• PEAK2019: Come for the Conference, Don’t Miss the City

    There’s definitely a spirit of Western resourcefulness here in Denver. Denverites take it on themselves to get things done. We’re entrepreneurial, innovative, enterprising. It’s an exciting spirit to be around in the workplace, and I expect it will imbue and energize our PEAK2019 conference.

    I’m a Denver native. I’ve lived here my whole life. I don’t know that I could live anywhere else, and I’m thrilled that, in March, I’ll welcome you to my city. In the meantime, I wanted to give you a preview.

    The pace of life is different here and there’s a different kind of friendliness than in most places I’ve visited. People are still about their business, like in any city. But when you’re out and about, in an elevator, or walking into a restaurant, people will take the time to stop and hold the door for you. It’s an authentic friendliness that makes you feel welcome.

    In Denver, we have a distinct appreciation for the outdoors. People everywhere wait for the weekend. But here people here wait for it anxiously and as soon as work lets out, they’re driving to the mountains or off to camp somewhere.

    People typically associate Denver with skiing or snowboarding, but there’s so much more to do—rain, snow, or shine! There’s hiking, paddle boarding at the reservoir, mountain biking and cycling, climbing, hunting, fishing, and more. The area attracts many different types of people—almost all with a love of nature and a desire to learn first-hand if we can really back up the boast of 300 days of sunshine a year. (Spoiler alert: 300 full days of sunshine is a myth, but it is pretty wonderful that even on rainy or snowy days, the sun almost always makes an appearance.)

    So, if you like to be outdoors at all, try to build in a little time to explore on the front or back end of the conference. You will find that many of the wonderful things to do outdoors are not in the downtown or conference area. But they’re not far. Red Rocks Amphitheater—an iconic concert venue as well as a beautiful, scenic area to take a hike or watch a sunset—is just 25 minutes from downtown. Rocky Mountain National Park and Lookout Mountain are not much further.

    Another great feature about Denver is that almost anywhere you walk you can stumble on something fun.

    The 16th Street Mall is an outdoor, pedestrian mall and one of downtown Denver’s hubs to see interesting people, places, and things. Along the mall, you’ll find all sorts of street performers, a mix of local and chain restaurants, vendors, shops, and seasonal (often interactive) art installations. Be sure to take some time to explore the length of the mall on foot or via the free Mall Ride shuttle from Union Station—a 100-year-old historic train station that now houses an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and bars—to Denver’s Civic Center park, at the foot of our capitol building and home to numerous local festivals.

    Denver also boasts amazing street art and murals, which you can see while strolling around the RiNo (short for River North, pronounced like “rhino”) Arts District or from your window seat on the Light Rail (our above-ground public transportation system).

    A prime area to see both Denver’s street art and traditional art is the Santa Fe arts district. Within walking distance of the conference hotel, it’s a couple blocks long and home to several unique cultural and arts non-profit organizations, which you can visit. The area also features tiny, independently owned art galleries, charming gift shops, and excellent restaurants (El Noa Noa is my favorite). The buildings are all historic and beautiful. So, whether you like street art, galleries, food, or architecture,  there’s something for you in the Santa Fe arts district.

    And, of course, Denver is a foodie’s paradise. Some of my top picks for dinner in the main part of town are Stoic & Genuine, inside Union Station, and Rioja at Larimer Square. If you can venture outside of the main city center, the Highlands neighborhood is a quick, 10-minute Lyft/Uber/taxi ride away and home to some of my favorite dining experiences. Dinner on the rooftop at Linger and dessert next door at Little Man Ice Cream makes for an evening filled with stellar views of downtown, delicious and unique local eats, and, of course, lots of fun.

    Overall, Denver is a great place to be in the city and even better if you’re able to spend a little time outside. Come join me in Denver for PEAK2019. I can’t wait to introduce you to my hometown!

    Kelli Rojas is a co-chair of the PEAK2019 Conference and the grants manager at Rose Community Foundation in Denver.