Denver, Colorado, the state's largest city and capital. It lies on the western edge of the Great Plains in north-central Colorado. The city is coextensive with Denver County. Within view to the west is the Front Range, one of the loftiest mountain ranges in the Rockies. Because of its elevation, 5,280 feet (1,609 m) above sea level at the capitol building, Denver is nicknamed the Mile-High City. Its climate—pleasant and invigorating and marked by sunny, dry weather—is one of the city's chief assets.
Much of Denver is residential in nature, especially in the east. Industry centers primarily along the South Platte River, which follows a looped, northerly course through the city. Downtown Denver, with many high-rise office buildings, banks, and hotels, lies in a triangular area northwest of the state capitol, between Broadway, Colfax Avenue, and Valley Highway. Large suburbs include Arvada, Aurora, Lakewood, and Westminster.
Denver, the largest city in the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains area, serves as a regional hub, especially in wholesaling, finance, and transportation. Manufacturing is a significant but not dominant part of the city's economy. Much of its industry—such as grain milling, beet sugar refining, and meat packing—consists of processing farm and ranch products from the surrounding area. Other industries in or near Denver include the manufacturing of machinery and metal products, rubber goods, precision instruments, electronic equipment, missiles, petroleum products, transportation equipment, clothing, and leather goods.
Denver is a major center for companies engaged in the exploitation of energy resources, including coal, petroleum, natural gas, and uranium. Other important industries include printing and publishing, insurance, and, especially, tourism.
Federal agencies and military installations in the metropolitan area provide employment for thousands of persons. Among the largest employers are the Denver Federal Center, the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, Fitzsimons Army Medical Center, and the U.S. Mint.
Because of its location, Denver is one of the chief focal points of transportation in the western part of the nation. Serving the city are numerous railways, airlines, and highways, including three Interstate highways and the Denver-Boulder Turnpike. Denver International Airport is 23 miles (37 km) northeast of downtown Denver. The city also has a light-rail transportation system.
At the edge of downtown Denver stands the capitol building, its dome glistening with gold leaf to commemorate the gold rushes that led to the settlement of the state. Opposite the capitol is the Civic Center, which includes the City and County Building, the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Public Library, and a Greek-style outdoor amphitheater. Also near the capitol is the Colorado History Museum, which houses American Indian and pioneer exhibits. Other downtown attractions include the U.S. Mint; the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center; the Museum of Western Art; Larimer Square, an area of fine shops, galleries, and cafes; and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, with theaters and facilities for the city's symphony orchestra, ballet, and opera company.
Numerous parks and recreational areas dot the city. The largest is City Park on Denver's east side. Located here is the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, with many animal and bird displays, mineral exhibits, and American Indian artifacts. City Park is also the site of the Denver Zoo, a planetarium, and a lighted fountain. A few blocks away is Cheesman Park, with a panoramic view of the Rockies. Adjoining the park is the Denver Botanical Gardens, featuring a tropical conservatory.
Denver also maintains a system of parks, ski areas, and recreation sites in the mountains. The Park of the Red Rocks, which is part of the system, has a 10,000–seat amphitheater in a natural setting of enormous red rocks. It is the site of various kinds of concerts. In nearby Golden is Lookout Mountain Park, site of the tomb of William F. (“Buffalo Bill”) Cody.
Elitch Gardens is notable for its amusement park and formal gardens. A major event, held annually at the Coliseum, is the National Western Livestock Show, Horse Show, and Rodeo. The Colorado Convention Center, located downtown, is the state's largest convention facility. Denver has professional football, basketball, hockey, and baseball teams (the Broncos, Niggets, Colorado Avalanche, and Colorado Rockies). The University of Colorado at Denver and the University of Denver are the city's largest institutions of higher learning. Other schools in Denver include Metropolitan State College of Denver and Regis University.