True grit still lingers in Denver's Lower Downtown district-a reminder of Western roots in the midst of renovated brick warehouse buildings. Contemporary galleries, funky cafes, and jazz clubs are newly opened (or planned) in former saloons and saddleries. Painted signs from early 1900s businesses are still legible on false-front buildings, now used for law offices and design studios.
As one resident gallery owner describes it, "You can be looking at abstract paintings, then turn around and see tumbleweeds roll down the street."
Rebirth of Denver's most colorful area
Lower Downtown (nicknamed "LoDo") is bounded roughly by the 20th Street and Larimer Square shopping areas and steel-and-glass towers to the southeast, Cherry Creek to the west, and the sprawling railyards of the Platte River Valley to the north.
In 1988, the city declared the 20-block area a historic district-though not before some classic structures had been razed to make way for income-producing parking lots, giving some streets an admittedly gap-toothed appearance. Even so, the area vibrates with a spirit that was missing in the lean years following the 1984 plummet in oil and property prices.
The best way to visit LoDo, crisscrossed as it is by one-way streets and looming viaducts, is to park and walk; unattended lots cost about $2 a day (most accept coins and bills). Or catch the free 16th Street bus shuttle; it drops you …