Exploring Downtown Denver & Setting off on a West Coast Adventure without a Car

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, & if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no telling where you might be swept off to.”

~ Bilbo Baggins

Bilbo’s words ring especially true to me now, for today is an auspicious day. Today, I share the first of the stories (and photography) from my Grand West Coast Adventure. And just as Bilbo foretells, the road swept me right off of my feet, taking me to places I could have never planned.

Denver Area MapToday I start with Denver, and in the future, months (years?) from now, I’ll finish chronicling this journey by talking about Chicago. Between those two points in time were a great many miles and experiences, stretching from Denver to Portland, and Seattle to San Francisco.

There’s a lot in store.
But for now, let’s get back to the wonders of Denver, Colorado.

Exploring Denver for the First Time

Before this trip, I’d never been in Denver for more than a few hours at time, so this was the first time I could really experience it. I had arrived (via a Craigslist rideshare, of course) the night before the first of these pictures were taken, and the following morning when I first set out to see what Denver had to offer, I was pleasantly surprised. Late May looked good on Denver, and the Rocky Mountains were stunning on the western horizon.

And although it’s not talked about much, Denver is a surprisingly walkable (not to mention bikeable) city. You can tell the city was planned by smart people because the majority of the city is laid out in a grid, so it’s hard to get lost for long.

The photo album that accompanies this article is a quick overview of my first few days in Denver; and in this article I’m going to quickly show you the highlights, including the lovely Cheesman Park, the Denver Public Library, and various interesting pieces of architecture. (Also, I reserve the right to poke fun at anyone or anything in the pictures.)

Ready? Okay, here we go!

Welcome to Cheesman Park

Blue Sky over Cheesman Park

This is the fountain building in Cheesman Park. If you’ve ever seen Greek architecture before, you’ll probably quickly recognize the Greek influence here. (Although technically, this is Neoclassical style.) And if you woke up here after a particularly disorienting night, you might even question whether or not the Romans still ruled the known world.

But the style certainly compliments the natural elements of the park, doesn’t it? I found Cheesman Park to be a great place to walk around and relax. If you walk up those steps and look out on a clear day, you can see the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the West.

The Southernmost Fountain

Cheesman Park Fountain & Girl in Pink

This is the southernmost fountain at Cheesman Park. If you were unsure about what century you were in before, the power transformer box cleverly hidden behind that tree will probably jog your memory. Also, I love how the girl’s pink dress contrasts so strikingly against the green surroundings.

Magical Graffiti

PEACE LOVE ALWAYS written in Graffiti on a dumpsterNow we’re really starting to move into the future. But is this an ordinary dumpster? Not so! This is a magical dumpster because it has “PEACE LOVE ALWAYS” written on it. And it really reflected the spirit of that day. Clearly, it’s a dumpster of some significance.

So now that we’ve come to our senses (maybe), we can judge from what we’ve seen. Obviously, we’re in the 20th or early 21st centuries. So, we’ll just keep walking north and…

Architecture from the 22nd Century

Denver Civic Center Complex with Denver Art Museum in backgroundOh, zark!

Now that’s clearly not 21st century design. I mean, look at that thing! It comes to a point on the right side of the image, it gets wider the taller it gets, and everything is at a wacky, futuristic angle.

Not to mention it kinda looks like a toaster on the left side.

Either someone got a little too zealous designing an art museum or…
Oh, it is an art museum!

Of course, it’s an art museum. Time travel is illegal and expensive. You know that.

That being said, if you think the outside of the Denver Art Museum is interesting, wait until I show you the inside sometime. Anyway, this odd collection of buildings is the Civic Center Cultural Complex, and it’s full of tons of goodies like the Denver Art Museum (which will be featured in a forthcoming article), the Denver Public Library, the Colorado History Museum, and other awesome-type establishments.

The Reddest Building in the world?

The very red Fire House Car Wash on Colfax AveNow here’s a strange specimen, and it’s right on Colfax Avenue so it’ll be easy to find if you want to see this one in person. This is the Fire House Car Wash, and it’s gotta be the reddest building in all of Denver. Perhaps ever.

I frequently passed it as I explored Denver, and it never failed to grab my eye. It seems to tread that thin line between an eye-sore and a weird curiosity. It’s shamelessly eye-catching.

The Gold-Plated Dome

Dreamy Clouds and Glistening Gold-plated Dome of Denver Capitol building

And if, after all that, you happen to pass by the gold-plated dome of Denver’s Capitol building, you’ll see an example of Neoclassical architecture again. And hopefully you’ll have regained your senses enough to know that you’re not stuck in the 1700s or the 2200s. You’re just in a city that apparently doesn’t mind not knowing what century it’s in, at least architecturally.

Overall, Denver is a really enjoyable city to visit, and if you’re passing through, you could easy spend a week exploring it’s museums, parks, and restaurants. I’ll be outlining my favorite museum in Denver, the Denver Art Museum, in an article soon. Stay tuned, and please… don’t leave the 21st century while I’m gone.

Coming up Next:

An in-depth look at a museum that asks powerful questions and invites you to interact directly with the exhibits. From the Psychedelic Side Trip to the larger-than-life exhibits, there’s something for everyone at the Denver Art Museum:

Continue the journey →

All accompanying photos are in the Exploring Downtown Denver photo gallery. With so much free, high-quality content, why not tell a friend and share this article?

5 bits on Exploring Downtown Denver & Setting off on a West Coast Adventure without a Car

  1. Devin,

    Yeah, the Fire House Car Wash is one of the most flamboyant buildings I saw in Denver. I guess they thought that more attention means more customers.

  2. Great post- love the commentary on the photos! Denver seems to be a place of both beauty and the bizarre- I’ve been wanting to visit America for a while, and I think Denver will now go on my list of places I want to see!

  3. Pingback A Final Manifestation: Wandering Chicago & Journals from an Epic 175 Day Adventure | Byteful Travel