Cooking Light Best Cities: Denver, Colorado

The Mile-High City ranked seventh on our list for an outdoorsy Western lifestyle that makes living well accessible and irresistible.

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Best river tour: After instruction from Confluence Kayaks (303-433-3676), rent a boat and launch 10 miles south of downtown in Littleton. With the mountains at your back, you'll paddle through a bird sanctuary, 14 miles of man-made rapids, and end up back downtown near Coors Field, the baseball stadium for the Colorado Rockies.

Best way to keep cool: Colorado may be landlocked, but it's home to a large number of certified scuba divers. Underwater Phantaseas (303-220-8282) will outfit you to take the plunge at Aurora Reservoir, a short drive southeast of downtown.

Best bike path: Rent a mountain bike from Cherry Creek Bike Rack (303-388-1630), and cruise the many bike-friendly downtown paths, including the popular Cherry Creek Bike Trail. A good entry point for the trail is at Confluence Park on 15th Street, but the 15-mile trail is easy to spot as it winds through Denver hotspots such as the neighborhoods of LoDo and Capitol Hill, as well as all along Speer Boulevard to Cherry Creek.

Best way to spend an afternoon: Lower downtown, or what's affectionately dubbed LoDo by locals, is a great area for window-shopping. Slip into the Tattered Cover Book Store (303-436-1070), an independent bookseller housed in the restored Morey Mercantile building. It's one of three store outposts in the city, each with a café that earns accolades from locals as a perfect place to enjoy a latte. Across the street is Union Station, where the Ski Train (303-296-4754) takes visitors for a day trip to Winter Park, a ski resort 67 miles northwest of town. The rails wind through beautiful alpine areas not accessible by car.

Best urban park: Washington Park (known as "Wash" Park), with two lakes, 10 tennis courts, soccer fields, and jogging path, is a popular setting for just about any activity. It's located between South Franklin and South Downing streets. Make time for the georgous flower gardens along Downing Street, or, if timing is right, the Colorado Symphony's annual June outdoor concert in the park.

Best wildlife watching: Just northwest of downtown is one of the jewels of Denver's designated "Open Space" areas: 3,000-acre Standley Lake Regional Park. The park offers spectacular views of the Rockies and the Flatirons (five rock formations that pioneers thought resembled flat, metal clothing irons) from just about every path. You also might spot nesting bald eagles in the park's eagle sanctuary. Other wildlife to note: beavers, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, mule deer, and cottontail rabbits, to name a few.

WHERE TO STAY

Best historical stay: Titanic survivor and Denver socialite the "unsinkable" Molly Brown may have owned a home in the Capital Hill neighborhood, but in her later years she preferred being a guest at the Brown Palace Hotel (from $325/night; 303-297-3111). It's a historic landmark and a popular destination even for locals, who book afternoon tea reservations months in advance.

Best indulgent stay: Close to the 16th Street Mall, an outdoor link to restaurants, shops, and Denver nightlife, the stylish, modern Hotel Monaco (from $189/night; 303-296-1717) offers amenities like an in-house spa and complimentary evening receptions with wine, hors d'oeuvres, and head and shoulder massages.

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