DENVER: A Mile High and Hold-Hands Friendly

  Mention Denver, and everyone always has some story to tell. Like the time the city bid for the 1976 Winter Games, and then turned down the Games after winning the honor once they found out how much it would cost! (Innsbruck, Austria ended up hosting the Games.)  Or how about the one that showcases Denver as “the pride of the Rockies,” even though the mountain chain ends just west of the city, which is actually located on the grassy plains.  And then, of course, there was that ugly period in the 90s when Colorado passed Amendment 2, which allowed for discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation.  Lesbians and gays got worked into a lather, along with quite a few straights, and got Amendment 2 overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court, but not before tourism went down the toilet and the state was judged the black hole of bigotry and injustice.

Well, we’re happy to report, things are quite a bit better today in Denver as well as other parts of Colorado, though Colorado Springs and its neighbors were hit by raging forest fires last month that are still not completely extinguished. Other than some blow-by smoke, Denver, Queen City of the West, was undamaged.

Your visit to Denver begins by landing in one the world’s most elegant and picturesque airports, Denver International. Because it has been built to handle future business, it always feels half full, which is a good thing, and allows you plenty of time to check the art and concourse restaurants and businesses. When clearing security at Denver International always try to go through Terminal A. It’s the least crowded and all terminals are connected by a tram that zips you around the entire place in a few minutes.

Our favorite hotel in the city isn’t the largest, but simply the best. It’s the Brown Palace Hotel and Spa (321 17th Street), and, built in 1908, has one of this country’s first atrium designs. Brown Palace Hotel and SpaWhile the rooms are as-you’d-expect spectacular, it is the spa at the Brown that keeps us coming back. We particularly like the Gentlemen’s Body Treatment  Imagine, if you will, 50 minutes of Deep Tissue Massage followed by a half-hour full body sugar exfoliation.  (It may cost $155, but when you’re finished, you’ll feel 20 years younger and want to move in.) The hotel is in the downtown area, near everything, including a gay bar–Denver Wrangler(1700 Logan Street), a cross between a cow palace, a bear barn, and a rodeo roundup. The slogan here is

“Where Real Men Come to Drink.”

Just southeast of downtown is Cheesman Park where the annual gay pride parade begins. No surprise there, since it’s the “gayest” park in Denver and the neighborhood surrounding it is fabulous. What will come as a shock to even locals is that the whole place used to be a cemetery whose location soon made the land more valuable than for what the plots could be sold. That’s what we love about Denver, a few snaps of the fingers and hundred dollar bills, and bodies were being transplanted and posies planted in their place.

While Cherry Creek is the most elegant neighborhood, the most fun section is definitely Stapleton. Located just east of downtown, where Stapleton Airport used to be, it’s been totally redeveloped by the gays, who renamed the place Gaypleton in their honor. That’s what happens when you take over the place.

Next week, we’ll cover outdoor activities in the region, and the favorite secret spot in the whole city. Yes, you’ll have to wait.