On a Friday evening in downtown Denver, Union Station is bustling. Young professionals in rolled-up shirtsleeves order microbrews through vintage ticket windows at the Terminal Bar. Travelers rush under vaulted ceilings lit by grand chandeliers of wrought iron and glass to catch nearby light-rail commuter trains. Upstairs, Crawford Hotel guests amble through corridors decorated with old suitcases, ticket stubs, and blueprints depicting the building's original Beaux-Arts design, unveiled in 1914 when Denver was just moving beyond its frontier roots. A century later, the structure has been given fresh life and an updated look: A $54 million renovation has transformed it into a thriving hub for Amtrak trains, local buses, and light-rail lines that crisscross the city.
The station's overhaul reflects changes in the rest of Colorado's capital, nicknamed the Mile High City for its altitude. Denver is still full of reminders of its frontier past, with plenty of historic sites, Western-wear shops, and iconic steak houses that hark back to the city's earlier days as a gold rush boomtown. But now a youthful, fast-growing population and thriving tech and manufacturing industries are turning Denver into a new frontier for artists, food and drink entrepreneurs, and other innovators.
Denver's River North Neighborhood
There's something of a new gold rush happening. "Denver's really open," says Justin Croft, senior project manager at Zeppelin Development, which helps revitalize old industrial neighborhoods. “It's a place to reinvent yourself. You feel that energy anywhere you go—any bar, any restaurant, that's what people are talking about."
One of Zeppelin's most popular projects is the Source, a European-style market that occupies an 1880s brick foundry in River North, aka RiNo, a district where artists and chefs have moved into historic warehouses and factories. The project is home to 13 food and specialty vendors that share one cavernous space.
Thirsty visitors can taste the newest crop of sour beers at Crooked Stave, then pick up provisions at Mondo Market, a grocery with artisanal ketchup and local cheeses.