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The Denver Bike Bar takes pedal-powered parties through Lower Downtown, or "LoDo," a focal point of urban renewal in the Colorado capital. (Photograph by Dana Romanoff)

Full Steam Ahead: Downtown Denver

At the beginning of the 20th century, Denver’s Union Station hummed with the brisk comings and goings of a capital on the rise. In the summer of 2014, the landmark reclaimed its place as a transit and social hub for the city.

Part of a nine-block, $500 million face-lift, the renovated beaux arts depot signals the 21st-century arrival of Lower Downtown (“LoDo”), an urban success story that began in the 1980s when the Oxford Hotel reopened and start-up Wynkoop Brewing Company took a chance on the onetime red-light district.

Today’s Union Station pays homage to that frontier spirit as a showcase for Colorado craftsmanship, with 400-plus artworks and local beer taps, pouring behind the original ticket counter at the Terminal Bar.

Elsewhere at the depot, rising chefs show influences from near and far: Alex Seidel plates ingredient-driven cuisine alongside a market stocked with goods from his nearby ten-acre farm, and Jennifer Jasinski preps daily arrivals of oysters and sea urchins at Stoic & Genuine.

Outside the station, Lower Downtown continues to buzz at breweries such as Great Divide and vanguard tap house Falling Rock.

“I had a friend who used to call Denver the ‘locker room’ of the Rockies,” says Dana Crawford, Denver’s famed preservationist and namesake of Union Station’s new 112-room hotel. “That’s just not true anymore.”

  • Travel Tip: Visit the south corridor’s display of lost trinkets, from luggage tickets to Loretta Young trading cards.
  • Travel Trivia: Before becoming Colorado’s governor, geologist John Hickenlooper founded the state’s first brewpub, Wynkoop Brewing.

This piece, written by Stephen Edwards, appeared in the August/September issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine. 

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