’t help but to appreciate vistas of the Denver skyline.

Tip: You can do your own self guided audio tour by listening to the tracks here.

Denver's Civic Center Park skyline view

Continuing our journey, a straightforward path led us to the Voorhies Memorial, an architectural gem constructed in 1919. This urban gateway held such significance that it necessitated the rerouting of Colfax Avenue.

Designed by the esteemed Denver architects Fisher & Fisher, the Voorhies Memorial stands as a testament to their vision and skill.

As you approach the memorial, you’ll be greeted by the Voorhies Memorial Seal Pond, featuring a magnificent 60-foot by 30-foot basin adorned with two bronze sea lions being joyfully ridden by cherubs.

Denver's Civic Center Park Voorhies Memorial

Adding to its allure, the memorial boasts captivating murals of a pair of elk and a pair of buffalo also created by Allen True. True also has murals adorning the State Capitol Rotunda and the iconic Brown Palace’s lobby.

Denver's Civic Center Park Voorhies Memorial

Our journey led us to the magnificent McNichols Civic Center Building, also known as The Carnegie Library, a significant landmark that holds the distinction of being the first structure erected on the new Civic Center site. Erected in 1909, this architectural gem stands as a testament to the rich history and cultural heritage of the area.

Designed in the Greek Revival style by the talented architect Albert Ross of New York, The Carnegie Library embodies the grandeur and elegance associated with neoclassical aesthetics. Its stately presence pays homage to the principles of order and harmony, embraced by the City Beautiful movement.

Denver's Civic Center Park McNichols Civic Center Building

We then took a turn west to check out the Denver City and County Building. Designed in the neoclassical style by the renowned architect Frederick Sterner and built in 1932, the building showcases a Greek Revival architectural style and was kept low in height to preserve the Capitol building’s view of mountains.

One striking feature that caught our attention was the vibrant crosswalk mural in front of the building. The colorful mural, known as “Interwoven,” adds a bold splash of color to the otherwise grand and stately facade of the building.

Denver's Civic Center Park Denver City and County Building

Our exploration then took us further east, until we reached the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, a crossroads that holds a significant piece of Denver’s history: the Pioneer Monument.

A few days before our arrival at the intersection of Colfax and Broadway, we had the opportunity to explore the remarkable Four Mile House, an iconic structure that holds the distinction of being the oldest standing building in Denver. This historic house served as one of the pivotal stopovers for pioneers on their arduous journey to Denver.

Throughout the nearby pioneer trails, similar houses and taverns were marked with names like 4 Mile House, 17 Mile House, and so on. These names were derived from the distance measured from the very intersection we now stood at, adding some cool historical context to our visit.

Regrettably, the presence of barricades around the monuments and sculptures dampened our experience to some extent, making it nearly impossible to read the interpreter plaques.

This corner had a lot of homeless people sitting on the corner with some clearly drugged out of their mind while others were openly discussing the latest trends in fentanyl usage so you might want to move swiftly through this bus stop corner.

Pioneer Monument

As we made our way back into the park from the Pioneer Monument, we found ourselves surrounded by a collection of captivating monuments and memorials, each telling its own unique story.

Among them, the striking presence of the 10 Commandments monument. It’s allowed on government grounds because it’s not meant to endorse a religion but to represent a cornerstone of the American legal system.

Denver's Civic Center Park 10 Commandments

Another notable memorial we encountered was dedicated to Joe Martinez, a true hero and Colorado’s first recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Denver's Civic Center Park Joe Martinez memorial

Moving forward, we came across a memorial honoring Major General Maurice Rose, a remarkable figure in American military history. Hailing from Denver, Major General Rose held the distinguished title of being the most decorated armored battlefield commander in US military history.

Tragically, his life was cut short in Germany, just five weeks before the end of World War II, as he fell victim to enemy fire. His memorial is one of the newest additions to the park, being dedicated in April 2023.

Denver's Civic Center Park

Another must-see is the replica of the Liberty Bell. In 1950, as part of a savings bond campaign, the U.S. Department of the Treasury commissioned the casting of 50+ replicas of the Liberty Bell to represent each state or territory of the United States.

These replicas, weighing approximately 2,000 pounds each, were made from the original mold of the Liberty Bell, so they have the exact dimensions of the original bell. The replicas were distributed across the country and displayed at state capitals, major cities, and historic sites.

The idea was that they would help to promote patriotism, unity, and the importance of savings bonds and today you can find them across the US.

Denver's Civic Center Park Liberty Bell replica

Next we had to take a moment to appreciate the Colorado Fallen Heroes Memorial. Designed by Rosenman Associates Architects, it honors Coloradans killed during 20th and 21st century military conflicts: World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War, Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

You’ll find it right in the middle of the park and it’s hard to miss, located near the giant obelisk designed to honor all branches of the military.

Denver's Civic Center Park

Then it was time to check out the magnificent Colorado State Capitol Building, opened in 1894. It’s a beautiful and unique structure known for its location at exactly 1 mile above sea level.

In fact, a rather famous step on the west side of the building’s entrance is engraved with the marker “One Mile Above Sea Level” and geological marker a few steps above marks the official elevation of Denver aka the “Mile High City.”

Denver's Civic Center Park mile high steps

Its architectural design draws inspiration from the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. and features a prominent Corinthian style. The exterior, crafted from exquisite white granite, exudes elegance.

The shiny dome soars to a height of 272 feet, adorned with copper panels that gleam with the luster of 24-karat gold leaf sourced from a Colorado mine. This golden embellishment, originally added in 1908, serves as a tribute to the historic Colorado Gold Rush.

Denver's Civic Center Park capitol building

At the forefront of the capital building, lies a site of contention where, in 2020 during the time of the BLM/George Floyd protests, one of the statues was toppled over.

This particular statue depicted a fictional union soldier, intended as a tribute to the Colorado soldiers who valiantly lost their lives fighting on the Union side during the Civil War.

However, some believed the statue had too close of a connection to the Sand Creek massacre. Hence, the toppling.

When the statue was dedicated in 1909, it listed Sand Creek as one of the battles engaged in by the soldiers and therefore did not offer an accurate depiction of the horrific events that took place.

It also was designed by Captain Jack Howland of the Colorado First Cavalry, one of the cavalries that participated in the massacre (although it’s not clear to me if Howland himself participated in the massacre).

A plaque was added in 1999 that explained the prior mischaracterization of listing Sand Creek as a “battle,” in an effort to correct the narrative. However, it has remained a hot-button issue in recent years, highlighting the inherent difficulties we face in grappling with the complex nature of history. Things often aren’t so black and white.

Denver's Civic Center Park capitol building civil war statue

We continued to walk around the Capitol building, checking out the views from each side, including some of its stained glass. Make sure to take a complete stroll so that you can also explore some of the other monuments tucked away on the opposite side, such as those dedicated to Japanese internment camps.

If you’d like to explore the interior of the capitol building, you can go on a free tour during the week.

Denver's Civic Center Park capitol building

Civic Center Park events

Throughout the year, you can find lots of events taking place at Civic Center Park like the gastronomic adventure of Civic Center EATS.

It’s also a place that often has something going on around holidays. Some of these type of events to look out for include:

  • March: St. Patrick’s Day parade culminated at Civic Center.
  • April: Flyhi 420 Festival, an annual pro-cannabis rally held on April 20.
  • May: Cinco de Mayo festival
  • June: People’s Fair, a bohemian festival featuring music, art, political booths, and various activities; PrideFest, the annual gay pride festival
  • Summer: the Greek amphitheater within Civic Center becomes the stage for various theater and music events.
  • September: A Taste of Colorado, a food and music festival held during Labor Day weekend in the park.
  • October: End point of a Columbus Day parade at the park
  • December: Parade of Lights culminated at the City and County Building, which remains adorned with holiday lights from the start of the parade until the end of the National Western Stock Show.

Final word

Denver’s Civic Center Park is undoubtedly a destination that should not be missed when visiting Denver.

With its abundance of stunning architecture, captivating historic monuments, and remarkable artwork, the park offers a feast for the eyes. It truly distinguishes itself as one of the better state capitol grounds I have ever come across, presenting an ideal setting for a leisurely exploration on a picturesque summer day in Denver.

Denver Confluence Park Ultimate Guide: Historic Waterways & Trails Await [2023]

Confluence Park is one of the major attractions in Denver.

Every day, it attracts lots of people looking to enjoy some nice scenery and perhaps partake in some exercise or take the dogs for a walk. It’s also a unique spot because of its rich history and unique geography.

In this article, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting Confluence Park. From expertly planning your itinerary to optimizing every moment of your time there, I will provide you with a comprehensive guide that leaves no river stone unturned.

What is Confluence Park?

Confluence Park is one of several urban parks located in Downtown Denver. It’s found at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek and this urban oasis is known for its history as well as its outdoor recreation opportunities which includes man-made rapids enjoyed by kayakers and tubers.

Denver Confluence Park

Confluence Park history

The park has a deep connection to the formation of Denver and the origins of its gold rush era. But much like its water after heavy rains, the history is a tad murky when it comes to nailing down the exact details of all the events that played out.

Suffice it to say that around the summer of 1858, early settlers were sniffing out the scent of gold in this area and nearby creeks such as Little Dry Creek ushering in the Colorado Gold Rush of 1859.

Rumors of shimmering nuggets attracted fortune seekers like moths to a flame and soon early developments rose up around the park’s grounds and along Cherry Creek’s banks.

Despite the Arapaho and Cheyenne people’s cautionary tales of the treacherous, flood-prone nature of the dry beds, settlers forged ahead, convinced they could tame the unruly forces of nature.

Unfortunately for them, on May 19th, 1864, Cherry Creek unleashed a catastrophic flood that overwhelmed the banks and engulfed the surrounding area. The consequences were dire, as lives were lost and buildings destroyed, including Denver’s brand-new City Hall.

Flooding became a trend that plagued the area for decades to come with bridges getting wiped out and more city buildings under threat. To mitigate these recurring floods and restrain the destructive forces of nature, dams were constructed and reservoirs filled.

While they proved effective in certain instances, the most devastating flood in Denver’s history struck on June 16, 1965, unleashing widespread devastation throughout the Central Platte Valley.

Denver Confluence Park

But, it wasn’t solely the issue of flooding that posed a challenge for the city. The river had become severely contaminated with pollutants.

The banks were cluttered with old cars, appliances, mattresses, and tires. To make matters worse, toxic liquids such as used motor oil permeated from the shore into the water.

Over the years, commercial and industrial activities along the South Platte River had been irresponsibly disposing of their waste, further exacerbating the situation.

So in a nutshell, the confluence was pretty much the last place you wanted to be on a nice Saturday afternoon.

Denver Confluence Park

Soon a movement to beautify the area began and in the 1970s and the Greenway Foundation and the City of Denver began converting this area into a landscaped oasis.

In 1975, like a breath of fresh air, Confluence Park opened its gates, becoming the pioneer among many parks that now grace the banks of the South Platte River and its tributaries throughout Denver. It marked a turning point and a reclamation of the natural beauty that had long been overshadowed by neglect.

As the years passed, the area witnessed a resurgence of development and revitalization.

The 1990s brought forth a wave of transformation, with notable landmarks such as the REI flagship store finding its home in the historic Denver Tramway Power Plant. New residential buildings have also popped up nearby, carefully constructed at a safe distance, mindful of the lessons learned from the turbulent past.

And today, this beautiful area is like a lovely, green oasis right in the heart of Denver, attracting people from all walks of life who share a passion for enjoying the splendor of the outdoors.

Related: Meow Wolf Denver Convergence Station Review

Denver Confluence Park

How to visit Confluence Park

There are plenty of parking options close to Confluence Park.

You can locate metered parking with a maximum two-hour time limit or find nearby parking lots or garages for longer visits. When we visited, we found street parking on Platte St, which was not difficult to do on a weekday.

If you’re coming in on the light rail, you can get off at the Union Station LRT Nb station and it’s a short walk over to the park.

The official hours listed for the park are 5 AM to 11 PM. Admission is free.

Denver Confluence Park

Things to do at Confluence Park

Exercise or take a leisurely stroll

One of the most popular things to do at Confluence Park is to get some exercise or simply go for a leisurely stroll.

You can follow the paved paths that lead alongside the waterways, underneath bridges, and through shaded routes enveloped in lush greenery. The mixture of expansive, open green spaces and gritty urban infrastructure keeps things interesting. You never quite know what you’re going to find around the corner, for better or for worse.

Denver Confluence Park

During our time exploring the park, nothing ever felt unsafe and there did not appear to be any type of homelessness crisis or anything of that sort in the area. Still, you always want to be aware of your surroundings in an urban park like this.

Denver Confluence Park

The atmosphere is serene as you listen to the sound of the rushing rapids, and the paths will guide you to seemingly endless parks such as Commons, City of Cuernavaca Park, Fishback, and Gates Crescent. There’s also the skate park nearby.

I really enjoyed just strolling through the parks, crossing the many footbridges, and admiring the views.

Denver Confluence Park

If you’re looking to wander around the city, you’ll find trails for days.

Denver Confluence Park

Whether you prefer jogging or cycling, Confluence Park serves as an ideal starting point for your adventure.

It conveniently connects to trails that extend in all directions throughout the city, including destinations like Aurora and Cherry Creek State Park, among many others.

We mostly walked around the South Platte Trail, which can take you by the Aquarium, Children’s Museum, and Empower Field, and much further away if you desire. The Cherry Creek Trail is also extremely popular among outdoor enthusiasts.

When exploring these trails, be mindful of some of the trail etiquette which includes keeping to the right so people can pass you on the left and paying attention to bike lanes versus walking lanes.

Keeping your dog on a six-foot leash is also requested. However, the leash requirement seem pretty lax at least in certain areas like at City of Cuernavaca Park where we saw lots of dogs roaming free.

Swimming at Confluence Park

On warm Denver summer days, the refreshing waters of Confluence Park become an irresistible oasis.

But keep in mind that this is an urban park and so the waters here are likely full of humanity’s discarded oddities that you probably do not want to mingle with.

Amongst the broken glass bottles, trashed plastic bags, submerged tree branches, and perhaps even the occasional rogue syringe, the water becomes a curious cocktail of surprises and gnarly junk.

So if you plan on getting in the water, make sure that you wear proper water shoes to protect your feet and maybe give your immunity system a little boost because the water itself may also not be the cleanest with potentially unsafe E. coli levels.

And finally, there are some signs indicating no swimming and it might even be illegal in some parts of the river.

Despite all that, there are still plenty of brave souls who can’t resist taking a plunge in these waters. If you’re up for the challenge and decide to dive in, make sure to hit the showers once you’re out, and do your absolute best to avoid gulping down that river water!

If you don’t want to submerge yourself in the questionable waters, you could just sun bathe on the mini “beaches” or consider other ways to enjoy the water.

Denver Confluence Park

Kayaking, rafting, or tubing

One of the distinctive aspects of Confluence Park is the kayak run, featuring a series of thrilling whitewater rapids.

To experience the exhilaration of kayaking, you can conveniently rent a kayak for the day from Confluence Kayak & Ski, situated just a short stroll away from the park.

They will provide you with all the necessary equipment, including a helmet, personal flotation device, paddles, and a pump.

You can choose to rent a single kayak or tandem and if you are a beginner you probably want to start off with something like an inflatable kayak. Those who choose to go with kayaks tend to venture about a mile or two down the river so it would be wise to arrange transportation to get you back prior to getting into the river.

If you want to get more advanced and take a course in kayaking, look into the Colorado River School or the White Water Workshop.

For a more relaxing experience, you have the option to rent an inner tube and leisurely float along the rapids, allowing yourself to drift downstream and enjoy the serene waters surrounding the confluence. Or if you want a little bit more of a core workout consider stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).

The river should be running pretty consistently throughout the summer, with the water becoming more stagnant towards the end of the season. But don’t forget about those heavy rains and floods mentioned earlier because sometimes the water levels can become dangerously high. In fact, the photos in this article were taken shortly after one of the biggest floods to hit in recent times.

Denver Confluence Park

If you happen to build up an appetite or find yourself parched, worry not, as the park boasts concession stands that offer treats such as hotdogs and refreshing sports drinks. Credit cards and Apple Pay accepted.

Denver Confluence Park

Picnicking or just hanging out

Near the water, there are some benches and picnic tables that would be perfect for having an afternoon picnic or just hanging out. You might even be able to get a little break from the sun on those hot summer days.

Denver Confluence Park

Check out the urban art scene (and do a guided tour)

You’ll find some art installations around Confluence Park and the surrounding parks.

Some of this is true street art consisting of beautiful done murals and you’ll also spot your fair share of graffiti — some done with real finesse, while others… well, let’s just say they’re not exactly Banksy.

You’ll also come across series of interactive stone sculptures inviting tactile exploration and playful interaction for people of all ages, but especially kids.

If you’re interested in exploring the world of public art at Confluence Park, consider booking a tour to delve deeper into its artistic installations. A guided tour will provide you with a comprehensive and insightful experience, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding of the various artworks and their significance within the park’s cultural landscape.

Denver Confluence Park
Denver Confluence Park
Denver Confluence Park

The Flasgship REI store

If you’re into the outdoors, then you owe it to yourself to check out the flagship REI store which is located right in the middle of Confluence Park.

It’s housed in the Denver Tramway Power Company building which was constructed in 1901 and the store is absolutely huge, featuring a 47-foot pinnacle climbing wall that would make Alex Honnold proud.

It’s definitely not your typical REI experience and I’d highly recommend that you stop by to check out all of its different floors and the historic interior of the building.

Even if outdoor retail clothing and gear doesn’t pique your interest, you can still treat yourself to a refreshing beverage from Starbucks and discover a cozy spot on the patio that offers a nice view of the park.

Denver Confluence Park REI


If you want to take a step back in time, consider taking a ride on the Denver Trolley.

It runs during the summer and doesn’t begin service until after Memorial Day but it will take you all around to some of the major spots in the city. It also runs on game days for the Denver Broncos taking you to Empower Field at Mile High.

Lower Downtown (LoDo) aka Union Station

If you want to explore Lower Downtown (also known as LoDo), you can easily make your way over to the area.

I’d suggest heading through the Commons Park to take Millennium Bridge which is a cool looking bridge worth checking out on your way to Lower Downtown.

Millennium Bridge

Final word

Denver’s Confluence Park is an awesome spot to explore if you’re into spending time outdoors.

Whether you’re up for a good workout or just want to take a leisurely stroll to clear your mind, this place has got you covered. The best part? It’s free and super close to tons of downtown attractions!

Personally, what got me hyped about coming here was experiencing the rich history of this place and witnessing the confluence of two rivers, including a portion with white water rapids which is something you don’t typically expect to find in the downtown area.

I also enjoyed people watching and seeing so many other like-minded individuals enjoying fresh air as and spending time with their furry friends. It’s a real treat for the soul!

Four Mile Historic Park Review: Denver’s Pioneer Legacy Comes Alive

Denver has a long and rich history with pioneer culture and one of the best places to experience this is at the Four Mile Historic Park.

Not only will its historical architecture and living history farm take you back to the pioneer era, but the park is also home to a famous Denver landmark known as the “Four Mile House.”

If you’re planning on taking a visit to the Four Mile Historic Park be sure to check out this article to find out more about these historical sites.

What is Four Mile Historic Park?

Four Mile Historic Park is a 12-acre park located in Denver, Colorado, that is home to the Four Mile House, the oldest standing structure in Denver.

The park also features remarkably detailed recreated pioneer structures, a barn with farm animals, a variety of educational exhibits, and they also host many special events that take place throughout the year.

Related: Littleton Museum Review: An Immersive Living History Experience

Four Mile Historic Park

How to get to Four Mile Historic Park

Four Mile Historic Park is located at 715 South Forest Street in Denver, Colorado. The park open days differ based on when you visit and here are the hours:

  • January to May:
    • Friday – Sunday: 10:00am – 4:00pm
  • June to December:
    • Wednesday – Sunday: 10:00am – 4:00pm

Admission fees are:

  • Adult: $8.00
  • Youth (age 7-17): $6.00
  • Child (age 0-6): $0.00
  • Senior (age 65+): $7.00
  • Military (with ID): $7.00

There is a partially paved parking lot with quite a few spaces that you can use and you’ll be happy to know parking is free. When we visited on a late Saturday morning, there were plenty of open spots for us but during special events, the spaces may not be as widely available.

To be taken directly to the parking lot, enter the following address into your navigation: 4846 E Exposition Ave, Glendale, CO 80246.

Note: UponArriving is not affiliated with Four Mile Historic Park

Four Mile Historic Park parking

Experiencing Four Mile Historic Park

Your experience will begin when you enter the Grant Family Education Center, where you can purchase tickets or scan your QR code from your previously purchased tickets. (Groups of students on trips will enter through a different entrance.)

If you have any interest in touring the Four Mile House — which I highly recommend — you can inquire with the agent working the desk about the next available tour. In our case, we only had to wait about 20 minutes, which wasn’t bad.

The major highlight of Four Mile Historic Park is without a doubt the historic Four Mile House.

During a guided tour, you have the opportunity to leisurely wander through the various rooms and levels of the house, marveling at the exquisitely maintained interior and exploring appliances and furniture from the 1800s.

Our guide, both knowledgeable and engaging, ensured that our experience was thoroughly enjoyable, allowing us to indulge our curiosity. Prepare to be pleasantly surprised by how effortlessly the tour transports you to a bygone era.

Four Mile House

The Four Mile House was built in 1859 by brothers Samuel and Jonas Brantner.

Initially, the house was used as a stagecoach stop and a trading post. In fact, it was the last stopping point before pioneers made their way to Denver, located about 4 miles away, hence the name.

The house was built along the Cherokee Trail but also where other trails converged such as the Smoky Hill Trail, a major pioneer trail that ran close to 600 miles from Atchison, Kansas, to Denver, Colorado.

Back in 1858, gold fever hit Denver like a wild bronco.

Prospectors, called “Fifty-Niners,” stampeded to the area for the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush, desperate to strike it rich. They used the The Smoky Hill Trail to arrive in Colorado from Kansas, allowing them to save one to two weeks of travel time.

But it wasn’t an easy journey as the trail was known for being rather treacherous.

It was notorious for its navigation difficulties and a whole host of dangers, including dehydration, surprise attacks from Native Americans like the Cheyenne and Arapaho, and nasty illnesses like cholera. And if that wasn’t enough, the unforgiving climate meant battling scorching heat in the summer and bone-chilling blizzards in winter.

Luckily, for travelers who survived the journey, the 4 mile house provided a welcome oasis where they could replenish their energy and enjoy a range of comforts.

They could indulge in a satisfying meal, find lodging to rest their weary bodies, repair equipment, change horses, and stock up on essential supplies for the rest of their travels.

The lively upstairs atmosphere of the 4 Mile House might even have enticed them to partake in a bit of dancing, allowing them to unwind and let loose after enduring the challenges of the long journey.

The Smoky Hill Trail was used regularly until the the Denver Pacific and Kansas Pacific Railroads reached Denver in 1870, quickly making travel by stage coach obsolete.

Around that time, the owners pivoted to ranching and farming, which they would operate for many decades to come. Their acreage expanded while they also added a new brick addition to the house which modernized the structure in the 1880s.

(When you explore the interior of the house, you’ll see the stark contrast between the Victorian interior and the old log house.)

The ownership of the house would subsequently change hands, eventually falling under the jurisdiction of the city of Denver. In 1969, this storied dwelling found its rightful place on the esteemed National Register of Historic Places.

Four Mile House

To get an idea of what a typical family would use to travel west, be sure to visit the covered wagon nearby.

I was surprised to learn that the wagons were usually packed so full of belongings and supplies that the family had to walk behind the wagon, traveling about 7 to 10 miles per day. Typically, they would travel in caravans due to having safety in numbers.

Four Mile Historic Park covered wagon

Beside the Four Mile House is the “Bee House,” which was once home to Millie Booth’s honey-making operation. Millie had around 120 beehives, and she used the Bee House to process and can her honey. The original structure was built in 1866, but it burned down in 1941.

Luckily, the Bee House was rebuilt in 1980 and is now used as a one-room schoolhouse, which you can go inside of and explore. And if you’re a fan of honey comb, you can even buy some from the gift shop!

Four Mile Historic Park gift shop

Nearby, you can find the chicken coop and even have your hand at feeding the chickens with the feed machine located by the coop. Head over to the livestock area where you can find horses, goats, and even pigs.

You can pet these animals but it’s best to keep your hands away from their mouth because they can bite even if it is accidental. They also ask that you don’t feed these animals.

Four Mile Historic Park goat animals

Don’t miss the barn housing a stage coach and the blacksmith shop, another one of the major highlights of the park. It’s a fully functional shop equipped with an 1800 forge blower that was state of the art for its time.

Take a peek inside and be transported back over 150 years ago to a time when the rhythmic clang of hammers echoed and mesmerizing glows of molten metal illuminated skilled craftsmen.

Four Mile Historic Park barn

And finally, If you’re wondering how pioneers lived in the 1800s, be sure to visit the replica cabin, which will give you a good idea of how both fur trappers and miners lived amidst the rugged wilderness. This type of abode would have been used by a mountain-dwelling family, perhaps working for a wage under one of the major mining companies.

Four Mile Historic Park cabin

There are some other interesting sites to check out at the park but I’ll let you discover those first hand!


If you’d like to further support the museum, consider giving a small donation to show your appreciation. If you’d like to donate, you can do that here on their official website.

Final word

Four Mile Historic Park give you the unique opportunity to explore a structure that once served weary travelers approaching the city of Denver after being on the trails for hundreds of miles. Beyond being able to step foot in the oldest surviving building in Denver, it’s fascinating to think about the stories and moments that took place in this old tavern and lodge.

Why You Should Always Visit Memorials When Traveling

In the process of planning any travel itinerary, I usually carve out time to visit various memorials when possible.

The reason behind this deliberate choice is simple: I’ve discovered these outings to be some of the most rewarding travel experiences.

In this article, I will delve into the reasons why I think it’s a good idea to allocate time for exploring memorials and I’ll outline the numerous benefits you are likely to encounter along the way.

Memorials provide a place to embrace the human condition

One of the main reasons for visiting memorials is to offer a heartfelt tribute and pay your respects to individuals who have left their mark on history.

There is a profound sense of reverence that accompanies standing silently before a statue or wall inscribed with names of the fallen and taking a moment to honor and reflect. It is a deeply meaningful gesture that resonates with our innate sense of dignity and reverence.

In our fast-paced lives, these moments of pause and contemplation become even more essential. They remind us of the fragility of life and the resilience of the human spirit, offering a much-needed peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of our daily routines.

Memorials inspire gratitude

Memorials serve as poignant reminders of those who have passed away or endured immense pain and hardships.

When standing before the war memorials on DC’s National Mall, a deep and sincere sense of gratitude often washes over you.

It is a humbling experience that swiftly grants you perspective. Suddenly, the trivial worries and inconveniences of your daily life pale in comparison to the gut-wrenching fights and squalid conditions faced by soldiers on the battlefields of Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

In that moment, you gain a newfound appreciation for the blessings we often take for granted. You realize the preciousness of freedom and the irreplaceable value of your loved ones. It’s a reminder to embrace and cherish the precious aspects of our lives.

Memorials help us reflect on lessons from the past

Visiting memorials allows us to pause and contemplate the lessons learned from the past.

After exploring the Salem Witch Trial sites, I couldn’t help but to think about how easy it is to get caught up in a frenzy and how dangerous scapegoating can be.

Often times, when trying to figure out what is going wrong with ourselves, our family, or our community, we just go for the most convenient option (which is usually the one that makes us look the best).

However, this tendency can lead us astray. We may overlook the underlying complexities and root causes of our problems and dodge the difficult conversations and uncomfortable truths we need to face.

Like the people of 17th century Salem, we may fall into the trap of scapegoating — blaming others for our faults and problems instead of taking a hard look at ourselves and our society.

Visiting memorials like these can serve as a reminder of this important lesson and inspire us to take responsibility for our actions and their impact on others.

Memorials teach by immersing us in history

Memorials possess the potential to be profound teachers.

When standing at the hauntingly empty landscape of District Six in Cape Town, South Africa — where 60,000 residents were forcibly removed from their homes — I found myself absorbing the details of the events from our guide in a way that I never would from simply reading about it in a textbook.

Memorials — through their ability to evoke emotions and create immersive experiences — become powerful teachers, enabling us to grasp the significance of historical events on a more profound level.

Memorials spark dialogue and collective experiences

A lot of the experiences that come from visiting memorials is deeply personal and introspective. We look inside of ourselves to reflect and further our understanding of the world.

However, the impact of memorials extends beyond the individual.

They also serve as a catalyst for collective experiences and meaningful interactions with others.

As we share the space with fellow visitors, there is a sense of camaraderie. We’re all participants in the same journey of remembrance. Conversations naturally arise, sparked by the common ground we find in our shared experience.

These dialogues can be transformative. They provide an opportunity to exchange perspectives, share stories, and deepen our understanding of history and its implications for the present.

But sometimes dialogue isn’t even necessary.

Imagine the incredibly poignant site of a single elderly veteran standing before the reflective black granite at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

In these instances, we witness something that surpasses words. It prompts us to reflect on the individual’s unique perspective, the depth of their struggles, and the weight of the memories they carry, ultimately evoking a deep sense of empathy within us.

These encounters remind us that memorials are also focal points for shared understanding, where the gravity of history is felt and acknowledged, and where we can stand in solidarity with those who have borne the burdens of the past.

Memorials are beautiful and will move you in unexpected ways

From the initial concept to the groundbreaking, memorials often undergo numerous iterations and meticulous planning, sometimes spanning several years or even decades.

The careful consideration given to every aspect of their creation transforms memorials into visually captivating and meaningful sites, often rich in symbolism.

Each element, from the choice of materials to the placement of sculptures or inscriptions, contributes to the overall aesthetic and emotional impact. As a result, these memorials become not only places of remembrance but also visually stunning works of art.

The deliberate incorporation of symbolic elements inspire individuals to further explore the history and connect with the deeper meaning of the memorial. I recall visiting the bonfire memorial at Texas A&M University for the first time and seeing the symbolic portal of a fallen Aggie, Miranda Adams, purposefully facing towards her hometown of Santa Fe.

As I looked to the horizon I realized that the portal was also pointing in the direction of my own home, and the significance of the memorial became even more relatable and impactful.

Photo by meadowsaffron via Flickr.

Memorials help bring stories together

Memorials can play a crucial role in bringing different elements of a story together. That’s because they serve as physical manifestations of history, condensing complex narratives and emotions into tangible forms.

When we stand before a memorial, we see the names, dates, and images that represent the individuals and events we have read or heard so much about.

Sometimes it’s a smaller-scale revelation like when we visited Fort McHenry and saw the actual “ramparts” mentioned in the Star-Spangled Banner.

But other times it’s making sense of a more complex event.

I vividly remember my visit to Pearl Harbor, where the old video footage and survivor stories took on a whole new dimension as I stood there, gazing across the harbor to Ford Island. One a completely quiet morning, I could almost hear the planes roaring overhead, raining destruction on the site in a moment of complete havoc.

The full magnitude of the attack finally hit me.

Final word

Beyond their aesthetic appeal, memorials often offer serene environments where visitors can find solace, pay their respects, and contemplate the lessons and legacies of the events or individuals memorialized. They serve as powerful reminders of our shared history and often offer visitors a rich and rewarding experience.

16 Things to Do in Los Alamos (+ Tips For Your Visit)

If you have a fascination for the history of the nuclear era, then a visit to Los Alamos is an absolute must. Nestled among stunning mesas and canyons, this town served as a nuclear epicenter where monumental decisions were made, forever shaping the course of human civilization.

Whether you’re planning a quick day trip or plan on hanging around for a few days, Los Alamos offers a compact and captivating experience, with many key sites conveniently located close together.

In this article, I will provide you with everything you need to know about visiting Los Alamos, including valuable tips to ensure you make the most out of your visit.

Prepare to immerse yourself in the rich historical tapestry of this unassuming town and uncover the secrets and stories that define its pivotal role in shaping our nuclear legacy.

Los Alamos sign

What to know about visiting these sites

Many of the key sites mentioned below are conveniently located in close proximity to one another, making it possible to enjoy a historic walk and visit most, if not all, of these sites.

There are lots of public parking lots available, so finding a parking spot should not be an issue. During our visit, we opted to park near Ashley Pond, which proved to be a common starting point for the historical walk.

Be aware that some of these sites are closed on Sundays, and even when they are open, they tend to have limited operating hours with some closing around 3 to 4 PM. Additionally, keep in mind that much of the town shuts down on weekends (including some of the best places to eat), so think twice about visiting on a Sunday.

The last thing to consider is that Los Alamos sits at a high elevation of 7,300 feet. This means that it can be pretty cool in the summer and simply amazing in the fall and spring. But wear extra sunscreen and hats because higher elevation sunlight can be extra harsh on your skin. Also, watch out for signs of altitude sickness if you’re not accustomed to higher elevations.

While some of these sites are private residences, access to them is restricted so be sure to avoid trespassing on private property. Other sites may not be open to the public, but you can still appreciate their significance from a distance.

With all of that out-of-the-way, let’s get into the sites!

Los Alamos statues

Manhattan Project National Historical Park

Manhattan Project National Historical Park is a collection of different historical buildings and grounds clustered together in the heart of Los Alamos. You can visit the Manhattan Project National Historical Park visitor center to get your day started and plot out your next moves.

It’s a very compact visitor center but there are some helpful rangers in there and you can always get your National Park Passport stamp!

Make sure you check out the Oppenheimer and Groves sculpture located just a little bit outside of the visitor center.

Manhattan Project National Historical Park visitor center

Bradbury Science Museum

The Bradbury Science Museum is a must-visit in Los Alamos. With over 60 interactive exhibits, it showcases the history and achievements of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and has a few key highlights you don’t want to miss like:

  • 15-minute film on the history of the Manhattan project
  • Trinitite display
  • Photography/film artifacts from the Trinity Site
  • Oppenheimer’s chair (just imagine the decisions made from that seat!)

They also have a lot of exhibits that go well beyond the Manhattan Project and explore a lot of the scientific discoveries and efforts that take place at the laboratory. The best part of this museum is that it’s free!

Tip: If you want to visit the Los Alamos National Laboratory, look into behind the fence tours. These are only offered a few times a year and will take you to a lot of the historical sites that are not typically open to the public. These are sites like: the Pond Cabin, the battleship bunker, and the Slotin Building.

Bradbury Science Museum

Los Alamos Historical Museum

Another museum that should be on your list is the Los Alamos Historical Museum. Built in 1918, this structure holds the distinction of being the oldest continually occupied building in town.

At this museum, you will have the opportunity to delve into the stories of the scientists, engineers, and everyday individuals who played crucial roles in the Manhattan Project.

The exhibits provide a comprehensive narrative, spanning from ancient times to the present day. I personally thought the letter from the US government to the ranch school, notifying them of the government’s intention to take over the school, was interesting. The fact that they allowed them to finish up a school term was pretty considerate considering the dire need to get things set up in Los Alamos!

As you explore the museum’s creaking wooden floors, immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of history — remember this very building was once the preferred lodging spot for General Leslie Groves.

While there is a nominal entry fee of five dollars, the experience is well worth it.

Additionally, for a more in-depth understanding, consider booking a walking tour (reservations recommended).

Los Alamos Historical Museum

Fuller Lodge

Originally built in 1928 as the dining hall for the Los Alamos Ranch School, the Fuller Lodge is a magnificent historic building meticulously crafted using 771 pine logs that were personally selected by architect John Gaw Meem and Ranch School director A.J. Connell. This structure carries a rich history, representing the early days of Los Alamos.

Today, the Fuller Lodge has been transformed into a vibrant cultural center that offers a versatile space for social gatherings, meetings, and housing various offices, including the Fuller Lodge Art Center and the Los Alamos Arts Council.

Visitors have the opportunity to explore this iconic log structure and delve into its heritage, witnessing firsthand the architectural beauty and historical significance it holds.

Fuller Lodge

Ashley Pond Park

One of the main attractions in the city of Los Alamos is Ashley Pond Park. The pond was very fittingly named after the founder of the Los Alamos Ranch School, Ashley Pond Jr. Back in the day, students used the pond for summer and winter sports.

During Project Y, the pond was surrounded by technical area laboratories but these structures were removed by the mid-1960s.

Today, it’s used as a public park and a hub for community events and it’s just a really beautiful place to go for a picnic or stroll. As mentioned above, it’s also a good place to begin your historical walking tour.

Ashley Pond Park

Ice House Memorial

The Ice House Memorial sits on the site of the old Ranch School Ice House where the students once stored blocks of ice cut from Ashley Pond during the freeing winters.

During Project Y, scientists used the icehouse to assemble the nuclear core of “Gadget,” the prototype atomic bomb that was later transported to the Trinity Site. As we had recently explored the Trinity Site open house and saw where the bomb was assembled (the McDonald Ranch House), it was really cool to see this site.

Today, you can check out the Ice House Memorial that contains original stone from the Ranch School Ice House!

Ice House Memorial

Bathtub Row

Bathtub Row is is an actual street name with historic homes that were originally built for the Los Alamos Ranch School and then adapted during the Manhattan project to be used by scientists.

Back during the WWII days, these homes were the only ones with bathtubs which is how the street got its name!

Several of the homes are private residences so don’t trespass but from a nearby sidewalk you can let their unique architecture take you back in time.

Bathtub Row

Hans Bethe House

The Hans Bethe House is a unique residence situated on Bathtub Row. This house was once the home of chemist Edwin McMillan and physicist Hans Bethe, both of whom were Nobel Prize laureates.

It’s also a beautiful historic building showcasing a blend of modernist and adobe-style elements with a strong Pueblo Revival influence. (I couldn’t get enough of the architecture here.)

If you have an interest in the Cold War and the significance of Los Alamos during that period, this is a must-visit destination for you since it houses the Harold Agnew Cold War Gallery. Plus, you can view Frederick Reine’s 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics!

Hans Bethe House

Robert Oppenheimer House

Robert Oppenheimer, known to some as the “father of the atomic bomb,” was the director of the Manhattan Project and a visionary scientist. While initially some thought he would be an unlikely candidate for such an important leadership position, in the end he proved to be the perfect man for the job.

You can visit the Robert Oppenheimer House where Oppenheimer, his wife Kitty, daughter Toni, and son Peter lived from 1943 to 1945. It’s said that Oppenheimer was known for throwing parties at his house and that invitations to these parties were in high demand among the scientists working at Project Y.

Built in 1929, the house is nearly 100 years old and it’s said that it’s going to be undergoing renovations soon and will at some point open up to the public as one of the main attractions to visit. I will certainly be back for that!

Robert Oppenheimer House

Stone power house

This structure was built back in 1933 to house the ranch school’s electrical generator. But later on in 1944, it was remodeled and explosives expert George Kistiakowsky lived here.

Designed by architect John Gaw Meem, the building showcases more Pueblo Revival architectural style and stands as a historic remnant of the Ranch School era.

Stone power house

Civilian Women’s Dormitory

Another historic structure in the area that is easy to miss is the Civilian Women’s Dormitory. This building housed non-military staff working for the Manhattan Project, since military personnel were typically accommodated in barracks in the military section of Los Alamos.

These civilian dormitories called “Priority Dorms,” were heavily sought out by civilians because they were so comfortable and came with amenities like maid service, laundry, and room cleaning. For 1940s Los Alamos standards, this was essentially the Ritz Carlton for civilians!

Civilian Women’s Dormitory

WWII cafeteria

On the corner of 15th St. and Nectar Street you can find the old World War II cafeteria. This was once a favorite mess hall for the military members working on the Manhattan Project. And now it serves as the location for the Los Alamos Performing Arts Center.

WWII cafeteria

The pueblo ruins

Another intriguing site to explore is the pueblo ruins. Dating back to approximately 1225 CE, this location once served as the habitation of a Tewa-speaking community who are ancestors of the present-day Pueblo people.

The structures at this site were constructed using blocks of volcanic tuff and were utilized for various purposes, including cooking and sleeping quarters. It’s an interesting sight as you typically don’t see ancient ruins lying around a small-town neighborhood, just feet from a sidewalk.

The Romero Cabin

The Romero Cabin is right next to the pueblo ruins and it gives you a good sense of what the homesteading culture looked like on the Pajarito Plateau in the late 1800s.

This particular cabin was built by the Romero family back in 1913 but was eventually acquired by the US government. It was built on a nearby mesa and relocated to this spot in 1984. It’s a cool little spot to walk inside of and you really get a sense of the cozy quarters that some of the early inhabitants of this region lived in.

Right next-door is the Ranch School fire cache, which stored fire lighting equipment. And across the street from the Romero Cabin, you can see the site of the original main building for the Los Alamos Ranch School.

The Romero Cabin

Main Gate Park

All of the workers during the Manhattan project had to pass through a main security gate to access Los Alamos and there is a re-creation of the gate just outside of the main area of town.

Workers would arrive here after first meeting Dorothy McKibbin, “the gatekeeper of Los Alamos,” who oversaw things like housing, greetings, and issued the all important IDs needed by Project Y workers.  While security measures were stringent at Los Alamos, a few spies managed to infiltrate the area.

If you’re leaving town, the re-created gate is found just past the airport near a landscaping store — you should easily see signs for it.

Main Gate Park

The historic post office

This post office opened in 1948 on the site of the Ranch School Trading Post and is now listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. It still serves as the main post office for Los Alamos County.

Did you know? During the time of the Manhattan project, almost sent to Los Alamos was addressed to “P.O. Box 1663, Santa Fe, New Mexico”

Other sites to explore

If you’re in this area then you really owe it to yourself to check out Bandelier National Monument. It’s a gorgeous national monument with ancient cliff dwellings and a valley floor blanketed with tall pine trees.

Before heading to Los Alamos, we started off our day with a hike to the Alcove House which takes you up a couple hundred feet via stone steps and wooden ladders. It’s a great way to get up close to the historical Pueblo ruins and enjoy a good view but if you have a serious fear of heights you may want to pass on the ladders.

Our hotel was located in nearby White Rock which also made it easy for us to explore the beautiful White Rock Overlook which is a great place to be at sunrise or sunset. This entire region is truly a beautiful place to explore!

White Rock Overlook

Final word

Los Alamos is a fun and easy place to explore. All of the main attractions are within walking distance and because of the high elevation, the weather can be amazing as you stroll around outdoors. It’s really interesting to see how some of the old buildings have been preserved and others repurposed. It’s really easy to feel the history of this place, which probably doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park Review: Historic, Unique & Wonderful

When I review hotels, even hotels I really love, it’s extremely rare that I have an experience where I can’t find at least a couple of things that could be improved or that fell just a little short.

But that’s what recently blew me away when I stayed at The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso, Texas. It was only a one night stay but everything about the hotel was on point and I left this property really wanting to spend more time there.

In this review article, I will walk you through this memorable stay and give you some insight into this historic gem of a hotel. As with the vast majority of hotel stays we review here, this was not a sponsored stay.

Hotel overview

The history of The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park dates back to 1899 when the Sheldon Hotel was opened here.

It served as an unofficial headquarters during the Mexican Revolution and it’s where President William Howard Taft stayed during his historic meeting with Mexico’s President Porfirio Díaz.

Unfortunately, the hotel burned down in 1929 but entrepreneur Conrad Hilton had plans to build an even bigger hotel.

Things got off to a rocky start as the stock market crashed just days after construction but Conrad pushed on and opened the new high-rise hotel in 1930 with its famous art deco design.

It was actually the first high-rise Hilton hotel and you can still find signs of that like the original Hilton logos found on the elevator doors.

High profile guests were drawn to this El Paso beacon over the decades including Elizabeth Taylor, who lived in the hotel during the filming of the 1956 blockbuster, Giant. 

After some ownership changes, El Paso businessman Paul Foster purchased the property in 2008 as part of a greater effort to revitalize Downtown El Paso.

A lot of work was done to restore the hotel to its original art deco glory and it was re-opened in 2020 after major renovations.

The independent hotel now houses 130 rooms and suites and you’ll find traces of its past along with inspiring local artwork as you explore its wonderfully restored corridors.


The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park is located right in the heart of Downtown El Paso. It’s just across the street from another historic hotel, Hotel Paso Del Norte (full review).

You’ll find San Jacinto Plaza adjacent to the hotel which during the holidays is beautifully lit and a good spot for grabbing some hot cocoa.

Other nearby sites include: the El Paso Museum of Art, the Plaza Theatre, the Judson F. Williams Convention Center, the Abraham Chavez Theatre and Southwest University Park.

And Mexico? It’s only eight blocks away.

Parking and Check-in

The hotel offers valet parking for a modest $25 + tax and comes with unlimited in and out access. If you want to use self parking, that’s available at 100 East San Antonio Avenue for $20 + tax with unlimited in and out access.

Our check-in experience was top notch.

We arrived around 2:30 PM and were greeted by the friendly valet staff and then taken care of by the front desk. Without any hiccups, we were given a room key and then on our way to the 16th floor!

I was first struck by the beautiful historic elevators and hanging art installation meant to mimic the night stars.

You’ll notice there’s an old post office mailbox between the elevators. During renovations, they opened the chute and found old letters from the 1930s. You can find those letters on display in the lobby and see what some travelers were writing about almost 100 years ago!

The hotel uses a modern touchscreen app to operate the elevators which is an interesting juxtaposition to such historic elevator doors. But this trend of seamlessly merging the historic with the modern is something that they do very well at this hotel.

The Landmark Suite

This stay capped off a long road trip from Arizona to Southeast Texas and back so we were really looking forward to being able to enjoy one night at a nice luxury property.

So we decided to book The Landmark Suite.

The hotel has six of these and they are very well done and spacious with 755 square ft.

Your first enter the entryway where you will find an impressive half bath with plenty of space and even a nice view.

Just by the decor, lighting, and countertops of the half bath, I really could tell the room was going to live up to expectations.

Next, in the entryway you’ll have your selection of snacks and alcohol from the minibar if that is your thing. From Grey Goose to Don Julio, you have a pretty good selection of liquor and tequila.

They also offer a Nespresso machine when many hotels simply go for a basic coffee maker.

Below that, you can find juices and soda in a mini fridge along with wine and champagne.

You’ll then enter the corner-room living area of the suite which offers a luxurious feel with burgundy and champagne and cream furnishings. A large 55 inch TV hangs on the wall surrounded by comfortable seating for a handful of guests.

Although it was just Brad and I and Elroy (our corgi) on this stay, I really got the sense that the suites would be great for larger groups congregating for things like weddings and other special events. It’s just a really nice place to hang out.

Speaking of our pup, the hotel went out of their way to provide accommodations for him including a dog bed and food and water bowl. We got the sense that the hotel was truly “pet friendly” and not just an “accepts pets” hotel.

You’ll then make your way into the work area, which sort of forms a junior suite with the bedroom.

There’s a workstation with a comfortable chair and a couple of nice touches.

Connect your phone to the Bluetooth speaker (easy to do) and you’ll be surprised how loud and quality this sound will be from this small Tivoli speaker box.

I liked the custom stationary found on the workstation as you rarely see both pens and pencils furnished and I’m always a fan of a well-branded property.

Across from the desk is another couch with some interesting wall decor placed above it.

You’ll find that the suite combines a West Texas feel with historic 1930s patterns and local artwork in a very complementary way. You’ll also have no shortage of outlets wherever you go.

Then there is the king bedroom.

Once again, well done with an elegant color scheme of champagne, cream, and burgundy accents.

It’s home to an ultra comfy mattress with high quality sheets and bedding.

I usually struggle to get good sleep on a one night stay because it takes me a couple of nights to get acclimated to a new bed and surroundings. But this was one of those rare occasions where I got some great rest.

One side of the bed has the Arne Jacobsen-designed alarm clock and on the other side you’ll find the phone along with two interesting water bottles.

If you’re looking for the outlets, they are inside of the end tables. Just pull out the top drawer and you’ll see them.

It was nice having the 55 inch TV with Chromecast.

The bedroom also has a spacious powder room with good lighting, mirrors, and plenty of counter space.

This is also where you will find the slippers and Matouk robes for those headed to pamper town.

One thing I haven’t even mentioned yet are the smart features in the room.

Motion sensors will turn on the lights as you make your way through the room, which made us feel right at home since that is how we have set up our living space.

Powered blinds and shades, operated from controls on the wall, easily reveal sweeping views from your room or quickly shut off the light if you need to.

Then there is the bathroom. Like everything in the suite, it’s spacious.

You’ll find a double sink counter with beautiful mirrors, light fixtures, and marble-clad counters.

I loved the Brizo fixtures found in the bathroom and the H20Kinetic massage and handheld shower heads. And of course, quality (and plush) Matouk towels could be found along with Le Labo bath products.

Dining at Ámbar Restaurante

In order to make the most of our one night stay, we opted to have dinner at Ámbar Restaurante and I’m very glad that we did for a couple of reasons.

First, if you are into the history of the hotel it’s a great place to check out because you’ll once again get a great sense of that history as you get seated at a table located on the original flooring of the property.

Second, the service and dining were top-notch at this unique wood-fired Mexican restaurant.

We kicked off the dining experience with a virgin Mojito and Brad went with the Divorcee, the signature cocktail with cilantro.

And then we were faced with a major culinary decision. Our server insisted that we should try out the bone marrow the hotel is known for.

I’d seen the bone marrow pop-up before in my research on the property but I didn’t necessarily think I’d be trying it when we stayed because it just seemed a little bit “primitive” for my liking.

But we are always trying to not back down from new experiences so it didn’t take much for us to agree to give it a shot.

Scooping out goopy marrow from the core of a large bone may make you feel like a caveman and have you second guessing your life choices.

But when you pair it with the grilled bolillo and spice it up with some salsa macha, it’s not hard to down the marrow at all — you might be surprised about the flavor it packs. (Bone marrow is also a super food in case you were wondering.)

As for the main dishes, I went with what was essentially a beef fajita dish and Brad went with a tenderloin steak. We left extremely satisfied with our meals and just enjoyed the overall dining experience. In fact, we returned for breakfast the next morning and had another satisfying meal.

If you are a drinker then you will obviously want to check out the beautiful bar area.

It’s home to one of the largest tequila selections on the continent where bartenders have to harness in to retrieve some of the bottles. Housed in a large historic atrium, you almost feel like you’re visiting some sort of agave cathedral and perhaps you are.

The hotel also puts on special tequila tastings where you can learn how to sip tequila and pair it with food items.

The rooftop terrace

While the hotel does not have a pool, they have a beautiful rooftop terrace area where you can grab drinks and select food items. It’s located on the 17th floor and it is where you will find the bar, La Perla.

Beautiful archways showcase the hotel’s renown Pueblo Revival Art Deco architectural style and it’s a great vantage point being the highest outdoor viewpoint in El Paso.

One of the cool facts about the rooftop terrace is that it is the former area that made up the hotel’s old penthouse. It’s where Elizabeth Taylor stayed during the filming of one of her movies that took place in Marfa, Texas.

We ventured up there around sunset and enjoyed a beautiful desert sunset with memorable views of the Franklin Mountains, surrounding El Paso area, and even out to Mexico. The plaza lit up beautifully below us.

The fitness center

The hotel has a state of the art fitness center. (You may need to ask around to find the stairs down to it because it was a little bit difficult for us to find but you’ll be pointed in the right direction.)

Inside you’ll find free weights, treadmills, machines, elliptical, and some floor space to get things done.

One thing that stood out is they had one of those mirror work out apps that I don’t think I have seen in many hotels yet.

Final word

I may be a little bit biased because of how much I enjoy staying in historic properties but this hotel is truly a gem.

It’s hard not to compare it to the Paso Del Norte because they are so close to each other and are both iconic historic hotels that were recently renovated.

I don’t know if I can choose between the two because I loved both but I do think that the Plaza Hotel stood out to me in that I could really feel the history when staying here. I think this is a tremendous venue for groups who want a place to congregate and of course tequila fans could not do any better.

I would not hesitate to recommend the hotel.

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