The allure of the Wild Wild West lives on in Denver and while you’re in the Mile High City, history buff or not, it’s fun to get a feel for what epitomizes Denver, the American West: whether it be myth or half truths, the aspirations and ambitions that drove cowboys, roundups, gold boom outlaws and covered wagons westward.
Union Station – Terminal Bar
Step up to the ticket window and purchase a craft beer rather than a train ticket west at the Terminal Bar. Located in the historic ticketing office inside The Great Hall of Denver Union Station, patrons can order from the list of mostly Colorado craft beer or from the bar’s extensive draft beer collection. A complete selection of spirits – many of which are distilled right here in Colorado – as well as an extensive list of carefully curated wines available by the glass or bottle are also available. Have a seat in one of the comfortable couches or chairs and marvel at the fabulously restored space appointed with period-correct finishes from the building’s turn-of-the-century heyday or watch the world go by on the outdoor patio.
Located at 17th and Wynkoop Streets in the LoDo district, Union Station includes the historic terminal building, a train shed, a 22-gate underground bus facility, and light rail station. The original Union Station cost $525,000 to build and opened June 1, 1881, burning in 1894.
To tempt your tastebuds, here’s whats on tap:
Left Hand Brewing • Telluride Brewing • Great Divide • Ratio Beerworks • Union Station Kolsch from Denver Beer Co. • Ska Brewing • Station 26 • Bull & Bush Brewing • Butcherknife • Tivoli Brewing • Prost • Crazy Mountain Brewing • Post Brewing • Odell • Upslope Brewing • Elevation Beer Co • Funkwerks • Crystal Springs • Crooked Stave • Fate Brewing • Avery • Black Shirt Brewing • Little Machine • River North Brewing • Stem Ciders
Union Station, 1701 Wynkoop Street (downtown)
Brown Palace Hotel
Located in the heart of downtown Denver, the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, Autograph Collection (Marriott) is an icon rich in tradition and history. Built in 1892, the Brown is celebrating its 125th anniversary this month. Awash in old world charm, the atrium lobby soars 8 stories accented by dramatic Florentine arches and intricate wrought iron detail and crowned with an exquisite stained-glass skylight.
The hotel has three Presidential suites and every President since 1905 except Calvin Coolidge and Barak Obama (and now 45) has visited the Brown Hotel. The suite everyone asks about: the Beatles Suite, where the Beatles bunked when they came to Denver in 1964, is decorated with Beatles album covers, artwork and a period jukebox with 220+ Beatles songs. You can see photos of the suites and read more about the secrets of the Brown Hotel in this Channel 7 article.
Experience the stylish and sophisticated High Tea in the atrium lobby or enjoy Prime Rib and other classics at the Ships Tavern pub, opened in 1934. Say “Hi” to Frank who has served guests at the Ships Tavern for 56 years!
Brown Palace Hotel, 321 17th Street (downtown)
Rockmount Ranch Wear
Speaking of the Beatles, when they rolled into Denver in 1964, one of the first places they visited was Rockmount Ranch Wear. Now, a common stop for musicians coming through town to perform at Red Rocks Ampitheatre, including Robert Plant, Bob Dylan, Jack White, Bonnie Raitt, the Arctic Monkeys, Sam Smith and the Avett Brothers who, in 2015, collaborated with Rockmount for their own shirt collection. Rockmount has collaborated with about 15 musicians to date which, considering they have been in business for three generations and been visited by scores of musicians, is a rare occurrence. Musicians and celebrities aside, cowboys have worn Rockmount’s signature diamond-snap western shirts with sawtooth pockets since 1946.
Some plaid, some embroidered with flowers, Rockmount’s shirts are engineered to be form-fitting – all the better for riding the range. Rockmount has been in the same brick building at 1626 Wazee Street for six decades, dressing cowboys in Stetsons and snap button shirts since Jack A. “Papa Jack” Weil founded the company. Seeing that cowboys, ranchers and farmers had special boots and hats but were wearing conventional boxy work shirts, Jack A. was motivated to design a better fitting shirt that was less likely to get caught or snagged on things while riding the range. Jack A. (1900 – 2008) worked daily in the shop until the age of 107. His shirts are worn all over the world.
One of the shop’s latest innovations is the Cannabis Cowboy shirt.
“Anybody who’s not dead knows that Colorado’s on the vanguard of this movement, and we at Rockmount like to think that’s what we do in the fashion world. So we developed a design that fits in our long tradition of doing floral embroideries,” Rockmount president Steve Weil told The Cannabist, “except these flowers can’t be smoked.”
I got my Rockmount: a smart pink-checked, short-sleeved, summer-weight version that I’ve already worn several times – the spirit of the West lives on.
Visit the museum upstairs – price of admission: a pet on the head or belly rub.
Rockmount Ranch Wear, 1626 Wazee Street (downtown)
Eat and drink like Buffalo Bill at his favorite restaurant and Denver’s original steakhouse, Buckhorn Exchange. This authentic saloon, opened by Bill’s friend Henry H. “Shorty Scout” Zietz in 1893, was Bill’s favorite watering hole in Denver, and today serves buffalo, elk, and quail along with exotic appetizers of Rocky Mountain oysters, rattlesnake and alligator. Belly up to the same bar Buffalo Bill did and order his favorite drink – apple juice and whiskey.
Buckhorn Exchange, 1000 Osage Street (Lincoln Park)
The Western: Art and Film at the Denver Art Museum
The Denver Art Museum is not historic in terms of age, but its collection of American Indian and Western American art are. And the stunning Daniel Libeskind and Geo Ponti architecture and current special exhibit:The Western: An Epic in Art and Film are not to be missed. On view through September 10, 2017, The Western is well worth the $18 adult admission to see and understand how the mythology of the West was born, changed with the times, and endures today.
“The Western: An Epic in Art and Film is the first major exhibition to examine the Western genre and its evolution from the mid-1800s to the present through fine art, film, and popular culture. Featuring 160 works, the exhibition explores gender roles, race relations, and gun violence—offering a visual journey that is about more than cowboys, bandits, and barroom brawls.”
From the romanticized large scale paintings of Frederic Remington and Albert Bierstadt, to the sweeping cinematography of John Ford’s iconic western movies inspired by nineteenth century painters, to Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti westerns”, and Captain America – the chopper ridden by Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, you’ll be captivated by this exhibit.
Denver Art Museum, 100 W. 14th Avenue Parkway
Even if you’re in Denver on business or sequestered in the Colorado Convention Center, these interesting historical spots are downtown (or very close, in the case the Buckhorn Exchange) and an easy walk or short ride away. Denver is a very walkable city and the 16th Street Mall shuttle can be used to get you closer to your destination.