They say history tends to repeat itself, and the recent history of LoDo certain seems to mirror that of its older ways, giving rise to some of Denver’s most influential people; namely, former Denver mayor and current Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. LoDo was defined as the district known today back in March of 1988. Later in that same year, Hickenlooper opened Wynkoop Brewery on the corner of 18th Street and Wynkoop St, where it still remains a bustling and beautiful beer brewery to this day.
While Wynkoop Brewery brought fame to the name Hickenlooper, the most famous feature of LoDo stands right across the street: Denver’s Union Station. This railroad landmark is so famous in fact, that the LoDo district is many times incorrectly referenced as the “Union Station Neighborhood” by locals and tourists alike. The original Union Station was constructed 10 years after Larimer marked LoDo as the first Denver district in order to persuade the transcontinental railroad to make a stop in Denver (it eventually worked). Unlike many historical sites saved in LoDo since the 1970’s, Union Station has undergone a massive facelift. The ultra-modern version of Union Station officially opened in May of 2014 and remains the crowning jewel of Downtown Denver. With its mix of historic facade on the east face, and the brand new, modern train station under the west face, Union Station in all its splendor is a must-see for tourists. Because the new station officially opened so recently, it is also a must-see for many long-time Denver residents excited to see the evolution of this infamous Denver site.
A LoDo tourist romp would not be confined only to Union Station, however, as there are things to do and see for all types and tastes during one of Denver’s over 300 days of sunshine. Despite being the first Denver neighborhood, LoDo only houses a little over 21,000 residents, most of which live in the “high rise” apartments adjacent to Commons Park West on the west side of the neighborhood boundary. You may notice high rise in quotation marks, there. This is because while the apartment buildings rise into the sky, all buildings in the LoDo district have a height limit ordinance to ensure residents and tourists both never have to substitute a concrete view for the natural splendor of a Rocky Mountain backdrop. But I digress. At only ~6,100 people per square mile in the LoDo district (Denver average resident density is ~4,100), there is still plenty of room for nearly anything one could think to do on a day-trip to the historic site. The western edge of LoDo houses an eclectic array of outdoor activities. The Denver Skate Park for the extreme sports enthusiast nestles up next to Railyard Dog Park for the canine enthusiast. Immediately south of these attractions is Commons West Park, a sprawling green open space for anyone looking to leisurely spend their day outside. A pastime many Denverites enjoy, in case you ever wanted to sneak around LoDo as a “local” (which is totally cool). Venturing to the east, open space quickly gives way to what many typically envision of a large city’s downtown area, with historic brick buildings sharing street space with modern business. Running from the eastern edge of Union Station clear through LoDo and into neighboring districts is Denver’s 16th Street Mall; a walk-only urban mall that contains many shops and eateries catering to any and all interests. The mile-long shopping center also has a free mall ride bus service from 6am-1am every day for easy access to the districts surrounding LoDo such as North Capitol Hill, Civic Center, and the Central Business District.
Although they are not technically inside of the neighborhood proper, LoDo finds itself smack dab in the middle of Denver’s two main sports arenas. Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies bordering to the north, and Pepsi Center, home of the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and many summer concerts bordering to the south are both only a 10 minute walk from the center of Lower Downtown. A trip made even shorter by the aforementioned mall ride service.
As the sun sets each evening, you can typically find locals (and tourists) partaking in the unofficial Denver pastime of beer consumption. Some like a slice of pizza with their hoppy libation, others prefer a quality steak, and further others prefer to taste the nectar of the gods at the very brewery in which the beer is conceived. And LoDo caters to all of these people with ease. If the list previous strikes a chord, be sure to check out Wazee Supper Club for pizza, or Denver Chophouse and Brewery for a date-night quality steak and seafood. Falling Rock Taphouse and Wynkoop are the places to go if you are one who prefers doing your drinking directly from the source. Like any good downtown should, as the night hours get later, the action in LoDo heats up. The north end of LoDo contains Denver’s densest bar scene, most bars are within only a few city blocks, making bar hopping a snap. This also means that patrons can change bar scenery very quickly. From classic game day hangout spots - Jackson’s Sports Bar and Sports Column are the big ones - to niche bars such as the video game centric 1up, whatever your late-night fancy, LoDo has it. Even live music finds its way into the heart of LoDo with Summit Music Hall for the concert go-er, and Beta and Tracks for those that prefer their music spun by an in-house DJ. One way or another, LoDo will make you move. No amount of words on paper could ever fully encapsulate the vibrant nightlife of Lower Downtown Denver, it is truly a sight best appreciated with one’s own eyes.
Denver’s nerve center may have been first founded long ago in history, but since that day and to this day people have flocked to it, some of which even used LoDo to make something more of themselves. Whether you’re looking to do this same thing, or simply enjoy a quick trip where nearly anything imaginable is possible, LoDo is the place to start your day...and many times, end the night.