Gay Denver in a Nutshell:
For many decades, Denver has been one of the country’s centers of lesbian and gay culture, activism, feminism, and nightlife - it's the largest and most dynamic hub of GLBT culture in the Rockies, and a great jumping off point for exploring Colorado's many natural wonders and recreational destinations, from Aspen and Boulder to Telluride and Rocky Mountain National Park. The modern, progressive city of about 600,000 abounds with fine museums, trendy nightclubs, stunning parks, and an increasingly sophisticated array of shops, hotels, and restaurants.
One of the sunniest big cities in the country, Denver typically receives more than 300 days of sunshine each year, and its high altitude and dry climate ensures crystalline blue skies. There's really not a bad time of year to visit - winter makes the city a popular gateway for the great skiing of the Rockies, and spring through fall brings generally moderate, sunny weather.
January highs average 47 deg F, with lows around 16 deg F. In summer, highs average around 88 deg F, with lows in the upper 50s. Average snowfall is around 60 inches, about the same as Salt Lake City, but it tends to melt fairly fast.
Most people think Denver is in the Rocky Mountains, but it's actually just east of them. Though a mile above sea level, it is nonetheless pretty level terrain. The foothills of the Rockies begin their magnificent, sharp ascent immediately west of the city and serve as a fixture of the Denver skyline, while the grassy plains extend for many hundreds of miles to the east toward Kansas. This capital city of Colorado sits at the junction of two major interstate highways, I-70 (east-west) and I-25 (north-south). It's also connected to I-80 via I-76, which leads northeast up into Nebraska.
Driving distances to Denver from major cities and points of interest:
Albuquerque, NM: 450 miles (6 to 7 hrs)
Aspen: 200 miles (4 hrs)
Boulder: 25 miles (30 min)
Cheyenne, WY: 100 miles (1.5 hrs)
Colorado Springs: 70 miles (75 min)
Durango: 340 miles (6 to 7 hrs)
Fort Collins: 60 miles (1 hr)
Kansas City, MO: 600 miles (8 to 9 hrs)
Moab, UT: 355 miles (5 to 6 hrs)
Oklahoma City, OK: 670 miles (9 to 11 hrs)
Omaha, NE: 540 miles (7 to 8 hrs)
Salt Lake City, UT: 530 miles (7 to 8 hrs)
Santa Fe, NM: 400 miles (5.5 to 6 hrs)
Steamboat Springs: 170 miles (3 hrs)
Telluride: 330 miles (6.5 to 7 hrs)
Vail: 100 miles (2 hrs)
Flying to Denver:
A modern, rather striking facility that opened in 1994 and ranks among the world's busiest airports, Denver International Airport is a bit of a haul from downtown - it's about 25 miles northeast of downtown, and during busy times, it's wise to allow yourself an hour or so to get there (especially if returning a rental car). A hub of both United Airlines and the discount-oriented Frontier Airlines, Denver is served by virtually all the major carriers, including discounters like Southwest and JetBlue. There's direct international service to London, Costa Rica, Frankfurt, and much of Mexico and Canada.
Denver 2013-2014 Events Calendar:
Early to Mid-Jan.: National Western Stock Show & Rodeo.
Late March: Denver March Powwow.
Early May: Denver Cinco de Mayo.
Early June: Capitol Hill People's Fair.
Mid-June: Denver Gay Pride.
Mid-July: Colorado Springs Gay Pride.
Mid-July: Rocky Mountain Regional Rodeo (an event of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Assocation).
Mid-Aug.: AIDS Walk Colorado/AIDS Walk Denver.
Mid-Aug.: Mile High Music Festival.
Early Sept.: A Taste of Colorado.
Late Sept.: Denver's Great American Beer Festival.
Nov.-early Jan.: Mile High Holidays (various holiday events and hotel deals).
Early Nov.: Denver International Wine Festival.
Mid-Nov.: Denver Arts Week.
Mid-Nov.: Starz Denver Film Festival.
Cool Neighborhoods in Gay Denver:
The GLBT community in Denver is quite well-integrated, although broadly speaking, the Capitol Hill and Cheesman Park area has the greatest concentration of gay and lesbian households and businesses. West of downtown, historic Highlands has an arty vibe and plenty of hip and cool shops and eateries, and to the south, you'll find a smattering of gay bars and eateries along Broadway and South Broadway.
High-end shopping is the draw is sleek Cherry Creek, and just north of downtown, the stylish Central Platte Valley and Commons Park is lately abounding with mod condos. It's close to Denver's most charming 'hood, LoDo.
Top Denver Attractions:
Resources on Gay Denver:
A handful of resources provide information on the city in general, and a few on the local gay scene. For general visitor information, contact the Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. The GLBT Center of Colorado has an excellent website and is a first-rate resource for queer visitors or those thinking of relocating here. The city produces one of the country's longest-running GLBT newspapers, the excellent OutFront Colorado. Also check out the monthly Gayzette Denver gay newspaper. And Westword is the city's fine alternative free weekly, with loads of great entertainment, arts, nightlife, and dining coverage.
The Gay Vibe in Denver:
Colorado, and specifically its vibrant capital city of Denver, has come a long way as a gay destination. Although a bastion of nascent gay activism in the '50s and '60s, Denver and the rest of the state were the target of a controversial boycott by gays and lesbians in the early '90s. The fray concerned the passage by antigay-rights groups, most of them based in the far more conservative city of Colorado Springs, of Amendment 2, which called for a ban on local and state laws protecting citizens against discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation.
Opponents of the amendment immediately filed a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. Within a couple of days, local and national gay groups put into place a comprehensive boycott on travel to Colorado. The U.S. Supreme Court heard the case regarding Amendment 2 and struck down the law in May 1996 by a vote of 6 to 3, ruling that the amendment would have denied gays and lesbians equal protection under the law. The court's opinion curtailed similar antigay initiatives elsewhere in the United States, and Colorado has continued to thrive as a favorite place to live and visit by lesbians and gays.
Politically, Denver is highly progressive. Mayor John Hickenlooper has long been a great friend to the community, and on a statewide level, Colorado voted for Barack Obama in both elections, and has continued to shift steadily from Republican to Democrat in a number of state and local elections.
Denver has a lively gay scene and a great energy to it. Gays and lesbians, who played a pivotal role in turning once-dilapidated Lower Downtown (a.k.a. LoDo) into a thriving arts and entertainment district, are helping to reinvigorate other exciting neighborhoods, among them South Broadway and Highlands.
New museums, shops, brew pubs, and restaurants continue to open all around town, and the city is now a leading high-tech center, with an increasingly Seattle-like business profile. In fact, Denver feels more than a little Pacific Northwestern, with its proximity to the outdoors, temperate climate (colder than Seattle but with much more sunshine), bounty of microbreweries and coffeehouses, generally high quality of life - and with similar concerns about overdevelopment.